Jomol Joy graduated from NLIU, Bhopal in 2014. Her interest in litigation led her to start her career with practice and is currently an associate at the Chambers of Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra. She has been quite involved in Debating and Mooting as a student. We asked her to share her experiences and strategies she used over the years.
In this interview she talks about:
- Her life and journey as a law student
- Mooting and other co curricular activities
- Internships during law school
- A career in litigation practice
What brought you into legal studies? Did you not consider medical or engineering as a career?
Even though I believe that no one knows you better than yourself, but when it comes to answering the question, it is always a challenge. I’m an advocate by profession, who in her little time of her own likes organising events only as a matter of interest. I like clicking pictures, cooking, teaching and dancing. If asked to describe myself, I would say I’m an energetic, hardworking, ambitious, tolerant, adaptive, and a positive social butterfly who believes that your happiness is in your hands.
I’m answerable to my conscience, I have had a vision and for many years to come the only set goal and desire is to be designated as a Senior Advocate from the Delhi High Court. Back in college, I was given the title of ‘Joan of Arc’, which I believe suits the fighter in me. Maybe it is the same tendency that brought me to this profession. I’m a believer of the saying, “Everything happens for a reason”. My decision to pursue law was certainly not a result of an in-depth introspection, even though many factors were responsible for the decision.
The most honest and genuine reason was to explore the option of studying in a national law university in my own hometown. Another predominant factor was CLAT. It is only after solving a mock test paper at one of the coaching centres did I get an idea about the legal studies and it was only after that I decided to do law. However, till date I have never regretted my decision to pursue law, in fact from the very first year of my law school I have felt that I belong to the profession, and as time passed and I gradually unfolded the new faces of the legal profession, I was always more excited for the next. I did consider engineering at the first instance, as I always had an interest in programming, but when it came to choosing either of the two, I chose law.
Tell us about your years in law school. What made your journey with NLIU worth it?
Five years is not a very long period according to me, but even those five years of time spent at NLIU had been the most remarkable and life changing years of my life. Each passing day at NLIU had only been a new learning experience for me. Not even a single day would pass when I had to sit idle doing nothing.
Today as a litigating lawyer when I have to work even 20 out of 24 hours mostly on a daily basis, I do not find it burdensome or unusual as NLIU has prepared me for this right from the beginning. Be it moot courts, debates or client counselling, or activities of different university cells, NLIU has honestly played a major role in my overall grooming as a lawyer and has equipped me to adapt to the lifestyle of a lawyer. With each passing day, my decision to pursue law has only become stronger, because had it not been for the co-curricular activities I would not have got a platform to mould my legal aptitude.
In the first two years I experimented as much as I could and by the third year I streamlined my schedule and devoted my time to those activities which I thought were more pertinent to my career in litigation such as moots, client counselling. Also in our university, activities of all kinds are student prerogative mostly, so that always gave us a room for exploring and experimenting new things, and fortunately our faculty members have always supported our, so organising university moots or other competitions in the University were always fun and easygoing.
Also being a part of the NLIU fraternity has only opened doors to more and more opportunities for me, be it receiving invites for some of the most reputed law schools of the country or the respect one gets by virtue of being a part of the NLIU family has always boosted my spirits.
Tell us about the trimester system at NLIU. Any improvements you feel it could do with?
As the popular opinion goes, trimester system is demanding and taxing, to an extent true, especially in a law school. One has to work their way up to be consistently able to regularly perform the balancing act where on one hand you need to meet your deadlines for both academics as well as co-curricular activities. But by the end of these five years at NLIU I have realised that the trimester system had played a very crucial role in preparing my work schedule. I can draw several similarities between the trimester system and my work schedule.
Tell us about some of your most interesting internship experiences.
I cannot grade my internships, but I can say one thing that every internship has helped me grow, be it an NGO or chambers of an advocate or a corporate firm, every place has played a major role in helping me decide my future. Unless one explores all the options at ones disposal, one cannot make an informed choice so according to me internships were highly instrumental in my decision making.
However my internship at the chambers of Advocate Satish Tamta has developed my interest in criminal law. I believe Satish sir is one of the very few advocates who would take pains to take time out from his busy schedule and discuss law with his interns which made that internship an extremely enlightening experience. Also it is very important to have an experienced yet approachable mentor who believes in sharing his valuable understanding of law with his juniors.
You have participated in various moot court competitions and have also won few of these competitions. What is your advice to budding mooters?
