Jaimin Dave, a 2012 graduate of Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad is currently working as an Independent Counsel, at the High Court of Gujarat. He litigates in all types of civil cases, his areas of interest being Corporate and Commercial Laws. In this interview he tells us about:
- The importance of knowledge, as compared to CGP;
- The passion of indulging in mooting and Legal Aid;
- The way to prepare for the All India Bar Examination;
- The experience of representing institutions like Reliance, Asian Paints, Ford, Huntsman, and various others;
- The work as a Retainer Advocate;
- The choice of Corporate Law as a career.
How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers?
A simple easy going man who happens to be lawyer by vocation. I am based at the High Court of Gujarat and mostly deal in all kind of Civil Cases. Amongst Civil Cases, I would say, I have special liking for Corporate/Commercial and Taxation matters.
What has your experience been like, studying in Institute of Law, Nirma University? What other co-curricular and extra-curricular activities were you involved in?
Journey at ILNU shall always remain special. According to me it is one of the top ranked Private Law Schools in India and I consider myself to be fortunate enough to have graduated from ILNU.
If I look back at my journey at ILNU, I was part of a pioneer batch and most of them in my batch were extremely competitive. There were 10 to 15 batch mates who were outstanding and it is from there, that I derived motivation to do well at ILNU. Of course, all of them are supremely able and I think I am still catching up with them. But, yes, in their company I learnt that there is no substitute of excellence. Academic brilliance was encouraged at ILNU but at the same time it was ensured that we got practical exposure to different arenas through adequate internships, workshops and co-curricular activities. At ILNU we were always pushed harder to walk an extra mile in whatever we did; be it academics, co-curricular activities or internships. And that habit of pushing hard and walking an extra mile, which was inculcated at ILNU, is helping big time in professional life.
I was involved in host of co-curricular activities. But, mooting and Legal Aid were two of the activities in which I was keenly interested out of all the other co-curricular activities. I believe mooting has multi-dimensional advantages attached to it and to me it was highly beneficial. It helped me develop much required confidence for litigation. The legal aptitude and knack of identifying clinching points in a given scenario developed due to mooting. Besides this it enhanced my research and analytical skill. Legal aid was done out of sheer interest and even today I am part of High Court Legal Aid Services Committee since I am firm believer in repaying back to the society.
You had honors in Corporate Law. Tell us about the Honors Program at ILNU?
Again interest for Corporate Law developed on account of few Moot Courts that I did on this subject. This is the reason behind choosing Corporate Law as honors course.
ILNU offers a well strategized Corporate Honors program. As a part of my honors program, I got an opportunity to carry out extensive research and read texts on topics like Mergers & Amalgamation, Securities Law, Contract and Tenders, Corporate Insolvency, Corporate restructuring etc. I believe things done at the time of corporate honors program helps me today when I sit down to vet SPA’s/SHA’s, draft a winding up petition or let’s say draft a scheme for De-mergers/Amalgamation. To sum up, corporate honors at ILNU was very insightful.
You’ve been awarded with the Best Student of Law for Batch 2007-2012, and have also bagged two gold medals for the highest CGP, and the highest CGP in Corporate Honors. How relevant would you say, have these grades been, since you started litigation?
As a student of law school, I believe, my focus was more on acquiring skills, intellect and knowledge. The awards and medals just happened while I was honing my skills at law school. Yes, they give you a sense of satisfaction and it shall stay as a pleasant memory with you. But, at the same time I acknowledged and realized that these medals only indicate that I did a fair job as a student during law school. It does not carry my case any further.
Yes, it motivated me to do well as a professional. The day I graduated and received them, I sat down and told myself that this is not the end and it is just beginning. I made it clear in my head that awards and medals have to be left behind and I need to put in the same amount of hard work and dedication, as I did for the past five years, so as to establish myself as a good professional. Grades, awards and medals became completely insignificant the day I stepped into practical field since there are a lot of others factors and skills that makes you a good litigating lawyer like time management, Court craft, awareness about mindset of a Judge, skills of opponents etc.
In fact, to be very blunt, if you opt for litigation as career, grades, awards and medals are either a piece of paper in your drawer or a show piece at your office. Speaking for myself, nobody ever approached me and handed over a brief to argue because of my grades or medals. Only skills, intellect and knowledge, that have been acquired during law school life have helped me so far. Therefore, in my opinion, focus should be more on quality of knowledge and skills that you acquire rather than grades or medals you obtain at law school. Of course medals give you some morale boost but one needs to back that up with other intellect to survive in litigation.
How did you prepare for the All India Bar Examination?
AIBE is one of the easiest exams that I have ever appeared for as a Law Student.
