Mr. Vikas Singh was designated as a Senior Advocate in the year 2004. He was the Additional Solicitor General of India from 2005 to 2008. The President of Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Mr. Vikas Singh is also a visiting faculty member of the Parliament of India. He has addressed important legal, public, and administrative issues as a guest on numerous public forums and television shows. He is regarded as a bold personality who takes a strong stance on concerns of law and justice.
In this interview, Sr. Adv. Vikas Singh shares his experience as he addresses the dilemma faced by budding lawyers. It has been conducted by Khushi, EBC-SCC Online Student Ambassador for KIIT School of Law.
1. Sir, you are a first-generation lawyer. You always know that you have the potential to excel if you really believe in the dream that you have seen. However, recognition takes time. How did you achieve what you are right now?
To achieve in litigation, the first and foremost requirement is that you must feel the pain of the client. If you feel the pain of the client and if you take his problem as your own and then look for answers, then only you can get him justice. So, if you do not understand and you do not get into the shoes of the client, you are not in the right profession. So, the first and foremost aspect of litigation is that.
Second is that a client, when he comes to you, whichever court, whether it be lower court or High Court or Supreme Court, he expects you to do the best for him. And, in doing a case, especially among youngsters, I have seen that you have to study that particular branch of law in which that particular case is coming up for adjudication as if you are writing a thesis on that subject. So, it should never happen that your client should suffer because of your ignorance.
In litigation, what I have felt is that I have done several branches of law and whenever I have started any law, for instance, when I did a client suit for the first time, I read the entire Civil Procedure Code (CPC). Just to get a flavor of how the civil procedure works. When I had to do my first cross-examination, I read a book on cross-examination. So, if you really want to get justice for your client, you have to do that kind of a hard work, and if you do that kind of a hard work, in this profession, there is no stopping because there is a dearth of people who are ready to do this kind of a hard work, because there is a dearth of people who are ready to feel the pain of the client.
This attitude of yours, gets reflected when the client deals with you and what he says about you to others. So, it is a word of mouth. You cannot advertise in India because there is Bar Council of India Regulation. So, the only advertisement is if your client is happy with you, and happy with your efforts, happy with your understanding that you felt his pain sincerely and advised him correctly.
So, this is how I feel that you slowly grow and it is a slow growth. You may see me whatever I am today but it is a thirty-two-year-old journey in this profession.
2. Would you advise the aspiring law students to invest 1-2 years for a postgraduation course? What value addition does LLM do for an advocate in his career? Is it advisable?
LLM, you should do, only if you want to do a particular branch of law. If you want to be a generalist like I am, LLM is of no use. Both my sons are not LLMs because LLM just gives you specialization in a particular branch of law, and your clients determine what branch of law you will be practicing. So, it is really of no use but if you are looking for a job in a law firm, and if you want to do, say for instance, patent or if you want to do intellectual property, if you want to do any specialized area, then without an LLM, they will not even entertain you. But in litigation, it does not matter at all, especially if you are doing general litigation. I wanted to mean, LLM is a waste of time but of course, if you feel that you can spare those two years of your life, it definitely is a maturing process which may help you in some way or the other but may not help you directly in litigation.
3. Would you suggest the practicing advocates limit themselves in the field they are most comfortable in, or should they practice in all the fields of litigation?
When I started practice, I never used to do criminal matters. I did not even use to read the criminal judgments on SCC because I was not interested in doing. But at some stage, I realized that some people known to me, they had some issues and I referred to somebody else and when I felt that their case was not dealt with properly, I decided to do criminal matters also. Once you start doing criminal matters, or for instance, if you have been a civil lawyer and criminal matters, it is a completely different jurisdiction. The jurisprudence is completely alien to civil law, and that is why you find when the Judges on the civil side start with criminal laws, they end up giving some very bad judgments.
So, that is a personal choice but it is a lot of hard work. As an Additional Solicitor General (ASG), I used to do every subject, I did NDPS, I did criminal law, I did constitutional law, I did taxation, I did everything but I can assure you, I lost my hair in that process, I got blood pressure when I was ASG, and I got diabetes when I was ASG. But I think it was still worth it.
4. For making a career as a practicing lawyer, what should a beginner do? Should they join one senior, or should they go to a law firm?
