Mr Satish K. Rai is a graduate of 2017 batch of ILS Law College, Pune. At present, he heads original as well as appellate litigation. He has expertise in major aspects of litigation practice. In this interview, he talks about the importance of legal research and his peregrination from being a law student to a partner at Kapoor & Co.

He has been interviewed by Shambhavi Anand, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador who is currently pursuing law from Amity Law School, Lucknow.


Q1. Please share with our readers something about yourself, your journey in the profession and your formative years.

I would start by mentioning that during my higher senior secondary studies I had opted for science and later on I shifted to pursuing law instead of engineering. Further, during the course of my law school life, I interned at various law firms, etc. and from that point onwards I was pretty sure that I would want to work with a firm where I can have a professional growth for myself. By the end of my law school, I was offered pre-placement offers (PPOs) by quite a few law firms ranging from mid-tier to top-tier and out of all those firms I chose to start my career with Kapoor & Co., New Delhi which is a boutique litigation firm. The reason why I chose this law firm, to start my career with, was that I was aware that this is a place where I will be able to get a bit of independence in my initial working career. After a span of two years, I shifted to Khaitan & Co., New Delhi so as to get a taste of how tier-one firms function. After a brief stint with Khaitan & Co. (5 months) in the disputes team I turned back to Kapoor & Co. with a partnership offer. Since December 2019 I have been working with Kapoor & Co. as a partner in the disputes team.


Q2. What made you pursue a career in the legal field and what were the difficulties which you came across in your journey from being a law student to a partner at Kapoor & Co.?

I am a first-generation lawyer and choosing law was not conventional in my family. During my higher senior secondary, I actually calculated as to how many people would be engineers, working in the core field, in the near future and it turned out to be much less that those actually opting for engineering. With this realisation, I researched and found out that legal field would be to my liking and had a greater scope of all-dimensional growth. Choosing law as a career was not an elaborately planned decision for me and therefore I joined ILS Law College, Pune on merit basis. Further, with no mentor around it was a bit difficult for me initially and I had to take the reins in my own hands and put in a greater effort. I used to send a large number of internship applications, got involved in a number of co-curricular activities and I tried to explore all the avenues around me because that is how one would come to know where his/her interest lies. I never restricted myself in any internship, learning or co-curricular activity so as to know which field will be a better one for me and by the end of my fourth year I realised that litigation is the area I see my career in. Altogether I would say, that it was a trial, error and test method which I applied during the entire course of my law school to be certain about the area where my interests lay, without being prejudiced by the available options/opportunities.


Q3. Since you have been in the field of litigation for quite some time, so according to you what set of skills law students and graduates must possess in order to be successful in this field and what shall be their key focus areas during their time at a law school?

My first and foremost advice to all the law students, who want to go for litigation as a career, is that do not assume yourselves to be going for litigation or disputes with any preconception, rather test waters on your own. Testing the waters on your own would avoid a later realisation that you might have done a better job in corporate or you might be better than others in judiciary but because of the excitement of law school you went into litigation and that you have wasted quite a few years in that. This advice is not only for litigation but also for corporate and other fractions of the legal field. Further, before opting for litigation do your internships specifically in that in order to see how litigation is treating you and how you are treating litigation, because it has to be both ways. Sometimes, you might be good at it but the kind of litigation work which you are receiving during your internships might not interest you and sometimes by the experience of internships you may get to know that what litigation used to be in your head is not quite so. Therefore, my first advice is to test oneself as there is no straightjacket formula as to how you would like litigation to be. So, test it yourself and see whether the office which you are interning with is the problem in your liking or accepting litigation as a career or is it you generally who is not actually inclined towards it even after giving it a shot. Intern at a variety of places in your first to third year to find your liking which would lead you chose such places for interning in your fourth and fifth year and accordingly seeking performance based job opportunities. It is your fourth and fifth year, when you should try and do long-term assessment internships and hone your skills of research and drafting. Litigation is a field which demands not only your time and knowledge but also efficacy to work.


Q4. Can you please share with our readers any personal thing or trait or something which you enjoy about yourself?

Something which actually makes me feel good about myself is how quickly I grasp a reading/judgment or even a case. I would like to share an example in this context – on 19-1-2021 a judgment in Manish Kumar v. Union of India[1] was delivered by the Supreme Court of India regarding the constitutionality of a particular amendment relating to home buyers in the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016. This judgment was of more than 400 pages and it had implications in one or two matters which were listed on the very day before the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). So my associate did appear in that matter but the member who was presiding over the NCLT at that particular point in time had a different opinion, which was against us. While all of this was happening I went through the entire judgment in about five to seven minutes and then I appeared in that matter and eventually the members wanted me to discuss the judgment with them and it went for about three hours of what was mostly a unilateral speech on every aspect of the judgment. Needless to say the view of the Bench changed by the end of it.


Q5. How much weightage would you attach to proper legal research and the tools used for doing it? How should law students equip themselves with legal research skills?

