In conversation with Hari Narayan: Maritime Lawyer and Partner, UMLC

Mr. Hari is a pioneering Maritime lawyer with a stellar work ethic and unparalleled zeal for the field. He is a Partner at United Maritime Law Chambers, Cochin- an exclusive maritime law firm handling all wet and dry issues, ship arrests/release, maritime arbitration, etc. with overseas Office at Hong Kong. He is a Governing Council member of Maritime Law Association of India and a Supporting Member of London Maritime Arbitrators Association (LMAA) and Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA). He is a visiting faculty member at Indian Maritime University.

He has been interviewed by Toshika Soni, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador, who is currently pursuing law from NLUO.

1. While your reputation precedes you, kindly introduce yourself to our readers.

Right from my childhood I was passionate about law and had great admiration for lawyers. Coming from a family of lawyers it was a natural instinct that I had, which turned me into legal profession and follow the footsteps of my father and grandfather.  By the time I started my career in law I did not had the good fortune to be guided by them but could only get their blessings from heavenly abode which I believe is still continuing. After my graduation I started with a well-reputed law firm and later took to independent practice after gaining some confidence to be on my own. Even though I was handling several branches of law, after some point of time I realised that it is important to specialise on one particular area since due to the impact of globalisation legal profession was also moving from the conventional general practice to niche areas. That is how the idea of starting a shipping law firm emerged and myself being its founding partner, it was entirely on my shoulders to develop United Maritime Law Chambers (UMLC) as a formidable force in the field of maritime law practice.


2. What is the vision of United Maritime Law Chambers? What are your dearest success stories?

UMLC is a boutique maritime law firm handling a wide range of issues predominantly relating to shipping. The vision of UMLC is to provide quality legal services to domestic and international clients without compromising on ethics, best practices and values. Legal profession being knowledge based, it is certainly a recognition for a boutique firm from India to represent foreign entities in international maritime arbitrations in a short span of time. It is also a humbling experience to be nominated as arbitrator in foreign seated arbitrations involving shipping disputes.


3. Please tell us a little about your formative years in the field, learning at Boston Law School and University of Southampton.

I did a short course on negotiation skills at Boston Law School (BLS) and later did my masters in maritime law at Southampton. It was indeed a privilege to be taught by stalwarts like Prof Charles Debattista and Prof Rob Merkin among others which really helped in gaining a thorough understanding of complexities involved in commercial shipping disputes and the legal principles for handling such issues. But for the Southampton experience which gave a strong foundation about the fundamentals in shipping it would not have been easy to handle complex legal issues or provide advices at the quickest possible time.


4. How did you explore maritime law and what made you choose it as your key practice area?

Though India is a maritime nation there are only very few lawyers/law firms who handle maritime law seriously. Often clients seek external advice from foreign firms especially on salvage and collision issues. These are some of the areas which can be handled only by specialists and not general practitioners. Therefore the potential for growth of knowledgeable lawyers in the field is tremendous.

5. What is your opinion on the growing use of arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism in maritime cases?

In my opinion maritime disputes should be settled through arbitration instead of the conventional litigation in courts. There are two reasons for that. In international maritime arbitrations unlike the practice of appointing people from judiciary as arbitrators in India, the trend in foreign countries is to nominate commercial or legal experts as arbitrators who are well versed in the subject disputes and could often decide issues quickly. Secondly court litigation is time consuming and ever-ending which are not of interest for people involved in business. That apart, most of the carriage contracts, charter parties, salvage and new building contracts provide for arbitration as the preferred mode of dispute resolution.

6. What importance do you attach to legal research and how should law students equip themselves with legal research skills? What does “exhaustion of research” mean to you?

Legal research is the most important tool which a law student should possess. I should say even lawyers must also have proper research skills. In order to understand the legal position before proceeding with a case it is imperative that one should do thorough research. A well- researched legal work will be appreciated by a Judge since the same will provide clarity to the issue. Exhaustion of research is nothing but giving up at the initial stage itself which is certainly not a good practice.


7. What inspired you to undertake social work with Rotary International? How should lawyers give back to the society?

I was part of Rotaract during my college days and was fully involved with the charitable activities undertaken by the club. It instilled in me the sense of social responsibility at a relatively young age. Lawyers should involve in philanthropic activities because they represent the elite section of the society capable of extending support to the underprivileged.


8. How has your experience been teaching young lawyers across the world in different seminars and universities?

I had the good opportunity to interact with lawyers and industry stakeholders in various seminars and conferences relating to maritime law. These events not only provide good learning experience but also help in developing professional networking which is a must for a maritime lawyer. The interaction with students at universities are really enriching and often helps me in understanding the present day outlook of the new generation.


9. What advice would you like to give to budding maritime law and arbitration enthusiasts?

Since legal profession is knowledge oriented the first and foremost that a maritime law/ arbitration enthusiast should possess is sound knowledge on the subject. There is no shortcut to success and therefore a lawyer should never indulge in unethical practice or run behind money and fame which will come automatically if you are hardworking, dedicated and willing to follow professional ethics.


10. Do you believe maritime law is a field divided by political borders or one that transcends them? What is the scope of internationalising oneself as a lawyer in this field?

I would say maritime law is the only branch of law which is international in nature and helps hardworking lawyers grow beyond their national boundaries. International maritime arbitrations could take successful maritime lawyers to leading jurisdictions in the world. A successful maritime lawyer could travel across the globe not as a tourist but as a jurist.


11. Where do you see the Indian legal industry in terms of maritime law, 10 years down the line?

Currently, very few institutions offer specialised study in maritime law in India. Resultantly students interested in the subject have no other option but to acquire knowledge from foreign universities. Universities must include maritime law subjects as part of their curriculum to attract young talents into this field. More lawyers equipped with knowledge will emerge in India which is poised to be developed as the maritime hub of Asia.

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