From addressing safety concerns on railway tracks to environmental issues, his cases underscore the substantial impact on people’s lives – Jamshed Mistry, Independent Counsel and Founder of Shares Two Decades of Legal Prowess, Innovation, and Social Impact

This interview has been published by Priyanka Karwa and The SuperLawyer Team

Sir, over 2 decades you have such an amazing professional journey. During this you must have seen different varieties of legal domain. You have excelled in so many of them. I would love to hear your introduction, and also to know what inspired you to embark on this journey of law, particularly in the areas of international law, media and entertainment law and medicine.

I appreciate your patience as I delve into the intricate details of my journey. Born and raised in the vibrant city of Mumbai, I initially pursued my education in Vienna, Austria, before returning to complete my commerce studies at Hr. College in Mumbai. Following this, I embarked on a journey into the world of cost and work accountancy.

However, fate took an interesting turn when my maternal grandmother passed away, leading me to a chartered accountant. This changed the course of my life as he suggested exploring law as a career. Despite my initial reluctance, I enrolled at the KC Law College and later transferred to the Government Law College. The journey into the legal realm was unconventional but intriguing.

A turning point arose when the chartered accountant insisted on me gaining practical experience. He guided me to Mulla and Mulla, Cragie Blunt and Caroe a prominent law firm, where I began my professional journey. Despite my resistance to the idea of working, I found myself donning formal clothes and stepping into the legal world.

My initial years were a blend of studying, interning, and navigating through life. A significant challenge emerged in 1995 due to a legal matter that affected our exam results. This setback altered my plans for pursuing LLM, a unique twist in my academic and professional trajectory.

Undeterred, I sought guidance from the head of the law department, eventually enrolling in a postgraduate diploma in labour law. This period of exploration and learning laid the foundation for my legal career, which officially began in 1996 when I joined another law firm and thereafter to independent Counsel practice.

The advice to accept diverse legal work by my senior Mr. Sudhir Talsania, proved invaluable as I handled civil cases, ranging from Admiralty law to Motor accident claims. In 1998, involvement in a public interest litigation case marked my entry into this impactful aspect of law.

My foray into media and entertainment law began post-college, where my interest in fashion and film grew. Organizing inter-college fashion competitions with friends and working backstage for shows provided insights into the industry. Back then, media and entertainment law was not a subject covered in academic curricula. Driven by curiosity, I took the initiative to approach these artists and request copies of their contracts. Surprisingly, in those days, there was a lack of privacy concerns, and artists willingly handed over their contracts. I accumulated contracts, including Michael Jackson’s, to gain insights into the intricacies of these agreements.

As my legal studies progressed, I encountered instances where former Miss India sought advice from legal experts. This sparked a realization of the correlation between the fashion and media/entertainment industry and the legal intricacies involved. Amidst this exploration, the prevalent issue of entertainment tax emerged as a significant challenge, coexisting alongside the vibrant and dynamic world of fashion and entertainment. The journey of unravelling the legal aspects intertwined with glamour and creativity has indeed been both enlightening and entertaining.

A significant milestone occurred in 2010 when I was sent to Canada for corporate work, marking the beginning of an association with the Canadian Bar. This international exposure broadened my perspective on legal practices and introduced me to the concept of transcripts.

In 2016, recognizing the barriers geography posed to legal collaboration, I initiated the International Legal Alliance. The response from lawyers across 153 countries exceeded expectations, leading to the formation of a global network.

Adopting a practical and economical approach, we leveraged virtual tools well before the pandemic, establishing a network that seamlessly operated across borders. Today, our initiatives extend beyond legal practice, including legal heritage walks and collaborations with Chambers of Commerce.

This journey, spanning over a decade, has been a continuous learning experience, breaking barriers and embracing the evolving landscape of law. As we move forward, the possibilities seem limitless, and the blend of practicality and innovation remains the cornerstone of our endeavours.

It’s truly fascinating how you’ve become an international presence in the legal realm, almost like a “doctors without borders” concept but tailored for lawyers, operating seamlessly in a virtual space. We’re keen to delve deeper into this innovative venture. However, before we proceed, I’d also like to explore your insights on the issues related to live streaming and transcripts. when did the idea for this platform emerge, and how did you envision such a unique space? Additionally, could you share the type of support and impact you’ve witnessed so far?

Understanding how lawyers collaborate is key. My approach is unique – I cover the cost of the domain name and don’t charge our network members a fee. The goal is to bring colleagues together globally, recognizing the limitations of traditional law firms in covering vast geographical areas. Working across borders eliminates such restrictions, fostering collaboration on diverse cases. For instance, we recently handled a case involving a British national in Poland, showcasing the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of our approach.

