Vishavjeet Chaudhary

Mr Vishavjeet Chaudhary graduated in law from the University of Kent, Canterbury, in 2011 and was called to the Bar in 2012. He went on to complete his master’s degree from the University of Cambridge in 2013. He is qualified as Barrister-at-Law (the Honourable Society of the Inner Temple). Mr Chaudhary was Assistant Professor of Law at O.P. Jindal Global University, and visiting faculty at NLSIU, Bangalore. He has a keen interest in making law accessible, pro bono and criminal justice. He has extensively written for a number of academic journals and media publications. Vishavjeet practises in Delhi. He is also Door Tenant at Lamb Building (a London-based Barrister Chambers).

1. Could you please provide our readers with some insights into your professional journey and the formative years of your career?

I was very fortunate to have a sound legal education and amazingly inspiring mentors and seniors. I started with a Senior Counsel’s office and it was a steep upward learning curve. One thing that stood out for me in my educational journey as well as my professional journey was the importance of principles — how legal knowledge always needs to relate back to them. The other important thing that my former senior, Mr Sidharth Luthra, always ensured we are aware of are a lawyer’s duties and ethical standards.

A wonderful Professor of Law, Prof. Padfield at the University of Cambridge, in the first class shouted at us “Get lost!” And those were some of the wisest words I have heard. It is important to have a journey into pursuing a career, and the excitement of exploring the unknown contours is when you stumble on those incredibly interesting stories and cases. Those really personalise the story and make it an interesting ride.

2. What prompted you to do law and make a definitive choice of your career path?

It was a choice I made quite early on. Legacy had a part to play in it, but it was not an overbearing factor. One of my passions is to understand and interact with people. Law allows you to do that on a daily basis. Each day comes with its own challenges and thrills, and that keeps me personally very satisfied. I loved the immense opportunities that law allows you to explore. One day I am looking at the forensics in a criminal trial; on another, I need to learn everything about what material is to be used in the construction of a bridge for an arbitration. This diversity of knowledge that every lawyer needs to develop is truly something that fascinates me. I was also very interested in global sustainable development, the crossroads between law and development intrigued me a lot. Thus, a career in law really interested me in a multifaceted way, and it has certainly not disappointed.

3. In what ways did your undergraduate experience at the University of Kent and pursuing an LLM from the University of Cambridge contribute to your professional growth?

I think a sound education really helped me. I studied Law and Literature, which I believe helped me understand law in a more holistic way. It also helped me make life-long friendships and networking is very important in law. At Cambridge, one is surrounded by not just over eight centuries of history but also amazingly inspiring peers. One of my classmates, who later became a dear friend, was from Afghanistan and had to overcome adversities of terrible proportions. Many others came with vast international experience. It thus becomes a very inspirational environment to be in. Of course, with strong alumni connections, it is always a great opportunity to network as well.

4. What motivated you to specialise in the field of criminal law? Additionally, could you highlight the key skills necessary for excelling in these areas?

As I said, I am very passionate about interacting with and understanding people. Criminal Law allows that opportunity. The eye for detail and meticulous research, as well as its invariable interaction with constitutional law, also interests me endlessly. You see the law in its full majesty. I will never forget my first client; of course, I am not at liberty to disclose any names. He had unfortunately been wrongly accused of a crime that he did not commit. After almost a decade, when he got acquitted, he was so thankful and gave me an idol that he had carved from stone as fees. The constant dynamic nature of the people you meet and the new kind of angles that you can mould the law into that inspires and motivates me endlessly.

I would say the key skills include the ability to understand relevance and go to the heart of the matter. You need to go through hundreds of pages of documents to find relevant details that will help your case.

The ability to coherently and convincingly present material is also a very important skill. To be able to think on your feet is crucial.

Time management is key not just for criminal law but for all kinds of legal practice.

I know these are clichés, but there is truly no substitute for hard work and consistency.

