Can you tell us about your journey into the field of law? What inspired you to pursue a career in law, and how did you get started in the legal profession
Being a first generation lawyer, I persuaded my family that I want to be a lawyer and make a good career in law. To be very frank, I must say the journey in this legal profession has been a roller coaster ride for me. Let’s dive back in time to know more about why and how I chose the legal profession as a career. In the year 2007, I did my schooling from Cambridge School Noida. I was least interested in accounts so it was easy for me to make up my mind about not pursuing CA/CS Course for sure. After that decision, I decided to pursue a BBA Course and appeared in the entrance examination for 3 continental BBA courses from Amity University Noida. Although I was selected, I was not satisfied at all whether to pursue it or not. Later I came to know, accountancy is also included in the BBA Course, and I couldn’t deal with the accounts subject so decided to move ahead and quit this course. Just like 3C BBA, at that point of time, the 5 years integrated BA.LL.B(Hons) course was gradually evolving. I pursued law with Amity law school, Noida and graduated in 2012. Furthermore, I did my masters from O.P. Jindal Global University, specialisation in Corporate Law in the year 2014.
INSPIRED BY WHOM –
Succinctly to say that, inspirations are so many luminaries of our legal profession, but one person who inspired me was the late Sh. Ram Jethmalani Sir. In the first year of law, I came to know about the Jessica Lall murder case wherein in 2006, the trial court had acquitted Manu sharma in that case. The first time I heard about Ram Jethmalani sir was in the aforementioned case who was defence counsel of Manu Sharma. I did a little bit of research later on. He was noted for his legal acumen and expertise.
Also for the parents, Selecting/Choosing a career option on behalf of their child is one of the major decisions that they undertake in the initial stage of commencement of their child career.
REASON WHY I CHOSE CRIMINAL LITIGATION OVER CORPORATE/IN HOUSE LAW PRACTISE –
By the time I jumped to fourth year in law, I had interned in a few corporate law firms including IP firms such as Sai Krishna and Associates. Prior to that, I already had interned for a month under tutelage of Senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi Sir and K.K. Manan, Sr. Advocate, chairman of Bar council of Delhi . By this time, I had partially decided that I would go for litigation. It was the year 2012 where I interned for 3 months under tutelage of Advocates Subhash Gulati Sir and Sima Gulati Ma’am (Gulati and Associates), who were and still are my first mentors in this legal profession. These 3 months were fruitful for me as an intern which aided me in taking the right decision of which area of law to practise in coming years.
They have been doyens of the legal profession and have nurtured so many successful lawyers. I feel honoured to have been a part of that law firm (G&A).
You have an impressive and diverse background, working in various areas of law, including criminal trials, original side practice, and corporate matters. Can you share some of the key experiences or cases that have had a significant impact on your career and expertise
In mid-year 2012, I initiated my career in the field of criminal law for 2 years straight and got associated with the law firm of Gulati and Associates. I had a short yet effective stint as a junior advocate for Subhash and Sima Gulati . Having worked under Subhash Gulati and Sima Gulati (Sir and Ma’am) all this while, proved to be beneficial for me as very closely, I learned the tricks, tactics and specially the art of cross examining the witnesses in criminal trials. In fact, for a few months, I started assisting seniors in criminal matters listed in district courts. To name the few it includes dowry related case, dowry death case, murder case and 2G Scam case. For beginners in this legal profession, reading, researching the case laws, interpretation of the laws/provisions and putting all of it in drafting are few of climbing the ladder of district court practice. Next comes the oral advocacy , i.e. to say mastering the submissions/oral arguments before the court, that I learned at much later stage.
So, initially I started appearing in all district courts in Delhi and sought Passovers in complaint matters, heinous crimes /non heinous crimes (both pre trial and post trial stages matters) as well. A person is bound to make a mistake in his /her commencement of his trial litigation and that’s exactly what I did. The one thing I learned from the seniors , at the very beginning in starting 6 months, appearing before MMs (Metropolitan Magistrates) or ADJs/DJs (Additional/Assistant District Judges/District Judges) is that never ever lose your patience during arguments, the ability to handle the situations, be crisp on law and facts and one should know when to counter/rebut the arguments on the questions asked put forth either by the opposite party counsel/Hon’ble Judges.
