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This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.

Is there a practice area where you can quickly learn court craft in a not so intimidating environment, get clients quickly despite being young, earn enough to pay for basics while you are working on getting your long term litigation career off the ground?

Is there a practice area where you can get top companies as your client despite being young and novice in litigation?

Is there a practice area that will help you to cultivate a first set of very grateful and very impressed clients who will send you may referrals over the next few years even as you progress to more complicated and niche areas of law?

Yes there is. And it is Consumer Litigation.

The way people treat consumer litigation in law school or even in most law firms, you may mistakenly think that consumer litigation is small matters, and there is no scope to make much money or name in it.

That’s absolutely wrong. This is an area of law that you can practice to earn a lot of money, create a roster of grateful clients who send all kinds of referral work, and make an initial impression on the bar and corporate clients, all while you learn and upgrade your litigation skills.

It is much better to start your career with consumer law rather than starting with civil or criminal law practice right away.

For any young lawyer, having an in-depth knowledge of consumer litigation can be a huge asset. Do you know why? 

Any consumer facing company is saddled with a host of consumer litigation and needs an army of lawyers to defend it in different consumer forums. Examples of consumer facing companies are those operating in e-commerce, real estate, retail, automobiles, banking, finance, insurance, telecom, etc. 

In other words, any company which has a business-to-consumer or B2C business model (you will know that a lot of businesses work on this model) is a consumer facing company. 

Such consumer facing companies need to have a team of lawyers who are specialized in handling consumer disputes. These teams comprise of in-house lawyers who collaborate with local lawyers for handling disputes in different locations.  

The in-house lawyers also strategize appellate work and consumer-related work before other sectoral regulators.  

In addition, the external local lawyers who work with such companies often enter into retainer arrangements, which provide them a volume of work, income and face-time before consumer forums. 

Even if amounts in a particular dispute are not huge, a brand/ company needs to defend its case because an adverse judgment can exponentially increase financial implications from angry customers in similar cases, who may also file similar cases to obtain a similar relief.  

Further, every sector has a unique set of sectoral laws and specialized issues which need to be dealt with in a consumer case. For example, medical negligence has a specialized range of evidentiary and documentation issues. Telecom, insurance-related and online payments-related disputes are dealt with by sectoral regulators as well. 

What kind of skills are needed to succeed in consumer litigation?

You might think that having generalized litigation experience of trial court work is sufficient to enable you to succeed in consumer litigation as well. Although trial litigation experience helps, it is not a substitute for acquiring specialized insights and skills in the area. 

Also, when you start your career, remember to choose the shortest path. It is unwise to first learn trial litigation and then use that as a reference point to learn consumer litigation. That is a much longer route. The law is relatively easier to get a grip over, in comparison to mainstream civil and criminal laws and trial procedures. 

Consumer litigation and defense strategies themselves differ across different sectors, depending on the intricacies of the sector and whether there is a sectoral regulator for that sector or not. 

In regulated sectors, there are a number of strategic decisions to be taken which involve selection of the optimal forum for a client – should one approach a consumer forum or a specialized regulatory body such as TRAI for telecom sector complaints, IRDA for insurance-related complaints, RBI’s digital ombudsman for online transactions?  

An effective lawyer will be able to advise a consumer on the optimal forum depending on the nature of the matter and proceed forward with the litigation, and be equipped to take it to its end result. He or she will not have piecemeal skill-sets.  

Consumer litigation is not always as simple as the average lawyer expects it to be!

Are consumer disputes too small to be profitable? Is it possible to build a lucrative practice?

Some lawyers who represent a consumer’s interest in consumer disputes mistakenly believe that consumer matters are not of high enough value for lawyers to build a financially sustainable practice. However, that notion is not entirely true. It depends on whom you select as a client and the level of skills you have.

There are clients who do not want to pay lawyers for their services, but there are enough number of high value matters around. Consumer forums are also awarding significant compensation in disputes. 

For example, recently a Mohali court ordered INR 1 lakh to be paid as compensation by Snapdeal to a customer who purchased an iPhone but was delivered a brick. 

Also, consumer disputes need not be small at all. Consumer disputes may arise over a flat that costs crores, or an expensive car. Compensations can run into crores. Such matters can be quite lucrative.

Similarly, the amounts ordered as compensation in medical negligence cases are sizeable. In 2014 the Supreme Court had ordered INR 11 crores as compensation for the death of a patient in a medical negligence case.

Do you think working on these matters would not enable the lawyers to generate a viable fee from their clients?

Many lawyers underestimate the level of insights required in this area and are therefore they are unable to secure such work. Due to fragmented knowledge, their skills and insights are on limited aspects of the litigation process, and they are therefore unable to add enough value to clients. You do not need to be in that position.