Legal research is the backbone of any argument that you are going to present before any court of law, because legal research helps you to make or further the legal jurisprudence on a specific point of law. This helps you in all the daily cases irrespective of the fact whether there is a settled law on that point. Even if you are arguing a point which involves a question of fact, you would want a backing in the form of a judgment on that point of argument or in relation to the extrinsic or intrinsic aids of interpretation so as to back yourself with some legal jurisprudence behind it. Further, this practice must be armoured during one’s law college without which one would be failing in the early days of active litigation. I would also like to mention that unlike the misconception in the law schools that legal research is all about finding judgments, it has a wider horizon. Legal research is not just about finding judgments. In fact, right from the time when you sit with the client to discuss the dispute, you must be equipped with all such armour since whatever advice on the recourses or strategy you would provide to him/her, must be based on sound legal backing. Not only this, every step that you take in relation to any case, including, identification of the dispute; the remedial action proposed and forum to approach, all require legal research. Therefore a comprehensive approach towards research should be taken by the law students during their college. That apart, during the initial years the focus of law students should be to understand as to how a statute must be interpreted and to be aware of the law books to refer to based on the circumstances of a case. Consequently, these two tools will help you in the long run.


Q6. Can you please give our readers some insight into efficient and effective legal researching and research paper writing? And how did you build your research, drafting and publication skills during your law school?

I have had more than half a dozen of research papers during my law college. The basic to go about it is to find the subject-matter of your interest which approach is lacking as the law students are more centered towards the topics which they come across through various legal websites. My advice is to choose your interest area rather than giving in to the topics provided by an upcoming volume/publication. The reason being that the output or the outcome of a work done based on interest and not compulsive selection is always more productive. Once you have chosen your area of interest you will be in a better position to write on that because it would interest you to go into the depth of the subject and carve out something which is more substantial than what is already written in most of the research papers on that subject-matter. Therefore choosing a topic wisely based on your interest area and also something which is contemporary is a key to a good research paper. When it comes to writing a research paper one should always start from the history and inception because any law in a statute book is only a product of years of history attached to it and once you are aware about how it has evolved over the years to appear as it does in the rule book, you will be in a better position in terms of substance as well as quality to write on that subject-matter. This also helps in better structuring of the research paper as it gives a meaningful chronology to the paper. As a corollary, it helps to pinpoint the issues involved around such legal point more precisely as also to provide meaningful suggestions on the same.


Q7. In your opinion, what is the importance of writing research papers for law students during their time at a law school and how does it help them in their perspective careers?

Sometimes, research paper is taken by the law students as merely a CV building exercise while ideally it is not quite so. The reason being, once you are in the habit of writing research papers it helps you in your legal career in three ways – one is that you know how legal writing is to be done in your real life as a lawyer which is different than any other non-legal writing; second is that it gives you a clarity of thoughts on a subject-matter which in turn helps you to articulate your arguments in public speaking or court(s) and third is that it helps you as an academician because being a litigator is also about helping to develop the law. For instance, in your legal career you might be confronted with judgments you might not agree with and then you can write a critique or article as to why and how you disagree with that judgment which can be further benefited by any other litigator who might be battling on the same issue in a court of law and develop the law in the right direction.


Q8. What does “exhaustion of research” mean to you and how much, according to you, is the impact of it in the field of litigation? 

I will explain this by an example, so if I actually have a case brief with me, I am not only required to be reasonable in my approach with the client, court or third party but also be legally correct. So my backend legal research begins right where a client approaches me and ends only after the disposal of the dispute. A case brief, even though of a court of fact, would have different facets of law involved and would require me to research on how to cause the court render a decision in my favour on merits or on other grounds, technical or not.. Therefore, any argument whether it is a factual or a legal one would need a legal backing and I believe that a litigator requires more knowledge about in-depth researching skills and in-depth research databases, than that of a corporate lawyer. Without these skills one cannot step a foot forward in the litigation career. Before you write, draft or plead, you have to be legally correct and to be legally correct you need to know and the only way to know is to research.


Q9. Any advice which you would like to give to the law students, interns and graduates? 

My advice to all the law students is that never adopt a straightjacket formula as your seniors tell you to. Test your own waters for yourself and only once you have tasted all the waters, and when I say waters, it means corporate, companies, litigation, etc., during your law school, that you should actually choose your career on that basis. Further, merely your excitement to take up a course of law or a field of law should not be the sole criteria for you choosing it as a career. The reason being, your law career is at least of forty to forty-five years and if you make a rash decision you may end up regretting your decision sometime in the future or you may even end up spoiling those forty to forty-five years. I would even suggest that you give those couple of formative years a chance to actually see where your interest lies and what you are good in. From the very first day, do not run for the amounts in your employment contract but always look forward for professional growth and eagerness to learn while balancing your financial stability.

[1] (2021) 5 SCC 1.

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