“With each appearance before diverse Courts and Tribunals, I find myself enriched by the unique experiences offered by each legal arena”- Sanjay Sethiya, Managing Partner at Law Square Advocates & Solicitors

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

Can you walk us through your journey and tell us how you decided to pursue a career in law, especially focusing on Commercial and IP Litigation, Arbitration, Corporate and Real Estate Advisory?

As I embarked on the journey of establishing my legal career, I found myself drawn to the realm of law despite originally intending to pursue the family business. My initial exposure to the legal field occurred when I commenced my law degree in 2003, prompted by a desire to defer an early arranged marriage proposed by my family for my entry into the business fold. During this time, a fortuitous encounter with a respected Advocate specializing in Commercial and Real Estate law, facilitated by a Chartered Accountant friend of my Mother, shaped my trajectory. The warm reception I received in their Chambers led to an extended internship spanning ten semesters, where I balanced academic pursuits with practical learning, immersing myself in the intricacies of Commercial and Real Estate law.

Upon qualifying as an Advocate in 2008, my focus shifted towards Corporate Law, prompting my apprenticeship under a Senior Advocate renowned for their expertise in various legal domains, including Arbitrations, Intellectual Property Laws, and beyond. By 2013, when I established my independent practice, I had garnered extensive experience across diverse legal disciplines, ranging from Commercial and IP litigation to Arbitration and Real Estate and Corporate Advisory. These formative years were marked by tireless dedication, often spanning from early morning till late at night within the chambers of my mentors.

During this period, my passion for law deepened as I delved into the jurisprudential insights offered by the Law Journals of the Supreme Court of India and various High Courts. It was during one such exploration that I encountered the seminal case of Malikchand v. Manikchand trademark dispute. This serendipitous discovery paralleled a client’s approach seeking resolution for a trademark infringement matter, igniting my fervor for Intellectual Property law. Immersing myself in the intricacies of Trademarks Law, particularly pertaining to Passing off and Infringement, I successfully navigated the legal complexities, laying the groundwork for subsequent triumphs in IP litigations. This initial success propelled me towards establishing a robust IP practice, encompassing not only litigation but also registration services, thus allowing me to cultivate a multifaceted IP portfolio.

As my practice evolved, my vision expanded towards establishing a full-service firm, catering to a diverse array of legal needs, encompassing Commercial and IP litigation, Arbitration, Real Estate, and Corporate advisory.

As the Managing Partner at Law Square, can you share some insights into the challenges you face in managing a law firm with associate offices across multiple cities in India?

As the Managing Partner at Law Square, overseeing operations across our associate offices spanning multiple cities in India presents a myriad of challenges. While our headquarters in Bangalore serves as our primary base, our status as a full-service law firm engenders a broad spectrum of cases, including appeals destined for the esteemed chambers of the Supreme Court of India. Furthermore, our specialization in IP litigation frequently necessitates our involvement in matters before the Delhi High Court, prompting the establishment of an associate office in Delhi helmed by a seasoned Advocate on Record. This strategic arrangement enables seamless collaboration between our Bangalore team and our counterparts in Delhi, with periodic travel to the capital for court proceedings.

Similarly, navigating banking arbitration disputes, predominantly situated in Mumbai, demands a tailored approach, necessitating the deployment of resources from our Mumbai associate office. The complexities of appearing before tribunals such as the NCLAT in Chennai and the IP office in the same city have been streamlined through the adoption of online hearing mechanisms, albeit not without initial challenges.

The success of our Delhi model inspired replication in Mumbai and Chennai, each bolstered by dedicated teams poised to handle our caseload under the guidance of our Bangalore office. Despite the logistical demands of traversing multiple cities, the intrinsic satisfaction derived from our work mitigates the perceived challenges, reaffirming our commitment to delivering excellence in legal services.

With your extensive experience appearing before various courts and tribunals, what do you find most rewarding about your practice in dispute resolution and arbitration?

With each appearance before diverse Courts and Tribunals, I find myself enriched by the unique experiences offered by each legal arena. Whether it’s the art of case presentation, the distinct personas of fellow legal practitioners, or the varying standards of preparation, every setting presents its own tapestry of challenges and nuances. In Delhi, legal practitioners are characterized by their assertiveness and acumen, while Mumbai advocates exhibit remarkable agility and efficiency. Meanwhile, in Chennai, a culture of erudition prevails, reflecting in the meticulousness of legal discourse. Despite the inherent disparities, the ultimate satisfaction in dispute resolution and arbitration lies in transcending these differences and achieving the desired outcomes against all odds. This sense of accomplishment amidst adversities is truly gratifying and serves as a testament to the resilience and efficacy of our legal practice.

Your involvement in pro-bono initiatives is commendable. Could you tell us about a particularly impactful case or project you’ve worked on through JITO or TPF?

In my capacity as the Legal Cell Convenor of TPF, we conceived and executed a ground breaking initiative termed ‘TPF Paramersh’. This innovative program utilized a WhatsApp Chatbot platform to facilitate individuals in posting their legal queries, subsequently addressed by a collective of legal experts affiliated with TPF. The swift turnaround time of 1-2 days ensured prompt and accurate legal opinions, catering particularly to the marginalized and those grappling with minor legal quandaries often overlooked. This endeavour has significantly impacted over 10,000 individuals, furnishing them with invaluable legal insights free of charge, thereby bridging a crucial gap in access to justice.