During the pandemic, we aided a businessperson in validating a contract with an African entity. Collaborating with our network, we conducted due diligence and uncovered fraudulent activities, saving the individual significant financial loss. This highlights the practical benefits of our global legal alliance.

Regarding live streaming and transcripts, the idea struck me while watching a news report on the case filed by Senior Advocate Indira Jaisingh in the Supreme Court. I realized the need for legal transcription, having previously written about its importance during the Kulbhushan Jhadav case in the International Court of Justice. The Karnataka State’s subsequent endorsement and implementation of guidelines underscored the significance of transparency. Demonstrating the functionality of transcripts using a free AI app for the Supreme Court Committee garnered positive results. Now, with the government funding a multi-year plan, we anticipate positive changes in our legal system, emphasizing the crucial role of transcripts in preserving court proceedings.

Delving into legal history, I discovered the earliest transcribed judgment in Para 6 of Bal Gangadhar Tilaks case in 1908!! This finding prompted me to advocate for the revival of transcripts, essential for legal accuracy and accountability. Impressively, our efforts have inspired change beyond borders. A colleague from Pakistan embraced our model, leading to their Supreme Court adopting live streaming and transcripts. These endeavors exemplify how small initiatives can influence legal practices globally.

What kind of impact has your career had on society, and how it has brought in a lot of milestones in your career, emphasizing the wealth of knowledge you’ve accumulated rather than just financial gains? Could you share insights into your journey as an independent counsel and the experiences that have shaped your professional trajectory?

Returning to my journey, I was clear about my aspiration to be an independent practitioner and counsel, realizing the importance of autonomy. While this path offers flexibility, it also brings challenges, requiring self-guidance. In the initial stages, having a mentor was beneficial, but being your own master is a unique experience. Aligning with various lawyers and law firms in Bombay broadened my exposure, allowing me to learn different styles and crafts.

My practice, especially in public interest litigation, addressed various crucial issues. Cases ranged from safety concerns like people falling off suburban railway tracks to environmental issues such as air pollution. Advocating for persons with disabilities became a significant focus, addressing gaps in facilities and recognition under the Disabilities Act. I even argued against my own school in a case concerning learning disabilities, leading to important guidelines.

Among the impactful cases was one involving poor and indigenous patients denied treatment in a public charitable hospital. Through legal intervention, we established a scheme where a percentage of monthly income was set aside for indigent patient care. Another noteworthy case was Nikita Mehta’s abortion case in, where we had to rely on British precedent to persuade the court to form a committee. What we argued then, eventually became the law several years later.

Currently, I am involved in the ongoing “potholes case,” addressing road safety issues. While the impact of these cases on people’s lives is substantial, I believe that, collectively, lawyers should strive to contribute positively to society, upholding the notion of law as a noble profession.

I couldn’t help but notice your involvement in various social causes and organizations beyond the courtroom. Could you shed some light on the causes that hold a special place in your heart and the initiatives you’re particularly passionate about? Additionally, I’m curious to understand how your commitment to these endeavors impacts both your career and personal life.

First and foremost, I owe a huge thank you to my wife and children who have been incredibly understanding and supportive, allowing me the freedom to engage in all these pursuits. Balancing family life while being deeply involved in various causes is crucial, and her support has been invaluable.

As the kids have grown, finding this balance has become more manageable. Enjoying both work and personal life is essential. Personally, I find solace in the traditional approach of using hard copies and making notes, a practice not everyone may agree with in this digital age. There’s a unique magic in handling physical documents.

Public interest litigation has enriched my understanding of diverse areas I was previously unfamiliar with. The ability to rapidly assimilate information, honed through legal practice, has proven invaluable. I still relish reading up on legal matters while travelling, bringing that knowledge straight to the courtroom.

I’m an avid music listener, finding it to be a relaxing escape. I used to play a musical instrument not too long ago, adding another layer of enjoyment to my life. Maintaining a conscious separation between courtroom intensity and personal life is crucial. Once a case concludes, it’s essential to leave any conflicts or stress within the courtroom or, at most, within the professional sphere.

Over time, I’ve learned to manage stress and worries associated with cases. Experience has taught me not to carry the burden beyond its necessary scope. Engaging in various organizations, from the Lions Club to the Rotary Club and Chambers of Commerce, has provided a broader perspective and added value to my life. I’ve come to view these engagements on par with the significance of my law practice.

Exploring spirituality and relishing good food are additional aspects I find joy in. These facets contribute to a well-rounded life and play a role in making important decisions. Overall, the blend of professional commitment, personal interests, and active engagement in various communities has made my journey truly fulfilling and interesting.

