Jyotika Jain is a first-generation lawyer, currently working as a chamber junior at the Chambers of Senior Advocate Gaurav Pachnanda. An alumna of Amity Law School, Delhi and the National University of Singapore, Jain carved a niche for herself in maritime law and arbitration, and is currently practising in these aforesaid areas. Holding tremendous and rather varied experience of working in Indian law firms such as Karanjawala & Co. and Bose & Mitra & Co. as also in foreign law firms at Singapore, hers has been a journey worth chronicling and reading about.
Jyotika Jain speaks to Prakhar Srivastava about the law, LLMs, research and more in this candid conversation.
- Can you please tell our readers a little about yourself, and why you chose law as a career?
I am a first-generation lawyer with a wide variety of hobbies ranging from birdwatching, sketching, writing to even poetry. I always wanted to pursue medicine, but as luck would have it, I became an accidental lawyer.
- Let us talk a little about your time at law school. How did you shape the five years at Amity Law School? How do you look back at them?
I look back at my time in law school rather fondly. It was a breeze. I was one of the lucky ones to have studied at both the campuses in New Friends Colony as well as in NOIDA. Of course, one will always cherish those carefree days. As I do not come from a family of lawyers, a lot of my choices for internships were based on luck and referrals from the places I previously interned. I took every internship seriously, be it a research-based internship for authors, litigation/court-based experience or even at the Ministry of Environment and Forests. I worked hard and really there is no substitute for hard work. In terms of extra-curricular activities, I was actively involved in parliamentary form of debating and moot courts. Academically, I did fairly well and always had a group of students who I would teach right before the exams. It was a small legacy to leave behind my notes for other batches to study from.
- After completing your graduation, you worked as a Law Clerk at the Chambers of Mr Justice Sudershan Kumar Misra for about one year. How was the experience like? Can you talk a little about the work it entailed?
A clerkship is a wonderful experience because it changes your perspective. Everything you view is from the side of the Bench, which means that you have to be neutral till you hear both sides and not jump to conclusions. The daily exposure to court proceedings also ensures that you are able to pick up on the finer nuances of argumentative styles, legal knowledge, court procedure as well as innovative tactics which lawyers employ. In terms of the research work, it teaches you to see both sides and find conflicting judgments on points. Unlike one’s role as an advocate, as a law clerk you necessarily have to see all judicial precedents that may put across a point differently. Of course, this does not mean that as a lawyer one must not find conflicting judgments on an issue.
- You also worked at Karanjawala & Co. as a Senior Associate. Can you talk about your experience of working there?
My experience at Karanjawala & Co., has been great. In fact, I did my mandatory 3-month internship with Karanjawala & Co., and joining the firm felt like coming home to familiar ground. The firm has great leadership and an excellent variety of matters. A large part of your learning as a lawyer comes from the courtrooms. I had an opportunity to work on high profile matters, brief the top senior counsels and prepare for hearing in the Supreme Court. My time here also sharpened my skills on what one calls as “grunt work” i.e. filing but that is an integral part of a practice for any litigating lawyer. The more files you are exposed to, the better you get at it.
- After working at Karanjawala for a brief period, you went on to pursue LLM from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in maritime law. Please tell our readers how you came to develop interest in this field of law, and what was NUS like? Was NUS always your first choice?
I had developed a fascination for maritime law and unfortunately it was not a subject that was being taught in most law schools. A large part of commerce depends on trade by the seas. Apart from that, maritime law is where critical concepts of contract and commercial law have emanated from. My interest led me to apply for a masters in maritime law. My focus in NUS had primarily been maritime, shipping and admiralty laws, but I also supplemented this with arbitration and comparative oil and gas laws. NUS and Tulane were my primarily contenders, in fact I only applied to three universities. I got through both NUS and Tulane, but ultimately chose NUS.
- Can you comment, generally, on how Indian law schools are approaching maritime law as a subject? Do you think it is accorded the importance it deserves? Would you like anything changed in how the subject is taught, or how you were taught the same?
Indian law schools are gearing towards maritime law. Are they giving it the importance that it deserves? No. Not at all. There is a lot more that needs to be done in the academic sphere for this. It is being taught now in some law schools and I would be happy to make my recommendations to them.
- How was your experience of working as an Attachee at Allen and Gledhill LLP? Also, since you worked at some more places in Singapore, could you spot any differences in how firms in Singapore operate vis-à-vis how they operate in India?
