Mr Amit Lubhaya Advocate, Supreme Court of India, Rajasthan High Court and Alumni of 2010 Batch, National Law School of India University, Bengaluru
He has been interviewed by Akshay Luthra, Student Ambassador EBC/SCC Online who is pursuing law from Campus Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi.
1. You have had a very interesting career as per my research, so would you like to take us through your thought process of your career and how you ended up taking law?
Choosing law as a career did not come naturally to me during my school days because I did not have anyone in the family who was practising law at that time and I did not have much knowledge about the legal system and the field of law per se. However, the credibility and growing popularity of 5-year law colleges and the profession enticed me to take my chances and write the exams for National Law Schools and I landed in NLSIU, Bangalore.
It was my college where I actually got introduced to the entire atmosphere of law through my teachers, mentors and seniors. Thereafter, the most important step that I think was my internships. One particular case I remember is the much-publicised Nitish Katara Murder case, during my internship with Mr P.K. Dey, Advocate in the Patiala House Court, New Delhi. I was fortunate enough to have joined the chambers at that point of time and I got the opportunity to work directly on the case and brief the legendary Mr Ram Jethmalani. So, that was the first time when I was actually intrigued by how minor and small details can make difference in cases of this magnitude. I think that would be my first instance, which I can remember, made me fall in love with the field of litigation and law in general. Finally, as my college continued and I participated in debates and moot courts, I increasingly developed an interest in litigation as a career and that is the reason, I am giving this interview today.
2. You are an independent counsel. How does that feel? You have no time for your social life. I want to know your thoughts regarding this.
It is all about balancing things. The courts have a sufficient number of holidays and on those days, we might have arbitrations or other conferences planned but despite that I plan things accordingly. There is a famous saying that “only busy people have time”. You must plan your things. And regarding the social life aspect, I am sure you have heard that lawyers might be the busiest, but they also party the hardest.
I believe any profession takes some amount of toll on your social life and perhaps for young freshers, who are just getting out of college, it might be a drastic change in their social life, but that is the kind of adjustment, I believe one must make to progress in their careers. It is more of a transformation into professional life from your college life as opposed to being in law but certainly I believe that with a good amount of planning you can manage both equally.
3. People assume that lawyers are money makers, and we can do any sort of work when it comes to money. So, how lucrative can the career of law be, and do lawyers really give up on their belief systems when they are highly paid?
I will take this question in two parts. First part is about money making and the other about the belief system. Certainly, in terms of money making, I would say that law is a very lucrative career, especially now, with this entire start-up boom coming in the country, the businesses becoming more global and with the advent of the internet, international companies are entering India like never before. So, the opportunities are endless in this particular field. And then there are so many different branches of law you can excel at. Therefore, in terms of money making, law at this point of time is more lucrative than it has ever been. There are a lot of avenues, you just need to explore the right segment.
Now coming to the second part of the question, about the belief system in money making. I do not think that it is necessary to forgo your belief system to make money in this profession. As one grows in this profession, there will certainly be instances where you might have to take a call or might have a conflict with your own belief system, but the authority which comes with this profession gives you complete freedom to communicate your beliefs to the client and/or not accept the work which is unsuitable to your morals in the profession. So, those are just small hurdles in the profession, but the money making comes after the entire journey. I do not think you have to give up on your belief system to be able to make money in this profession.
Also, for a litigating lawyer, one very important thing that forms a part of the professional ethics is that “being an advocate one cannot be the judge of the cause, as that is the responsibility of the court and the role of the advocate is to represent his client to the best of his ability.” So as a litigating lawyer, your responsibility is to represent your client to the best extent possible and if you are letting your belief system come into that then in some way you are being a judge of your own cause, which is the very foundation of our professional ethics. So, I believe the professional ethics also help an advocate in making his decision when in moral dilemma.
4. Do you think that being from a prominent law school guarantees one becoming a great lawyer in the future?
My straightforward answer to that question is absolutely not. The college name may be of some assistance in initially getting into some law firms and renowned chambers, however, once you start working in the profession, success is squarely based on your work ethics and performance. In fact, I have never come across an instance when either a client or a Judge has asked me about the name of my college.
5. There are a lot of different kinds of struggles that students go through in law school and then in their professional careers, you must have had your fair share too. Would you like to share a few experiences and guide the students as to how to embrace the obstacles that one faces in each step of life?
Yes, of course, I have had my fair share of obstacles in professional life as well as college life, which is nothing unique and perhaps the case with every young advocate working in the nation. Basically, in college, the struggles were if you are doing some extra-curricular activities, for example, playing some sports, debating, or doing moot courts, you tend to get into trouble with the attendance requirements in the college.
