“Man with a silver spoon in his mouth” is what they say to a law student having a family with a law background. How hard was it for you to climb the ladder of success you achieved to your name?
Not just the legal profession, in various professions, next-generation taking up the profession similar to their parents does get the benefit of the best education and are the beneficiaries of the family contacts and networks. Your parents’ experience and knowledge are great resources to learn from in your career. Having a family with a law background does provide you with a foundation. However, you alone have to build a robust structure upon the same with your knowledge, skills, and accomplishments.
The common perception about the term “silver spoon kids” usually is, that they lead an easy and cushy life, are well provided, which ensures that they lead a life of entitlement and privileges. This perception is not correct. There is a huge pressure instilled, where you are constantly compared to the members of the family.
There is a beautiful quote I read somewhere which says – “Focus on doing, creating, and participating in your career in ways that tell the world you have credentials that are yours and not just an extension of your parents.” I truly believe in this. In my view, second or third-generation lawyers have immense pressure, and constant gaze, which leads them to be more deserving of respect, as there are fighting battles that the others may not be even aware of.
I also faced challenges as a young lawyer. I have worked very hard to maintain and expand my client base, set up a law firm, to retain an effective workforce. There are issues to be dealt with on an everyday basis. However, this is a part and parcel of the satisfaction you yield from this profession. These challenges, in fact, now interest me, motivate me and I enjoy dealing with them. Therefore, even if you have a law background, your hard work, life skills, and virtues are what decide your growth.
Let’s start from the beginning – What prompted you to choose law? Was choosing law came naturally or it felt easy to adapt?
Family undeniably influences the level and kind of education or training that their children achieve; the knowledge they have about work; the beliefs and attitudes they have to work, and the motivation they have to succeed. Most of this is learned unconsciously. Dinner table conversations did shape my belief about the meaning that my parents derive from the work they do. Fairly speaking, the decision to pursue law came naturally to me because of my family background but it never felt easy to adapt simply because of my background. I remember the first case I ever argued, my notes for the matter started from ‘my lord’ and ended at ‘obliged your lordship’. I wrote it down like a script, the pressure was real. You learn new skills, concepts, and ideas every single day. Remember your career is a marathon, not a sprint. In an attempt to achieve too much too early, you should not lose your flexibility to adapt to situations and ability to embrace the lessons learned.
It has almost been two decades since you have started your independent practice. What do you think is the difference between the law profession right now and the profession a decade back? And, what all changes would you like to see in our Indian Law Profession?
There is a lot of change in the legal profession over time. The use of technological advances has brought a paradigm shift. We have witnessed a movement towards unlimited use of legal research platforms. Technology has offered many practical solutions to automate work. A keyword search can sort documents in 1/10th of the time it took us physically a decade back. The immense use of technology has also brought new or wider areas of practice such as cyber laws, intellectual property laws, etc. A well-working system of virtual courts that we all experienced during the COVID-19 crisis is another revolution in our profession. This also brings to us immense time saving and creates a potential to execute more work much efficiently. All this has brought an advantage to the young lawyers who are a step ahead in using the technology. Sadly, this is not realized by any of us. As against an age-old perception where the confidence of the client only rested with a senior and experienced lawyer, I see various clients who are satisfied and are more drawn to these young meritorious lawyers.
Technology and globalization have also brought a radical change in the expectations of the client who expects not only legal delivery but a combination of legal, technological, and process expertise. Nowadays, most of our work is done online. It has its benefits. It allows us to work across borders, travel, and have an office on wheels, etc. Legal delivery is not just about lawyers anymore, it is about delivering legal services with strategies, innovation, collaboration, transparency, responsiveness, and accessibility. This is the reason that the law firms have gained popularity over the solo practitioners with the passage of time. Law firms these days provide a one-stop solution where you may find not only lawyers but also MBA’s and Technical Experts who offer a wholesome legal delivery to the clients.
There are still many unexplored areas of technology that can upgrade our judicial system further. Change is inevitable. In our profession, the pace of change has been accelerated by the economic downturn and a surge in new technologies. These changes are significant and permanent. The need of the hour is that we maintain a growth mindset and exhibit a willingness to experiment. Lawyers, who adapt and are proactive, using a growth mindset, can turn changing market drivers into opportunities.
Have you encountered any young rebellious mind yet who positively challenges your litigation tricks?
