Nishant Das on leaving the cocoon of legacy, to create one of his own

Nishant Das has been practicing as a lawyer in Delhi since 2009, after having completed my BA LLB (Hons.) from Amity Law School (Noida). He has been interviewed by EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador Stuti Dwivedy who is currently pursuing law from NLUJAA.

  1. Greetings of the day, team EBC-SCC Online extends a warm welcome to Adv. Nishant Das for this interview. So, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers and tell us about your journey into law?

Thank you. It is a pleasure to be interacting with your team @EBC-SCC Online.

Well I have been a practicing lawyer since 2009, after having completed my BA LLB (Hons.) from Amity Law School (Noida). I think of myself as an original side counsel, both on the civil and criminal side of practice. The Delhi High Court and the Delhi District Courts are my principal courts, although I have regular appearances before the courts in other States as well.

The practice of law has always been something close to my heart. As a child, I have had the privilege of seeing my maternal grandfather (Late Justice T.C. Das) as a sitting Judge of the Gauhati High Court at Guwahati. I think since then I have harboured the aspiration to become a part of this profession.

  1. What inspired you to be a lawyer and what is the best and the worst part of being a lawyer?

As I had mentioned, my maternal grandfather (Late Justice T.C. Das) was definitely a great inspiration. I remember him to be extremely diligent with his work (and life in general). To have an eye for detail and to take note of the nuances while dealing with an issue, is something that I have imbibed from him.

If you are asking me about the best part of being a lawyer, I am tempted to say “money”, as it is a very lucrative profession (laughs). But on a serious note, I would say that as an advocate, one is empowered to do a lot of impactful work, whether it is in refence to an individual being, a corporate entity or upon the society at large.

This empowerment, however, needs to be handled responsibly, as I feel a lot of precious judicial time is being wasted in not so important litigations. Burdening the courts with issues that can be otherwise resolved at the pre-litigation stage should be avoided. Sometimes in our zeal to prove our case on merits, we often overlook the option of creating channels for our client, to find an effective time-bound resolution of disputes. I would tag this temptation as the worst part of being a lawyer.

On this note, I would also like to mention that for a lawyer to be encouraged to find quick solutions, there has to be an incentive. People in general do not value time, when it comes to a professional. Compensation is often linked to visible work while in court. If the lawyers need to play a role in unburdening the judiciary of its workload, the society at large would also need to respect the professional’s time and efforts, in churning out time-bound resolution of disputes and adequate compensation for the work so executed, should be advanced.

  1. What do you think are the primary challenges lawyers face in the initial stage?

Thankfully I was always aware of the basic challenges that a practicing advocate is confronted with, in the initial years of practice. Firstly, it is the low monetary compensation, when compared to a job in a corporate law firm or in a legal team (in-house) of companies. However, if someone is determined to sail through the initial period of struggle, he/she is heavily compensated for the lost times. As I had earlier mentioned, the practice of law can be extremely lucrative.

Secondly, I feel that the existing structures do not provide a level playing ground, when you join the Bar. People having a legal legacy often get the initial breaks, which might not come in so easily for an outsider. But this initial distinction amongst lawyers becomes less significant when one moves forward, as it is your talent and hard work that would eventually survive the test of time.

Having been blessed with a family comprising of Judges and successful lawyers, people often make a passing reference upon me, as a product of nepotism. Not with the intent to justify, I would like to say that my family having a legal legacy, is based out of Assam and I have consciously decided, as such, to set up my practice in Delhi. In that regard, I have not derived any of the direct benefits. But when it comes to having a family that would understand your initial struggles and provide you with the much-needed encouragement, I would say that I have been lucky.

  1. What was the most challenging case of your career and what was your take on it once you were done with it?

By God’s grace, I have had the opportunity to argue good challenging cases in the last couple of years. If I have to choose one, I would point out to a bail hearing, wherein I was briefed as an arguing counsel. My client was implicated in a serious offence of rape, which he had allegedly committed against the aggrieved person, on the false promise of marriage. Looking at the facts of the case, I could gather that the case at hand was a marriage that had to be called-off, owing to unfortunate turn of events between the parties. But to secure a bail order from the Sessions Court, when implicated under a serious offence of rape, turned out to be a real challenge. I and my team did a thorough study of the case, which included going through series of text messages between the parties, analysing video clips, holding meetings with family members and studying various judicial precedents, as had been laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. To my delight, I was able to secure an unconditional bail order in my client’s favour, which was beyond my expectations.

My take on the matter, once I was done with it, is something that I strongly believe in my day-to-day work life. Advocates need to counsel the clients to refrain from adopting to tact, so as to achieve something by way of frivolous litigation. Although I am genuinely concerned with the rise in cases of domestic violence, there is a tendency to colour every matrimonial dispute between a husband and wife, as one that comprises of dowry demands. This is because the methodology to set the criminal machinery in motion is reasonably simple, but the impact it has upon an individual and his family (who is since innocent) should be taken into serious consideration.

