Associates, In-House Counsels & Advocates

Diwakar Kishore, Advocate, Patna High Court, on his engagement with IDIA, litigation, and working at Luthra

diwakar-k4Diwakar Kishore is a graduate from NLSIU, batch of 2012. After working at Luthra for about a year, he quit it to become an independent practitioner at the Patna High Court. Presently he practices litigation at Patna High Court and also takes out time as a director of IDIA

In this interview we talk to him about:

 

Tell us a bit about life before college.

I finished my schooling in Patna, Nainital and Kota. I went to a boarding school at an early age and it helped me a lot as an individual and gave me many wonderful friends.

My father is a lawyer, and I grew up in a house full of AIR-SCC volumes. My sister also took up law after high school and had married a lawyer. So yes, law was a familiar field.

 

What motivated you to pursue law?

As I said, my father is a lawyer, so it was not a field that was unfamiliar to me. After spending a few months preparing for IIT and truly realizing how much I hated chemistry, I did a bit of soul searching and drifted towards law (not NLS). I was (just) fortunate to make it to NLS.

 

What do you have to say about mooting at law school and legal writing for journals?

Mooting is generally an activity that one lets go of on graduating from law school, but this does not mean its utility doesn’t carry over into the real world. In addition to providing a rigorous training that examinations or mere academia cannot offer, mooting and activities like writing for academic journals provide you with experience and skills that are invaluable in legal practice, such as clarity of thought, time management, clear argumentation and the ability to work under immense pressure. These are skills that would never be redundant to lawyers, in law school and out. While the actual law may be ever changing, these are skills that will always be useful.

 

What do you feel about the perception that students of certain ‘elite’ NLU’s have a much easier time in kickstarting their career as compared to law students from other colleges?

Certainly it would seem that some firms have a slight bias towards students from top NLUs. However, the beautiful thing about a field as diverse as law is that there are umpteen opportunities and options available to young graduates, from litigation to corporate law to social work to advocacy, teaching and academia and much more. Law as a field is growing every day, and its effect is seen in so many spheres that there are always meaningful ways and opportunities to work and engage with the law.

 

Tell us about the trimester system at NLS.

NLS has the unique trimester system followed by very few colleges in India. Rather than having two semesters every year, we have three trimesters a year. I think it is a very effective model. We did four courses in a span of three-four months. Now, even though the time-span seems short, the well structured organised course at NLS helped us cope with the trimester system threw at us.

I am yet to meet a student (from any discipline) who tells me that that the academic system and faculty at his/her college is impeccable. As far as the question of the freedom that the trimester system offers to law students goes, I think the recent success of NLS students at national and international competitions is testimonial to the fact that you can do enough and more to develop yourself in any system, if you really put your mind to it.

 

Which internships did you pursue during your graduation?

I pursued a variety of internships at law school. I interned as a teaching assistant in several colleges, worked under practicing lawyers and did a few corporate internships. I looked at internships as an opportunity to test and sample various fields of law, to see if we were suitable for each other. College is one of the last places where one has the opportunity to just try various things; I looked at internships as one such opportunity, which is why I tried to take up as many different internships as possible.

 

Were these internships all planned or just happened on the go?

Some were planned, others came along the way. My training at law school proved to be useful, but I tried to regard internships as opportunities to learn more, as opposed to exhibiting what I do know. There are certain tasks unique to working life that college cannot hope to prepare one for, and good internships bridge this gap perfectly.

 

Tell us about working at Luthra & Luthra.

I was offered a job at Luthra through campus placements while I was in my fourth year of college. It was surprising for me and for a few others as I had never interned at a top law firm neither did I have the grades to be called the crème de la crème  of my batch. I think my teaching experience along with the practical knowledge that I had acquired during my internships came to my rescue.

Corporate lawyers are required to do a variety of things during the course of the day. Documentation, research, negotiations, coordinating with clients, counsel of the opposite side and government agency; one might be required to do any or all of these things in a single day (and night) at a law firm. It is slightly difficult to describe a typical day at work at a law firm.

 

diwakar-k2How did you get involved in IDIA?

While the work at Luthra was challenging for sure, I was not happy with the extremely limited engagement with real law that such job provided. I left Luthra to be more involved with public law and hence, my obvious destination was litigation. I started practicing in Patna High Court after Luthra. While it’s true that early days in litigation is anything but ‘lucrative’, but I found the work to be more fulfilling. However, after practicing law for a few months, I realised that ‘justice’ in a court room does not necessarily translate into substantive changes at the grassroots level. Coming from one of the poorest states in India and after studying in one of the best colleges of this country, I felt the need to be more closely associated with my community and that is why I joined IDIA. Along with litigation, I am excited to work with the law in a different and useful way that brings more people into rather tightly-knit legal fraternity, and IDIA does just that.

 

What is it like being an independent legal practitioner at the Patna High Court?

Compared to a corporate job, in the initial day’s litigation posses very different set of challenges: (i) pay is bad, (ii) clients are rare, (iii) there is a lot of running around and dealing with a variety of people from different strata’s of society, and (iv) there is a lot of uncertainty – you might lose a great case because the judge feels differently. However, few and far between, when you do win a case all by yourself, that moment of joy is priceless.

I believe that having a personal mentor is invaluable in any profession, not just litigation. It provides unparalleled professional guidance, and there are certain skills, tips and tricks that come only with professional experience. Having a mentor not only familiarizes you with the profession, but is also a way to make your skills, merit and services more well known amongst the others in Court. Having a good mentor often works as an additional affirmation of your skill and ability, both to other lawyers and clients.

 

diwakar-k1How is the environment at Patna High Court? Do the judges take kindly to the young lawyers? Any experience at the HC you would want to share?

I found the Patna High Court to be an interesting place. Several judges have been extremely supportive, and actively recognize and encourage young lawyers such as myself. It’s really quite encouraging when a judge notices you or your arguments, and I’ve seen several judges make it a point to drop a word of praise or encouragement to young lawyers such as myself.

Justice Tripathi, of the Patna High Court, once stopped me during my arguments to ask me which college I studied law from. I was taken aback at his question but when I finally told him that I had studied law from NLS, Bangalore, he smiled and said: “It seemed like it”. It was a very unusual thing to happen in a court room but something that I will cherish for a long time.

A perception that deters many students from pursuing a career in litigation instead of at law firms is deemed to be the initial grind that has to be undergone for the first few years. From your experience is it really such a rough journey for a new lawyer in the legal profession?

New litigators certainly do not have it easy, but then again, no new job is a cakewalk! Every good profession requires a foundation of at least a few years of solid hard work, and litigation is no exception. It’s difficult to weigh a profession in terms of pros and cons and decide which the “best” option is: there really is no such general answer, one must merely find the career option that suits your skills and interests best. I find litigation to be exciting, challenging and fulfilling, which, for me, more than adequately compensates for the “grind”.

 

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Five year plans does not work in most systems. For me, it’s more realistic to function on an annual basis: priorities might alter five years down the line and there is no reason to stick to a plan that I made as a different person altogether.

While today I feel, I should go back to teaching sometime in the future, this coming year, I would like to continue my practise of the law along with the work I do for IDIA. I enjoy working for disenfranchised and it gives a sense of purpose and meaning to my life right now.

 

Lastly, what would be your message for all the law students reading this?

If at all, be in the rat race after tiring out many things and enjoying the company of the rats, the most. It’s rather stupid to want to work somewhere because others around you say that they would like to work there. Do not waste law school by worrying about the life after. Be kind to yourself and have some fun with the law and the friends that your college has to offer. You will miss them once they are gone.

 

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