“The legal profession requires mentorship that emphasizes dedication and consistency over the pursuit of superficial markers of success”- Aditya Parolia, Partner at PSP Legal, Advocates & Solicitors

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

Hello and welcome, today, we are honoured to have with us Mr. Aditya Parolia, who is one of the leading counsels in India for Corporate, Commercial, Real Estate and consumer disputes. 

Sir, could you kindly share your professional journey with us? We would be particularly interested in learning about what motivated you to pursue a career in law. Furthermore, what inspired you to specialize in corporate, commercial, real estate, and consumer disputes?

Frankly, when I started pursuing law, it was not a common career choice. I don’t recall anyone in my immediate or extended family being a lawyer.

Coming from a small town, the focus was predominantly on engineering. Schools and colleges emphasized preparing students for IIT and AIEEE exams. In 11th and 12th grades, I chose PCM with computers, expecting to follow the engineering path. However, it never felt right to me. I strongly believe in not pursuing something that doesn’t feel correct.

In those days, if you told someone in a small town you were studying law, they often thought you were either not very bright or one of the unruly students who couldn’t handle math or science. My school, an ICSE board school, had a particularly bright batch. One of my batchmates topped the country in the 12th exams and got into IIT. The first seven students in my batch secured good ranks in AIEEE.

When I informed my principal and class teacher about my decision to pursue law, my class teacher was supportive. However, my principal and relatives tried to counsel me, arguing that I was a bright student and should consider other career options. At that time, many schools in small towns didn’t even offer humanities, let alone law. They only had science and commerce sections, so law wasn’t a natural choice for me initially.

Fortunately, my father was working in Delhi and interacted with many bureaucrats whose children were studying law. He suggested it to me, and it resonated. I found it interesting when I started reading about it. In my hometown, the district court wasn’t even called a district court—it was known as the “divani kachahari.” The infrastructure was poor, and the earning potential for lawyers was low, making the profession unattractive. Few people knew about national law colleges, and entrance exams often clashed, forcing students to choose between them.

I’m grateful to my parents for supporting my decision to pursue law. Career counselors in schools rarely mentioned law as an option; it was often seen as a last resort. Most would suggest commerce, DU, or competitive exams like UPSC, but not law. Few in my town could name more than a couple of famous lawyers like Mr. Jethmalani, Mr. Salve, or Mr. Sibal. Today, social media and online court proceedings have increased awareness about the legal profession, but back then, it was quite limited.

Given these circumstances, I chose to study at Indraprastha University in Delhi, which had only five seats for students from outside Delhi. I believed being in the capital, where all courts are located, would be beneficial. At that time, the concept of corporate practice in law was not well-known to us.

I’m very happy with my decision to pursue law. My younger brother also followed this path and became an Advocate on Record (AOR). Today, in my hometown, there are several law coaching institutes, but during my time, I had to travel to Jaipur or Delhi for preparation. I finished my board exams in March, and the first law entrance exam was in early May, giving me only a month to prepare. Now, there are more resources and opportunities for aspiring law students in small towns.

Sir, you have made history and continue to do so, and we hope that you keep making history so that we can proudly say we had the chance to interact with you. You have handled cases for around 73,000 aggrieved home buyers. On that note, Sir, we request you to share your experience managing such a significant number of cases, which is no easy feat. Could you please discuss the challenges you faced and the types of cases that arose from this scenario?

Furthermore, we would love to understand how you became involved in such a substantial case and how you have helped these home buyers. This is a crucial matter, as for many, purchasing a home is a lifetime investment and a matter of survival. Although people may have more options today, I am certain that you are highly respected by those 73,000 home buyers for your efforts.

Yes, today we can confidently say that we are leading practitioners in this domain. We likely have the highest number of clients in the country, spanning every sector and segment of society. Our clientele includes politicians, actors, retired judges, bureaucrats, corporates, high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs), and private induvials as well. We do not like to say no to anyone who approaches us for help. 

When we began this practice, we did not specifically aim to specialize in this domain. In litigation, we initially took on every kind of case that came our way. Litigation is not easy; it demands immense effort and versatility. As a renowned lawyer once told me, litigation is like digging a well every day to fetch water, only to start anew the next day.

A good friend, who was my batchmate, once shared a piece of wisdom that remains close to my heart. He said, “Aditya, everyone wants to specialize in something, but in law, you don’t choose your practice area. It’s like a democracy where people choose for you.” This insight resonated with our experience, as our practice evolved naturally based on the cases that came to us.