Of course, before taking the examination, I was a little nervous, considering the longish curriculum that AIBE has. As a fresh pass out, it is perplexing to know that all those laws, for which you took five long years to study, are now required to be read over for a single exam. Having said this, I approached AIBE with incisive planning and gave myself sufficient time to prepare for the exam. The idea was to run through Bare Acts related to all the laws mentioned in AIBE curriculum. Thereafter, I read commentaries on CPC, Contract Act, Specific Relief, Law of Torts, CrPC, IPC and Evidence Act since these subjects carried maximum weightage and refreshing memory on these subjects would have helped me in litigation as well. Once I did this, I was fairly confident of appearing in AIBE.
Everyone who has appeared for AIBE will endorse that if your fundamentals as Law Student are clear, it should be a cake walk to clear it. It simply tests your basic knowledge on several statutes that form fulcrum of Indian Legal System.
However, I personally believe that AIBE can be made more challenging and stiffer, if BCI really wants to achieve the purpose behind introducing it.
What made you gravitate towards litigation, immediately after graduation? What other options were you considering?
As a kid, robes and neck bands fascinated me and that’s how I have ended up in this black and white world.
On a serious note, I think I thrive on challenges and I was gravitated to litigation because of challenges attached to it. I am a first generation lawyer and decided to choose litigation as a career despite strong NO from near and dear ones only because I am passionate about practicing law. I was clear about choosing litigation as a career from day one of my law school because of the following reasons:
- In litigation you get firsthand experience of interpreting law and testing your legal acumen. As a lawyer you can evolve a new law point and test it before the Court. As a law-firm associate or in house counsel you can never become master of a brief. Obviously they can bring up a point and most of them come up with excellent points. But ultimately it is left upon wisdom and good judgment of litigating lawyers to decide as to whether it should be argued or not depending upon opponent, Bench and other factors. I prefer being master of brief and hence this career over other options. Yes it brings lot of responsibility and risk along with it but then I have always enjoyed this till now.
- Secondly, it is a career which throws up new challenge almost every day. As a lawyer I deal with matter involving different subject matters such as Winding-up, Tax and Stamp Laws, Mergers & Amalgamation, Land Acquisition Law, Electricity Laws, Land Laws, Civil Procedure Code etc. When you deal with such wide range of subject, your job is never monotonous. Each case, each opponent, each Bench and each law throws up a different challenge and you have to don different hats to do justice to brief.
- Lastly, I would say is the job satisfaction associated with litigation, tilted my interest towards it. For me it is always satisfying to argue a law point well and convince a judge. If you have prepared and argued the brief well the clients will also acknowledge your efforts and their satisfaction with your work is always a morale booster. Yes the picture is not always rosy and there are days when matters get adjourned or you cannot convince a judge even after toiling through earlier night to prepare a brief. But, as far as I put in my best efforts I am a satisfied man.
As I said, I never considered other options as a Career. Even today I do not have plan B, if I fail I am gone. But at least for now, I believe I have made a right choice. This I say so because I am also involved in non-lit work like drafting and vetting of SHA’s, SPA’s and other contracts. That work to me is not as interesting as litigation because practicing law is much like playing sport to me.
Was there anyone, in particular, who influenced you while deciding on litigation?
Not really, but I think it is my internships that sealed my decision to join litigation. I did a running internship with Senior Advocate S. N. Soparkar during last two semesters of law school and then at Supreme Court with Hon’ble Justice A. R. Dave. These internships were enriching. After getting an exposure to different matters and work culture at High Court and Supreme Court, I thought it was the right decision to join litigation. There was nothing in particular that influenced my decision significantly; I went with my heart and followed something I was passionate about.
What are your core areas of practice? How did you find your domain?
During the initial phase of your career there is nothing like a core area of practice. It is like you have to accept every cuisine that is served into your platter when you are famished.
Likewise, I am a litigating lawyer who takes up every kind of civil litigation that comes up to me and also criminal matters if they are related to white collar crimes, commercial transactions or land disputes. I admit that I have that special liking for Commercial and Taxation matter and criminal doesn’t interest me much. But that liking towards corporate and taxation matters is because of the fact that I am conversant with those two subjects and also because I have experience of appearing in Court for such matters. Ordinarily I would grasp matters related to taxation and corporate/commercial laws much faster as compared to other matters. But that does not mean that I cannot prepare myself on other subject. If I get few hours to prepare myself with any civil brief I am ready and willing to argue it. It is others who have labeled me as a lawyer for corporate or taxation subjects. According to me I am lawyer who accept all civil briefs and whose comfort zone might be Corporate and Tax Laws.
What is the present scenario of Corporate Law as a career option in India?
An opportunistic career.
They have established National Company Law Tribunal an Commercial Courts are coming up. We already have DRT, ITAT, CESTAT and few other tribunals. Insolvency legislation is coming up and there is this Real Estate Regulation and Development Act. All these laws and institutions collectively indicate that there is lot of litigation in store. So if you are planning to become a litigating corporate lawyer the future seems to be bright. Even on non-lit side, SPA and SHA are on rise in India and with enhancement of FDI cap in several sectors it will only rise further.
What are the challenges of being an advocate in the Gujarat High Court?