5. If you were to make an alternate career choice as a young adult yourself, what would it be?

A bad lawyer! jokes aside, I love to write. I think an author perhaps? Or a Historian! I do, however, have to add here that law as a profession allows you to read about so many things. This week, for instance, I am working on an arbitration matter and I have had to learn everything about oysters.

6. Can you please describe the differences you experienced when transitioning from being an Assistant Professor at Jindal Global Law School to practising independently at the Supreme Court of India?

It was a massive but slow transition. I was very fortunate to learn from the best. I do have to say that being questioned by 60+ curious minds in the classroom prepared me rather well to be before a Bench. It was certainly daunting and if I am honest, it continues to be somewhat daunting. Nonetheless, a sound knowledge of the law and the ability to think on my feet were useful- both in the classroom and in the courtroom.

7. How would you say a law student should make a decision on whether to join a law firm, to be an in-house lawyer, or to litigate?

I wish there was an easy answer to this. There is, sadly, none. Any choice is dictated by a number of factors, including aptitude, personal circumstances and career aspirations. What I can, however, suggest is that during your education you should try all the above and make an informed choice. Do make use of internships and see if the work environment, the pace of work, kind of work, etc. are to your liking. I should add that law is an extremely demanding profession. For want of a better word, one must have the “passion” or else burnout is extremely common.

8. As an academician and practitioner with significant experience in diverse practice areas, how do you view the role and significance of legal research engines such as SCC OnLine in facilitating legal research and staying abreast of legal developments, particularly in the context of criminal law?

It is absolutely, unequivocally and non-negotiable. There is, however, a knowledge overload and one must be careful with their sources. Make sure where you consume material from is a neutral, authoritative and reliable.

In the classroom, I always advised students to steer clear of unreliable sources. Common Law is based on precedent, so your sources need to be authoritative. In a High Court, I once saw a bench come down heavily on someone who had not verified their data from a reliable source. Thus, it is very important to ensure research is effective, smart and authoritative.

9. What do you think the importance of legal research and using the right tools is? How can law students equip themselves to become good researchers? Further, not many people are familiar with the concept of “exhaustion of a search”. What are your views on it?

Law revolves around research, so it is a very important skill to hone. The tools that I use are a mixture of traditional and modern. Use online tools, but do not ignore the books as well. Smart research is essential; you need to separate the relevant from the irrelevant. There is no end to researching, but knowing when to stop comes with a bit of practice and trial and error. I imagine a circle of research things that are at the core of the issue need to be researched with great zeal. As you keep venturing out from the core on to the buffer, you need to have a fair idea of what the propositions of research there are.

One thing that I would highly recommend is to keep a diary, electronic or otherwise. That way, when you have a similar matter in front of you, research becomes marginally easier as you can rely on your previous material. Note of caution though: do make sure your previous research is still valid and has not been overruled.

10. In the midst of a busy schedule, how do you rejuvenate and find inspiration to continue your work with enthusiasm?

I think it is really crucial to maintain a balance. Law is demanding and can be stressful at times. To maintain good mental health, I would suggest that you keep some time for yourself each day. I love to ride, so I spend time with horses each week. I also love to read and travel vacations allow that. I feel this helps in ensuring I perform better with renewed zeal. I see many of my juniors struggling with mental health; that needs to be a top priority. Law is a collegial profession, and I can assure you that help is always at hand.

11. Is there any piece of advice that you would like to give to the readers who might want to follow your steps?

Yes-do not! I would say, carve your own journey! Time changes very fast and very drastically. I feel that everyone has access to information today, which is a great leveller. If I were to give a few pieces of observation, I would say first, read. Read anything you can — cases, judgments, commentaries, books. Second, maintain a healthy work-life balance, which is essential for one’s mental health. Third, help is available. Law is a friendly profession and seniors are always willing to help. Fourth, keep your eyes and ears open and look at the challenges that we face today as well as the opportunities. AI, for instance, is an exciting phenomena. And finally, be prepared to enjoy being a student for life, as lawyers, you are committed to always learning.

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