We initially handled a wide array of cases, including civil cases, criminal bail applications, and matrimonial matters. We travelled frequently to places like Allahabad and Chandigarh. However, due to our court engagements in Delhi, I hardly travel now. During this time, the real estate market was booming, and we began to receive more cases related to this sector.

The real estate market was characterized by rapid buying and selling, often driven by speculative investments. However, there was no regulatory regime in place, leading to overselling and eventual stagnation. This lack of regulation, coupled with the greed of builders, caused numerous projects to halt. As a result, many homebuyers were left without the properties they had paid for.

During this period, a prominent family from Bollywood approached us with a case against a builder, JP. This was in 2014-15, and the builder had failed to deliver the property by the promised date in 2011. Initially, we suggested using the Consumer Protection Act, but the client wanted to involve other affected buyers. We were surprised to find that there were 242 such buyers. This marked the beginning of a new jurisprudence in India, where class actions became more prevalent.

As we took on more cases, our practice grew rapidly. We handled high-profile cases, such as those against Amrapali, and our numbers swelled to the point where we had to expand our team significantly. At one point, we had to manage an influx of 3,000 clients in just seven days, which was a logistical challenge.

Our firm has since become a leading name in handling real estate and commercial disputes. We have played a significant role in shaping the legal landscape in these areas, with our cases often resulting in landmark judgments. Today, our team has grown to around 40-45 members, and we continue to manage a high volume of cases daily.

Despite the challenges, we are grateful for the trust our clients have placed in us. We always strive to give our best, though it’s impossible to satisfy everyone. The sheer volume of documents we handle is immense, and we have undoubtedly made our ragman very wealthy.

In conclusion, while we never anticipated specializing in this domain, it has become our primary focus over the past eight or nine years. We are proud of our contributions to the field and grateful for the opportunities that have come our way. Our practice continues to thrive, driven by the love and support of our clients and the dedication of our team.

Sir, it appears that your specialization chose you, and now you are recognized as the leading authority in this particular legal domain. The remarkable success you have achieved is not only a result of divine favor but also due to the hard work and dedication of your team towards home buyers.

During this journey, you have been highly active in national media, frequently being invited as a special guest on various channels to discuss legal matters.

In light of your experiences and insights, what do you believe are the most pressing issues of national importance in the current legal landscape? Considering the disruptions we are witnessing in the legal field, what future developments do you foresee, especially given your role as a prominent disruptor in this domain?

Nobody can foresee the future; I can assure you of this. Nobody can predict deception. I’ll take your questions one by one, in bits and pieces, but I’ll start from the end with the disruption part. Very frankly, as I said, I did not choose it, nor did we; the people chose it for us. We were just there at the right place at the right time. I always tell everyone that you just have to keep working hard. The Almighty has written your destiny, my destiny, everyone’s destiny. So, if you’re working hard, you’re moving towards your goal.

When destiny knocks on your door, and you’re there to open it and seize the opportunity, that’s all that is required. If you’re sleeping and waiting for the day to come before you act, it never happens. I’ve worked with some of the best lawyers as a student, and I didn’t work much as a junior or younger colleague. I barely did my traineeship for six months before we decided to open this law office. I’ve always taught my younger colleagues that while you have to put in constant effort and energy, consistency is key. You never know when that door will open or when someone will knock.

You mentioned the future. Everyone predicts that AI is the future, so you can pursue laws in AI. When I was a student, everyone thought arbitration and intellectual property rights were the right fields to pursue. There are hundreds and thousands of domains nobody has explored. For instance, we specialize in the Consumer Protection Act and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC). Nobody in law school considered a career in these areas because they weren’t even established back then. The Delhi Commercial Courts Act wasn’t there either. So, what went right for us? We were consistent. When opportunity knocked, we seized it and delivered results with a pragmatic approach, informing clients about what could and couldn’t be done. We never assured anyone of a specific outcome because, in law, it’s unethical to do so.

I’ve also tried my hand in matrimonial law, although I no longer practice it. I respect my sister, who does, because dealing with such cases is not easy. It involves handling emotional trauma, and it takes a significant mental toll. I’ve seen the best lawyers struggle with this.

