Bombay High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: Stating that it is the duty of every Advocate to uphold professional integrity so that citizens can legally secure justice, the Division Bench of V.M. Deshpande and Amit B. Borkar, JJ., expressed that, professional misconduct refers to its disgraceful conduct not befitting the profession concerning the legal profession, which is not a business or trade and therefore, it must remain decontaminated.

Applicants had invoked the jurisdiction of this Court under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure challenging the registration of FIR for an offence punishable under Sections 420, 406, 409 and 120B of the Penal Code, 1860 read with Section 3 of the Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors (In Financial Establishments) Act, 1999.

It was submitted that applicants and non-applicant 3 resolved their dispute amicably and therefore, the Court proceedings were required to be set aside.

Factual Scenario


Post-dated cheques for the amount to be paid to non-applicant 3 by the applicants were handed over to Advocate Anilkumar Mulchandani. Further, it was added that, till 23-3-2022, the post-dated cheques were not handed over to non-applicant 3.

During the course of hearing, Anilkumar Mulchandani, Advocate submitted that non-applicant 3 had not demanded post-dated cheques from him.

Issue


Whether the non-applicant 3, in fact, demanded the cheques or not and whether Anilkumar Mulchandani, Advocate refused to hand over the cheques to non-applicant 3?

Analysis, Law and Decision


Bench in view of the clear language of the Deed of Settlement (absence of clause to withhold post-dated cheques till the release of the applicant on bail or quashing of FIR) and considering the affidavit filed by the non-applicant no. 3 denying the grant of permission to withhold cheques till the release of the applicant on bail or quashing of FIR, prima facie, it appears that Shri Anilkumar Mulchandani, Advocate, had refused to hand over the cheques in spite of demand made by non-applicant 3.

Since Anilkumar Mulchandani, Advocate was not justified in keeping the post-dated cheques with him, the Court expressed that it is constrained to refer the present case to the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa to hold an inquiry as to whether the act of the Advocate withholding post-dated cheques, amounts to misconduct within the meaning of Section 35 of the Advocates Act, 1961?

High Court remarked that,

“We are perturbed by the act of the Advocate to keep valuable security owned by the Client with him.”

The term misconduct means wrongful gain and not ere error of judgment.

One of the main objectives behind Section 35 of the Advocates Act is to prevent the exploitation of clients at the receiving end of the Advocate’s services and maintain the legal profession’s integrity.

The Bench also observed that, the lawyer-client relationship is a fiduciary one; any act which is detrimental to the legal rights of clients needs to be punished.

The Supreme Court explored the amplitude and extent of the words “professional misconduct” in Section 35 of the Advocates Act in the case of Pralhad Saran Gupta v. Bar Council of India, (1997) 3 SCC 585, wherein the Supreme Court has held that retaining amount by the Advocate which is deposited with him on behalf of the decree-holder amounts to misconduct.

Elaborating further, the High Court opined that while dealing with money or any other articles or documents entrusted with the Advocate, he is expected to keep in mind the high standards of the professions and its value practised for centuries.

The Advocates owe a social obligation to the Society while discharging professional services to the litigant. The Advocate should not commit any act by which a litigant could be deprived of his statutory and constitutional rights on account of the sublime position conferred upon him under the judicial system in the country.

On noting the above, the Bench directed the Bar Council of Maharashtra and Goa to hold an inquiry into the allegations made by non-applicant 3 against Advocate Anilkumar Mulchandani.

As the applicants sought permission to withdraw the present application unconditionally, Court disposed of this application as withdrawn. [Pankaj v. State of Maharashtra, 2022 SCC OnLine Bom 771, decided on 6-4-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

Shri Anil Mardikar, Senior Advocate a/w. Shri P. V. Navlani & Shri Rommill Jain, Advocate for applicants.

Shri T. A. Mirza, APP for non-applicant nos. 1 and 2/State.

Shri Anilkumar Mulchandani, Advocate for non-applicant no. 3.

Madras High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: Expressing that, Legal profession is a noble profession, and it is the lawyer, who plays a predominant role in securing every citizen life and personal liberty fundamental and statutory rights ensured by the Constitution, M. Govindaraj, J., observed that, Law Officers perform their duties without profit motive and with a service mentality for a nominal fee as compared to their lucrative private practice.

