In this article, Akanksha Yadav, a student at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University Lucknow, has explained what decisions an inexperienced lawyer should not make in the initial years of litigation. For writing this article, she has taken guidance from Naman Mohnot and Santwana Agarwal, who have spent a pretty good time in the field of litigation.
It is a well-known quote that practice makes a man perfect. But, this quote needs an amendment for now. It is not just the practice, but it is the right practice which makes a man perfect.
It takes a lot to become a popular name in the field of litigation. If you are someone who is looking to be that popular name then you should avoid following things in the initial years of litigation for that right practice:
Never start a litigation career directly with the High Court or Supreme Court
In India, the hierarchy of courts can be divided into the following three levels:
- Supreme Court at the apex.
- High Courts in the middle of both the extremes
- District Courts at the lowest level.
Coming to the preference of choosing Court, almost each and every law aspirant has a special value in their heart for the Supreme Court (Personally, when I stepped into the Supreme Court for the first time I could feel “Yeh Court nahi hai mandir hai tera” buzzing in my head). The Supreme Court being the highest court of India, it has a different aura in the field of litigation. But, it is not advised to start your litigation career directly with the Supreme Court not even with the High Court.
Even when it comes to choosing an internship, interns are not advised to proceed directly to the Supreme Court or High Court. In the same way, it is always better to begin your litigation career with the district court. There is one single reason for making this choice, i.e. opportunities and experience that the district court provides to its lawyers.
In the district court, you will learn the basics of interpretation of the law and most importantly drafting work. In the district court, one gets a chance to work more closely on the procedural aspect of the law. You will get a lot of exposure and opportunities to learn in detail which you would never get in any higher court.
After practising in the district court, you should go for the High Court. And, after spending immense of time in the High Court, you should finally take your step towards the Supreme Court.
Do not start an independent practice
There are two fields of work where a Fiduciary relationship is key: the area of Medical and Legal practices. The trust between client-attorney is the foundation of the relationship in litigation. The clients always prefer a trusted attorney over someone new. No matter how good you are, clients will not come to you if they do not know have reasons or an excellent source to know how good you are.
Especially in India, where ‘name’ works, an independent attorney faces greater difficulties. People generally have a family lawyer whom they trust. In these circumstances, it is next to impossible to survive as someone whom no one knows or trusts as an advocate. So, starting with an experienced advocate is the best choice one has. So, you should focus on making yourself noticed and remarked by someone experienced in the field. In initial years, their name would help you make one for yourself.
Furthermore, if you start up working with an experienced advocate, you will also gain another precious gift, i.e. experience. The practice of law is much different than what the teachers and textbooks in our law school teach us. To get the in-depth knowledge of litigation, you must indulge in practice under the guidance of an experienced lawyer. Choosing such advocates should also be taken care of, as you would not want to work under someone who is so busy that he cannot take time to explain stuff to you.
You should contact your Law School seniors, your relatives or other contacts made during the life in Law School (especially ones you made during your internships). These contacts will help you to find and approach people who have experience and name in the field that you are interested in joining. In fact, there may be some seniors who may want to start their own practice after gaining the required experience. They may be looking for someone like you who is able and willing to work with them.
Do not tag yourself with a particular field
You should never limit yourself to one specific field in the initial years of litigation. Unless and until you have got a high command over a particular field or area, you should keep your ways open. Initial years are meant to gain exposure. You should try yourself in each and every field to recognize what is your interest area and what you are best at.
Do not forget to do your homework
In the field of law, the job of studying never goes away. If you want to make a good career in the field of litigation, you have to continue reading and researching laws. You need to do your research and by heart all the statutory provisions before appearing in court.
Even if you are not arguing a case, you need to be thorough with the case file. Basically, case reading is one of the important tasks you need to get better at with the passage of time. Case reading and applying your mind to it is the key to have a successful career.
Do not expect too much money
I still remember during my CLAT coaching when one of our mentors asked us how come all of us decided to choose law as a career, one of the law aspirants answered that she got inspired from the web series ‘Suits’. And, it is true that the field of law looks so glamorously depicted in it. But the truth is that, unlike Harvey and Mike, you would not be paid much in the initial years of your job.
Even during one of my internships under an advocate, he stated that do not join this field if your parents cannot support you at least for three consecutive years. Though that is the worst scenario, many bright lawyers do not even have to face this phase owing to their hard work.