I can tell you the first trial case I was involved in was of dowry one. In that case, we were representing husband. Senior told me to prepare the tabular chart by highlighting the general allegations and specific leveled against the husband and other family members and accordingly find out the relevant judgments on the issue . I attempted in searching the judgments day and night, on the proposition related to dowry law ,i.e. 498a, but couldn’t find it in our favour. Patience is the key. Then next day, I restarted researching on ratio ,found out the judgments and Just before At the stage of final arguments, cited the relevant judgments before the court, that lead to an acquittal. That was the pride moment for me in assisting senior and in adjudicating the matter.
It is undoubtedly a fact which cannot be ignored that apart from senior lawyers, in an advocate’s life Role of clerk also plays a vital role in building up the career of a lawyer. Clerks are invaluable.
They inculcate practical knowledge pertaining to court filing procedures/inspection of files in courts /High Court/ Supreme court inter alia. I remember Jitendra Kumar (who is now an advocate) is one such person who throughout has aided me in this particular field .
ROLE/ IMPACT OF SENIOR COLLEAGUES IN MY LIFE –
I always keep the relationship with my seniors at the beginning of my career at a high pedestal. No matter how many times you seek help from them, they will clarify your doubts in every possible manner. I discovered it’s essential to be enthusiastic and open to learning new skills, asking for more work and being curious to learn and ask questions. I thank my seniors and acknowledge their indisputable efforts namely as Advocates Sugam Puri, Shikha, Kunal Raheja, Navneet, Khan, Shammy, Rahul, Jatin Sapra for rectifying my mistakes in drafting and other consequential areas.
Post 2015 and till 2021, I had worked with other seniors namely Advocate Vikas Arora, Ardhendumauli kumar Prasad (AOR) (AAG, UP), Sr. Adv S.R. Singh (Former Justice of Allahabad High Court), Advocate Arvind Kumar Shukla gaining abundance of experience in land , service, appointment, education, excise matters ,criminal , landlord tenant arbitral disputes, property matters. I cannot thank my seniors enough for giving me the opportunity to argue independently in various forums/courts.
The regular bail granted to my client I defended in the POCSO case is one of the major takeaways of my litigation that I cherish the most.
Not to forget the landmark judgment of supreme court in Swiss Ribbons case v/s Union of India that upheld the validity of IBC Code in 2018, A separate writ was filed from our office and that was tagged along with several other petitions) and the fate of the judgment decided in the main petition decided in other cases including ours. So, by virtue of the judgment delivered by the 3 judges bench, the matters tagged were disposed of, technically without listening to the side of petitioners, to which I think it shouldn’t have happened.
There are numerous cases which I can’t mention all of it here. So keeping it in short.
You mentioned working with Dr. Pradeep Kumar Rai, Vice President of the Supreme Court Bar Association. What were some of the most valuable lessons or experiences you gained during your time with him, and how did it shape your legal career?
Since I already had experience working with Senior Advocate and briefing seniors on earlier occasions, prior to joining him, it was like a cherry on cake for me. Before becoming Advocate on record, I worked there as a senior associate and handled a variety of matters of the Supreme Court, District Courts, Tribunals as well. One of the memorable experience with him was that as soon as I joined his office in the year 2021, I got the opportunity to brief a criminal matter before Vikas Singh, the then President of Supreme Court Bar association, led by Pradeep Sir. It was an enthralling experience to assist and brief Vikas Sir in the criminal matter. As a young lawyer, it is the duty of him/her to rise to the occasion and see to it that the faith and trust of the Senior should not be shaken. Briefing and assisting senior is two different aspect altogether. The sharpness of mind, argumentative skill, confidence, organized, persuasive, intelligentest are the components of becoming a sharpened advocate.
Amongst so many valuable lessons taught by Pradeep Sir, one of them out of so many of them was:
‘Never do work half heartedly, do it wholeheartedly and with confidence’, Such words motivates you to do better in the longer run. Some of the things that I have learned from him would play a vital part in my long journey in the field of litigation. Essential things before briefing a senior advocate
For E.g. Reading the facts in a crisp manner, make sure to note it down if you are not capable of grasping it initially, note down the provision/law, if any involved pertaining to that case, qua the judgments in your favour or against you, make yourself aware about the day to day judgments of various High Courts/tribunals/forums and of course, of apex court, briefs has to be shorter, highlight the main ground of the case and so on so forth. It is true to say that recognition as a lawyer in the legal field is the prominent one. The face value and the recognition that I had received as a junior of Pradeep Sir is invaluable. It is something which doesn’t last but you have to create your own name to sustain in this profession and that is exactly what happened after working with sir and post clearing advocate on record examination in 2023.