High Court addressed a case of a highly placed Law Officer of the State Government, in order to defend the honour and glory of the noble profession, against the unilateral and arbitrary decision taken by a fickle minded officer, contrary to the specific instructions given by the Chief Secretary, State Government.

The Government need to provide budgetary allocation to Departments, which are very vital for a welfare state to maintain peace and harmony. Thus, the honorarium made to the services of the Law Officers of the State to defend its actions is also a very important, essential and unavoidable expenditure.

In the instant matter, oblivious of the facts and pivotal role played by the respectable and highly placed Law Officer on request, the impugned order of restricting the fee, came to be passed under the pretext of saving expenditure to the Government.

Bench remarked that,

“Once you accept to defend the Government or its agencies, you cannot complain of the poor and nominal fee paid by them, for, the Government is for the people and it is not destined to make profit, but to serve the people.”

“…not only the Government, but also the Law Officers perform their duties without profit motive and with a service mentality for a nominal fee as compared to their lucrative private practice, more particularly the top law officers.”

With regard to the legal profession being a noble profession, the Court expressed that, when a lawyer for an individual client fight for the life and liberty of his client, the Law Officers of the State are cast with onerous responsibilities to strike a balance of individual and fellow citizens rights along with State, its policies, welfare schemes, etc.

Additional Advocate General, J. Ravindran, sitting in an unenviable position in a matter directly touching upon his own office, contested against the petitioner, which shows the Law Officers render their services above self against his own clan, raised serious concerns of impleading Chief Secretary as a party respondent in may petitions unmindful od the fact as to whether the issue pertains to the Chief Secretary or not?

The Court stated that, impleading of Chief Secretary in all the writ petitions, in which, he is not at all answering respondent is causing great hardship. Therefore, the Court directed the Registry in respect of arrayal of unnecessary parties, particularly the Chief Secretary to the Government.

In Court’s opinion, the professional fee paid to the Law Officers will not commensurate to the amount of service rendered, their dedication, amount of time spent, mental and physical labour, age and expertise and their sacrifice of lucrative private practice.

The impugned e-mail challenged in the present petition reflect the same mentality of an individual officer treating the highly placed Law Officer on par with him and unable to digest the special fee paid to him contrary to the concerted decision taken by the High-Level Committee.

The general outlook and attitude of a government servant happens to be of a paid servant.

Further, the Court also observed that,

Lawyers have every right to decline the brief, if his services and his dignity is not respected. In order to do social justice or economic justice an Advocate may accept higher fee from an affluent client and lesser or no fees from a poor or downtrodden litigant.

Court reiterated the instructions issued by the Chief Secretary to Government that “Generally, the special fees claimed by the Advocate General are not to be questioned.” but in the instant writ petition, it was questioned by the respondent contrary to the instructions which always bind on him.

Lastly, the Bench stating that the Rulers may change, but the Government is continuously running machinery and its servants shall not shift their loyalty to Government to please the Rulers set aside the impugned order.

While concluding the matter and considering the plight of the Law Officers, the following directions were issued:

(a)The Law Officers shall be given due respect for their dedication in defending the Government.

(b)In particular, the highest Law Officers, viz., Advocate General and Additional Advocate General, who are required in emergent situation to appear before the Court to defend the interest of the State, the officials shall not insist on the Government Order requesting him to appear and also shall not deny the claim of fee or special fee whatsoever claimed by them in terms of the instructions issued by the Chief Secretary to Government.

(c) The Officials shall be prompt in getting legal opinion in time, giving instructions to the Law Officers in time, if any appeal is preferred, it shall be intimated on time, without any delay. The Government is also equally a litigant which cannot expect a special treatment in condonation of delay matters.

(d) Whenever they seek instructions, the Government shall ensure that its Officials give top priority and produce the information, and records sought by them.

(e) The Law Officer shall be provided with the initial fees and after completion of the litigation the final fee. The said fee shall be paid immediately and it shall not be unduly delayed.

