“Pro bono cases are like repaying the unseen debt from society. It’s our obligation to give back.” – Prabhu Prasanna Behera, Central Government Counsel & Founder at Office of Prabhu Prasanna Behra and Associates

This interview has been published by Namrata Singh and The SuperLawyer Team

As a first-generation lawyer, what motivated you to choose law as your career path? Were there any particular mentors or figures who played a significant role in guiding and supporting you on your journey to success?  

When I was in School, particularly in Std. VI, we were taught about three pillars of Democracy. Thus from there I had an idea that when someone has the Law degree, then only he can touch all the three pillars like, Executive, Judiciary and Legislative. 

Secondly I had an opportunity to interact with Hon’ble Justice Rangnath Mishra, The Former Chief Justice of India and Member of Rajya-Sabha. He  had visited our School namely Sri. Aurobindo School of New Thought, at Cuttack as the Chief Guest. That time he was the Member of Rajya Sabha. I had the honour of receiving the Best Student of the School award from him and hence could share a few minutes with him in the office of the Principal. Seeing his profile I felt that I would definitely study Law.

Then when I completed my +2 Science, I joined 5-years B.A. LL.B (H) Course in Madhusudan Law College (Now Madhusudan Law University) as I used to read about said Institution in News Paper. Of course I was / am also impacted with the Life of the Great Hero of Odisha Late Madhu Sudan Das, popularly known as Utkal Gaurav Madhu barrister. 

To answer the second part of the question,  I humbly believe that I am yet to achieve Success. It is because, I think Success is the journey and not the destination. Every day I feel that a lot to be done and people who we idolise also have the same hour of work maximum up to 24 hours a day but they are doing so much. So I always wonder about learning and I humbly think that continuous learning is the only option we have. 

It is also a fact that many seniors and teachers have contributed to my professional career to have been shaped. I am always obliged for their contribution. 

Considering your extensive experience and successful practice in various courts, did you ever contemplate joining a law firm, or was independent practice always your preferred path? If so, what factors influenced your decision to pursue an independent practice from the outset of your career?  

Honestly I have never thought of joining a Law Firm or for that matter having my practice in such a design. There is no specific reason as such. 

Maybe in the state of Odisha there is no such environment or such style of practice. We may not find many Law Firms in Odisha. 

If I think a little more I would like to state that, I had the humble opportunity to have been engaged by a few Law Firms in some cases in Odisha. Then I had developed a good rapport with the firms so probably could not think of joining a firm for my practice. 

To the second part of the question, My Senior Mr. Aswini Kumar Mishra was always stating that the day you join the bar, you should always feel like an independent practitioner and develop yourself like that. That gives you a sense of responsibility and you become more and more responsible. Thus I have always been inclined towards Independent Practice. 

My idea of Independent Practice is not just having an Independent Office, Independent practice starts from the point when start doing a case or dealing with a client independently winning his confidence till the end of the litigation. That can also be done when you are working with a senior.

You have authored and published a law book and are working on several other compilations. What drives you to write, and how do you think your publications contribute to the legal field?  

I humbly believe that the Law Students, Lawyers and each one of us are like a ship in the ocean of  Legal profession. In order to reach the destination or the port, the ship requires a strong radar. The more effective the radar, it will be easier to reach at the destination.

Therefore writing articles, research papers, books, compilations are like a radar for the individual professional or student. You stand out and make a different identity for yourself in the fraternity. 

Secondly it is also helpful for legal research and helping people learn the Law. 

For example many judges are known and remembered for their books may not be for the judgements. Many exceptional lawyers who are stalwarts in Law are remembered for their erudite books not just for the arguments advanced in the courtRoom. 

Lastly, writing and researching keeps growing and we never feel complacent.  

More than eight of your juniors are now in independent practice. What do you think are the key qualities or skills that you have imparted to them that have contributed to their success?  

स तु दीर्घकालनैरन्तर्यसत्कारासेवितो   दृढभूमि :

sa tu dīrgha kāla nairantarya satkārā ‘‘sevito dṛḍhabhūmiḥ

This is the famous sutra from Paranjalai Yoga Sutra which defines “PRACTICE”. 

It says 

“ sa tu dīrgha kāla” Which means For a Longer Period

 “Nairantarya” which means Without any break/interruption 

“satkārā ‘‘sevito” which means With Honour and Respect.

Further Honour and respect means – Giving 100% in what you do at a given point of time. 

That is Practice. 

What we all try to do is to continuously be in the learning process, without any break and with honour and respect. 

On the other hand I always tell my associates that People come to Lawyers and Doctors when they are in trouble.

So we need to be careful and empathetic towards their problems. For some persons, Magistrate’s Court or The District Courts are the last hope. They do not know the High Court or Supreme Court. They cannot afford to reach also.(Although we have Legal Aid)

So we need to be extra cautious in our professional work and try to be honest and deliver the service .

Lastly My associates are trained with a particular line which is “We will not say what sounds good, we will tell what is Good and more particularly what is good for the Client and his case”. 

This helps us in winning the confidence of clients. They remain with us for all time to come. 

One more thing we always try to do is SWOT analysis. i.e. Strength, Weakness, Opportunities  and Threats. (I believe there is no Threats.It can be replaced with “Challenges”). 

You conduct “Pro Bono” cases. Can you discuss the importance of pro bono work in the legal profession and share any memorable experiences from your pro bono cases?  