  1. What are the skills in your opinion a law student should develop during his years in law school, if he/she has decided to venture into the field of litigation?

Litigation is something wherein you get better with time and experience. But I am highly impressed with the quality of law graduates, who are joining the Bar these days. I think a lot of credit goes to the training that is imparted in the national law schools and the other law colleges of repute. As a law student, one should read (and analyse) the case laws of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the various High Courts of India. I think the effort should not be to simply memorise the ratio and clear exams. A young mind should be nurtured to do a comparative analysis of the judicial precedents and understand how the interpretation of a particular legal proposition has evolved over a period of time. At the same time, a lot of importance needs to be given on reading the Codes (both Civil and Criminal Procedures), Evidence Act and the Constitution of India, if one aspires to undertake litigation as a career.

  1. How important is doing proper legal research and how should law students equip themselves with legal research skills?

Good legal research is the key to handling a case, successfully. Having command over the law helps to establish authority in courts.

As for law students, every law school should include legal research as a part of the curriculum. Law students should be taught to hone their research skills and the use of various research tools such as SCC Online, from the very first year. Colleges should provide students with opportunities wherein they are presented with real life case situations, so as to develop their research skills and for them to apply the law in a given factual matrix.

  1. What do you mean by “exhaustion of search”?

When a search query is put in the portal for finding a particular point of law, and the researcher has seen all the results on the portal or the search engine is unable to provide for any appropriate result, then the search is said to be exhausted.

  1. If I am getting my facts right, you pursued law from Delhi and in spite of hailing from the North-East, you preferred to settle in New Delhi. What changed the trajectory of your life?

After completing my Class XII from Guwahati (Assam), I decided to shift my base to Delhi/NCR, in order to pursue my legal studies. I was in fact from the 1st batch of students who graduated from Amity Law School (Amity University, U.P.). I feel New Delhi is the best place to pursue a career in litigation. The exposure one can gather in handling cases, starting from the trial courts to the Supreme Court is simply incredible. Also, the presence of the national tribunals adds extra flavour to one’s experience as a counsel operating out of Delhi/NCR.

Because of the said factors, New Delhi also attracts the best of legal minds from across the country. The same adds up to the competition and one needs to be at one’s best game at all times, in order to be successful. I think I owe my limited success in litigation thus far, to this competitiveness that Delhi has to offer in the litigation sphere.

  1. What in your opinion are the most coveted factors that lead to the massive migration of the potential law aspirants of North-East to metropolitan cities?

As I said, the exposure in the metropolitan cities is tremendous. I think the presence of the corporate entities in the bigger cities is also a factor, as the stakes in relation to a dispute are usually higher concerning a company, when compared to an individual person. Also, if one seeks to pursue a career in a corporate law firm or the legal teams (in-house) of companies, the metros definitely provide bigger work opportunities, hence resulting in the massive migration of lawyers.

  1. In your opinion what are the biggest shortcomings of colleges that impart legal education in North-East and what would be your recommendations to tackle them?

I do not think that it is right for me to point out any shortcomings, without having first-hand knowledge on the issue. However, I generally feel that few of the subjects intrinsic to the day-to-day practice of the law needs to be given more prominence while in law school. I had recently conducted a webinar session on the “Specific Performance of Contracts” and the response it had gathered was overwhelming. I received a lot of direct messages (DM’s) from young practicing lawyers, who had thanked me and had also confessed about the lack of knowledge on the subject-matter (which I feel is often overlooked in college).

  1. What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to an aspiring first-generation lawyer?

Here I might sound like Ray Kroc (man instrumental in the worldwide expansion of McDonald’s). I feel more than anything, “perseverance” is the key to success. The journey in litigation would never be easy, even though one is blessed with a legal legacy. It entails a lot of hard work, grit and determination to overcome the challenges that one is faced with, mainly in the initial years of law practice. To be up to date with the law, which is always evolving as a subject and to be at one’s best game (every single day in court) can be challenging. However, I feel that leading a disciplined life, with the hunger to learn and unlearn on a daily basis, is the trick. Also, to maintain high degree of professionalism, integrity and ethical standards are important for a long successful career. There would always be this temptation to make the quick buck, but one must remember that the same is not lasting and the focus should be to build a legacy at the end of one’s career at the Bar.

  1. Any parting message for our readers?

I think the bright young minds from law schools should be motivated to practise the law, so as to take the legal standards of our country to greater heights. Here I think the seniors from the fraternity would have a role to play. Adequate compensation should be advanced to the young professionals, so as to ensure their healthy sustenance through the first few years of struggle and their greater involvement in the handling of a case should be encouraged. In return, the young professionals need to work hard, maintain the highest standards of professionalism, integrity and ethics. I have always believed in one thing — loyalty is a two-way process.

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