(f) The fee structure of the Law Officers shall be revised once in three years corresponding to the Price Index.

(g)If the bill is submitted by a Law Officer, it shall be settled at once, if not within a reasonable period that is to say to a maximum of two months.

(h) Further, depending on the sensitivity or importance of the case, the fee structure of a private Lawyer will raise. Whereas, the Law Officer of the lower rank will get the same fixed fees and to be particular, in batch matters, they would get fee only for the main matter and for the remaining connected matters, a fixed minimum fee is paid. In such a situation, the Government shall consider immediate payment of fee and treat it is as honorarium to the Law Officers for the enormous efforts and time put in by them.

(i) The Government at any cost shall not reduce the fee than one was fixed at the time of appointing a Law Officer, more particularly, due to the change of regime. As stated earlier, the Government is continuing machinery and defending the case of the Government and of the people is a continuing affair and therefore, the Law Officer shall not be slighted down and they shall be paid with utmost respect which they deserve for the meritorious efforts put by them.

[S. Ramasamy v. State of Tamil Nadu, 2022 SCC OnLine Mad 1519, decided on 15-2-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

For Petitioner :

Mr. G. Rajkumar

For Respondents :

Mr. J. Ravindran

Additional Advocate General Assisted by Mr. Tippu Sultan Government Advocate

Law School NewsMoot Court Announcements

ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY

NMIMS is the all-encompassing educational platform for diverse fields of career such as Engineering, Science and Technology, Management, Commerce, Architecture, Law, Economics, Pharmacy, Aviation, Design, Performing Arts, Hospitality Management, Mathematical Science, Branding and Advertising, Agricultural Sciences and much more. Started in 1981, NMIMS has today emerged as a globally reputed university. Always socially conscious, the Shri Vile Parle Keeravani Mandal (SVKM) made the decision to cater to the rising demand of management institutes in the country. This led to the birth of the Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies (NMIMS).

About School of Law, Hyderabad

NMIMS School of Law offers an outstanding legal education so as to inculcate a wide range of legal skills useful for the legal profession including the corporate level. Established in 2019 by NMIMS University, one of the premiums Deemed to be University in India, the programs offering in our law school has all qualities and subtlety of the programs offered by the world class Universities over the world with a global focus and international outreach dedicated to advance human dignity, social and economic welfare, and justice through knowledge of law.

School of Law aspires to be a global centre of scholarly excellence in the field of law and justice and will prepare outstanding and innovative law professionals with socially responsible outlook through holistic legal education.

About 1st National Moot Court Competition (Virtual),2022

The quest for knowledge, wisdom and insight is part and parcel of life. While the pandemic still roars on the edges, and everyone is stuck at their homes, The Moot Court Society of NMIMS School of Law, Hyderabad takes immense pleasure while announcing our 1st National Moot Court Competition (Virtual) 2022.

The competition is scheduled to be held from 29th April- 1st May, 2022 on a virtual platform. To judge the moot, we have on board with us legal luminaries with excellent expertise in the legal field.

Date

The date of the competition is 29th April- 1st May, 2022.

General instructions

  • Venue: Online Meetings Application (The links and the schedule of the meeting rooms shall be provided via mail after the submission of memorials)
  • Dress code: The Dress Code for the competition will be-
  • For Ladies: White shirt and black pant with black blazer/formals.
  • For Gentlemen: White shirt, black trousers, black tie along with black blazer/ formals.
  • Language: The language of the competition will be English only.

Eligibility Criteria

All students enrolled bona fide in an undergraduate i.e., 3 years/ 5 years or post-graduate law program conducted by any college or university shall be eligible for participation in the competition.

REGISTRATION

  1. Teams are supposed to complete their Registration by 27th March, 2022 on 11:59 PM.

Early Bird Registrations are open until 25th March, 2022 on 11:59 PM.

  1. The Registration Fee for early bird registrations is Rs. 1000.

Post early bird registration the Fee is Rs 1250.

Below is the link for the registration- HERE

The Registration shall be done by filling up the Application form, available.