Mooting for me had become a passion so much that in the last few months of fifth year when most of the students prefer chilling and partying, I chose to do a last moot of my law school life which I was adamant on winning as a tribute to my law school. It played a huge role in inculcating my interest in litigation, and which by God’s grace we won.
You have joined the Chambers of Geeta Luthra as an Associate this June. Did you ever plan to join a corporate law firm? Do you plan to pursue litigation from now onwards?
Litigation was not always on my list nor did I pursue law to litigate, in fact like any other student of law, when I joined the law school only thing I was sure of was that I want to do law but what after that was something I had figured out only in the due course. And when you are not sure as to where you have to head, the best thing to do is to explore and experiment as much as you can in the time available and I did exactly that. Starting from Human Rights Commission to NGO to litigation firms to corporate, I explored quite a many of them and by the end of my 3rd year I was clear about one thing, which was that corporate law practice was certainly not my cup of tea, the very thought of not going to courts, not being able to argue, not being able to practice made me more inclined to litigation. I wish to set up my own practice independently. I had always been in awe of the profession, especially the work style of a litigating lawyer, from soliciting to counselling to arguing, the joy of being known for your work, being known for your work as an attorney, the pride of being designated. The power, the respect the profession gives you is unparallel.
How did your appointment at the Chambers of Geeta Luthra take place? What would you say clicked in favour of you in getting to work with her?
I had applied at the chambers for an internship in my fourth year during the summer break in the month of June, but unfortunately as the courts had closed, I only had the opportunity to assist Geeta Ma’am for only four days on two bail matters, and thereafter some of the associates at the chambers, including Sanjeev sir and Harish sir with some drafting. But it was only during this internship that I realised that quality does matter, more than quantity. If your work has quality, it can make an impact, and that too a long lasting one.
Since by the time the courts opened and work resumed I had gone back but even in that short time, Geeta Ma’am and other associates had acknowledged my work and recognised me for it which gave me a great boost.
Thereafter, I was offered a place in their chambers, however to get a little more acquainted with the work culture and to be sure about my decision I had a call back internship in October for another 15 days, and it came as a surprise to me that Geeta Ma’am was kind enough to recognise me and appreciate me for the work I did for her and the entire office welcomed me back and it was then I realised that this is where I belong to. So the best thing about this office is that it has young minds, some of the best in the profession with great calibre which keeps the healthy spirit of competition on at the same time a warm and friendly environment thus making it a family which stands by each other. If you have the ability then you will be rewarded with opportunities, you will be guided throughout, shielded and most importantly your work will be rewarded.
A lot of law students prefer corporate jobs over a career in litigation. Is it better to work in the corporate sector for a few years before starting litigation?
To each his own, but it is true that there is an increasing trend to join corporate jobs over the traditional litigation practice. According to me, the biggest factor that influences the decision is the quick earning and perks corporate offers right after your studies. Everyone aims at a comfortable secure life, especially after college, one would not want to burden their parents or ask them for money, so it is natural to have money factor playing a predominant role in deciding and shaping ones career choices.
Not everyone is fortunate to be able to afford a luxurious lifestyle and still be doing a job of his own choice. However, for those who wish to secure their finances before stepping into litigation, and who wish to try their hand at corporate, it is always an option. However, as my little understanding goes, both are two distinct fields of practice of law so it is not necessary to begin with corporate, however as I said it is good to experience everything, depending on the time and opportunity one has. For me, doing what I wanted mattered more than money because when you are living your dream any sacrifice you make, any hardship you go through gives you a great sense of pride and not misery. Moreover, hard work and smart work never ditches you, so if you do your bit, money is certain to follow.
Do you think top notch grades have given you an advantage over others in your arena of litigation? How useful would you say would be being a topper for people who want to practice?
I was never among the toppers of my batch and to be honest, I did not even make an attempt to. That however does not mean I had a casual approach about law or the profession, our system is such where good grades and consistent good performance is given importance, and in that process very often the importance of quality education and in-depth study is lost, at least I felt it on many occasions.
So those who topped the batch they certainly put their best foot forward and their efforts are worth appreciating and they have their own priorities, but as far as I’m concerned I believed in doing a holistic study not just for the sake of scoring well but as a matter of learning, so I scored decent enough. As far as litigation is concerned, I haven’t come across a situation where I had to prove my grades; however excellence and brilliance is appreciated everywhere, even in litigation. There it is more about proving your mettle in court appearances, earning the confidence of the client and that of the judge, making a place for yourself in the bar and getting favourable orders.
What is your workday like? Are there new challenges every day or did work fall into a predictable pattern?
