Mr Saurabh Bindal is a lawyer with extensive post qualification experience in litigation and dispute resolution. In his current engagement, he is leading the litigation and dispute resolution team of Desai & Diwanji as an Associate Partner. He is an excellent researcher, orator and has good drafting skills. He has worked on diverse assignments and has been always able to secure accolades from his clients. Saurabh is also the author of four books on intellectual property law and a book on arbitration law. He regularly features in newspapers and journals. Recently, he has been felicitated by the Chief Justice of India, Justice N.V. Ramana for his books, Arbitration and Conciliation: A Commentary and MCQ on Intellectual Property Law. In this interview, he talks about legal writing and his journey from being a law student to an associate partner in the dispute resolution practice at Desai & Diwanji.
He has been interviewed by Akshita Totla, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from ILNU, Ahmedabad.
What motivated you to pursue law as a career? Also, what are the most important lessons that you learned along your journey from being a law student to an Associate Partner in the dispute resolution practice at Desai & Diwanji?
It was in the year 2008, when I was about to complete my engineering in biotechnology, that I grew an interest towards the field of intellectual property law. In the last year of my engineering degree, I did certain courses from the World Intellectual Property Organisation, Geneva, Switzerland. Intrigued by the subject, I figured out that IIT Kharagpur hosts a law school which provides a degree with specialisation in intellectual property law. Law as a subject came to me after I joined the law school. With a well-devised curriculum and professors, the law school has built a reputation of its own. My professors have been the biggest motivation in my life for pursuing a career in law. I would specifically like to mention Dr Uday Shankar (who is currently the Registrar for a reputed university). He was the first one to bring pen and paper to me. Whatever, I am today, is because of his trust, faith, and belief in me. When I look back, I believe, my motivation for law came from his teachings.
Coming to your next question, I believe, for a lawyer, it is essential to have a discipline in life. Lawyers work under tremendous pressure as they must assist both the clients and the court. They are the service providers like any other company engaged in the sector of providing services. Therefore, I firmly believe, discipline in life, is a means to achieve the end. I have learnt that people who are not disciplined, (and by discipline, I do not mean only professional discipline), do not leave a mark with their attitude towards work and life. Having said so, it is equally important for a student of law to realise her/his ambitions. Unless, one has ambitions, it is difficult to draw synergies between your actions and the goal. I was fortunate enough to go to a law school, where we were put to task for 12 hours daily. That culture of being available towards work, is also an important factor which adds to life of a lawyer.
One should always be open to learn from the young, peers and the seniors. Once you are open to learning, you open a gateway of opportunities. I have learnt from my experiences that practising law (much like life) is not a rat race. Lawyers get tremendous recognition in life and therefore, it is up to an individual to make her/his mark. Your competition should always be you.
What drove you towards the field of dispute resolution? Would you like to share your inspirations and motivations?
After pursuing law, I personally got inclined towards litigation and disputes. It would be difficult for me to put it in words, but when a litigating lawyer stands before the court or any other forum, he is no less than a doctor. I say this because like a doctor, he is the one on whose submissions (surgery), the case will be dealt. It may be life or death for someone.
Dispute resolution particularly is an appealing field when you have a solution-based approach towards life. Dispute resolution, rather than the traditional mode of litigation, is speedy and provides effective remedy to your clients. My inclination towards litigation and disputes has been based on the approach that justice should be done.
My biggest inspiration and motivation would be my family and friends who have always pushed me to be a better version of myself.
How important is engaging in legal research and drafting and how should law students equip themselves with these skills? Also, what are your views on the concept of “exhaustion of a search”?
For a lawyer, it is very important to be at the top of his game. The game here is nothing but legal research and drafting. Unless one is skilled to undertake the right research on the right proposition, it is extremely difficult to make a career in law. The fundamental approach which every law student should undertake is to read about different topics of their interest. This should lead to putting words on paper about one’s understanding of the subject. If, one tries to do that, I think, legal research would come on its own to a student. One should read and write with an approach that the audience will read the work. If that be the case, I am sure, the students would be able to exhaust their search. SCC has been a wonderful platform to find articles, digests, cases, etc., which I have been using since the days of my law school. For a student, I believe, it is essential to equip herself/himself with the right mindset towards research. After one develops that mindset, using it on search engines and taking assistance from the same, I think, is not a difficult task.