Speaking of the future again, AI is a rat race. Students come to me for internships or interviews saying they want to do IBC or intellectual property rights. But I tell them what my dean at law school, Simon Chesterman, told me: read something new and try something different. For example, sports law is a burgeoning field with the rise of leagues like the IPL and Kabaddi. Few lawyers practice it, and it has huge potential. Similarly, gambling laws and laws related to cryptocurrencies are emerging fields.

I’ll give you an example. Two of my law school classmates are now policy lawyers at Twitter and Facebook. When we were in law school, we never considered such careers. These social media companies have to adhere to national policies and constantly engage with regulators. Policies vary from country to country, and what’s banned in one place might not be in another. This was a domain we never imagined practicing in.

So, I tell every student to keep their mind open. Don’t decide in your first year of law school that you’re going to be a litigating lawyer or a corporate lawyer. Explore different areas and see what resonates with you. Recently, a younger colleague at our firm realized litigation wasn’t for him and decided to pursue academia. There’s no harm in that. A good lawyer can excel in various fields, not just in corporate or litigation.

During a tour in Istanbul, I met a lawyer from Chile who was pursuing his master’s in Germany, specializing in Antarctic law, dealing with exploration and sovereignty rights. These are areas most law students wouldn’t even consider. When I did my master’s, I studied aviation law and space law, which are hardly taught in Indian law schools. Today, with the rise of electronic vehicles and companies like SpaceX, these areas are very relevant.

Younger students should consider these emerging domains. If they work hard and stay consistent, they will do exceptionally well. It’s important to understand the practice area you’re entering.

Regarding media and news channels, the glamour initially attracts everyone. It’s an opportunity for exposure. When the real estate market crashed and big companies like JP and Amrapali failed, we were called upon to address these issues on news channels. The insolvency laws were new, and there were few experts. But over time, I’ve stopped going on news channels unless it’s something very special. It’s important to balance professional and personal life and give adequate time to family, not just focus on career.

I hope I’ve answered your question about media involvement.

Sir, considering your emphasis on maintaining a balance between personal and professional life, my next question pertains to that topic.

Firstly, how do you achieve this balance? Secondly, once you find that balance, what activities do you enjoy outside of learning about law? For example, you mentioned gaining insights into Antarctic law and sovereignty rights through your travels. Sir, we would love to hear more about this, as it will help our learners understand the various pursuits they can engage in besides studying law.

It’s 5:40 PM, Madam. By this time, I start packing my bag. The maximum usual time for me to leave the office is 6:30 PM, and I believe my team should also leave around this time. I think my team leaves by 7:30 or 8:00 PM. It is very important that we manage our time. Unfortunately, in our profession, we often talk about stipends and salaries, but we rarely discuss mental health and well-being.

I believe that once you balance your time with your family, your mental well-being will improve. This is hardly discussed, and I am a strong advocate for maintaining a perfect balance between professional and personal life. Although I am relatively young in this profession, I have seen a lot with my batchmates, peers, and the opportunities we have had. We have the chance to argue cases against the best senior advocates in the country. Every day, we appear in almost every appellate court, which allows us to interact with top equity partners and law firms. However, I feel that younger lawyers, and we as lawyers, often get lost in the race to make more money or excel in a particular field, leading to burnout. Many of my law school batchmates have experienced this.

Despite not being in practice for long, some of the youngest lawyers I know have burned out and left traditional domains of law. Some have moved to in-house positions, opened their own smaller practices, or left law entirely for academics. I don’t understand people working until 11:00 PM or getting up at 4:00 AM every day. If you wake up at 4:00 AM to do yoga or go for a walk, that’s fine. If you play sports, that’s even better. But I don’t appreciate people calling me after 6:30 PM. Some clients criticize this because they get free from work late, but I tell them that their lack of time management shouldn’t affect my personal life. I am in the office from 9:30 AM to 6:30 PM. You can email me, but I will only work during these hours. If I need to prepare for the next day, I might spend an extra half hour or an hour at night reading files, but I will not jeopardize my personal life for others’ lack of time management.

A friend of mine, a very gifted lawyer, joined a good law firm and recently got married. He used to come home at 12:00 am, 1:00 am and at times 3:00 AM, by the time he was up the next day, his wife, who is not a lawyer, was leaving for work. Their entire married life was in turmoil. This story is not unique; many people have told me the same thing. I asked another senior friend about this, and we concluded that the work can often be done earlier. However, delegating tasks to younger colleagues at 8:00 PM or 9:00 PM with deadlines of 2:00 AM or 3:00 AM is unrealistic and has become a norm. Trying to satisfy clients by delivering work quickly in this competitive spirit often brings out the worst in us.