There is nothing that comes to the experience that I had in Singapore, and especially working under Ms Vivian Ang. I consider her to be my mentor in this field. She is indeed a special person and leading lawyer in this field. I learnt a lot from her. One thing that impressed me about her was her ability to present innovative and convincing arguments.
Firms in India have a long way to go in terms of professionalism. Some reasons are beyond a firm’s control but some aspects are what firms can work on. This will only come with exposure to the practice of foreign law firms and with time. We have a lot of potential in India and with that comes an equally large room to grow. Instead of feeling small or embarrassed, I took a leaf out of my experience there and I try to incorporate it in my work. However, an area where Indian law firms have an edge is, we are very enterprising.
- Let us now talk about your experience of working at Bose & Mitra & Co. Was it a natural choice after gaining specialisation in maritime law?
Bose & Mitra will always have a special place in my heart. I loved my experience there and was exposed to some of the best work there is to offer. Three years went by without me even realising it. It was indeed a natural choice after my masters. I have learnt so much there and would have stayed back in Mumbai, unfortunately my stint was cut short and due to personal reasons, I had to relocate back to Delhi.
- After three years at Bose & Mitra, you joined the Chambers of Senior Advocate Gaurav Pachnanda. What made you make this major shift, and how different has it been from the previous places you have worked at?
Sometimes life throws you a curve ball, coming back to Delhi was this for me. I had heard a lot about Mr Pachnanda’s Chamber and some of my seniors from law school have been his juniors. It was not a major shift in terms of what I was doing, which was still litigation, but yes it was a shift in terms of the location I was at.
Working with Mr Pachnanda is an experience par excellence. My only regret is that I should have joined his chamber much sooner. Mr Pachnanda’s humility and doggedness for excellence is what sets him apart. He has some of the best high profile matters including some of the best arbitrations, both domestic and international. Being a door tenant at the Fountain Court Chambers, his juniors also get an opportunity to work on extremely challenging international arbitrations, legal opinion and matters, along with being able to interact with the finest silks. Working with him and following his style of practice will really push you hard to achieve the best. He always tells me about the last mile coverage, which no one else had. Being in his tutelage I have grown as an advocate and this bond as his junior has been forged for life.
- Shifting gears now, let us talk a little about legal research. A lot of students do not pay attention to proper legal research when in law school. What would you have to say to them?
For law students who are reading this, if you are not focused on research, you are going to have a tough time in the future. Legal research and the ability to conduct it should be an integral part of your work ethos. Not focusing on legal research is equivalent to skip-a-leg-day at the gym. In the long run you will realise that your practice is not wholesome because you missed out on legal research. I developed my habit and my ability to research primarily because of my work as a researcher for Dr S.C. Kashyap’s book on the constitutional law. Moving from there I also assisted in research work for the book on environmental law and policy in India by Mr Divan and Mr Rosencranz. It is never too late to change a habit and there is always time for course correction.
- Not many people are familiar with the concept of “exhaustion of a search”. What are your views on it?
The question says it all. They all should be. You do not want to be embarrassed in court realising that the Judge or your opposing counsel points out that the judgment you are relying on is overruled. Cover all ground, that is my advice.
- If you were not in the practice of law, what would you be doing? Our readers would like to know your other interests as well.
I would have been a doctor or a zoologist. Science fascinates me, especially the study of anatomy. Naturally I am inclined towards a tolerance and love for all animals, so if not law, they would find me in a forest studying arboreous animals.
- As a woman in litigation and dispute resolution, how easy or difficult would you say it is for women to be able to leave a mark in law in India? Did you have to battle any misogyny when you were starting out anew? Were you ever judged for being ambitious, as women often are?
If the news headlines are “women are breaking the glass ceiling” or “the first woman to be appointed” in 2021, then it is obviously a problem. Meritorious women do make the way, but that way is peppered with a lot of challenges in the form of patriarchy, misogyny, bias, gender stereotypes, etc. Women will always leave a mark, not because of their gender, but because of their ability and it is going to be tough as long as the other does not realise the flaw in their perspective. Gender does not help you achieve a goal, and minimising an achievement by making it into an achievement based on gender takes away from what the person put in and sacrificed, in my opinion.
- As a young lawyer, what are your ambitions? Where do you see yourself in the next 5 to 10 years?
This is a tough one. I see myself at many places, provided the pandemic gives us all a break.