Mr. Sandeep Baja started his practice in the year 2007 in Delhi. He founded the law firm PSL (earlier known as Pamasis Law Chambers) in the year 2012. Under his leadership with the cohesive efforts with his other partners, the firm has in a short period has won several awards and has achieved many accomplishments.
He has been interviewed by Kalpalathikaa M, EBC/SCC Online Student Ambassador, who is currently pursuing law from Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad.
- To begin with, please tell us something about yourself, your journey in the profession and your early years with our readers.
I come from a humble background and belong to a small town in Punjab. My father is in the transport business and my mother is a housewife. During my foundation years and my childhood, I had no exposure to the field of law as none of my family members nor any family acquaintances were in the legal profession. It is needless to mention that a few decades ago the scenario in Punjab was similar to that prevalent in other States which were not as cosmopolitan as Delhi and Mumbai and in such States, law was not considered a main steam course. At the time when I completed my law degree, unfortunately my family’s transport business was facing a downfall and hence the pressure on me to perform and to do well professionally was immense. I still remember in 2007, when I came to Delhi, I was a young boy with dreams but I was clueless as to how to accomplish them as I did not know a single person in the legal profession in Delhi or in my hometown, Punjab. All I came to Delhi with was faith in myself and in this profession. As they say sometimes in life things just miraculously fall into place, for me this instance was when a senior colleague of mine, whom I shall always remain grateful to, got me an opportunity to work in a reputed law firm in Delhi. My starting salary at this first job was INR 7500. I was thankful for the opportunity but at the same time I was well aware that I had great hurdles ahead of me that I would need to surpass. One of my biggest challenges was improving and mastering my language skills, it is a challenge that is faced by most Punjabis. I had faith in myself and kept my head down and concentrated on work and “working hard” was my motto. I have always believed that if one is honest with one’s work and one is ready and willing to be hardworking and willing to learn and burn the midnight oil it will definitely pay back and take you places. At the beginning of my professional life, I have no option but to work hard as I had a family to support and in addition I had to compete with professionals from Delhi, who at that point I felt were manifold better than me. However, once I started working things looked up for me. I was fortunate to have come in contact with so many people, especially lawyers, who I had not known earlier but who extended a helping hand by referring work to me and guiding me. Once the momentum started and picked up there was no looking back. Having completed 15 years at the Bar, I am at a stage professionally where when I started my professional life I never thought I would reach. Looking back at my journey and nearing the age of 40, some may say I am an accomplished lawyer, but I still feel I have just uncovered the tip of the iceberg and have a long way ahead in this profession.
- How did your law school experience shape you? Please also share your interests and motivations. How did it help you navigate your career path?
About my higher education, at first, I did my graduation in management and information technology from Punjabi University. Post that I did my three years law course from Panjab University, Chandigarh. As I was a keen learner and had interest in the field of law, I enjoyed each and every day at the university. As each day passed by, with the knowledge that was being imparted in the law classes my love with the legal field kept growing. During my days at the university, the more I read, the more I learnt which resulted in my thinking evolving and led to broadening my horizon and became a basis for logical reasoning having different perspectives. I must add Panjab University has its own charm. There were so many luminaries from Panjab University who always motivated and inspired students to do something in life and to achieve our dreams. My time at law school taught me to work hard, concentrate on my goals, to strive to do the best and excel in whatever I do and of course it taught me that the world is my oyster.
- What prompted you to start your own law firm? What are the important factors that can be attributed to the success of PSL Advocates and Solicitors?
I am fortunate to have had a regular flow of work since the day I started my independent practice. My strength was me being ambitious and always wanting to do something more. My partner Sameer had the experience of working with big law firms and I got the perfect opportunity when one day he floated the idea of him starting his litigation practice and opening a law firm together. I immediately agreed and that is where our journey took off. In December 2012, when we started PSL we had a very small office space in Jangpura with just one colleague and one clerk. From then to now, our firm has a Pan India presence and we are a proud mid-size law firm. Along the way, we have been fortunate to have achieved many accolades including receiving recognition as top tier law firm in several categories.
I would like to add that the most important factor which is responsible for the success of PSL is its dedicated team. We are blessed to have a great team, which is ever-growing, who work round the clock to make this happen. In our profession, I believe that everyone at some point gets a chance and an opportunity to work with big clients, but the important aspect is not only to grab that opportunity with both hands but to retain those clients, for that I believe one needs to have a good team and reliable colleagues. Apart from this, I feel that the other factors that can be attributed to the success of PSL is our consistent and honest approach in our work.
- According to you, what is the relevance of the Graduate Insolvency Program introduced in 2019? Do you think it is important to have some specialisation or should there be generalist approach?
At the time when the Graduate Insolvency Program was being introduced, I was doing an arbitration before Justice A.K. Sikri. His Lordship had mentioned to me about the relevance of this program and at such time I read about it and found it very interesting. It is needless to mention that Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 has been gaining moment since the day it has been enacted. There has been an evergrowing need and requirement of more and more expertise in this field. It has become more complex over the time with the requirement of resolution professionals to be more equipped. Therefore, I feel that a program like Graduate Insolvency Program is the need of the hour for any person who wants to practise in the area of insolvency and bankruptcy. Presently, the insolvency and bankruptcy laws are evolving at a very fast pace and hence, specialisation especially for a subject like insolvency and bankruptcy which is a special law is the most pressing need.
