Mr. Jayant Bhatt is an independent legal practitioner, who is an alumnus of National University of Singapore(NUS) and the New York University(NYU),USA from where he completed his masters.He has also worked in the prestigious law firm, Clyde & CO. LLP in Dubai for 2 years, before moving back to India. Currently, he is a Senior Panel Counsel for Govt. of India in the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi. He has a keen interest in mentoring young minds and has been a prolific speaker at various platforms.
Mr. Bhatt in this interview has shared his journey from a disputes lawyer in Dubai to an independent litigating lawyer in India. He has talked about his experience during his LLM and has given some mindful advice to the young generation of law students.
He has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Jyotshna Yashaswi who is currently pursuing law from CNLU.
1. Sir, please introduce yourself to our readers?
I am a lawyer, teacher, mentor, writer, advisor and a thought leader. Not necessarily in that order.
2. Please tell us about your law school career?
Law School came as a reprieve and as a relief. At school, I was a science student, and not very good at that. What pulled me in immediately about law was that it was not abstruse or formulaic like science but based on the interaction of words and ideas, much easier to relate to and grasp. My law school has trained me to pierce through various complex layers and grasp at this very basic interaction of ideas, words and human nature at play in most cases.So law school plays a great role in creating a foundation and shaping my career as to what I am today.
3. What is the one thing you experienced which changed totally when you completed your studies and started practicing as a lawyer?
As I started practicing, I realized how law could be opaque and vague at times. Everyone around me was struggling to make sense of the many contradictory judgments given by the same court..These contradictory judgments lead to a situation wherein people lacked clarity as to the prevailing situation and by people I mean not just me, but citizens of the country and lawyers in general. Many a times the division bench judgments were challenged or referred to a larger bench or to the constitutional bench. So, when I started my career and even today I think that why can’t we have a simplistic mechanism to render judgments and at the same time have clarity of the judgments all at one go. It is because of this confusion you see people appealing and referring, wasting valuable man hours which could go towards dispensing justice in so many other cases.. The need of the hour today, is streamlining of judgments by which not just common sense but law can also prevail in the country.
4. You have worked with the Dispute Resolution and litigation team of the prestigious firm of Clyde & Co. LLP in Dubai for 2 years, before moving back to India. So, what was the idea which triggered you to move back to India and start practicing here?
So the idea was always to come back. The idea was never to settle abroad. I don’t think that there was a special trigger that you need to come back to your country. My education has been from India.Dubai came as a welcome break after my Masters and it helped me to repay my education loan.It also gave me a peak into how a law firm functions and works especially international law firms. That also teaches you immensely in terms of what clients are looking for from a lawyer, how to should handle your brand, how to research properly, read the law, etc. These are all experiences which go a long way in your professional career.I was in a civil law country, i.e., UAE, and working for a common law firm. So it was a good mix and match of things as I was in the dispute resolution team and learned a great deal from this unique angle. So, I don’t think that there was ever any confusion in my mind about coming back to India. The idea was to be independent in my career and have my own practice in my own country. By God’s grace, the powers have been kind to me and I have been able to set up my own practice.
5. Since, you have done your Masters from NUS and from NYU, can you share your experience of LLMs? Especially comparing your experience in India and abroad.
One should pursue LLM primarily for the great insight into the academic world and not purely from a job hunting perspective. It helps you hone your skills. I was extremely privileged to be admitted to this program called NYU@NUS, where both the universities collaborated for the first time and held a joint dual degree program.That is how I was able to complete two Masters in one year. They were very selective and competitive about the quality of the students they were going to have. It was a very small batch of 45 students from across the world. You can imagine the amount of competition to get into this course was very high and I was lucky to get the admission. I was also one of the youngest students in my batch, the eldest member was a 44 year old lady who was a general counsel of a company.So far as the experience is concerned, I think it was phenomenal. Comparing it to India, I think there are a lot of things the Indian education system lacks and much is left to be desired. First, the way things are taught is very practical and pragmatic in nature. It is not just about the theoretical studies, the students are given a lot of freedom. Nowadays, things have changed in India,but it was not so back then. You were not allowed to use laptops in classroom and had to use pen and paper for everything but when you go outside, you have the freedom to have gadgets. You have the freedom to snack in the class (jokingly). You are encouraged to have a good rapport with professors. You can ask them whatever you wish to and the rich experience they themselves have and the way they interact with students is also something to emulate and learn from. The quality of teaching has to surpass and supersede every artificial impediment that is created. Focus should be on bridging the gap of intellect and practicality for the youth or the students who are looking for quality education. It can only happen when you are forthcoming in your approach and you are open to learning yourself as a teacher when you are interacting with the students. Education and knowledge are a two-way street. One just can’t think that because one knows something and by regurgitating in the class one is going to learn. This was the most fundamental difference that I observed after going through three different education systems, which are the Indian education system, Asian education system at NUS and American education system at NYU.
6. How will you describe your path as a lawyer in India?
It has been really interesting. There has been a lot of challenges. At the same time it doesn’t matter whether you are a 1st generation or 10th generation lawyer. Everybody at an individual level is always faced with a lot of challenges and opportunities and given a scenario you have to overcome them. If you come from a privileged background, it has some advantage, but it won’t help in long run. In the long run your merit will help you. If you are meritorious, people will recognize you for your work. People will follow you for what you are and not what you pretend to be. When you start your practice, it is the same case. You have to be honest with what you are doing. You have to give the right advice to your clients and you have to be extremely hard working and dedicated because the end goal is to obtain justice for people. So throughout this journey, your ultimate goal of securing justice, through perseverance, hard work, and dedication should always be there, because the moment you waiver in your path, be rest assured that you are going to have a great fall. So always be aware of these basic principles to guide you on your path like the northern star.
7. What are the major things which one learn in law school which helps him in his professional career?
I think what students don’t tend to learn (and it’s not their fault) because there is no curriculum, is how to develop a business acumen, how to look at businesses, how to make money, how the businesses are run, understanding the account book of companies. If these things are not taught at a basic level, then I think we are too far from practicality. At the end of the day, as a lawyer you have to understand the business dynamics and how commerce works at large. You don’t have to be a corporate law, or property law specialist to understand these things because every time a client comes to you with a query, especially a company, you must know the dynamics of business and that is lagging by and large in our law school. The reason for this is that the faculty themselves haven’t had that experience and exposure unfortunately. It can be remedied by having visiting faculties from different walks of life like the IITs and IIMs do. Visiting faculties can be called to teach these specific things and that will give students a much needed holistic grooming required to be a good lawyer.
8. What are your advices for the law students across India?
Be aware of what is going on in the world. Not just legal world but be aware of the current state of affairs-be it politics, environmental issues, human rights, business, bitcoins, etc. You have be aware of what is happening around you because everything at the end of the day revolves around the rules, regulations, laws and bylaws laid down by different organizations and different governments. For example,when you listen to music whether on Spotify, YouTube or Apple Music. There may come a time when these brands may be in trouble for copyright claim, fraud, bankruptcy, or even cyber-attack and the wheels of law will set into motion. Don’t think as a law student but as a legally aware person who is going to be a student of law forever. Knowledge can come from any corner, clients can come from any source, and you should be open to the education that you are receiving right now and attend as many guest lectures as possible so that you are groomed for the real life that you are eventually going to face once you graduate.