 

1st National Moot Court Competition (Virtual), 2022 – Official Brochure

PAYMENT DETAILS

BANK DETAILS-

Mr. Sridip Surendran Nambiar

A/C No.- 66550100009457

Bank Branch: Bank of Baroda, MG Road, Secunderabad.

IFSC Code: BARB0SECUND

  • The screenshot of the payment needs to be uploaded in the Google Form
  • Payment can be done by apps like Paytm, PhonePe and Gpay by using the Bank Transfer option in the application.
  • For more flexible and easy convenience, the registration payment can be done through abovementioned apps on the given contact no. +91- 9656415634.

IMPORTANT DATES-

Sr. No Event Date Time
1.       Release of Notification 02/03/2022 N/A
2.       Registration Starts 02/03/2022 N/A
3.       Release of Moot Proposition 02/03/2022 N/A
4.       Last Date to Register 27/03/2022 11:59 pm
5.       Last Date of Memorial Submission 25/04/2022 11:59 pm

 

AWARDS

PRIZE MONEY ALLOCATION:

  1. Best Team: Shall be given the Certificate of Merit along with a cash prize of INR 25,000/- + Internship opportunity + Free subscription of Knowledge Partner
  2. Runner Up Team: Shall be given the Certificate of Merit along with a cash prize of INR 10,000/- + Free subscription of Knowledge Partner
  3. Best Mooter: The speaker having the highest score in the preliminary rounds shall be given a cash prize of INR 4,000/-
  4. Best Memorial: The team having the highest average written submission score from both sides shall be given a cash prize of INR 5,000.

 

Contact Information-

Any other queries (other than the Moot Problem) may be directed to the following persons.

  • Sridip Nambiar (Faculty Co-Coordinator)

+91- 9656415634

sridip.nambiar@nmims.edu.in

  • Sankalp Agrawal (Student Convener)

+91- 7394839609

sankalp.agrawal13@nmims.edu.in

  • Navya Gupta (Student Co-Convener)

+91- 7392864355

navya.gupta559@nmims.edu.in

 

 

Bombay High Court
Case BriefsHigh Courts

Bombay High Court: The Division Bench of S.J. Kathawalla and Milind N. Jadhav, JJ., requested the Department of Legal Affairs to give due consideration to this Court’s Order and the Report dated 9-12-2021 submitted by Nausher Kohli, Advocate whilst enacting the Draft Bill.

Notaries

Amongst the various functions of a Notary, perhaps the most important was that of attesting signatures on documents. It was aimed at reducing fraud/misrepresentation. However, now it has been observed that documents are being notarized by a Notary in the absence of the signatory.

Malpractice by Notaries

Further, it was stated that, quite often, the document to be notarized is sent to a Notary who then notarizes the document in the absence of the signatory to the document. There are multiple way in which the said malpractice is conducted. A Notary often leaves a blank row in his / her Register which is filled subsequently. More often than not, the person signing the Register is different from the person who signed on the document to be notarized, or the signatory to the document affixes his signature subsequently,

It is distressing to note that in some cases, even Advocates support such illegal practices by approaching the Notary Public to notarise a document/affidavit to be filed in a judicial proceeding without being accompanied by the person whose signature has to be affixed in presence of the notary. 

Present Matter

In the present matter, whlist notarizing documents such as an appeal, it had been observed that the Notary did not thoroughly check the Exhibits /total number of pages and mechanically proceeded to notarise such Court filing.

Another challenge faced was that even after the registration of a Notary is suspended/cancelled, such Notary continues to notarize documents. Moreover, persons not registered under the Act also notarize documents.

Further, the Bench stated that, the Courts when confronted with the conduct as discussed, must proceed to deal with all the parties responsible for the same, strictly and take them to task, in order to prevent the recurrence of the same.

Amicus Curiae, Nausher Kohli brought to the notice of the Court that various Courts across India encountered instances of misuse/mischief by parties/Advocates and Notaries.

Recently, it was observed that the Notaries started notarizing documents from vehicles in a public parking lot instead of an office/chamber.

“…Notaries have been operating from public taxis around the vicinity of this Court.”

“…several photographs of such vehicles/public taxis have been produced before us, only by way of illustration we are producing hereunder three photographs which shows to what extent the legal profession has degraded causing anguish not only to the judiciary but also lowering the dignity of the profession in the eyes of general public / common man.”