Yes, a lot of times, I have come across young professionals who are way vocal and expressive about what seems wrong, unacceptable, or unreasonable to them. It is good to be expressive and opinionated. However, young lawyers need to understand the balance between expression and disrespect. In our profession, there are no written rules which tell you how to conduct yourself in the courts. However, there are plenty of unwritten rules which can be understood well only by observing experienced professionals. A lawyer’s patience, presence of mind, and ability to maintain his/her cool is what makes the transition for the lawyer.
I remember an associate who told me that there should be fixed hours of working in a day which should not be more than 8 hours a day and 5 days a week. He termed anything more than this as ‘inhumane’. I expressed my agreement to his proposal but I told him that such agreement will be subject to you leaving aside expectations you had from working with me. This profession requires a person to be switched “on” all the time. One mistake of yours may result in a client’s loss. Young lawyers need to manage their day properly but the one thing that young lawyers have to keep in their mind is that they have to work very, very hard. The initial years for young lawyers are the hardest but over time they get used to it and get better with time.
Law is not an abstract practice. Irrelevant of how well someone does academically, at the end of the day lawyers work with people, on behalf of people, and the decisions that are made affect people’s lives. Life skills and people virtues are, therefore, indispensable for becoming a good lawyer. No law schools teach you that. It is the experienced professionals and real-time practice that can make a young lawyer learn all this. Young lawyers have the potential to generate new ideas, but they need to be directed properly by someone who has a lot of experience in the legal world.
You have a team that often burns the candles at both ends, how do you find the perfect balance in being their boss and friend at the same time?
“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you are playing a solo game, you will always lose out to a team.” This is a very powerful saying. A good team is built by individuals that passionately embrace the vision, believe their contribution is meaningful, and are motivated to give their best effort. I value and admire my team and we trust, respect, and support each other. Making out a time to regularly recognize, reward, and celebrate the team is as much a priority as work for me. I ensure that we sit together weekly for review meetings, be there for as many birthday celebrations as possible, and to give individual time to everyone. It is up to you to find the balance between being friendly with your employees and being a leader to them. For me, it works to spend some good time with them without any ‘work discussion’, to listen and understand their problems, to help them, and to joke around with them.
You have two decades of strong and comprehensive legal experience in almost all sectors, which area, according to you, interests you the most and why?
All the fields of Law have their charm. There are a growing number of legal specialities and subspecialties that cater to almost every legal interest. My predominant area of practice is Infrastructure commercial disputes including resolution of such disputes through Arbitration. I won’t be able to say if I chose it deliberately or I got into it by default. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoy practicing it. The foremost reason for the same is that you learn not just law but also various business processes dealing with such disputes. For instance, while handling disputes about the building of national highways, you learn various engineering concepts and terminology and understand how large-scale highways are built and what impact it brings to the development of our economy. This is what I call a fulfilling experience of working which makes you wiser in a manner that no school or coaching class can do.
You are alumni of the Dickinson Law School, Pennsylvania State University, U.S.A. What core life-long values were inculcated in you during that period? And, what difference did you find in the Pedagogy in Indian Schools and abroad?
I am grateful for my experience at Dickinson Law School, Pennsylvania State University, the U.S.A not because it made me a better lawyer but because it exposed me to different types of people that helped me develop people skills. It was the ultimate test in self-reliance, made me more organized, independent, and appreciative of every small thing I have. In so far as education abroad is concerned, you get a chance to become immersed in a different environment which enables you to see and do things you wouldn’t expect, and meet people who have grown up in a different culture. American law school experience is all about analysis and less about memorizing rules and statutes. The system focuses that the lawyers become problem-solvers through analysis of cases and defending with the correct reasoning. It cares less about the section numbers, the statute, or even the case name. However, it is not to say that the American approach works better than the Indian. Both pedagogy systems have produced excellent lawyers.
It would not be wrong to say that you are well-established in the legal profession. Do you want to share your success mantra with our readers?
My foremost advice, which also concerns me a lot, is that young lawyers should make it a habit at a very early age to care for their health. To be a good lawyer, one has to be a healthy lawyer. Sadly, our profession is falling short when it comes to well-being. Exercise every day by cutting down the time you spent watching movies or web series, treat food as fuel, and meditate. This will not only improve physical health but also will make you strong to deal with the pressures and stress that our profession brings along.
Lawyers must be personable, persuasive, and able to read others. Learn people skills, be attentive, and be a good observer. Read a lot. It is an exercise for our mind and a healthy mind has a major role in leading you towards success. Also, a very important virtue of a successful lawyer is to inculcate Perseverance. Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other. Be consistent in your efforts. Failure will come and make you stronger if you remain consistent in overcoming them.