One of your recent achievements is becoming an Advocate on Record at the Supreme Court of India. Can you tell our listeners about the significance of this accomplishment and the responsibilities that come with it?
As a first generation lawyer, It is a matter of pride, honour, privilege to become a reputed part in the highest court of country
Nowadays, the debacle of professionalism and ethical standards dropping day by day in Advocate on records has seriously concerned the judges of supreme court. AOR has much more onus rather than merely signing of the petition. On behalf of the party, an Advocate on Record can file a petition, draft an affidavit, file a Vakalatnama, or any other application at the Supreme Court. A registered clerk assists AOR in procedural aspects.
The court not only requires AORs physical presence but effective assistance from AOR is also required. He is a seeker of justice for citizens of this nation. An AOR is much more accountable than a senior advocate , who is responsible for whatever is written and pleaded by putting his appearance to maintain solemnity of court records. The institution of Aors is to facilitate working of court as mentioned in Order IV Rule 6 of Supreme court Rules.
For the first time, as an intern I entered the premises of Supreme court in the year 2011, at the time of pursuing law (4th year), vacation bench was presiding In the court no.1 where bench of former CJ S.H. Kapadia and J. Altamas Kabir were taking up the urgent matters, I was awestruck seeing the arguments by some of the senior lawyers at that time and then I had decided in my mind that I will soon practise here.
Let me tell you firstly about the Advocate on record examination. Every year the Supreme Court of India conducts an Advocate on record exam for the lawyers who want to establish his/her own practice in the Supreme Court. It is one of the toughest examinations in the fields of law attempted by numerous lawyers. Precisely to say every year around a thousand lawyers/aspirants having an experience over five years or more, so, write this lengthiest exam. And only a few could crack this examination. Consecutively, in Successive years 2021 and 2022 examination approx. 500 lawyers have become advocates on records, prior to this, the numbers were very minimal. At Personal level, the Significance of this accomplishment becomes imperative for two majorly reasons :- Firstly, a non- legal background lawyer cracking this examination, Secondly, it was essential for me to make my name and register it in the Supreme court, by hook or by crook and I did it in the 3rd attempt. Failing in the last two attempts given in 2018 and the post covid, in 2021 were depressing years. Then I found a ray of hope and flushing out all my negative approaches, appeared again and cleared the AOR Examination in my 3rd attempt. They say ‘TRY TRY UNTIL YOU SUCCEED’.
Could you share some insights into your daily work routine and the challenges you face as a legal professional, especially when dealing with cases in the Supreme Court and High Court?
From the past year, I am into independent practice, the timings are a bit relaxed. Prior to this, it was bit hectic and as it should be since a fresher/junior during commencement of his/her practise either in litigation or at corporate, whatsoever the field may be, is supposed to do constant hard work, to be persistent in carrying out various tasks of various courts in order to succeed in legal profession and that’s exactly just like others I had followed the same.
I wake up, have breakfast, drop my kids to school and then rush to the court in early hours as I don’t want my cases listed to get automatically Passover and then to wait for the whole day for my matter to reach. By this way, reaching the court, either its High court or Supreme court or any other district court, I avoid traffic congestion. You have your whole day once I am done with my matter. This is the kind of work I learned at the initial stage of my internship and then carried it off in my early stages of litigation practice.
Above all this, Fitness plays a significant role in shaping my legal career. I have become more focussed, punctual, more energetic, less impulsive after doing some workout in late evening.
Our routines become ingrained in our brains. They are made up of a series of habits. Changing your work routine is difficult, for it requires tackling many habits.
In your extensive career, you’ve handled a wide range of cases and legal matters. Are there any particular cases or moments that stand out as particularly memorable or challenging for you?
From 2012 till mid 2023, I have had encounters with multiple cases in criminal side, civil side, corporate side as well, both at district, High Court and Supreme court. My memories with each case are very special because of which I grew as a lawyer and as an individual , I not only thrived for social justice but also embraced life long learning.
