Could you please share with our listeners how your journey in law began? What inspired you to pursue B.Sc. LL.B. (Corporate Law Hons.) from the National Law University, Jodhpur?
It’s a fairly interesting story. To be true, being from a family of lawyers and judges, my father never wanted me to be a lawyer. For the final two years of my schooling I was preparing for engineering and did not even fill the forms for law entrance examinations. After clearing the entrance test for Engineering, while depositing the fee in an engineering college in Bangalore, I felt that I don’t want to be an Engineer and rather, want to become a lawyer. Hence, I requested my father to not deposit the fee and expressed my willingness to prepare for the law entrance examination. Being from Rajasthan, NLU Jodhpur was my first preference and luckily, I cleared the entrance next year.
Your experience spans both litigation and corporate law. What led you to choose a career path that includes extensive practice in the Supreme Court and various other courts and tribunals?
After my graduation from NLUJ, I was fortunate to get placed with Amarchand Mangaldas, Mumbai. I was part of the Funds Team and was involved in structuring venture capital funds. One year in Amarchand gave me hands-on experience and confidence to take up corporate work which would benefit me later in my career. However, I couldn’t see myself doing only corporate work for the rest of my life and shifting to litigation was better sooner than later. I therefore shifted to Delhi and started with a litigation journey.
Beauty about having an independent practice is that one is not confined to a particular forum or field of law and can push boundaries. Delhi being hub of litigation work, there are ample of opportunities in various courts and tribunals. One has to rather restrict himself from taking up work in multiple forums. I try to confine myself to the Supreme Court, but work naturally spills over to the High Court and various Appellate Tribunals.
You’ve worked in diverse areas such as banking, arbitration, constitution, consumer, debt recovery, and more. Could you elaborate on how you found your niche within the legal profession and the areas that resonate with you the most?
Trend lately has been on super specialization in law. The law firms have dedicated teams to handle one subject or even one area of the subject. This trend is seen more in Tier-1 and Tier 2 law firms. While specialization is necessary, I strongly believe this approach is prejudicial to the interest of fresh graduates or ones with a couple of years of experience. In my view, any young lawyer should not specialise at an early stage of his career, rather a lawyer should have an experience to deal with as many subjects, fields and branches of law as possible. It not only gives an overall better understanding of law but also gives the ability to apply principles, precedents, and concepts from one field to another. Interplay of various subjects of law is an important tool which needs to be understood and applied both in courts and while undertaking advisory work.
I encourage my juniors to take up matters across various forums and subjects and not confine themselves to any particular field. While allocating work as well, I ensure that my team gets to work on different subjects. I believe it not only helps them to have confidence in undertaking new assignments but will also aid them later on in their career.
From being an associate at Amarchand Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Co. to becoming a partner at Pricus Legal LLP, can you discuss the pivotal moments and experiences that shaped your career trajectory?
Getting through Amarchand in college placement was one of the most memorable moments of my life. It was nothing short of a dream coming true, and of course it was financially highly rewarding. I was awed by the corporate culture, high profile clients and of course the stakes involved. However, having worked there for a year, I couldn’t find my calling in corporate work. As a result, I took the difficult decision of resigning from the firm and shifting to Delhi.
I was fortunate to get a chance to work in the chamber of Mr Parag Tripathi, Senior Advocate, who was also Additional Solicitor General of India at the time. He is one of the finest orators and sharpest minds in the legal fraternity. I am proud to be part of his chamber and couldn’t have prayed for a better ‘Guru’. Working in his chamber gave me a chance of working on thousands of cases. Every day over 20 matters were listed which were split amongst 4–5 juniors. On an average each junior had to brief sir in 4 to 5 cases everyday. Every briefing used to be like a short moot court for us where we had to be ultra precise and to the point in our briefing yet making sure we don’t miss out anything relevant and at the same time answer a volley of questions. Doing this for nearly 4 years prepared us well for anything the future had to offer.
I took yet another difficult decision to leave the chambers of Mr. Parag Tripathi and started my practice in the later part of 2012. Subsequently, I also cleared the Advocate-On-Record exam in 2015.
