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ABOUT THE SPEAKER: Advocate at High Court, Practises across the country in NCLT, Faculty to LawSikho Courses, Former Senior Associate at Shardul Amarchand Mangaldas and Tatva Legal (4 years). 

HOST: Komal Shah

How did the speaker end up in Corporate Litigation?

The speaker already decided in school to join a law school in the future. Later she joined Government Law College, Mumbai. While interning with law firms she had the required exposure, in her first year, she was interning with Khaitan and Co. in New Delhi, after that with AZB Partners in Bangalore. Thereafter with many firms. During these interning days, she had an opportunity to work on both sides of the coin, i.e.the litigation part, and the corporate part. While work was being assigned to us she was inclined towards the litigation work and enjoyed it. So until 2016, she was doing a lot of arbitration and general litigation. After 2016, when the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and IBC came, it became a turning point. The firm she was then working with was structured and expected the person on the team to dedicate their work to the particular work of the team. It was then when she was introduced to the NCLT which was very structured and organized. There was more clarity to the NCLT than Courts on matters.

Should someone start very early in their career to be deciding what they should do or can they move from in-house to litigation/ transactional area to litigation?

One should move in the direction of their choice as early as they can identify their interest and potential. She recommends students to go intern in tribunals way earlier than their final semester and for the person who has already interned, they should take exposure to NCLT as soon as they can, because the quality of work makes the area best to be there. Learning from the court proceedings is a much better way and one would also get to know several persons there. When you dedicate your time to tribunals, you have good standing there.

Does mooting contribute to your ability towards being a good litigator?

Mooting helps. It is not just an activity. It teaches you the most basic stuff which is how to reach out for a matter, how to do complete research on a topic, how you need to attend the court. It is a primary level. It is not the exact way of functioning of courts, but the first platform to express. Not participating in moot courts does not cause a hindrance in any way. Once you enter the profession you get the hand of the things.

How long does one need to be a trainee under senior lawyers and is it important to be a trainee?

While it is not a mandatory requirement to be a trainee before you start your practice, it is advisable. Their experience adds value to your learning. In terms of representing a matter in the court, it will be helpful if you have guidance. It is not important to shadow the lawyer but to learn the basics one should be with them while they are presenting. The time you want to dedicate to them is up to you. You can take 3-4 months or 2 years, completely a person’s call. A lot of exposure nowadays is given to juniors compared to early days. Their seniors motivate them and ask them to represent the suit which enhances the learning ability.

How can someone be prepared to deal with unanticipated questions while representing a matter?

These can be handled by the presence of the mind. To overcome these situations one should carefully look into their matter, good with research skills, prepared when you are attending matter. Also, it is natural to be very nervous while presenting or even doing the smallest task for your first case. In her experience, when she had to appear in front of the court for the first time in her life asking to take an adjournment on a matter, she had written the line down the line on her hand and delivered it to the judge. Judges are also encouraging. Assuming that the judge is in a bad mood, there is very little you can do. You just have to deliver your submissions and pray whether it works in your favor or not. But you can always overcome such situations with the presence of mind and good research.

How important it is to analyze a case? How much of it contributes towards the abilities of a litigator? 

One must be able to understand what issue is being dealt with. With tribunals, when you attend the matter, you must be thorough with the laws, and to achieve that you have to do a proper case analysis and research. Some sites can do searches on specific cases and matters.

Do you rely on case searching sites? Are they useful?

Legal Sites are reliable. And traditionally and yet, commentaries are good for research. After flipping through the pages of the commentary, the next step should be Manupatra and other sites. The accurate keywords assist you in your final product. One should use all of it as much as one can. Even for drafting contracts and agreements, it is advisable to look into the pages of books, for more than one jurisdiction and states other than India. These legal tools make you aware and also assist in gaining knowledge in the legal field. 

How is appearing before NCLT different from taking a civil matter or criminal matter?

The most substantial difference between the two practices is that the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has its prescribed form and format, which is helpful for the practitioners. Also its methodical structure and new set-up. It is bridging the gap which the other set-ups of courts have. It is easier to present matters due to the structure and limit on the matter. While the other matters are now catching up the pace, NCLT is right there, at its best.

Are there more high-profile matters in corporate than in civil or criminal counterparts?

While corporate law deals with financial and economic issues and ends up being on page number one of newspapers, it is not correct to say that the civil and criminal counterparts lack high-profile cases. It is equally balanced. But mostly matters relating to corporate are being talked about, as a preference. Apart from that, as a lawyer practicing before NCLT, it gives you an edge. The transition from civil lawyer to NCLT lawyer is a little difficult but you become well versed with the new legislation. 

Is the transition from an NCLT lawyer to a High Court lawyer is difficult?

The high court has a different process, procedure, and time. Each High Court has its own set of practices, so while switching from NCLT to High Court, one must be very aware of the process the high Court follows. And the crux is how much are you prepared with your matter. If one is aware of the process of the High Court and the case, it will combat, to a substantial extent.

For transition, it is very easy to start from the lowest level. Then when you step ahead, it will be easier for you to pick up from tribunals to High Courts rather than the other way round.

Which is the best place for a person who wants a career in commercial litigation? Is it law firms or independent counsels?

There is an advantage to intern with the law firm because you know that there is a section which is dedicated to corporate commercial matters. But many independent counsels are working with a lot of corporate firms. So you need your due diligence there. You need to see which person is appearing a lot before the NCLT or is making a lot of appearances before the High Court for such matters. 

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