Similarly, within JITO, our commitment to pro-bono endeavours manifests through a series of legal awareness seminars. These seminars convene distinguished speakers from diverse legal and business domains, delivering insights on pertinent legal topics essential for navigating the complexities of contemporary legal landscapes. Through such initiatives, we endeavour to empower our community with the requisite knowledge and preparedness to thrive in an ever-evolving legal environment.

Your publications and presentations on legal education and IP laws are quite notable. What inspired you to contribute to legal literature and share your knowledge through speaking engagements?

My engagement with TPF and JITO has been instrumental in moulding both my professional trajectory and personal ethos. Through my involvement in pro-bono activities within these platforms, I became acutely aware of the pressing need to disseminate crucial legal knowledge to a wider audience. This realization served as a catalyst for me to extend beyond the confines of seminars and delve into the realm of legal literature and public speaking. Consequently, I embarked on a journey of crafting scholarly articles and delivering insightful presentations across various academic institutions, legal circles, and esteemed social and business forums.”

How do you see the landscape of intellectual property laws evolving in India, and what challenges do you anticipate for businesses in this regard?

In recent years, the landscape of intellectual property (IP) laws in India has experienced a notable expansion, characterized by a heightened societal awareness regarding the significance of protecting intangible assets. Businesses spanning from burgeoning start-ups to established enterprises now demonstrate a heightened consciousness regarding the imperative of safeguarding their intellectual property. India, in response, has undertaken substantial strides, aligning its IP regulatory framework with global standards and leveraging technological innovations to streamline the registration processes. Moreover, legislative reforms have been enacted to accommodate the evolving dynamics of the digital age.

However, amidst this commendable progress, the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) represents a potent challenge to conventional IP paradigms. The intersection of AI with copyright and trademark laws poses intricate questions regarding the attribution and ownership of intellectual creations, spanning from literary works to artistic expressions and brand identities. The rapid pace of AI development underscores the need for a nuanced understanding of its implications on intellectual property rights. Consequently, the legal terrain surrounding AI-driven innovations remains largely uncharted, fostering potential disputes and contentions over ownership claims and regulatory frameworks.

Could you shed some light on the role of alternative dispute resolution methods like arbitration in easing the burden on traditional court systems, especially in complex commercial disputes?

The introduction and advancement of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms, particularly arbitration, have significantly alleviated the strain on traditional court systems, particularly in the realm of complex commercial disputes. The amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act in 2015, which imposed time-bound procedures, have substantially enhanced the efficacy of arbitration proceedings in India. This regulatory overhaul has not only expedited the resolution process but has also rendered arbitration a cost-effective alternative to traditional litigation.

In the sphere of commercial disputes, where intricacies abound, arbitration offers a bespoke framework tailored to the specific needs of the parties involved. The flexibility inherent in arbitration proceedings allows for tailored procedures, expert adjudication, and confidentiality, thereby fostering a conducive environment for resolving complex disputes efficiently and effectively. Furthermore, the Indian judiciary has consistently upheld and endorsed the use of arbitration as a preferred method for dispute resolution, evident in a plethora of judicial pronouncements.

The judiciary’s proactive stance towards promoting ADR mechanisms, coupled with legislative amendments aimed at streamlining arbitration procedures, has bolstered confidence in the arbitration process. These measures have not only reduced the backlog of cases burdening traditional court systems but have also instilled a sense of trust and reliability in the efficacy of arbitration as a viable avenue for dispute resolution.

Overall, the symbiotic relationship between traditional court systems and arbitration serves to enhance access to justice, foster commercial certainty, and promote a conducive business environment conducive to economic growth and prosperity.

Finally, considering your extensive experience and achievements, what advice would you offer to law graduates aspiring to build successful careers in the legal field, particularly in the areas you specialize in?

To aspiring law graduates, I wholeheartedly promote litigation as a preferred path in their legal careers. While the initial years may pose challenges, with meagre salaries and rigorous demands, the field holds boundless opportunities for growth and fulfilment in the long run. Upon completion of their legal education, I urge students to seek apprenticeships in chambers renowned for fostering a culture of flexibility, continuous learning, and hands-on experience. Seizing the opportunity to appear in court proceedings, law graduates should dedicate themselves to mastering the intricacies of the law within stipulated time frames, thereby laying a solid foundation for their professional journey.

Success in this profession, I believe, is predicated on dedication, hard work, consistency, humility, and integrity, virtues that one accrues and refines over time. Unlike the immediate financial rewards of non-litigation corporate practice, the gratification derived from winning a legal battle before a court of law and witnessing the joy on a client’s face is unparalleled. Patience, persistence, and perseverance are paramount in this profession, for there are no shortcuts to enduring success.

As law graduates progress in their careers, they should remain open to continual refinement and adaptation to meet the evolving demands of the legal landscape. By embodying these principles and committing to a path of lifelong learning and growth, individuals can ascend to unparalleled heights of achievement and fulfilment within the legal profession.

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