Workday here at the Chambers of Sr. Advocate Geeta Luthra is a new challenge every day. Presently I’m doing a potpourri of matters ranging from bail petitions, suits, writs, SLPs and many more matters ranging from criminal law to matrimonial law to service matters to land acquisition matters. For someone who is barely 6 months into the profession, having exposure to such a variety of matters is indeed a blessing.
How necessary is it to have a mentor/guide to handhold a young lawyer while still in the formative years of litigation?
I’m a person who believes that everyone has something to teach, irrespective of his age or experience. I’m not of the opinion that one needs to have a designated senior as his/her mentor in the initial years of litigation, but I believe to have someone who can handhold you in fact supervise your actions and not spoon feed you is who you need. Someone who gives you enough room to experiment, who wishes to see your growth with his, who trusts you with his work at the same time keeps a close watch on your work just in time to salvage in case of a faux pas.
Thus, what one needs is a vigilant yet a comforting senior. And I must mention, I’m in the right hands, if you are looking for a vast exposure, from civil to criminal law, increasing opportunities to argue, in an office where you are assigned matters and are expected to handle it fully from handling the clients to getting it filed and to argue the matters and it goes without saying, opportunity to work on some fine cases, work with some of the best legal minds in the profession are few of the many perks you get while working at the chambers of Senior Advocate Geeta Luthra.
How difficult would you say it is to build a reputed practice?
Well it is too early for me to answer this question as I’m still in the “early days of practice” as you put it. But having seen many others who have set up their full fledged practice in the profession, I can only say it is very unpredictable, it highly depends on the career decisions you make, your performance, your social skills, it differs from person to person and even law to law, I have heard people say that it is still easier to make a standing in civil side but to develop a clientele on the criminal side and to make a standing there can take even more time than what it should take on the civil side. I’m yet to explore this aspect so maybe I’m a little too young into the profession to answer the question.
Do you think your experience in mooting shall help you in your litigation career?
My answer is a big yes to this question. In fact, I realised it in my last two years of law school that my mooting experience had been a great help, I could myself sense a drastic difference in my internship performance post the increasing moot exposure. Even though there are many factors which affect the mooting experience such as the kind of moot one decides to go for, the issues of law involved, etc., but moots of all kinds do play a massive role in grooming the lawyer in you. There are several things which I find are in common between a moot and real practice of law.
Approach to a given problem, applying one’s mind to it, analysis and digging the issues involved, strategising the arguments and then drafting a foolproof written submission, addressing the court and putting forth your submissions in a way that you get your arguments across in the desired way are challenges which I face even today as a practising advocate. Thus, moots are an excellent platform to hone your advocacy skills, thus winning or losing does not matter, what you take home is more refined better prepared lawyer, therefore in a moot everyone is a winner.
What can the law schools do to encourage more people into litigation?
I guess law schools should understand the relevance of internships and inculcate the practice of interning at different places right from the beginning of their law school. College administration should facilitate students with as many opportunities to intern as many law schools have a student run PCC which needs to be backed by the university administration so that the internship and recruitment of the students gets a boost.
It is also important to guide students into selecting the right kind of internship at the right time, for instance internship in a top tier corporate firm in your very first year of law education might not do as much help as an internship with probably a district court or an NGO. Thus, this is where the law school needs to chip in. Also, law schools should facilitate interactive sessions of students with some of the inspiring minds in the legal profession so that they could make informed choices.
What would be your parting message to law students who want to litigate just after graduation?
I would say, go for it. If you wish to practice, and this goes without saying; sacrifices and hard work are quintessential for anything one decides to go for. People often start with a career in corporate fearing the initial financial burden that one might face in litigation, but at the end I have seen many switch to litigation for want of interest to work in corporate. Thus, striking a balance between what you want to do and your other considerations in life is a must.
Even though some of them who are quite focussed and have already planned their career to suit their needs, my advice is not for them, as there happens to be many out there initially wish to pay off their education loan or wish to build a bank balance for their initial years of litigation struggle. But most important is to have your priorities set straight, and the determination to sustain. Many a times into the profession one might lose patience and feel low, but one must remember that only temporary, hard work and good work is appreciated and rewarded everywhere, sooner or later.
In fact there are many litigation firms that pay decent remuneration to freshers also, considering you perform well. If you feel for the profession with utmost passion, all these sacrifices would only make you a strong person and more importantly give you a sense of pride. Working hours and remuneration all seem small before the joy of getting favourable orders from the court, at least that is what my little experience says. So, according to me right after graduation is always a better option as then you have the energy the zeal at its peak which could help you sail through the tough building years of litigation.