Thereafter in the litigation profession, once you join a senior's chambers, many times the pay scale is not as good as the law firms. So that is the kind of struggle you face initially. Then, once you start your own practice, like in my case, you are starting from scratch. In a nascent litigation practice, one thing that constantly bothers young litigators is whether you will have continuous flow of cases in the future or not and even if one client is dropped, it creates a big dent on your source of income. So, all these struggles do happen all the time. The only thing that keeps you going will be your experiences in the profession which will be pleasant and good. This also applies to your college life as well. You might have your bad days in college, but you will always have good days and lasting memories as well, so those are the things which keep you going in that phase.
Once you get into the profession, you will only succeed if you like the profession and are fully dedicated towards the same. From a litigator point of view, there is absolutely no necessity to start your profession in litigation if you are not interested, as there are several other options available in the field of law itself. Ultimately, your love for the profession, your experience in the courtroom matters and the vastness or rather variety of topics you deal with in each case keeps you interested. You might have one bad day and then 5 good days and these are the things that will keep you going. So, it is a very practical experience on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, to be honest, there is no one mantra for it.
6. I am pretty sure there are students, who are planning to pursue an LLM from abroad and higher education after completing their LLB, so I would just ask how significant can it be to one's career in litigation, does it really help according to you?
I have not pursued LLM after my LLB. After I finished my law school, I decided to jump straight into practice. I really cannot say about the benefits of LLM because I myself have not done it. But coming to the implications of not doing an LLM in this field, in terms of litigation, I do not think it has impacted me, my career or the opportunities at all.
Also, if one starts their litigation practice immediately after completing their LLB, then it is even more difficult to leave a growing practice for one year to pursue an LLM. Therefore, at least on the basis of my experience, I think I have never felt the need for it and do not see myself doing it in the near future either.
7. So this is a question that the recent graduates might have, which is, while interviewing for corporates and in chambers of senior advocates, the candidates are often asked these questions as to what are your weaknesses and why should we hire you, mostly students often go blank or get stuck, so if you were a recruiter what kind of an answer would you expect from freshers and newly graduates that would lead to a positive result?
For the young graduates, there are three things which I look for as a recruiter. Firstly, their exposure in public speaking if they intend to have a career in litigation. One of my main focus is to see that the candidate does not get scared in front of a crowd of people or a group of people and this is also one of the reasons we do the interview process to see how confident the kid is. However, even if the interviewee is not confident at the initial stage, we look for the eagerness to learn and get over their fear of public speaking.
The second and very important thing is the child’s primary reason behind coming into the profession. We look for someone who wants to be in the profession for the long halt and not someone who gives an impression that this is just a stopgap arrangement. Therefore, it is essential that all the young graduates take up different internships in different fields during their college, to weigh the pros and cons of each field and ultimately, make an informed choice before entering into the profession after graduating.
Thirdly, the child or the person’s interest in the subject or the field of law they intend to practice. That is very important. My advice to the students would be to not go blank and just be honest in their interview. Do not try to cram up answers and be responsive and that is what is going to help you in the long run as well as in the short run.
To answer about the weakness aspect, be honest with the employer and with these kinds of questions, the interviewer wants to see your personality and ability to own up to your weakness along with the desire to overcome the same. A graduate or interviewee, who attempts to hide his weakness in the interview would not succeed in the long term, even if he or she gets employed initially because, eventually, it will show up in your work and that would create a worse impression in the mind of the employer. On the contrary, a graduate or interviewee who owns up to his weakness and shows the desire to overcome the same will be respected and appreciated much more in the long run.
A lot of people who come to me for an interview admit that they are scared of appearing before the Judge in a court for various reasons such as lack of confidence in English language or lack of experience in public speaking. Such an answer does not create a negative impression and in fact, shows that the person is aware of his/her limitations and willing to work on it.
However, it is vital to learn that along with stating your weakness, there should be willingness to work on them.
8. Today we have law students and aspiring law students from across India, so any final words of wisdom regarding life in general that you would like to share with the audience?
On the basis of my experience and from what I have learnt in this profession, the mantra is very simple and not something new. There is no substitute for hard work in this profession. Hard work is something that people must be ready to do in this profession and only then they will excel. I have said previously as well that law as a field is constantly developing and changing and there is a constant requirement of extensive study and research. This is not a profession where you can succeed by just relying on others or maybe being smart about your work. So, for all law students, I think, this would be the golden saying.