“The legal landscape has undergone some of the most significant changes in recent years, due to technological advancements and subject-specific specialization.”- Prashant Kumar, Advocate-on-Record, Supreme Court of India and Principal Associate at Dua Associates

This Interview has been published by Pragya Chandni and The SuperLawyer Team

Sir, could you please share your journey of how you ended up becoming an Advocate-on-Record at the Supreme Court of India and a Principal Associate at Dua Associates? What motivated you to pursue a career in law?

The starting point of my journey with law was a matter of chance. During my school days I never imagined myself studying law, however, when I look back today, I think that joining law school was one of the best decisions which I took. I got through Gujarat National Law School, Gandhinagar in the year 2005 and started my journey in the profession in the year 2010 under the able guidance of Ratan Kumar Singh, Senior Advocate. Thereafter, I joined Kapil Sapra & Associates in the year 2012 where I dealt with multifarious works. Being a small set up, work was of different kinds, and the exposure there helped me understand the finer nuances of corporate commercial laws. In the year 2016, I joined Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan, where I dealt with high stake arbitration matters amongst others. Therefore, the exposure at this firm was of a completely different nature. In the year 2020, I joined Dua Associates as a principal associate and continue to work in this firm. I firmly believe that one must keep upgrading his skill sets to be relevant in the legal field. This belief led me to write Advocate-on-Record examinations and I cleared the same in my first attempt. I have enjoyed and learned immensely from different stints in the legal profession.

With a specialization in commercial/civil litigation, insolvency laws, and alternate dispute resolution, can you discuss a particularly challenging or significant case you’ve worked on? What lessons did you learn from that experience?

Every case presents a different set of challenges. Therefore, as a lawyer one must understand each case of its merits and treat the same accordingly. I started my practice with a strong foundation of civil, commercial and arbitration laws, which has helped me in dealing with other laws as well. With the advent of insolvency laws, the options available with the parties have increased manifold. Therefore, the first challenge which a lawyer faces today is to decide the right course of action in the given facts and circumstances. Whilst I have worked on various cases which have been challenging or significant, I have been recently involved in a matter before the National Company Law Tribunal, where I represented the financial creditor, in an application filed by the homebuyers, seeking to commence insolvency proceedings against a real estate developer, to which the financial creditor had lent money. Whilst the law is fairly settled, and in case the homebuyers meet the threshold and there is a default, insolvency proceedings should be commenced. However, I argued that the tribunal should not act mechanically and should see the financial health of the company, in addition to the intent behind the filing of the application by the homebuyers which can be fraudulent. I also argued that the interest of homebuyers who are not before the tribunal should also be considered before arriving at a final decision. The tribunal is yet to pass an order, however, this is significant because law is all about being creative within the realm of judicial precedents and legal principles. 

As someone who appears regularly before various courts and tribunals, can you shed light on the dynamics of practicing law in different forums? How does your approach differ when dealing with cases in the Supreme Court compared to other fora?

Every forum presents a different set of challenges, and a lawyer should be flexible to deal with such challenges in case one intends to practice before a different forum. By flexibility I mean adapting to the situation at hand. A lawyer who regularly appears before a district court has a particular way of dealing with the cases, however, the same may not be applicable with higher forums. Similarly, a lawyer who practices before the higher forums, will find it difficult to practice before the district courts. That’s why a lot of lawyers choose forums and stick to it. My approach is different because I have been associated mostly with chambers and firms. I started with district courts, tribunals and gradually shifted to high courts and supreme courts, and therefore had the benefit of knowing finer nuances of various courts practice. The best approach according to me is to stick to the basics, i.e., mastery over facts, reliefs sought and an understanding of the forum where the matter is listed. 

Given your extensive experience in handling commercial disputes and arbitration matters, both domestic and international, could you highlight some key trends or changes you’ve observed in the legal landscape over the years?

The legal landscape has undergone some of the most significant changes in recent years, due to technological advancements and subject-specific specialization. In addition, the legal profession is also moving towards a multidisciplinary approach, where there is an integration of legal services with other disciplines, such as technology, finance, and business. The areas which have seen significant change include information technology related laws, cyber laws, environmental law, arbitration law etc. In order to cater to the evolving laws and changing trends, a legal professional is required to be updated and focus on specialization. 

Having dealt with cases across diverse sectors such as Oil & Gas, Infrastructure, Telecom & IT, Banking & Finance, etc., how do you stay updated on the intricacies of different industries? How important is industry-specific knowledge in your field?

It’s very essential for a lawyer to be updated with latest legal developments and changes, especially in the areas in which he/she works. The way in which I stay up to date is by regularly reading legal updates online and offline. These days there are various newsletters being issued by firms, organisation which contains useful industry specific updates. In addition, I also attend to webinars and conferences, whenever the time permits in order to stay updated. Industry-specific knowledge is very essential in my areas of practice since different industries have different styles of operation. For example, a banking and finance industry has a different style of operation if one compares the same with an oil and gas industry. Therefore, it becomes imperative for a legal professional to deal with every industry after understanding and analysing the basic difference. Once there is a clarity on the basics, one can deal with the issue at hand with ease. 

What role does advisory work play in your practice? Can you share an instance where your advice made a significant impact on a client’s case or decision-making process?

Advisory assumes a great importance in my practice areas. Advisory does not only mean a written/oral legal advice, but it includes the day to day dealing with clients, and answering the queries, and extending support to them in the usual course as and when required. One of the opinions which according to me made a significant impact on a client’s case or decision-making process, relates to an analysis of attachment orders issued by district collector, pursuant to the recovery certificates issued by National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, and suggesting the future course of action. Pursuant to our thorough analysis and opinion, the attachment orders were quashed and the same was a big relief for the clients. 

With over 13 years of experience in the legal field, what advice would you give to fresh graduates aspiring to pursue a career in law, considering the evolving nature of the legal profession? What qualities or skills do you believe are crucial for success in this field?

My advice to a fresh graduate aspiring to pursue a career in law is to focus on the basics first. One can excel in the field and do specialization only if the base is strong. Secondly one has to be humble and have a humane approach. The legal profession is a noble profession wherein we have to deal with various human beings on a daily basis, therefore being humble is very essential. In addition, being sincere and meticulous also helps a lawyer in the long run. Also, having a commercial bent of mind is also important for a lawyer, especially for lawyers who deal with commercial disputes, arbitration, insolvency, corporate laws, and others. Constant upgradation of skill set is also required for a lawyer who wants to succeed in the legal profession. Lastly, one must be solution oriented and should have clarity of thought. This can only come through continuous learning and adapting to the situation at hand.  

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