Robin David is currently a Partner at Dua Associates, Delhi. He graduated in B.Sc from Loyola College and thereafter completed his LL.B from Bharathiar University in 1989. Right after his graduation he joined the Bar and had been independently litigating. His practice areas included Contracts, Company Law, Competition Law and other corporate matters.
With an in-depth expertise in various corporate matters and prior experience of 12 years in litigation, Robin joined Dua in 2002 and had since been working there. With his formidable experience in litigation he was quickly elevated to the rank of a partner in 2004. In 2013, he was made an equity partner.
We took this opportunity and requested him to share:
- His experience of litigation as a fresh law graduate
- Building reputation and clientele in litigation
- The role of higher education in building an illustrious career
- The journey from a law student to becoming a partner at one of the leading law firms in India
How would you introduce yourself to our readers who are primarily budding lawyers? Did you belong to a family of lawyers?
I am a practicing lawyer for about 25 years. Legal practice is a great and exciting challenge. The legal profession gives one the opportunity to learn and to adapt. Most importantly lawyers have a great opportunity to do justice. I believe that lawyers have a significant role to play in the justice delivery system. I am the first lawyer in my family.
You are a B. Sc. (Physics) graduate from Loyola College. Could share with us any specific incident which motivated you to pursue law as a career?
I initially wanted to study engineering or science. However, since my childhood my mother told me that I would make a good lawyer. She implanted and reinforced confidence in me. So I applied for law more out of [sociallocker]my faith in her belief. I qualified the entrance examination. After few years of practice I realised how right she was because this profession is definitely for me.
Being a science graduate, did you face any difficulties in law school? A lot of students from science stream pursue law after their 12th and face a lot of difficulties in studying subjects related to law. Can you share with us certain tips to overcome this issue?
I do not believe being a science graduate is a disadvantage to pursue legal studies. Nor do I think that students from arts/humanities will have a considerable edge over science students while studying law. The study of science encourages analytical thinking, which in my opinion is one of the vital ingredients for legal studies and practice. The most important phase of learning for a litigation lawyer is during the first few years in practice.
Did you do any internship during the course of your studies? What kind of work did you come across during your internships?
I did not have an opportunity to intern as a student. This was probably because there was no mandatory requirement to intern at that time.
However, I believe internships today are important. Internships provide an opportunity for students to learn about the application of law and get insights into the legal profession. Interns will be well advised to take their internships seriously. Ideally, interns should be willing and open to learn and know more about legal practice.
You were also in the cricket and hockey team of your college. How important is it for one to engage in other activities apart from academics and professional interests?
I started paying cricket from the age of 2. I have always been interested in sports and sporting activities. I played a bit of cricket, hockey and table tennis during school and college. Now I play cricket for my firm. I play golf as well. I believe it is necessary to engage in sporting activities and activities apart from academics and professional work. Being physically fit is crucial. Lawyers would do well to invest time on fitness and physical well being.
Did you ever think of joining the civil services after graduating? Which career options were available to a law graduate in 90s?
Civil services did cross my mind albeit not seriously. As far as I can remember the openings/options available to young lawyers were mainly to:
- work as a junior lawyer (with little or no pay)
- to join as law officer in any organisation/bank
- join civil services
- go abroad for LLM or to study LLM in India
When you started your practice in 1990, how was the court atmosphere? How did the judges respond to young and new lawyers like you? What were the major challenges faced by you in the initial years of your practice?
The courts are much more crowded now. The first challenge was to decide where to start work. Another challenge was learning the court procedures and practical aspects of legal practice. I was fortunate to commence work in the Delhi High Court. All seniors and judges were generally encouraging and helpful. However, the process of learning procedural law and how to face the Court is something every practicing lawyer will have to figure out on their own. The legal community is based on the seniors wanting to teach and the younger members of the Bar being open to learn. The junior lawyers were always respectful to the seniors and the institution. I also faced financial challenges because I was initially given a small stipend but I believe that such hardships actually help and motivate aspiring lawyers to work harder and be better advocates.
How did you build up your clientele? How many years of practice do you say it would require to build a firm clientele?
I am not aware of a formula to build a clientele nor can you stipulate a time line. I do not believe there is a formula to build up clientele. However, I have learnt that building clientele requires hard work, honesty, time, result oriented thinking and several other factors. In my experience I have found that the clients trust honest and sincere counsel. Knowledgeable lawyers do have an edge, however they are expected to be sincere to the cause and be honest. Lawyers should build up a good reputation for themselves.
