Vaibhav Chaudhary

Vaibhav Choudhary is an Advocate-on-Record in the Supreme Court of India, a seasoned advocate with over twelve years of experience before the Supreme Court, Delhi High Court and various Courts/Tribunals in Delhi.

He is a Founder and Managing Partner of YHprum Legal, a boutique law firm specialising in litigation, intellectual property law, arbitration and dispute resolution and offer comprehensive legal services, managing diverse cases in the Supreme Court, Delhi High Court, and other tribunals.

He was invited as a judge/ arbitrator for international rounds of prestigious moot court competitions such as Jessup, Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot (East and Vienna), ICC Trial Moot, FDI Moot. Experienced ‘arbitrator’ for pre-moots worldwide, including the Willem C. Vis Moot (East & Vienna), Frankfurt Investment Arbitration Moot Court, and Foreign Direct Investment International Arbitration/Mediation Moots.

Here, we stole a chance to discuss about some ground realities of the legal profession through the first-hand experience of Mr. Vaibhav Chaudhary.

1. To start with, why did you decide to pursue law as a profession?

Growing up in a family of engineers, becoming a lawyer wasn’t something I ever thought of. While my father was a government officer and nobody in the family studied law, engineering seemed like the obvious career option. However, everything changed when I got to visit National Law University, Jodhpur during my school days.

Before that visit, I did not even know about National Law Schools or the 5-year law programs they offered. But seeing the opportunities and possibilities in the field of law fascinated me. It was like discovering a whole new world of career options that I never knew, existed.

Before entering law school and diving into this noble profession, I realised the importance of my parents’ support and guidance in choosing law as a profession. While my mother encouraged me to pursue law, my father got me connected with practicing lawyers at the Jodhpur High Court, introducing me to the profession and its potential career paths. I owe this journey to them and the opportunities that followed.

2. Please tell our readers a little bit about yourself, and your first few years in this profession.

After graduating from National University in Punjab, Patiala, in 2012, I got a prestigious and honorary role as a ‘Law Clerk-cum-Research Assistant’ at the Supreme Court of India. I still remember the nerve-wrecking interview with the then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir and former Chief Justice of India, Justice H.L. Dattu, where they asked about my research interests and publications. Thankfully, my enthusiasm for research left a positive impression, and I was chosen for the position.

My journey began under the guidance of former Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, who served as my mentor and first boss in this profession. For two years, I soaked up all the knowledge and experience in his office. Later, I transitioned from Bench to Bar to become a Litigation Associate in the Chambers of Mr. Gopal Jain, a Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court of India.

Moving from a law clerk to a Litigation Associate was a significant shift that completely transformed my understanding of the legal profession. I faced a variety of litigation cases across different forums, learning and growing with each challenge. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Mr. Gopal Jain for his guidance during my formative years in this field.

After gaining valuable experience, I took a leap of faith and decided to pursue independent litigation. As a first-generation lawyer and an outsider to the Delhi litigation, I knew the road ahead would be hard-hitting. However, with the unwavering support of my colleagues, friends, and fellow law school alumni, I embarked on this new chapter of my career with determination and gratitude.

3. When do you think a law student should decide on a specialty or professional path? What qualities should one cultivate to become a litigator like yourself?

After spending nearly 12 years in this profession, I do not think that specialising in a particular area of law is relevant or necessary. I believe that young lawyers like myself, who are starting out without any family background in law, often do not have the luxury of choosing a specific type of litigation to focus on. Instead, we tend to find our way as we gain experience and opportunities.

In my opinion, every lawyer has his/her own unique journey, and over a period of time they discover which path suits them the best, based on their skills and the opportunities they encounter. However, there are certain qualities that are essential for any litigator to cultivate: maintain court decorum, being truthful and honest with the client, integrity, good communication and comprehension, time management, being open to learning and of course, respecting the seniors and colleagues in the profession. The above qualities are the basics that everyone should imbibe to be successful in this profession.

Networking also plays a vital role in navigating the complexities of litigation. It is important for young lawyers to stay updated on the latest developments in the field of law and court rulings. Seeking guidance and assistance from colleagues who excel in different areas can be invaluable for progressing in this profession.

4. You manage so many things altogether from handling a wide range of cases, including arbitration, civil and criminal litigation to being the founder and managing partner of YHprum legal and advocate-on-record in the supreme court. Please advise our young lawyers as to how they can manage their time and be extra productive. Also, please highlight on some of the challenges you faced during the initial days of establishing a law firm.

In today’s digital age, managing time has become a bit easier. There are countless opportunities for lawyers to contribute to the society beyond courtroom representation. They can participate in lectures, programs, and mentorship initiatives to help law students and young colleagues navigate the complexities of the legal profession. Personally, I have found that using downtime to read Supreme Court judgments and attending hearings proves invaluable for improving argument skills and staying updated on legal developments.

As for our law firm, after a few years of independent practice, my colleague Akanksha Rajpurohit and I decided to start our own boutique law firm called ‘YHprum Legal’. We realised that having a recognisable brand name was essential to move higher in the legal profession, whether it is securing clients or becoming a panel counsel. Launching our firm during the COVID lockdown presented whole new unexpected challenges. We had to navigate setting up our firm remotely, conducting meetings with clients over video calls, and keeping them motivated during uncertain times.

One of the biggest hurdles we faced was, retaining our clients and ensuring they stayed committed to positive outcomes despite the challenges of the pandemic. My advice to young lawyers facing similar struggles is to stay motivated and resilient. Establishing a law firm during challenging times like the COVID lockdown requires determination and adaptability. Despite the obstacles, building ‘YHprum Legal’ has been a rewarding journey, and I am grateful for the opportunity to make a positive impact in the legal community.

