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Don’t be disheartened: Litigation could be a good career option

Due to lockdown, the ghost of uncertainty is dancing on our head and aspirants of legal study – prospective law students are under the era of dubitation, as CLAT is yet to be held. However, at present, whatever seems to be a gloomy and blue world of future will soon disappear and as we are already in the process of habituating living with effects and side effects of Covid-­‐19, everything would be normal with the passage of time. We have kept patience till this time; some more is needed.

Today, I am sharing with you the prospects of law and potentialities, which could be part of your future career in the legal profession. As we know, the legal profession has tremendously evolved and developed much in the present decade and is continued to spread its wings by leaps and bounds. The opportunities are unlimited. For example, in case of litigation, it is said that the legal profession is over crowded, but the fact is: compared to 1.35 billion population of our country, the lawyers/advocates are still less in numbers i.e. around 20 to 22 Lakh (exact figure of practicing advocates is not readily available now). No doubt, if you look at Metros or Big Cities and those complexes of District courts or City Civil Courts compound, you see big crowd and jam-­‐ packed areas with full of lawyers, however, that is not a concerning issue. Some times courts are also full of advocates and a poor litigant can hardly enter. But this also should not bother you, as this is the normal situation in Indian courts and we have to live with it. The reality is: the figure of cases (pending matters) is much more and much more higher than the number of advocates. There is no dearth of work in litigation.

If you are sincere, hard-­‐working and smart, work will find you. Of course, you might have heard and rightly heard that there is a waiting period, but waiting period is for more earning and not for less learning. If you choose litigation and ready to work 24×7, you may easily survive and within few months (not few years) you will able to cater other necessities of life and one has to remember that s/he is not expected to work 24×7 throughout his/her whole life. It may only for initial period and once you settle down, work comes to you regularly; you may choose your own schedule. It is recorded in Britannica that in 1880-­‐’81 the great Holmes was invited to lecture on the common law at the Lowell Institute in Boston and he said: ‘The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience’.

In the field of litigation, the experience is the greatest teacher. More you learn, more you explore, more you earn. At present, in the field of litigation sky is the limit. Once you are established, you can get work 24×7, which allows you to earn 24×7. But the condition precedent is: hard work with smartness and sincerity. There is no other short cut or any other straitjacket formula for succeeding in this profession. However, at present you are at the doors-­‐step of the profession and so, I would say: in law school, what you have to learn is: how to approach the law. You may learn number of subjects of law with Acts, Statutes and case laws. But the point is: what is its applicability in a given situation. Which court has held what? And in what perspective. One is required to develop critical thinking in this field.

Besides, improve the language. For an advocate, language is the tool of production. Without mastering the language, you cannot address well, argue well, write well and more importantly think well. By now, we know – how to improve the language and what are the modes for improving the language, but still the basic thing remains: read, read and read. Any language can be acquired through four mediums of instruction: listening, reading, writing and speaking. However, this should be in variety of subjects. For new comers in the field of legal studies, I would suggest: don’t start reading the judgements first. Learn to read the law, statutes, bare acts and basic provisions, then, you go to annotated edition of that Act. Read commentary; grasp the concept and then venture in reading the judgements. This will give you systematic approach to law. Any legislation can be understood by its methodical study – step by step i.e. from section/article/clause to elaborate discussion by the author and then interpretation of the same by the higher courts.

This is only in respect of the litigation, but if someone does not like litigation and for many reasons, may not like, then, other avenues are open. For example, Job in corporate, academics after completion of LL.M., Judiciary, researcher, further career stretching by appearing in UPSC, CAT for IIMs etc. However, for some of students, it is difficult to decide: whether to opt for litigation or not. This depends upon interest as well as aptitude and also the atmosphere in the courts and outside the courts. For litigation, law is a jealous mistress in all terms. Many times it happens that your whole day is wasted in court just for waiting for your turn and your turn does not come till 5.00 pm, for which you are in the court since 10.30 and much work is already pending at office, which you could have easily finished during the day, but, the day is gone in vain and now, one has to reach the office and work for late evening/s. Mentally you are tired, as entire day you did only fielding, but the result is zero. This is the same story for many days and so, one has to bear the system, swallow the fatigue and still live cheerfully. This would be the part of your future life, if you enter in the litigation, and looking at the current scenario of our field of litigation, which is emerging today, I do not see it may change significantly in next five years at least.

Moreover, some times students are very much enthusiastic for a particular line of practice e.g. on corporate side, company matters or on taxation side or criminal or civil side, but this would be possible only in Metros and that too, if you are having some legal background or you get good chambers. Because, if you begin practice at smaller cities/town other than metros, you cannot decide: on which side you will practice, but clients would decide, as they come with the cases and they determine your fate. Because, ultimately the cases, which you conduct in your earlier days and if you are successful or even if your performance is good initially, then, that will shape your career on a particular side. No doubt, again, if you are in Metros, you can very well choose your specialized subject and you can work on it with a specified chamber, but if you are not in Metros, one has to take up a brief/case, which naturally comes to him on any day at any time and one has to work on it with his/her full potentiality.

Additionally, in litigation, one is required to engage himself/herself in courts, even though, one may not have any case on hand, because court craft is such that one can learn and re-­‐learn only after attending the courts. To get success in courts, one has to understand, how courts work, more importantly, how judges see the case and what is their opinions on different aspects of the case. Everybody in this profession knows the Law, but facts always vary from case to case and so, each court primarily more interested in facts of the case then application of law. Hence, one is required to learn – how to master the facts and then, how to present it in a lucid manner. In law schools, now, they teach story telling – in moot courts that train the students/mooters that how to begin, because judge must get interest, when you start saying/addressing him/her.

Litigation, thus, has many facets and sometimes, first thing comes to the mind of a new entrant is: Which Court would be ideal to start practice? To Answer this question is not easy, however I will try my best according to the experience I have. If we look at the lower courts [though, now the use of word ‘lower’ courts is not found favour with the Karnataka High Court, whose CJ said in January-­‐2020 that ‘Do not use the words “Lower Court” or “Subordinate Court” by Appellate Courts while exercising their appellate powers’: each court is a court in their own way, so, we should not address it as ‘lower’ or subordinate court, but here I have referred it lower courts is only to understand the hierarchy and not in any other way] i.e. up to District Court level, they are having original jurisdiction and so, normally they are known as courts of facts, where evidence is to be led or adduced. The strategy is required to be choked up at the courts of this original jurisdiction. Whereas the higher courts are more concerned with law, interpretation of law and so, they work on principles. High Courts and Supreme Court do also have large writ jurisdiction powers and constitutional matters directly addressed to them in addition to appellate and supervisory jurisdiction.

However, my experience says: if in the initial stage of practice, if one starts practice at the High Court by keeping eye on the lower courts, s/he will have double advantages by understanding the analysis of the facts and learning of interpretation of law. However, beginning with High Court practice does not mean not going to the lower courts at all, as one is required to take up the case at the lower court too, if it comes to him/her, as it is very much necessary to learn the drafting of pleadings before the civil and criminal courts and also to understand the filing procedure at the lower courts and then, production of documents and cross-­‐examination etc., as and when one gets the opportunity.

Hence, my suggestion would be this: keep your feet at the High Court and keep an eye on the subordinate courts with a view to learn both – how to construe documents and how to interpret the law. Then, in future, even if one wishes to go to Supreme Court, by then, fundamentals would be clear and then it would be smooth sailing rather than directly beginning your practice at the Supreme Court without any roots.

Author Mr Kashyap Joshi, Advocate Gujarat High Court, Visiting Faculty at Institute of Law, Nirma University, Ahmedabad

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