High Court remarked that, it has been told that many Advocates who are Notaries have due to the pandemic, surrendered their office premises which they were using at licensees, and are carrying on their job of notarizing documents in the aforestated manner there are several notaries who have been operating from private vehicles and taxis much before the pandemic.

“…though we have full sympathy for the Advocates who do not have their offices of their own to function from, we do not believe that the dignity of the profession needs to be maintained and the legal profession cannot be allowed to function from the streets.” 

Elaborating further, Bench remarked that it was unable to understand how the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai and the Appropriate Authority have not taken any action till date in regard to the said function of Advocates and Notaries from parking area and streets manned by the MCGM.

Subsequent to the passing of this Court’s Order, Mr Kohli brought to the Notice of this Court that Notaries (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (Draft Bill) was published and it invited the comments and suggestions.

In view of the said development, this Court alongwith Mr Kohli and other Advocates engaged in discussions and exchange of suggestions, based on which Mr Kohli prepared a Report proposing the suggestions to the Draft Bill.

Bench opined that undoubtedly, the Act and Rules framed thereunder were in pressing need for major reform.

“We are, on a daily basis, coming across matters wherein Notaries, Advocates and Parties are mischievously getting documents notarized.”

High Court added that, the Draft Bill had been published proposing digitization of the records of a Notary and digitization and automation of notarial work undertaken by Notaries.

Considering the Department of Legal Affairs has invited comments and suggestions on the Draft Bill, Court deemed it appropriate that the Registrar General of this Court forward a copy of this Order along with the Report dated 9-12-2021 submitted by the Advocate Nausher Kohli to the Department of Legal Affairs for their due consideration. [Samina Arif Khan v. Dhanlaxmi Chandu Devrukar, WP No. 4947 of 2021, decided on 18-2-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

Mr. Ashok Dhanuka alongwith Mr. Aiqan Memon instructed by W3Legal, LLP for the Applicant in IAST 18348 of 2021.

Mr. Rohan Barge, for the Petitioner in WP 4947 of 2021.

Mrs. S.D.Vyas, ‘B’ Panel Counsel for the State in WP 4947 of 2021.

Mrs. Aruna Pai, Public Prosecutor, for the State in SMCP 1 of 2021. Mr. D.P.Singh, for Union of India.

Mr. Sarif S. Khan, for Contemnor No.1 in SMCP 1 of 2021.

Mr. Mohd. Muqim Khan, for Contemnor No.2 in SMCP 1 of 2021. Mr. Somnath Anchan for the auction purchaser.

Dr. Birendra Saraf, Senior Advocate alongwith Mr. Karl Tamboly, Mr. Satchit Bhogle instructed by Mr. Khan Javed Akhtar, for the Appellant.

Mr. Sharan Jagtiani, Senior Advocate alongwith Ms. Surabhi Agrawal, Mr. Kashish Mainkar, Ms. Treesa Ann Benny instructed by Wadia Ghandy and Co., for the Respondent in Appeal (L) NO.23906 of 2021. .

Mr. D.N.Kher, Court Receiver with Mr. A.B.Malwankar, Section Officer, present. Mr. Nausher Kohli, Amicus Curiae alongwith Mr. Akash Agarwal present.

Law School NewsLSAT India

LSAC Global is committed to providing valuable global perspectives to law aspirants, law students and legal professionals in India to help them and their families make an informed decision. As done in previous administration, we will be hosting a series of webinars over the next few months leading to the LSAT—India online exam in 2022 with top Indian and international legal education leaders; covering the topics that impact present and future lawyers.

In 2020-2021 our webinars covered varied topics right from the career opportunities in corporate law firms in India in Legal Careers: the Indian Corporate Lawyer to whether Artificial Intelligence is enhancing diversity in the field of law or not in The Impact of AI on Diversity: The Bright and Dark side of AI in Law. While The Female Lead: Impact of Women in Law covered the women’s contribution to legal education, Law Re-imagined: Innovation and the Future of Legal Practice helped parents and students understand the everchanging landscape of the legal practice.

