Cricketing Dreams to Legal Realities

About

Arush Khanna (FCIArb) is an Advocate and Legal Consultant enrolled with the Bar Council of Delhi. He started his practice in 2012 after graduating from the Symbiosis Law School, Pune and has also completed his master’s in business laws from the National Law School of India University, Bangalore.

He eventually started his career with Karanjawala and Co. before co-founding Numen Law Offices. The firm, with offices at Delhi and Mumbai provides services in the fields of dispute resolution, arbitration, anti-trust, Insolvency & Bankruptcy (IBC) and criminal litigation.
Mr Khanna specialises in commercial disputes with a key focus on arbitration, insolvency, real estate and anti- trust laws. His list of clients includes major multi-national companies such as Emaar, Technip Energies, Tigermed Consultancy, TGI Fridays, etc.

1. To start with, how did you decide to pursue law as a profession and how has law school experiences shaped you to what you are today?

“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans”— John Lennon

Truth be told, there was neither a burning desire nor a childhood ambition to become a lawyer. Having harboured aspirations of playing professional cricket during my schooling days, I was quite clueless after realising that I perhaps was not good enough to make cricket as a career option and had to think of an alternate career option after my 12th grade. After graduating from school, and while procrastinating (rather than brainstorming) over an alternate career plan, I happened to secure admission in law school. It was originally envisaged as a stop-gap arrangement. Little did I know that it would eventually become an indispensable part of my life.

Studying law was more of an experience and less of a school. I am grateful to Symbiosis Law School and the City of Pune for playing a pivotal role in developing my character and personality as a person, which has helped me a lot as a professional.

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

I started my career with Karanjawala and Co. where Mr Raian Karanjawala had assigned me to the High Court team under Ms Meghna Mishra. She was very encouraging towards the fresh graduates in her team, and I am grateful for the exposure I got. Apart from briefing several senior counsels on a daily basis, she would also give me opportunities to appear, which was not a usual occurrence in most offices and chambers.

After my stint in the firm, I worked with Mr Sanjeev Anand (now a designated Senior Advocate) for a period of 3 years. His integrity as a professional and his remarkable eye for detail was inspiring and made me fall in love with the profession. I will always cherish the time spent in his chambers and shall continue striving to make him proud.

Throughout these years and till today, I am lucky to have been mentored by my grandfather, Dr Lalit Bhasin. I still miserably fail at emulating his style of advocacy and professionalism but intend to continue my pursuit. He is 50 years senior to me at the Bar, but frankly, he is 50 light years ahead and may it long continue.

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

There is no such thing as the perfect time to find your calling or your area of specialisation. I have known people who had clarity of thought as early as when they were in the 1st year of law school. On the other hand, I also have friends who are explorers and did not find their calling even after spending some years in the practice. Both sets of people are doing equally well as on date. Therefore, a law student, whilst being vigilant in identifying his/her area(s) of interest, should not pressurise themselves too much as acquiring expertise/specialisation is always a work in progress and can even be done after starting practice.

Now, to the second part of your question — For a disputes lawyer, it is firstly important to realise that the practice is not all about oral advocacy. Written advocacy and strategizing are key facets while preparing for a case. Be meticulous, well-prepared and always give attention to the finer details. You cannot be an artist in court without being a surgeon in office.

4. You manage so many things altogether from handling a wide range of cases, including arbitration, civil and criminal litigation to being the co-founder of Numen Law Offices. Also, please highlight on some of the challenges you faced during the initial days of establishing a law firm.

I have been fortunate to have been entrusted with a wide array of disputes and advisory work covering various subjects of law. Whilst my primary area of practice is commercial litigation and arbitration mostly involving oil and gas, infrastructure and construction sectors, I have also enjoyed working on some exciting white-collar matters involving the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO).

My initial days as a co-founder of Numen Law Offices were challenging. Three months after inaugurating both our offices at New Delhi and Mumbai, we were hit by the COVID-19 Pandemic and offices had to be shut for some months. Revenues were impacted due to the non/limited functioning of the courts and tribunals. That being said, every crisis presents certain opportunities and sometimes brings out qualities which one never thought existed. The perseverance shown by the founding partners (George, Lakshmi and Chaitanyaa) was remarkable, we galvanised well and were nimble minded towards adapting to new technology and means to spread our footprint.