If you have adequate skill-sets, you will also have the confidence to be selective with clients and take up work which also moves your practice forward, apart from contributing to consumer interest. 

Where a matter is important but not remunerative financially for an individual consumer, you can also file claims on behalf of a class of consumers to alter the economics of the situation entirely. 

For example, if a consumer is only willing to pay you an INR 2000 lump-sum for a particular matter, you may not be able to take it up. However, if he or she is able to get 10 or 20 consumers facing the same issue and everyone agrees to pay you INR 2000, then you may be able to take up the case, as it becomes financially viable for you.   

Recent amendments on pecuniary limit is a game changer

There is another piece of information that will change the face of consumer litigation in India. The Consumer Protection Act restricted the pecuniary jurisdiction of district forums to up to INR 20 lakhs. 

Many well-paying clients would inflate the amount of compensation claimed so that they could file their case at the state commission or the national commission. 

As a result, the matters at district forums were of relatively lesser economic value. 

For a young lawyer, especially one who does not practice in Delhi or a state capital, representing a client at the state commission or national commission is more difficult owing to numerous factors. He or she may be unfamiliar with the bench as his or her daily practice is not in that city or in that forum. Further, competition is at its highest as the most experienced litigators at the state and national level are engaged. In addition, the young lawyer needs to take up the matter at the cost of his or her local practice for a matter. 

Lawyers who work as juniors in a senior lawyer’s chamber will find it extremely difficult to take this work up as they will need to be in the local courts assisting their seniors everyday and cannot leave their home city or town to take up a matter in the state forums. 

Therefore, for a young lawyer to appear in these matters, it would mean travelling out of familiar territory, competing with such litigators and also foregoing matters in their local jurisdiction on the day of a hearing.  

However, the new Consumer Protection Bill proposes to enhance the jurisdiction of district forums to up to INR 1 crore, which will bring a lot of high value consumer litigation from the state forums to the district level, and the national commission to the state level. 

Basically, it brings the action to your home turf. 

This will create an incredible opportunity for young lawyers to participate in high-value litigation consumer litigation on the consumer’s side as well. Consumer litigation in India is set for a boom!

You may or may not exclusively specialize in this area, but ignoring it might lead to missing out on some interesting career opportunities. 

What is the career potential after doing this course

Consumer litigation can complement an existing litigation practice really well. If you are working for a senior, you can take up consumer cases and start building your own clients. 

Consumer cases are also a great opportunity to develop your ‘court craft’ and get a sense of how to argue before different judges. There is less competition in consumer courts, you are likely to get more time to argue and judges are more encouraging towards younger lawyers.

You can act for a class of affected consumers in case of consumer malpractices and increase pressure on large companies, and ensure that your practice is sustainable. 

Independent practitioners can also secure retainership arrangements with large companies to handle consumer litigation. 

Large consumer-facing companies across different sectors want in-house counsels with exclusive and in-depth experience in consumer litigation. They will need to collaborate with local lawyers across multiple locations, different consumer forums, at appellate stages and at specialized forums to defend the company. 

Relevant Industries

  • Fashion and Apparel
  • Automakers
  • FMCG and Retail
  • E-Commerce
  • Food & Beverages
  • Telecom
  • Insurance
  • Restaurants
  • Hospitality
  • Banking and Finance
  • Fintech
  • Education
  • Entertainment

Potential Employers

  • In-house legal team in B2C companies   
  • Litigation firms
  • Independent Litigators

Who Should Take This Course

  • Young litigators who want to become independent as early as possible in their career 
  • In-house counsels in large B2C companies who want to set up a team of lawyers for defense against consumer cases across India 
  • Independent practitioners who want to specialize in high-value consumer litigation 
  • Litigators who want to secure retainership arrangements from large B2C companies to represent them in consumer cases (especially in non-metro cities and towns)
  • Corporate lawyers who wish to shift to pursue a career in litigation
  • Law students interested in pursuing a career in litigation 

Training Methodology

  • Access to basic study material through online learning management system, Android and iOS app
  • Hard copy study materials to be couriered to your address
  • 2 practical exercises every week, followed by written feedback 
  • based on the exercises, there will be a live video based online class. You can ask questions, share your screen, get personal feedback in this class.
  • Classes are held after regular work hours. Typically classes are kept on Sunday afternoon or 8-9 pm on other days.
  • You can ask questions, get your doubt cleared live as well as through online forums