All these webinars and many more were incredibly successful as distinguished leaders from the India and International legal education community shared their insights & perspectives with the audience. The recordings for these webinars can be accessed through HERE and clicking on specific webinar info or by visiting our YouTube channel – HERE

 

The 1st webinar in the LSAC Global International Webinar series for the year 2021-22 is “The Changing Landscape of Legal Profession: Law Re-defined” which is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. IST, Friday, 22nd Oct 2021. 

The aim of the webinar is to help law aspirants understand the breadth of disruption and innovation impacting the legal academy and profession. We also aim to provide a glimpse into how law schools are reinventing their curriculum to prepare students for modern practice.

Our Panel consists of:

  1. Dean Danielle Conway, Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law, Dickinson Law, The Pennsylvania State University
  2. Mr. Akshay Jaitly, President 262 Advisors and Co-founder Trilegal
  3. Dr.  Pritam Baruah, Dean School of Law, BML Munjal
  4. Mr. Eeshan Chaturvedi, Founder, EnviPol, Director, GPODS.

The session will be moderated by Ms. Aafreen Collaco, Asst. Director – University Engagements and Partnerships, LSAC Global.

Join us for a lively and informative discussion, with opportunity for audience Q&A with the panellists. You can send your questions for panellists in advance at discoverlawindia@lsac.org. You can register for the webinar by clicking here.

In case you are unable to connect, please click HERE

Reserve Bank of India
Hot Off The PressNews

No fresh permissions/ renewal of permission shall be granted by the Reserve Bank/AD Category-I banks to any foreign law firm for the opening of Liaison Office in India, till the policy is reviewed based on, among others, final disposal of the matter by the Supreme Court in Bar Council of India v. A.K. Balaji, (2018) 5 SCC 379

Supreme Court has while disposing of the case, held that Advocates enrolled under the Advocates Act, 1961 alone are entitled to practice law in India and that foreign law firms/companies or foreign lawyers cannot practice the profession of law in India.

As such, foreign law firms/companies or foreign lawyers or any other person resident outside India, are not permitted to establish any branch office, project office, liaison office or other place of business in India for the purpose of practicing legal profession. Accordingly, AD Category – I banks are directed not to grant any approval to any branch office, project office, liaison office or other place of business in India under FEMA for the purpose of practicing legal profession in India. Further, they shall bring to the notice of the Reserve Bank in case any such violation of the provisions of the Advocates Act comes to their notice.

All other provisions of the BO/LO/PO policy shall remain unchanged. AD Category – I banks may bring the contents of this circular to the notice of their constituents and customers.

Read the detailed Notification here: NOTIFICATION


Reserve Bank of India

[Press Release dt. 23-11-2020]

Op EdsOP. ED.

As places that tend to be extremely crowded like the trial courts, appellate courts, consumer forums, and tribunals across India continue to be deserted since the lockdown in March, there is a compelling argument to adopt this as a new normal.

As the courts encourage cases that were heard in front of a Judge to be taken up for hearing via videoconferencing, lawyers and their clients need to embrace virtual courtrooms to ensure the continuity of the judicial system. Even corporate lawyers who typically only offer legal advice and prepare legal documents need to learn about the technology available for the legal system to carry on serving their clients.

Lawyers need to use this time to read and learn about legal technology, which will enable them to work effectively and efficiently no matter where they are. This includes equipments for working both remotely and from the office, case tracking, videoconference calls, drafting and negotiating contracts.

If you are in the legal profession and looking to setup or augment your office in line with the current virtual requirements with the latest legal tech, here are some ideas to help streamline the process.