Your expertise and involvement with the South Asian Fashion Week and the international South Asian Film Festival have become apparent, especially considering your background in media and entertainment law. You’ve shared about reviewing contracts for renowned stars. How did this passion for fashion and film evolve, and how do you envision the future intersection of law with these dynamic creative industries, especially in the rapidly evolving landscape of AI and technological advancements?

Starting from my college days, I’ve had a keen interest in working with fashion, initially at an amateur level and later professionally. I even did backstage work for a renowned choreographer like Hemant Trivedi many years ago. It’s quite amusing to reflect on it now, realizing that there might be very few lawyers who have experience working backstage in the fashion industry.

What’s fascinating is that the law itself is remarkably creative. It’s a misconception to label it as mundane; there’s an inherent creativity to it. Learning from the creative industries is crucial, and there’s a significant balance required, especially for someone like me working in media and entertainment law. As a media and entertainment lawyer, I cover a wide range of areas, including intellectual property rights, contracts, design, arbitration, mediation, and even criminal law aspects.

Some of the highest-paid lawyers globally are in the media and entertainment sector. Additionally, there’s a remarkable international similarity in this field, transcending jurisdictional boundaries. The dynamics of the industry bring forth unique challenges and opportunities. I’ve been involved in notable initiatives, such as facilitating the audio-visual co-production treaty between India and Canada. These experiences involve engaging in discussions and negotiations, contributing to what can be considered a form of soft skills diplomacy. Cultural arbitration and mediation might be the next significant developments in resolving disputes between countries.

You’ve shared your journey into the field of law with us, detailing how you arrived here. Undoubtedly, along the way, you encountered various challenges. Can you elaborate on how you successfully navigated through those obstacles? Furthermore, what advice would you offer to individuals treading a similar path? Considering that anyone venturing into law is likely to encounter certain challenges, what guidance would you provide for overcoming them?

Each individual possesses unique talents, areas of expertise, or gifts that define them. Identifying and acknowledging these aspects swiftly is crucial. It is imperative to align your pursuits with your intrinsic interests and inclinations. In the early stages, exploring diverse areas of interest within the legal domain is advisable. The legal profession is dynamic and ever-evolving; what holds true today may not necessarily be applicable tomorrow.

As a law student, the primary objective is to immerse oneself in the learning process, absorbing as much knowledge as possible. Post-education, there are varied career paths available, such as joining a legal chamber, opting for corporate law, pursuing litigation, or combining elements of both. Even for those in smaller towns, there is immense potential to excel as a trial lawyer and contribute significantly to the legal landscape.

Indians, in particular, possess an innate ability to think on their feet, a valuable trait in legal practice. Unlike some international counterparts who strictly adhere to established practices, our legal system often demands quick thinking and adaptability. Exposure to courtroom proceedings is invaluable. Nowadays, with the convenience of online platforms like YouTube, observing court sessions globally is more accessible than ever.

Experience remains unparalleled in its educational value. The ability to navigate unforeseen challenges, drawing from a reservoir of past encounters, is the essence of true expertise. Reflecting on previous cases and applying lessons learned adds a layer of depth to one’s legal acumen. Knowing when to assert an argument, when to yield, and when to remain silent are indispensable skills acquired through experience. In essence, experience equips a legal professional to handle any situation, whether or not they had the foresight to prepare for it.

Looking ahead, how do you envision your professional and personal pursuits unfolding in the next few years? Could you shed light on specific goals you have in mind, particularly considering your deep involvement in social causes and other facets? Given your leadership role in the international legal alliance, what projects do you anticipate spearheading in that capacity? Your insights on the future trajectory of your endeavors would be greatly appreciated.

I consider myself a go-with-the-flow kind of person. While I can’t predict the future with certainty, I am optimistic about the progress we will make, particularly in India’s legal landscape. It seems we are on the brink of something significant, especially in terms of fostering international collaborations and constant interaction between nations. My vision involves exposing a greater number of young lawyers to diverse legal practices worldwide, which I believe would be a remarkable achievement.

Additionally, there is a need to establish a legal resource centre distinct from traditional legal aid services. This centre could serve as a comprehensive online platform, offering resources such as law journals and information on various legal domains. Many individuals faced with legal issues often struggle to categorize them under criminal or civil law, let alone identify specific areas like consumer disputes or matters falling under the NCR. This lack of clarity can be overwhelming for those unfamiliar with the legal system.

While such resources are available online, there is a crucial need to correlate and organize them comprehensively. This would significantly ease the process for litigants, allowing them to approach lawyers with a clearer understanding of their issues, thereby reducing the time spent explaining their situation to legal professionals. Establishing such a system across India would prove immensely useful and beneficial for both lawyers and those seeking legal assistance.

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