High Court of Gujarat is one of the better Courts to start practice. The Bar members are receptive to junior lawyers. Most of the seniors are approachable and ready to help when you seek their advice. The Hon’ble Judges are willing to hear you patiently provided you argue appropriate points with the brief in hand. There are a lot of people in similar age group as that of me so obviously you make lot of friends at the bar. Also you can have intellectual discussions with them and their perspective adds value to your preparation for a brief and understanding of law at large. All in all, I would say environment is good at Court and despite being first generation lawyer I never found any problem at the Court.
Have the law schools in India been able to produce socially relevant lawyers, given that many choose to take up firm jobs?
Taking jobs in law firm does not mean that you are socially insensitive. Lot of my friends who have joined law firms do social work in their free time. I agree that as lawyers you can become directly relevant to society through Pro Bono litigation and Public Interest Litigations. But that does not mean that law schools have failed in producing socially relevant lawyers because more people take up firm jobs.
I feel every law school emphasizes upon its student to inculcate ethics, values and good conscience. It is the individual’s choice thereafter to decide the impact that he wants to have on society.
Has there been any case that changed your perspective about the Indian judicial system?
Every case that I have argued till now has changed my perspective about the Indian Judicial System. I have a habit of analyzing my performance before the Court irrespective of the outcome of the matter. When you analyze your performances it is bound to leave an impact on you and change your perspective about the system.
Ultimately I have realized that the system remains the same, it is more about changing your perspective as a lawyer and molding yourself to fit in the system. You get effective results out of the existing system, the faster and better you mold yourself to fit and then excel in the system.
Please tell us about your experience of representing some of the most reputed institutions, and being a Retainer Advocate at various other institutions.
Obviously it is good to represent institutions like Reliance, Asian Paints, Ford, Huntsman etc. before different forums very early in one’s career. But my preparation for each brief has remained the same depending on the merits involved in the matter. I have never gone by the name of the client over the docket while putting in efforts into a brief. However, when you sit down to prepare for briefs of these reputed institutions all the relevant information is on the table and it becomes easier and less time consuming as compared to other clients. Their approach to litigation is much more methodical and strategic as compared to other clients.
Coming to retainer- ship, honestly, it is a tedious job. They approach you for legal assistance in each and every small notice and petty issues. And sometimes with lack of time you lose the plot. But then advantages outrun the disadvantages. It helps me in learning about the problems that such institutions face in day to day functioning. I get an opportunity to solve those problems and keep myself abreast with development in various laws such as Arbitration, Negotiable Instruments, Labor Laws, Registration of documents, Stamping etc. Hence, as far as I am learning out of it, I will continue accepting retainer-ships.
The Bar Council of India is contemplating on the formation of a new rule which will require lawyers to practice in lower courts, before arguing before the High Courts and the Supreme Court. If this rule is made concrete, do you think it will help?
I think it should be left to the conscious decision of an individual lawyer rather than imposing something like that by way of rules.
Before starting to practice at High Court of Gujarat, even I was confused and contemplated whether to join sub-ordinate courts for initial one to two years. But then I consulted two very good seniors at High Court of Gujarat and both were of unanimous opinion that lower courts practice does not have significant impact on practice at High Court if you are aware about the procedural aspects of sub-ordinate courts and basic statutes. Considering this I started my practice straight away from High Court and obtained good understanding on procedural aspects of sub-ordinate courts and re-read basic statutes such as CPC, Evidence, Specific Relief, Contract, Court Fees Act and Limitation. Once you do this I don’t think there can be any problem.
Today, I also take up selected matters before sub-ordinate courts and not practicing there before joining High Court hasn’t impacted my performance anywhere so far. However, this is my personal belief. BCI is a wise body and there must be some thought behind proposed rules. As and when it is rolled out one can have better understanding about the intention behind such rules.
Finally, what parting message would you like to give to our readers?
I would say learn as much as you can while in law school. Learning does not mean only bookish knowledge because grades and awards are secondary; your intellect and knowledge comes above all. By learning, I mean educate yourselves with every possible trick related to the profession you wish to join after graduation. It can be done through running internships, workshops, seminars, moots, debates etc. This will make you a complete product by the end of five years. When you join a profession, not all days are going to be the same. Trust me it will be a roller coaster ride from day one. Sometimes you unexpectedly win a matter and sometimes you lose a good matter. However, you are bound to make progress, as long as you keep working hard, stay honest to your work ethics, believe in yourself and grab opportunities that come your way. I acknowledge that the track is difficult and you need to have your foot on the pedal all the time, but then smooth tracks don’t create skilled operators.
In the entire process make sure you make a lot of friends, take vacations and do adventures, travel and explore the globe, drive a machine you love. Stay gracious to everyone who has helped to be what you are. Most importantly make sure you take out enough time for friends and family, although I have been accused of not following this part of my advice. But, I am trying to make amends by taking out time for people who matter.
With this, I wish every reader best of luck with their future endeavors!