5. Congratulations on being India’s First-Ever Ambassador at the Vienna International Arbitral Centre. With your practice in the field of arbitration, what are your suggestions to make arbitration a better option as dispute resolution for the parties? What reforms would you propose for arbitration in India?

Thank you for your kind wishes.

For arbitration to become a preferred means of dispute resolution, it needs more a stakeholder’s movement than a statutory diktat. We have come a long way from the days when an arbitral award did not have the status of a decree and was therefore unenforceable as such. Today, we have prescribed timelines for the completion of proceedings, limited jurisdiction of the courts at the stage of reference and appointment, and an increasing push towards making institutional arbitration the norm rather than the exception.

As far as the reforms are concerned, the recent report of the Expert Committee released in February this year has made some progressive recommendations. None more so than to introduce the concept of Emergency Arbitrations in India — this will go a long way in reducing court interference as often we find that pre-invocation interim applications are kept pending for months, if not years, thereby causing delay and eroding investor confidence. Another laudable suggestion is to introduce third-party funding — this will ensure parity between contesting parties and if used well can become a source of investment for financiers and insurance companies. It is my sincere hope that these recommendations, including those involving powers of a court to modify an award under Section 34 are seriously considered and suitably incorporated in our current regime.

6. You also hold a strong and active association with the International Bar Association, wherein currently you are an officer of the Young Lawyers Committee as well as the immediate past Vice-Chair of the India Working Group. Kindly share your experience and role in the world’s largest Bar Association.

Having been a part of the IBA since 2017, I can say with some level of responsibility, that it has had an immeasurable impact on my growth as a professional, apart from helping me develop a cross-border practice.

The Young Lawyers Committee (YLC) is a unique experience as we mingle with fellow young lawyers from across the world and forge friendships that last a lifetime. It is also a brilliant platform for building an international network which often translates into referrals and other synergies. Our profession has transcended national boundaries, and I would encourage all young lawyers aspiring to have an international practice to consider being a part of the IBA Young Lawyers Committee. The best part of the YLC is that it is not only about work, but we also have exciting annual retreats and night outs, which often become cherished memories adding to the Committee’s recall value.

I was inducted into the India Working Group in 2021 and was made Vice-Chair in 2023. It was an honour to be a part of the leadership in a group that comprised of several luminaires, most of whom were my seniors and those I looked up to. I wish to thank the IBA Asia Pacific Regional Forum for reposing faith in a young person like myself to take up this responsibility. During my tenure, we hosted 6 webinars and the 2nd India Litigation and ADR Symposium in New Delhi, which was attended by over 200 people.

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

It would have to be something to do with cricket. Nothing like playing the game but if not, then perhaps content writing or broadcasting. I am a big foodie, so perhaps a food blogger is also an option.

8. Not many people are familiar with the concept “exhaustion of research”. What are your views on it?

Exhaustion of research is an interesting concept that pertains to the point at which a particular area of inquiry or study reaches a state where further research is deemed unnecessary or unproductive. This can occur for various reasons, such as when all relevant questions have been answered, when additional research would yield diminishing returns, or when the field has reached a point of saturation.

From my perspective, the exhaustion of research can be both a sign of progress and a challenge. On one hand, it indicates that sufficient research has been undertaken to address a particular legal issue. On the other hand, it can also pose challenges, as sometimes, legal research can seem like a bottomless well, especially in complex questions law which do not necessarily have an objective answer to them.

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

To all the readers, who have managed to reach till this part of the interview, I am grateful to you for making time for this.

To all my young(er) colleagues aspiring to start a career in law, I first want to say that never dispense the requirement of being a cultured professional. There is a lot of room for good people to do well in the profession, so be nice to people, irrespective of the positions you may hold in life. It is equally important to love what you do. This is a heavy and demanding profession so unless you are passionate about the subject, it will impact your deliverables and consequently, your prospects and longevity.

Lastly, the HSTN rule: Hard work, smart work, teamwork and net-work. Married with a bit of luck along the way.

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