Do not get overwhelmed if you are a good mooter
“All good mooters are not good lawyers.” No matter how many good moots you have done while you were in your law school, you can still mess up when you are presenting your case before a real judge. Mooting skills are very far from the art of advocacy. All the keen ears and systematic practice you are habitual of will be left way back when you join this field.
You have to get yourself prepared with the fact that mooting has only a little to do with the real litigation. Unlike mooting, you will not be given plenty of time to go into various case laws and their facts for proving your point. Neither you will be able to waste your time on emphasising the court mannerisms nor the judge will be patient enough in most of the cases.
Do not indulge in heated arguments with judges
It is rightly said, “Reading the Law does not win you a case in the Court, reading the judge does.” You should always mind the judge’s temper, and should not lose yours in the Court. If you know the thinking and mindset of the judge you are arguing in front of, it will help you get an edge over your opponent.
You should know what the judge wants from your client. Different people have different personalities, and the subjectivity of the judge plays an important role in deciding the fate of your client’s case. If you get into an argument with the judge, it will be bad for both your client’s case and your career. Your calmness and composure must define you.
You should keep this habit until you are in the field of litigation. This habit will always help you no matter how many years you have passed in the field.
Do not underestimate the value of observing Court proceedings
Observing court proceedings is not only beneficial for the interns but is equally profiting for the litigators. Especially, during your initial years, you should invest your more time in watching and observing the cases. Every courtroom follows a different procedure; every judge has his own style of hearing and accepting arguments. You should reach early and observe a few cases before going to argue one.
Do not choose firms for exposure
You should never immediately join firms after graduating. You should prefer attaching yourself with the senior advocates over joining litigation firm. The reason behind this approach is that firms might provide you with a good sum but would prove futile when it comes to the experience.
Firms mainly assign you clerical tasks which would not help you in enriching your skills. But, at the same time, if you engage with some senior advocate, he or she will help you understand how exactly the law works in the field of litigation. Senior advocates engage in different kinds of work, and they will be able to enrich your knowledge by leading you from basic to the top.
Do not compromise your ethics on any cost
In all the important moment of our lives, we get a choice. There are two options available, the easy way and the right one. What we choose defines our future as well as our image in front of the society. Honesty is one of the seven lamps of Advocacy and a lawyer, most of all should be honest with his profession. Especially, in the initial years of litigation, you should never betray your ethics for a few extra rupees.
Ethics should be followed throughout the career. But, in the initial years, it is a special requirement. As the image, you will create in the initial years the same image will be carried by you throughout the career in the eyes of your fellow litigants and clients.
Some people start taking false cases to earn quick money. They do not wait for the right opportunity for them and commit perjury in a Court of Law to get ahead in life. However, betraying your client and more so, your profession would lead to a tarnished image as well as a weaker legal system. You should always remember that while working in the field of law, you should respect the law more than anything.
Do not ignore the magic of communication
Shy and introverts have got very less luck in this field. You need to use your communication skills to increase your links and contacts because that’s what matters most in this field. There is a difference between a loud voice and a firm voice. You need to be very humble, calm and soft-spoken in this field. You have to fight only your opposing side and not your opposing counsel. Overall, you have to not only win your clients but also your fellow lawyers to build a good and strong channel in this field.
If you wish to be successful in this field, you need to avoid and adopt the above-mentioned qualities. Moreover, you need to work very hard, keep yourself updated and ready for the challenges as litigation is not a cakewalk.
What to do?
Except for following all the above-mentioned advises, you can also do the following things to make a strong career in the field of litigation.
- Keep reading and writing articles which will enhance your knowledge in the law.
- Get published your work, so that in your field, people know you already.
- Follow the Seven lamps of advocacy as mentioned by Justice Abbott Parry in his book titled ‘seven lamps of advocacy’. These seven lamps of advocacy are: Honesty, Courage, Industry, Wit, Eloquence or Speaking Skills, Judgment Writing and Fellowship, i.e. maintaining good relations with your fellow litigants.
There are various students who during their stay in Law School itself choose litigation as the field of career. Such students should do their internships accordingly. For example, they should intern under the advocates and do more Court internships. And, they should focus on understanding the procedural aspect of law and acquire the art of drafting while doing their internships. While their internships, they should start building their links and contacts in the field. These all will help them a lot in starting a career in the field of litigation.