Some of the best lawyers suffer from poor mental health, although it is rarely discussed. I’ve seen younger lawyers develop health issues like high blood pressure and diabetes. I don’t understand why. In law firm culture, I see this problem as well. I run a law firm, and I tell new hires that while we have designations like associate, senior associate, and principal, I am against this hierarchical structure. It is there to keep people happy because they want it, for me a lawyer is a lawyer, designations create unnecessary competition.

Think about it: if you make lawyers partners at 33 or 34, they have to work until 60. After becoming a partner, their next goal is to become an equity partner. This constant pursuit can diminish their determination, which symbolic goals are achieved so early. You fight to become a partner, and once you achieve that, you might lose the drive. It’s essential to manage your career and life, rather than getting caught up in the rat race of titles and designations.

Advocates getting designated as senior advocates is different from the law firm hierarchy of associate levels. I believe law firms need to appreciate and possibly do away with this quick succession of designations, adopting a more uniform approach to maintain mental health and well-being.

There’s an unnatural competition that develops, not just with other law firms but internally, where people vie to become senior associates or managing partners. This should be addressed and highlighted. We need to educate the younger generation that these titles mean nothing if you are not mentally healthy. If you are a good lawyer, success will come no matter what. Don’t get caught in the race for titles. Judges & clients don’t care about your title, it is not that you are getting knighted; they care about your ability to argue a case well and get results.

The best lawyers always maintain a balance between their professional and personal lives. This profession is a marathon, not a sprint. Your family has supported you, and you have duties towards them. They need your time, and you should fulfill their expectations as well. Dedicating equal time to family is important for your mental peace.

I’m not saying I am perfect or never get angry, but my partner and I strive to go home early. When we are in the office, we are dedicated to work, but we also play sports, travel with our families, and socialize with our teams. Striking this perfect balance is crucial.

Sir, considering that some individuals may not enjoy the same privileges as others have had, how do we address this disparity to ensure that new entrants experience similar support and care, particularly those from humble backgrounds who rely on community support? Additionally, do you foresee an increasing focus on mental health discussions within the legal fraternity in the near future?

“It is imperative that senior members of the bar and the judiciary engage in discussions on crucial topics with the younger generation. It is necessary to elucidate to them that not everyone needs to possess luxury items such as a Mercedes or a Patek Philippe watch. Even individuals from humble backgrounds can thrive without such extravagances. This mindset shift is essential.

During informal discussions outside the courtroom, I always emphasize to judges the importance of not berating younger lawyers but instead offering them opportunities. 

Now, turning to the pressing issue of mental health, it is vital for everyone to understand that not all legal paths lead to high-profile cases or lucrative positions. Each individual’s journey in the legal profession is unique, filled with its own challenges and struggles.

For instance, third or fourth generation lawyers from legacy families face immense pressure to live up to their predecessors’ reputations. Similarly, first-generation lawyers bear the weight of carving out their own paths in an unforgiving profession. It’s crucial for the younger generation to realize that success in law comes in various forms and that comparing oneself to others’ glamorous achievements only tells part of the story.

My own journey began without a personal vehicle, and relying on buses and metros to commute. However, through perseverance and interactions with seasoned professionals, I learned that success in law is not solely determined by material possessions or prestigious cases.

For instance, one of my professors from law school Professor Umakanth Varottil, a renowned expert in mergers and acquisitions, transitioned from a successful legal career to academia, demonstrating the importance of evolving and adapting in one’s professional journey. 

The pressure to excel in high-profile areas of law, such as mergers and acquisitions or banking and finance, can be overwhelming for young lawyers. However, it’s essential to remember that success is not defined by early career choices or external validations.

The legal profession requires mentorship that emphasizes dedication and consistency over the pursuit of superficial markers of success. Additionally, maintaining good mental health is paramount, as undue stress and burnout can have severe consequences.

In conclusion, aspiring lawyers should focus on honing their skills, serving their clients diligently, and maintaining their humanity above all else. Success in law is not measured by material possessions or prestigious titles but by one’s integrity, dedication, and contribution to society.”

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