I find matrimonial disputes and child custody cases are the most challenging ones, since you have to fight tooth and nail to defend your client whether it’s a husband or a wife, or the case relates to custody of a child. Mediation plays a vital role in settling the disputes between the parties. There was such a peculiar case where I was representing husband, a retired IAS Officer in multiple cases filed against my client by his wife who was also an retired IAS officer, that is to say, maintenance u/s 125 CRPC, Domestic violence case under section 12, and FIR was already lodged u/s 498a. They were into court battles for so many years and the remedy I could see was through mediation. However, in a number of dates fixed for mediation, the matter could not be solved and it went back to court again and now its sub-judice. So many sittings in mediation and yet marital conflict- issues involved between both aged parties remained status quo and didn’t sorted it out.
For instances some of the cases I assisted and as independent counsel argued for are listed below : –
- Acquittal of husband/client in false dowry demand case (u/s 498a, Sec 2/3 DOWRY Prohibition act)
- 12 Writ Petitions before Delhi High Court against setting aside ex parte order of labour court, filed on behalf of management company to reinstate services of labour from date of their termination along with back wages – notice was issued and Settlement arrived between both management and employees at Later stage.
- Statutory Bail granted under POCSO Act
At present, I am handling various arbitration matters with land acquisition, both at district level and high court level, which is a bit complicated but intriguing also.
Given your experience in the legal field, what advice would you offer to law graduates or young lawyers who are just starting their careers in law? What key principles or values have helped you succeed in your journey as a lawyer?
Nowadays, a career in law opens up a plethora of possibilities. Firstly, the law graduates/young lawyers should explore career options and must be decisive in their choice of practise whether its litigation practice, (civil side or criminal side), law firm, corporate practise, judicial services , academics and research, Public prosecutor, Judge Advocate General (JAG ) Officer.
Learning to practice law can be daunting sometimes and it takes some time for junior lawyers to comprehend the technicality and procedural court work. Don’t disheartened, discourage and lose your heart if you are unable to understand the functioning of the courts. You will get it through your sheer hard work, by dint of persistence, self determination. Moreover, read the judgments of supreme court, High courts, Tribunals etc. to enhance your knowledge on various laws discussed in several judgments. Any case, in a free time, if you don’t have anything to do, or not in a mood to research, then peruse constitutional law judgments. Establish your IQ more on constitutional aspects. By reading judgments, you merely not only improve your legal vocabulary, it gives you a better understanding of the law and the legal idioms/ phrases that is being used in the judgments, you can learn it also by continuously reading it. All these you can put it in drafting and in your communication skills which further cultivates in honing your argumentative skills before the court.
You can regularly read whether from online legal search engines or from journals, depending on your preference. In this age of technical advancement, one can now easily access and also learn the art and craft of legal arguments/submissions made by legal luminaries in constitutional hearing matters.
I have come a long way from being a mediocre law student to a lawyer holding the highest position in the Supreme court. I have always been a keen learner, enthusiastic, and determined person. Giving the best in your profession and Being an honest to your profession has been my primary goal. Time management is the key to success. Value the time. I valued the time at each interval of my litigation practice. My next advice would be ‘value the time, don’t waste it. Time won’t come again. Take baby steps at once and keep working hard, success will come your way, if not today, then in coming years.
“AT ANY STAGE, DO NOT UNDERVALUE YOU, UNDERESTIMATE YOURSELF, UNDERMINE YOUR SELF BELIEF, UNDERMINE YOUR SELF DETERMINATION”
As the founder of your own law firm, “Chambers of Kunal Yadav,” what motivated you to start your practice, and what are your goals and vision for the firm’s future?
I am sure that every law student / graduate lawyer has this huge dream of having his/her own law firm. Mostly , some of them initiate the setting up of a law firm, right after graduation , some of them don’t start them at all. While few of them start a bit late. In today’s competitive environment, it’s a challenge for even the most qualified lawyers to maintain and grow a successful law practice in India.
I have quite an experience in various law firms based in Delhi and after witnessing the positive growth of associates , working under a good leadership, thus in a positive environment and working cultures of those litigation law firms, I took the decision of having my own firm. Who doesn’t want to be his own boss , right ?
I had thought of establishing and commencing my own firm some day. Before leaving the last office where I worked, I had completed 10 golden years in the legal profession. As of now It has just been a year as an independent practitioner, let’s see how and where this wind goes .
I always believe that a healthy environment in the law firm should sustain rather than a toxic environment.
As a founder of my new firm, I am looking for new avenues, new recruits which would aid in taking the firm to greater heights.
Get in touch with Kunal Yadav