5. With your practice in the field of arbitration, what are your suggestions to make arbitration a better option as dispute resolution for the parties?

With my experience in arbitration, I have some suggestions to improve it as a dispute resolution option for parties. India has the potential to become a hub for international commercial arbitration, thanks to the efforts from the judiciary, executive, and arbitration professionals. However, there are certain areas that need attention.

To start with, the costs involved in arbitration proceedings need to be regulated by law rather than being controlled by individual lawyers or arbitration institution. Arbitrator fees should be fixed based on the subject matter and financial implications of the case. Currently, arbitration in India could be financially burdensome compared to traditional court litigation, which needs to be addressed.

Additionally, the scope of judicial review over arbitral awards should be reconsidered to promote a more arbitration-friendly environment. India currently relies more on ad- hoc arbitration rather than institutional arbitration, which is more prevalent and favoured globally. Establishing institutional arbitral systems similar to those in places like London, Milan, and Singapore could help improve the arbitration landscape.

The Arbitration Act should be amended to include specific timelines for various processes, such as appointing arbitrators under Section 11. Grounds for challenging arbitral awards should be limited to maintain the commercial aspect of the decision-making process.

There is also a need to raise awareness about the importance of including arbitration clauses in contracts as a standard practice. Courts should refrain from entertaining frivolous litigation related to arbitration to streamline the process.

Furthermore, establishing an ‘Arbitration Bar’ in the country with clear eligibility criteria for arbitrators could help in standardising and improving the arbitration process. Overall, these changes can make arbitration a more efficient and effective option for resolving disputes for parties in India.

6. In addition to your legal practice, you also serve as an adjudicator for several international moot court competitions. How has this experience influenced your perspective on legal education and advocacy?

Besides practicing law, I also served as a Judge for various international moot court competitions in past years. Initially, during my law school days, I participated in only a couple of moot court competitions, without much success. However, after graduating, I started receiving invitations to Judge these competitions. Over the years, participating in competitions like Jessup World Rounds, Vis Moot, International Criminal Court Moot, FDI Arbitration Moot, Frankfurt Investment Moot and others has been an incredible honour and privilege.

As a Judge, I have had the opportunity to interact with law students from all around the world and share insights with individuals from diverse backgrounds. This experience has not only expanded my professional network but also enhanced my understanding of legal issues and advocacy on a global level.

I strongly believe that participation in international moot court competitions should be compulsory for all law schools in India. It provides students with an international perspective on legal issues and offers them a memorable learning experience. I have witnessed participants from these competitions later becoming Judges, which highlights the positive impact of such events.

Additionally, being part of a Jessup and Vis Moot family has facilitated connections with practitioners from various jurisdictions. Indian law schools are renowned for their performance in international moot court competitions and are often considered as tough opponents. This success clearly reflects that how these competitions have transformed the legal education and advocacy in India.

To conclude, my experience as an international moot court adjudicator has been vital in shaping my perspective on legal education and advocacy.

7. If you were to make an alternate career choice, what would it be?

During my school days, I entertained a variety of career options before ultimately deciding on law as my profession. I aspired to become a commercial pilot, a dream that I wanted to fulfil. However, circumstances never quite aligned for me to pursue this path.

Another option that intrigued me was journalism. The idea of investigating stories, reporting news, and contributing to public discourse excited me. Yet, despite my interest, the opportunity to pursue journalism never materialised.

I also harboured a passion for culinary arts and envisioned myself as a chef in a prestigious 5-star hotel chain in India. The thought of creating exquisite dishes and delighting guests with culinary creations fuelled my imagination. Even now, I still believe that I have the potential to excel in this field if I were ever to transition away from my current profession in law.

Each of these alternative career paths represents a different facet of my interests and aspirations, serving the society being the basis of all in common. While law ultimately became my chosen profession, the allure of these other possibilities remains a part of my identity and serves as a reminder of the diverse range of talents and passions within me.

8. Among others, our readers comprise law students and aspirants aiming to start a career in the field. What is a piece of advice you would like to give to them?

For aspiring law students and young professionals, especially those who are first-generation lawyers and not based in Delhi, I have some advice that I believe could be valuable. First and foremost, patience is the key. Building a successful career in law takes time and perseverance. It is important to be prepared for the long haul and to remain resilient in the face of challenges.

Additionally, having a stable financial support system is crucial, especially during the initial stages of your career when income may be unpredictable. Hard work is non-negotiable in this profession. To establish your reputation and to make a mark in the legal field, you must be willing to put in the effort consistently.

I recently heard a Senior Advocate emphasising on the importance of integrity, honesty, and commitment to upholding the rule of law, I could not agree more with this advice. These values are the foundation of a successful legal career and should guide your actions at every step. If you aspire to practice law in a bustling legal centre like Delhi, developing strong networking skills is essential, building relationships with colleagues in the legal fraternity can open doors to opportunities and collaborations.

Respecting the fellow professionals in the legal community is paramount. Upholding the principles of the legal profession and demonstrating sincerity towards your clients and the court are essential for earning trust and respect.

To my fellow Indian law students, I would add that embracing these values and qualities from the outset of your legal education will lay a solid foundation for your future career. Stay focused, stay determined, and never compromise on your principles. With dedication and integrity, you can carve out a fulfilling and successful career in the field of law.

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