That, again, is a very personal choice because if you can afford to work with a senior or work without joining a law firm, the chances of maturing in litigation are far more. Because in the law firm, there are some advantages, definitely, that they pay a little more than what you get in litigation. But you are ultimately doing somebody else’s work. In litigation, you are doing your own work.
So, if you want to buy your own big car, you must be in litigation, but if you want your boss to buy a big car, then you have to be in the law firm.
5. Sir, when a client chooses you, what do you consider first? Do you take up the case because it is right to argue for that client? Do you choose it according to the case? Is it both considerations? Or is there any other consideration that is kept in mind when a case is taken up?
Firstly, you never choose the client. The client chooses you.
Secondly, your decision to take up a case is entirely based on whether you are convinced that he has got a case or not.
One of the reasons for my success is that I have advised clients so many times that they do not have a case coming to the Supreme Court because I was not convinced. And they went to somebody else who got their cases filed, and when the matter got dismissed, they realized that I advised them properly.
So, the only basis for taking a case is that you should be convinced that a legal injury has happened which can be remedied by the court of law. Every legal injury need not be remedied. So, there must be an injury which has some legal provision which is violated and accordingly, your right is injured if you are that person.
6. Sir, you have contributed a huge sum of money and have raised crores of rupees to support the families of lawyers during COVID, being the President of SCBA. What challenges does it bring with itself? What is the role of Bar Association in serving the needs of litigants?
The Bar Association, really speaking, does not serve the needs of the litigants. It serves more for the members of the association, litigants to the extent only of ensuring that they get a fair hearing, and the matter gets listed, etc.
As far as collecting money, or doing it for the Bar, I personally feel that we are in an industry which is completely unregulated. There is no social security in our profession. So, I feel, the Bar Association owes a huge amount of responsibility towards its members.
I look at the complete Bar as a large family. If there is a large family and if there is somebody in the family in trouble, then he must be looked after. So, it is with this motto I have tried to serve the Bar Association.
7. Prolonged financial instability and difficulty to develop a stable clientele worries young lawyers. At the same time, you have given the advice, “young lawyers should shun from getting swayed from quick money”. How difficult is it to preserve your calling? What is that kept you going and what others can adopt as well?
In this profession, the person with whom I started, although I worked with him as a junior for a very short period, you have to realize that ethics are very important. You will not go to a client’s place, happen what may. There are cases where I lost because I refused to go to meet the client at his place.
Similarly, you have to be very clear that you are in a noble profession. So, in doing your profession, you have to ensure that you are not soliciting work. As far as success is concerned, if you follow the first principles that I gave you that you are ready to feel the pain of the client and ready to also appreciate his legal injury, then success is not something which will take time. Success will definitely come for anybody who is ready to do these things.
8. What should be one’s approach while starting an independent practice?
Once again, independent practice, you should be, firstly, in the first few years, not so much concerned about money. Moreover, you should be concerned about learning.
The best way to learn is to do free drafts for people. There are people who are looking for good juniors who can draft well. If you do an impressive draft for somebody, then immediately, it is repaid in some form or the other. Either by a reference to somebody else or by a paid brief very soon.
So, the only way for people to know you is to work hard and do some good quality work because the moment you do that, it gets noticed and words start spreading.
9. Sir, you have mentioned how you read books when you were going to conduct the first cross-examination. How crucial is research in litigation?
That is another very important aspect of your interview. As a lawyer, you must balance so many things and you must do a huge amount of time management.
So, when a case comes to you, you must read the facts. Simultaneously, you have also to do the research. Then you do the drafting after you read the facts and do the research. And then you have to meet the clients and then you also have to appear in court. So much of time management is there.
Each activity has its own timeline. You cannot do research for a matter to be argued tomorrow and the research is not over till the matter gets argued. So, that is something which is a huge challenge in our profession.
You should be very good at time management. Later, you also realize that there is your family, your social commitments. So, all those also must be looked into because merely succeeding in this profession is not good enough if you ultimately lose the people for whom you are achieving this success.
10. Sir, this brings me to the last question. What would be the final piece of advice to the budding lawyers?
Be ready to work hard. Feel the pain of the client. Success will come, automatically.
I cannot express in words how grateful I am that I am able to conduct this interview. Thank you so much Sir for your time.