You have experience in litigation of around 25 years. Can you share with us your experience as a practising lawyer?
Lawyers are trustees of the legal system. A lawyer is responsible to act with integrity and maintain public confidence in the judicial system. To be a successful litigation lawyer one must belong to a court in addition to knowing the basics of law. Counsel must be aware about their court and keep themselves abreast of the changes and developments. Counsel must be involved in Bar Association and participate in the court and association activities. Counsel should contribute to court related activities such as legal aid, arbitration, mediation, etc. I have had the good fortune of working with some great lawyers. I have also been a lawyer for the Delhi High Court Legal Services Committee since 2008. Learning from watching and observing court proceedings is an essential part of being a good lawyer.
As a practising lawyer how did you manage to learn the basics of court room practice? Did you have anyone to guide and mentor you during the initial days of your practise?
No doubt one learns from the seniors and colleagues whom you work with. I leant a great deal from observing others and noticing the reactions from the judges.
I believe a lawyer requires to have a mentor not only during the initial years of practice but also later on. Initially mentoring is done by seniors but later you have to become your own mentor. A very important aspect of legal practice is the ability to evaluate yourself. Even the Bar Council of India recommends mentoring and training by lawyers.
If someone does not go to a top law school, would you say he still has a shot at a great career in law? What should such a person do to develop necessary skills and profile?
Going to a top school per se does not make you a good lawyer. Honest effort and hard work make a good lawyer regardless of the school.
How did you get an opportunity to work with Dua Associates? How is your work at Dua Associates different from your independent practice?
I began my association with Dua Associates in 2002. At that time I put in about 12 years of hard work as a legal practitioner and was already known for my work as a litigating counsel.
Having been at Dua Associates since 2002 as a manager in the litigation team, you were promoted into the equity partnership; what qualities do you think helped you to achieve this status?
Though I joined as manager in 2002, I was made partner in 2004. I was made equity partner in 2013. It involved sincere hard work and time.
When you hire interns under you, what kind of qualities do you look for? What should an intern do to get noticed in a positive way?
Honesty, hard work and commitment to work are important qualities in interns. I see interns who are there only for the sake of putting it on their CV.
What changes has being a partner brought into your life, do you ever feel that there is excess of work load on you? How do you manage to strike a balance between your personal and professional life?
Ever since I have started work as an advocate I have put in many hours of work every day. Becoming partner did not have any significant change to my professional working style. Have realised the importance of team work and have the need to contribute to the larger cause. Law is a calling and not a job.
Do you feel that great lawyering skills are sufficient for a person to become a partner? What separates the people who become partner from those who don’t?
Partners’ skills should complement one another. Ideally, if one is good at business development then the other partner would be good in other set of skills. Further skills can be learnt. Though, in my opinion a law firm needs persons having different sets of skills. Partners are those with great sets of skills and also those who show commitment to the growth and development of the firm.
Do you feel that higher education helps a person to have a successful legal career? What would be your word of advice to students who wish to go for higher studies?
It would depend on what you are looking for. For an advocate, LL.B is sufficient because practical knowledge can only be gained on the ground.
How is the work culture at Dua Associates? If an associate commits a mistake or an error what course of action do you follow as a partner?
A partner is responsible. In Dua Associates the Partners are the team leaders and oversee the work of the team. For example, if a plaint is drafted for a client the draft would be carefully seen by a Partner before it is sent to the client.
Associates who repeat mistakes or stop learning will at least be talked to.
What qualities do you think one should possess to carve out a niche for himself in this field?
I believe hard work, honesty and sincerity are important qualities. Always be ready and willing to learn. Additionally one must be aware of the system and surroundings.
What would be your message to our readers who are budding lawyers and law students?
- Justice is important. Lawyers have a great opportunity to play a role in the justice delivery system. Many prominent lawyers have played important roles and contributed to the Indian freedom struggle. Lawyers can have significant involvement in society and can set the standards. Legal practice is a calling and not a job.
- Honesty and sincerity in counsel are traits that are always respected by the judges, clients, briefing counsel and even opposing counsel. A lawyer must conduct himself with dignity.
- Building a good reputation is necessary. A lawyer should carefully guard his reputation.
- A lawyer should always be conscious of his/her role as officers of the court.
- Young court lawyers should read the briefs and be well prepared. Know your facts. I have seen many young lawyers who are in a hurry to go up the ladder and look for shortcuts to grow. There are no shortcuts.