Having handled litigation both for individuals as well as companies, over the years, I started getting corporate advisory work as well. As we were getting corporate advisory and transactional work alongside litigation, we decided to formally incorporate Pricus Legal LLP to better manage and handle corporate work.
Being from a litigation background, I find that the way a litigating lawyer perceives things even in any corporate transaction or documentation is very different from a corporate lawyer. Experience in litigation comes in handy to foresee possible disputes and loopholes. Therefore, as a matter of practice in our firm all corporate advisory/transaction has to go through the litigation team as well.
As a registered Advocate-on-Record in the Supreme Court of India, you have been involved in several landmark judgments. Could you share one or two cases that you found particularly challenging or significant in your career?
An interesting case which comes to mind is that of Bhagwan Singh v. Dilip Kumar where son of sitting MLA was involved in gang rape of a minor and was granted bail by the High Court on the ground that FIR was lodged nearly over a year after the incidence and there was no direct evidence to connect the accused with commission of alleged crime. I was representing the minor victim who approached the Supreme Court against grant of bail by the High Court. We were able to persuade Hon’ble Supreme Court to set aside the bail on the ground that High Court can’t look into the evidence at the stage of bail and should confine itself to criteria like seriousness of offence, statement of prosecutrix, likelihood of influencing the trial et cetera while deciding the bail. Judgement makes an interesting read.
Another decision which I recollect is that of Ravi Khandelwal versus Taluka Store in which we challenged an order passed by the Larger Bench of the High Court in a reference involving question of interpreting Section 14(3) of Rajasthan Rent Control Act which provided a protection to the tenant against any suit for eviction for the first five years of tenancy. The Supreme Court overturned the conclusion of Larger Bench of High Court holding that even if a suit is filed within five years of commencement of tenancy, but during the pendency of suit five years lapse, the defect in the suit stands cured and the protection granted is achieved. However, what was more interesting was that the Hon’ble Supreme Court directed eviction of premises directly even when the appeal of the tenant was pending before the Single Judge of the High Court. Direction of eviction directly by the Supreme Court even while appeal on merits was pending before the High Court to my mind is unprecedented.
You’ve been a panel lawyer for various esteemed organizations. How did these associations come about, and how does being a panel lawyer for such entities impact your legal practice?
Getting any panel is fairly difficult, particularly in initial years of practice. Working in the office of ASG, all of us were empanelled with the Union of India which opened the doors for panels of other PSUs. One panel thereafter led to another over the years. Even though these panels are not usually financially very rewarding, they give an opportunity to appear and argue before the court and provide a constant source of work. In initial stages when individual clients are scarce, panel work comes in handy and ensures regular appearances before the court.
With your extensive experience in various legal domains, including banking, insurance, constitutional law, and more, how do you balance staying versatile with the need for deep specialization?
There is a saying that clients choose lawyers specialization. As I mentioned earlier, I strongly believe that lawyers, particularly in litigation, should not get specialised early in their career. It is only after a few decades of practice and incidentally handling a particular kind of cases more than others, that lawyers would get specialised on their own in a particular field. Personally, I would any day choose to do a variety and different kind of work every day rather than get super specialised in any particular field. One of the reasons why I shifted from corporate to litigation was to do a variety of work, but I think that’s a very personal choice.
Lastly, considering your journey and achievements, what advice would you like to give to fresh law graduates who are about to embark on their legal careers? What are the key lessons you’ve learned that you would like to share with them?
I would strongly advise young lawyers to explore different fields of law for the first few years of their career before choosing and settling into one which matches their aptitude and liking. Fresh graduates should not be reluctant to change their field, particularly in the first few years of their career and do something which they can call their calling. As one progresses into his career it becomes exponentially difficult to venture into these experiments.
I also highly recommend that every fresh graduate should start his career with litigation and rough it out in courts at least for sometime. It is only then one understands actual application of law and gives a perspective completely different from mere theoretical understanding. Even if eventually, they decide to move into a corporate setup, the experience in litigation will give them immense confidence. Getting into a super specialized team right out of college is not something I would recommend. Legal Profession is not a 5 year long but a 50 years long career and the initial few years should be an investment on oneself.
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