What Will You Learn

  • Understand consumer proceedings in a practical and step-by-step manner
  • Develop in-depth understanding of the work performed by lawyers at each stage of consumer litigation
  • Optimally select whether to approach a sectoral regulator or a consumer forum depending on the sector, the nature of the dispute and the client’s objectives 
  • Draft the documents at each stage with access to templates
  • Develop expertise in representing both categories of clients – individual consumers and a company in defense     
  • Learn how to ensure that your client’s case is persuasive and identify and address weaknesses beforehand 
  • Get insights to evidentiary and procedural aspects
  • Learn how to manage a pan-India team of local lawyers effectively 
  • Learn how to act for a class of consumers to get more attention from companies and consumer forums 
  • Handle appellate work effectively, all the way up to the Supreme Court

Principal Learning Objectives

  1. Identify which consumer forum to approach for the remedy your client needs
  2. Learn the pros and cons of selecting reliefs for consumers under specialized laws such as RERA, insurance or banking regulations
  3. Develop expertise in work at district forums, state commissions, national commission and Supreme Court
  4. Learn to draft effective legal opinions and advisory notes that add value to a client’s legal strategy 
  5. Implement strategies which increase the likelihood of settlement prior to initiation of a consumer matter
  6. Prepare your client’s case in a way that ensures that consumer forums do not delay adjudication   
  7. Maximise chances of success by following detailed evidence collection processes  
  8. Strategies followed for selecting the appropriate consumer forum in which to file your case
  9. Win your client’s trust through immediate interim reliefs from consumer forums
  10. Learn the important points which must be included in a complaint or a response which can tilt the tide in your client’s favour
  11. Get acquainted with the filing process and all the documents and formalities while filing a consumer complaint
  12. Implement a pan-India defense strategy for a company to defend itself
  13. Maintain exhaustive documentation strategies for companies for defense in consumer cases  
  14. Identify when to defend your client or proceed in appeal vs. when to settle proceedings   
  15. Understand how and when to use transfer proceedings to transfer the case to a more appropriate forum
  16. Learn how to win the legal battle by taking advantage of the statements of opposite parties in their draftings
  17. Deal with last minute complications while leading evidence in complex consumer matters
  18. Get insights about examination and cross examination of the witnesses 
  19. Represent a class of consumers to increase pressure on a large corporate and make your practice viable
  20. Master appeals and revision work and strategy to benefit your client’s interest 
  21. Deal effectively deal with different kinds of clients – large companies, individuals and consumer groups
  22. Lead and defend litigation effectively across a wide range of consumer matters irrespective of the sector, such as manufacturing, doctors, banks, insurance companies, service sector and much more

Industry Contributors

Akanksha Sisodia, Independent Practitioner, Delhi High Court and Consumer Courts

Abraham Mathews, Advocate, Supreme Court and Chartered Accountant

Yash Jain , Associate, Singhania and Associate

Online Faculty

Akanksha Sisodia

Harsh Jain

Money back guarantee

If you take this course, follow it diligently for a month, do all the exercises but do not find value in it, we will refund the entire course fee to you. It is a 100% money back guarantee with only one condition, you must do it properly for a month. If you don’t find it valuable after that, get your entire money back. How to get the refund? Read the detailed money back guarantee policy here. 

List of Weekly Exercises 

  1. Draft a notice for initiation of consumer proceedings
  2. Draft a response to notice for initiation of consumer proceedings
  3. Prepare a consumer litigation monitoring dashboard for a company 
  4. Prepare a pan-India report on consumer litigation
  5. Draft a consumer complaint for a defective product at the district forum
  6. Draft an interim application along with a consumer complaint
  7. Draft a consumer complaint for deficiency in service at the state commission
  8. Draft a response to a consumer complaint 
  9. Draft an opposition to the interim application 
  10. Draft a complaint against an unfair trade practice 
  11. How to submit evidence, cross-examination  
  12. Draft a consumer complaint for representation of a class of consumers
  13. Draft an execution petition
  14. Draft an opposition to the execution petition 
  15. Draft a memorandum of appeal before the state/ national commission
  16. Draft an application for a stay of order and for condonation of delay  
  17. Draft a response to a memorandum of appeal  
  18. Draft and file an appeal before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC)
  19. Draft a revision petition
  20. Draft a Special Leave Petition before the Supreme Court under Article 136 
  21. Draft a writ before the High Court under Article 226/ Supreme Court under Article 32
  22. Draft a statutory appeal before the Supreme Court
  23. Prepare an advisory note on pros and cons of using consumer protection machinery vs. other statutes (e.g. against a builder or a luxury car seller or against a negligent doctor) 
  24. Prepare a legal opinion or advisory note on action to be initiated under consumer protection law for medical negligence
  25. Prepare a legal opinion or an advisory note on insurance or mutual fund fraud
  26. Prepare a legal opinion or advisory note on banking fraud 

For a detailed syllabus click here

Please note that the price for the course will increase from 12000 to 14000 from 14th August

 

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