Pro bono cases are like repaying the unseen debt that we have received from the society. When we were studying Law or any other course in school or colleges, the amount of financials/money involved and spent by the institutions are much higher than that of the fees we paid to the said institution. Therefore the extra amount which the institution has spent for us is taken from the society. Hence when we start earning from the formal education received from that educational institution it becomes our obligation to put our efforts to repay the debt that we have received from the society by doing some good work. And pro bono cases can be one of these small steps towards the repayment of unseen debt.

On the other hand receiving remuneration from the cases is like “LAXMI”. When people receive money by false promise and illegal manner that is like “AA-LAXMI”. When professional help the needy people honestly and receive blessings as may be little amount that is like “MAHA-LAXMI”

LAXMI- Comes and Goes, it’s the Most Dynamic.

AA-LAXMI- Come in abundance and definitely will go making everything Empty or will Attract negativity. 

MAHA-LAXMI- may come slowly but will always remain with you and it  will grow not just in terms of Money and objects but also in terms of good will as well as blessings. 

Reflecting on your legal career, what have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced, and how have you overcome them? Additionally, could you share your future goals and aspirations for your legal practice and your contributions to the legal community?  

The biggest challenge has been the resources such as the library and recognition in the bar as a good lawyer. When you argue well then automatically people assume that you must be the second generation lawyer and the son/daughter of some senior advocate or judge. Secondly, when you compare your counterparts, your friends from school and colleges who are working in other sectors and also in law forms, the remuneration that they receive is much higher than what you get in litigation. In a middle class family that too when you have nobody in the profession there is a constant pressure for joining services like judiciary, law clerk or teaching. Of course teaching was my second preference and I have been teaching till date also. But primarily I would say there has been no such big challenge but the challenges are the opportunities to learn to make yourself a better person and a better professional. 

As far as overcoming the challenges are concerned the only thing which I strongly believe that helps is continuous learning, dedicated work, ignoring the negative thoughts and ideas as well as negative factors of course by recognising it properly.

It is said “Jag Mein jiye to kaise jiye… jaise JAL Mein Kamal ka phool khile”

It means like a Lotus that blooms in water, but its roots are in mud. When you take it out, it is unaffected by the water or by the mud.

Thus I strongly feel that we should not be affected by the difficult times and negativity. Rather we should be focusing on the work.

We’ve heard that your office warmly welcomes students for learning opportunities. Could you tell us more about your internship program? How can students connect with you for internships, and what specific skills or qualities do you look for when considering interns for opportunities in your office?  

As I said in the above question, internship programs are like fixing your ladder and finding out the place where you can think of a career in your future. Students should be open in learning from various organisations not just the legal aspect but also the functional and organizational structure of the institutions where they are Interning.

I remember when I was in law College, at that time we noticed that there were neither internships programmes nor any organization used to allow law students to join as an intern in their organization.

I along with one of my friends had to work hard and by requesting the then chairperson of Human Rights Commission, Women Commission, and other organizations like NABARD, companies like NALCO, we introduced internships program in their work schedule.

Now we see that the students are highly benefited with such internships programs in those organizations. 

In so far as working as an intern in our office is concerned the only criteria that we look for is the interest of the student. If somebody is interested and has an honest urge to learn, we would love to make him or her a part of our office.

One thing I always tell that once somebody is interning with us, we make sure that he or she becomes a part of our family and we would always stand for the student and the student should feel that he himself  is a part of the team so that he would never feel that he has nobody to guide or no scope to learn or he has just worked for a month or two only for a certificate.  

Managing a diverse legal practice, teaching, and engaging in spiritual activities must be demanding. How do you maintain a balance between your professional and personal life?  

As I have mentioned above that everyone has 24 hours, accordingly we need to schedule and balance our work. Legal practice is the profession, teaching is the passion and spiritual activity is a way of life which does not require a specific time; rather it is an inherent, unseen as well as coexisting factor which remains always with you in whatever and whichever position you are. I believe everyone is connected to spirituality somewhere or the other. Therefore for spiritual practice no specific time is required or you need not think that it is going to take a lot of time from the day to day activities.

You’ve mentioned your interest in researching Indian Knowledge Systems. Could you share with us how you integrate insights from Indian Knowledge Systems into your legal practice, and how does this unique perspective enhance your approach to legal issues?  

I have participated in a course conducted by Sri Sri University, Cuttack, designed by Prof. Dr. Richa Chopra, working in IIT Kharagpur, namely “Human Development and Psychology Vedic and Modern Perspective”. The said course is like a bouquet of knowledge and helps in introspecting and knowing the impact and impressions on human life of various factors such as art, science, music, astrology, mathematics, chemistry, ayurveda, embryology, social life, family life etc. The course helps in knowing “why I am the way I am”. From there I could gather that there is a lot to be learnt beyond the parameters of the syllabus.

Further reading of various texts and more particularly after introduction of National Education Policy, I believe that every subject which we study in the institution as a part of the syllabus is connected to the Indian knowledge system and has its source from the Indian knowledge system. 

If we study that and try to connect with the same, then it might not be so helpful in academics but it will definitely enlarge the ideas thoughts as well as define the views on that particular subject.

Directly a professional may not get some tangible benefits from the study of the Indian knowledge system but I believe that in a long run it would be definitely beneficial. 

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