In my experience, in today’s day and age all clients want their matters to be handled by a team who specialise in the subject-matter pertaining to their dispute. Also, we have many clients who give their commercial dispute to us while having a separate team for criminal matters which ensures that the respective matters are handled by a team which specialises in that field resulting in the best possible outcome for the client. I feel that with the changing environment, specialisation is the key to growth and success.
- Describe a challenge that you faced during your career. How did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for any first-generation lawyer, while starting an independent practice, is to procure the work and to have a steady stream of clients. This was more of a challenge for a person like me as I was not from the same city where I started my practice. Coming from another State and settling in Delhi to begin my professional journey was not easy for me and was a very big hurdle. I had heard various stories from many young professionals about the personal and professional struggles they had undergone because of which at the beginning I was very apprehensive. But I strongly believe in life at times one needs to take a leap of faith. And it is truly said –“when you desire something, the whole universe conspires in order for you to achieve it”. I took that leap of faith and realised that we have great people in our profession who are very helpful and will not hesitate to refer work to you if they know that you are hardworking and shall be able to add value to it. I was fortunate that I got enough work from my senior colleagues in the profession which kept me busy in my initial years and which led to my growth. Now when I look back, I realise that all my apprehensions were without any basis. Undoubtedly there is so much work that every good lawyer is looking for young professionals who can help them in their work. This belief of mine is more cemented now, as I myself keep a look out and keep finding good youngsters who can be a part of my journey.
- Can you tell us about an interesting case you have worked on?
It is extremely difficult to pinpoint just one particular case as every case I have worked on has been interesting and has its own charm. For me every case I work on entails looking at it from all angles, brainstorming with my colleagues, formulating new arguments – I feel every case teaches oneself something new and adds to one’s growth as a lawyer and is special in its own way. But if I am to zero down on one case, the recent case I worked on which is embedded in my memory, is the one relating to a question that whether a person who is ineligible under Section 29-A of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 to submit a resolution plan, is also barred from proposing a scheme of compromise and arrangement under Section 230 of the Companies Act, 2013. It was the case titled Arun Kumar Jagatramka v. Jindal Steel and Power Ltd. As the insolvency and bankruptcy laws are still evolving, it was a question being argued for the first time and I feel there was substance in my arguments however, the Supreme Court decided the matter against me and held that the promoters who are ineligible under Section 29-A of the IBC, cannot propose compromise or arrangement schemes under Section 230 of the Companies Act, 2013.
- What is your expectation from interns and fresh graduates who are looking to join the Graduate Insolvency Program?
I adore my profession. It is a beautiful profession. My only expectation from all the interns and fresh graduates is that they should remain committed to this profession, be hardworking and should have the willingness to learn because in our profession we can never stop learning. And if anyone is interested in insolvency and bankruptcy laws, then the Graduate Insolvency Program is a must and I feel it will help pave their way forward.
- What is the importance of publications for a student who wishes to follow your footsteps and specialise in the field of insolvency and bankruptcy?
Publications in my opinion are important. Though it gives you exposure to wider legal field, but it also serves bigger purpose. When one writes on a particular topic, one reads it thoroughly, does research on it, understands it better, analyses it and then by way of the publication explains it to others. This enriches one’s own knowledge and gives one wisdom about the subject and in addition helps to specialise in the field.
- Not many people are familiar with the concept “exhaustion of research”. What are your views on it?
In the field of law research plays a very important role. In my opinion, especially in litigation, research is the first and foremost tool of a lawyer which if utilised to the best of one’s abilities makes or breaks cases. Deep diving into a particular topic to research leads to opening the mind to formulate different arguments and see things from different perspectives. Research helps in better understanding of a particular topic and also results in developing sound legal arguments. Hence, in my opinion while preparing a matter research ought to be a continuous and ongoing process and one should never be complacent in process of research at any point in time till the matter is concluded because you never know you might just be at the brink of striking a gold mine.
- What is your advice to law students in a post-COVID era, where students are anxious about choosing a career path?
These have been unprecedented times, admittedly the world has drastically changed after COVID-19 Pandemic. It may take years for everything to get back to normal. Due to this many new challenges have opened up. But one should always remember that every challenge is also an opportunity – they are two sides of a coin. At present, pendency before the courts and tribunals are all time high and legal disputes have increased manifold. In such a scenario, as is prevalent today, there is a need for more good lawyers in our profession. Post the COVID-era hirings are back to normal and I have personally not come across any law office where there is no vacancy for good young professionals. So basically, the students need not worry and as the saying goes “where there is will, there is a way” – if you are committed to the profession, it will give you everything what you want.
- Is there anything that you would like to share with the readers of SCC Online?
For all the first-generation lawyers and law aspirants I would like to take this opportunity to tell them to always have faith in oneself and work hard as that is the perfect recipe for success. There is no alternative for hard work. Also, during difficult times never lose hope and always remember that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. I hope my journey may inspire or motivate the young readers and help them to realise that if they work hard to achieve their goals it would not be long before their dreams turn into reality.