The beauty of the legal profession is that you keep on learning. There will always be different line of arguments which can be drawn from the same legal research, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case. Therefore, it is important to exhaust all the search. One must be thorough with the ratio laid in the judgment and the dealing of such ratio by the Supreme Court of India. It is necessary, in this regard, to chalk a precise roadmap for research which is marked with the ultimate goal. I think the concept of “exhaustion of search” is one aspect which the law students should be aware of because it is only when search on a particular proposition is exhausted, will there be a sound understanding of law.
Can you tell us how has the pandemic affected commercial practice and client interactions?
Pandemic has been hard hitting on the commercial practice. However, I see it as a blessing in disguise. Today, one can without moving from one court to another, attend different courts/forums by shifting from one screen to another. So is the case with client interactions. Because one can devote time to the practice and client interactions with a click of a mouse, lawyers have been able to juggle between different things.
Congratulations on being felicitated by the Chief Justice of India, Justice N.V. Ramana for your books, Arbitration and Conciliation: A Commentary and MCQ on Intellectual Property Law. Including five books, you have around 58 publications to your name. How did writing start for you?
Like I have said, writing came to me from Dr Uday Shankar. In one’s life, she/he must seek blessings of their guru. Dr Shankar has been more than my guru. I remember, Dr Shankar was submitting a paper for publication to a reputed journal in Germany and he requested me to pen some pages for the same. He was gracious enough to make me a co-author in that paper. Thereafter, it has all been part of the history. I went on and co-authored my first book with him. Once you see your name in a publication, you are in a different world. Everything I write, I write it from my heart, and it gives me a lot of satisfaction to see it getting published.
I would take this moment to personally thank Mr Sumeet Malik and his team who have been really kind with me for my work. I have four books with Eastern Book Company, and the Chief Justice of India, felicitated me for two of the books published by Eastern Book Company. Mr Malik gives a new direction to the work and over years, I have realised that his understanding of law goes to minute details.
It is often seen that advocates working in a law firm find it difficult to maintain work-life balance. Along with being an associate partner you are also an academician. How do you manage to handle work pressure as well as contribute to the field of academia through your writings?
You must bring a lot of discipline in your life. Life will always keep testing you with different things. One should know when to set the priorities in life. I start my day early and so I get ample hours during the day to juggle between different characters. I am also early to the bed. I believe, a healthy lifestyle gives a lot of strength to one to pursue her/his dreams. Also, once you start accumulating knowledge, I believe, it is your duty to share it with everyone.
With the onset of the pandemic, there has been a shift towards online court proceedings. Do you believe that online dispute resolution mechanism is effective and should be continued in the post-COVID world?
I have no doubts on the continuance of virtual hearings. See, change is very difficult to be brought. However, once it is there, it lays the path for the future. Virtual hearings have not only made it cost effective for the disputing parties; it has also given a chance to litigating lawyers to utilise their time appropriately. The future lies in integration of technology with law. I am waiting for a day when algorithms will be able to solve major disputes between the parties. You never know, that may be the future of litigation and dispute resolution.
In your 2019 article titled “Delhi Air Pollution: A Paradox between Right to Environment and Right to Development” you highlighted the difficulty in coexistence of right to environment and right to development. This paradox has once again come into discussion as now the Supreme Court has banned construction activities and the Developers and Builders Forum has challenged this order. Do you think that there is a way to reconcile right to development/rights of construction workers as well as right to environment in this case?
The only way to reconcile the right to environment and development/right of workers is through the medium of sustainable development. Constitution is a framework which balances different rights. Sustainable development does not mean non-utilisation of resources. It in effect means utilisation of resources in a sustainable manner. We have chosen a path where we are failing to reconcile development with the environment. Our constitutional values were built on acknowledgement of “right to life” and thereafter a dignified life. I understand that development is one of the facets of dignified life, however, for a “dignified” life, it is important to have “life”. Life can only sustain by having models developed to sustain it.
Lastly, sir, as the current pandemic situation has made networking and learning process difficult, what advice would like to give to law students who are finding it hard to achieve their goals?
My advice to the law student would be to not lose hope. Once you lose hope and faith, you fail to see your goals. It is important in life to keep working towards your goals. Learning is not dependent on the pandemic. This pandemic has given the students an opportunity to be in the company of their family and at the same time an aspiration to achieve the unthinkable. I have seen students maturing in this pandemic and recognising the importance of life, health, work, family, and friends. If you set a goal, you achieve it, whatsoever may come in your path.