Invest in smart office solutions

 With so many people working remotely, there is an increasing need to invest in the latest tools to assist in working from home and connecting seamlessly. Most people have atleast one computer and a high-speed internet connection in their homes. However, there are means to augment the performance of these devices for better connectivity and efficiency. For example:

  • It’s better to have a laptop with a docking system rather than a desktop. This will help in mobility and, if need be, you can connect an external monitor, mouse to make it more comfortable to work in your home office. If need be, as second screen can be added to help in reviewing documents side by side. My personal experience is that productivity increases considerably if these methods are used.
  • While nothing can compare with a well-stocked library, it may be time your office switches to online legal/business research tools due to the time and risk associated with ordering books or copying passages related to current cases the firm is working on.
  • It is essential to purchase licences for conference call software. Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Zoom are some of the most popular options for videoconference calls and meetings with clients. You can even record the sessions for future use. Microsoft Teams even helps reduce email chains as you can share documents among your team of advocates, paralegals, and even with clients. Microsoft Teams also allows multiple people to collaborate and work on documents simultaneously.
  • For videoconferences, whether it is appearing in a virtual court, arbitration, or a client meeting, ensure your room is well lit, with no bright light facing the camera, and ensure your camera isn’t facing the window. This will impact the quality of the video and therefore the conversation. Invest in a high-quality external speakerphone or a mic and speakers for calls lasting more than an hour. Computer speakers and mics are not as effective, and putting headphones on for hours can potentially damage your eardrums.

Implement a knowledge management system

 While knowledge management (KM) is considered a function for large law firms,  it remains elusive to solo practitioners. Generally, large law firms have an established KM department where professional support lawyers are responsible for research, using tools, and managing knowledge for the entire firm.

I highly recommend every firm, no matter the size, invest in developing a KM department to assist in the cases. There is no reason to buy sophisticated tools, so long as you follow my recommendations on some basic procedures:

  • KM should be stored on cloud services like Google Drive or Microsoft One Drive to provide every member of the firm access to any needed documents by logging in with the provided credentials. In addition, both servers have features limiting access to different files/folders to selected individuals depending on the confidentiality requirements.
  • Ensure all the research documents, whether draft or final, used or unused, are appropriately named and stored in a single folder that can be easily located for later reference. It is also a good idea to invest in a high quality PDF convertor and/or PDF scanner. Free tools available on the internet often leave their brand as watermark and even the confidentiality of the document is lost once you upload it on the web. If you still choose to use the freewares please at least ensure they are not banned by the Government. For example, recently a Judge was displeased when an advocate used one of these banned freeware scanners.
  • Create a folder containing necessary documents for clients or legal research accessible to everyone who works in the firm. Make sure you name these in a clear and concise manner. There is no one size fits all when it comes to how to name files and folders. However, there does need to be consistency throughout the firm on how to name them. New joiners, including interns,should be briefed within a week of joining on how to name and file everything to ensure the continuity of the filing system. This may sound a lot of work, but this is a basic practice in managing the knowledge of a firm and needs to become the “habit” of the firm. Whenever you get a new client, it is far more time-conscious to refer to similar former cases rather than starting all the research from scratch. For larger firms where KM is already established, I recommend going a step further and evaluating how artificial intelligence and machine learning tools can help automate the KM process to provide the relevant information at the click of a button. For example, in a Mergers and Acquisitions  exercise, looking for specific information in thousands of contract documents can be a tedious task. Thankfully, today there are tools that can extract this information for you in a fraction of the time it would take a human to find it.
  • Investing in case management software that stores every file related to each case/client in one place will be useful if you are a panel lawyer/retainer with multiple cases on a similar point of law. Case management software helps you segregate the files, track them, and creates alerts for the next hearing date. Today case management software can also help track your timesheets and bill clients.
  • As automated tools become increasingly accurate, data extraction, creating the first draft of contract, redlining contracts, and workflows are becoming the new normal. Many large firms around the world are using these systems more effectively, and are delivering the desired results.
  • A word of the warning – very few of us take the need for anti-virus or firewall protection seriously enough. Moving to an online platform with most, if not all, of the lawyer’s intellectual property stored on software requires that firms should invest in a good anti-virus software, as well as external storage devices to keep back-ups of important information. A simple web search can help you find some very good options are available at every price point, meaning smaller and newer firms can get the protection. Even back-ups can now be kept on a cloud server, so everyone should choose a model that suits them.

Go virtual

 If you create a virtual office using the above tools, the strain of not meeting your clients face-to-face will be considerably less. In addition, moving to e-signatures or digital signatures, if permissible in law, will make the process smoother when meeting clients face-to-face isn’t possible.

While practicing law has always been based on the personal interactions between lawyers and clients, we need to move away from more traditional ways of practicing law, including in-person court dates, document signing, and meetings for case updates. Making this shift toward a more virtual space is fast, safe, and doesn’t require a face-to-face meeting.

Contract negotiation teams are created virtually now, and the negotiations are discussed and agreed via videoconference. Advocates, or anyone else for that matter, who are not used to working remotely will need to learn and adapt to this practice.

In summary, while we recover from the pandemic, the need to adopt a new normal, redraft the rules of the game, and play within them, while maintaining social distancing, is paramount to keeping the legal system operating as usual!


*Mani Agarwal is the Global Head of Contract Compliance & Optimization practice at Capgemini. He started his career as a litigation lawyer before taking up corporate assignments. He can be reached at mani.agarwal@capgemini.com.  Views expressed are personal.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In the matter where it was brought to the Court’s notice that an advocate had demanded 16% of the amount received by the client in a Motor Vehicle accident claim as fee, the bench of AK Goel and UU Lalit, JJ asked the Government to take cognizance of the issue of introducing requisite legislative changes for an effective regulatory mechanism to check violation of professional ethics and also to ensure access to legal services which is major component of access to justice mandated under Article 39A of the Constitution.

The Court referred to the 131st Report of the Law Commission of India, wherein it was recommended that maintenance of irreducible minimum standards of the profession was a must for ensuring accountability of the legal profession. While considering the mounting cost of litigation, it was observed in the report that fee charged by some senior advocates were astronomical in character and that it was the duty of the Parliament to prescribe fee for services rendered by members of the legal profession. It suggested that first step should be taken to prescribe floor and ceiling in fees.

Noticing that though the 131st Report was submitted in the year 1988, no effective law has been enacted to regularize the fee or for providing the public-sector services to utmost needy litigants without any fee or at standardized fee, the Court said:

“Mandate for the Bench and the bar is to provide speedy and inexpensive justice to the victim of justice and to protect their rights. The legal system must continue to serve the victims of injustice.”

The Court also took note of the 266th Report submitted in the light of the decision in Mahipal Singh Rana v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2016) 8 SCC 335, which observed that the conduct of members of the legal profession who do not follow ethics contributes to the pendency of cases owing to the dilatory tactics such as unjustified strikes, seeking adjournments on unjustified grounds, etc. The Report said that there was dire necessity of reviewing regulatory mechanism not only in the matter of discipline and misconduct but also in other areas. It was suggested that constitution of the Bar Council required a change for which an Amendment Bill was also recommended. [B. Sunitha v. State of Telengana, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1412, decided on 05.12.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Showing concern over the urgent need to review the provisions of the Advocates Act, 1961 dealing with regulatory mechanism for the legal profession and other incidental issues, the Court asked the Law Commission of India to go into all relevant aspects in consultation with all concerned at an early date and the Government of India to take further appropriate steps in the light of report of the Law Commission within six months thereafter.

The 3-judge bench of A.R. Dave, Kurian Joseph and A.K. Goel, JJ. took note of the provision under Section 24A which debars a convicted person from being enrolled applies to an advocate on the rolls of the Bar Council for a period of two years and said that a person convicted of even a most heinous offence is eligible to be enrolled as an advocate after expiry of two years from expiry of his sentence.

The Court was hearing the appeal in a decade old matter where the appellant was held guilty by the Allahabad High Court of Criminal Contempt for intimidating and threatening a Civil Judge and was directed not to enter the court premises. The Court had issued notice to the Bar Council of India and the Bar Council of Uttar Pradesh to initiate appropriate proceedings against the appellant for professional misconduct, however, no action has been taken by the Bar Council. In view of such failure of the statutory obligation of the Bar Council of the State of Uttar Pradesh as well as the Bar Council of India, the Court held that suo moto action can be taken under the Advocates Act in view of proved misconduct calling for disciplinary action. The Court further added that by virtue of statutory appellate power under Section 38 of the Advocates Act High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution in appropriate cases on failure of the Bar Council can also take action after its attention is invited to the misconduct. [Mahipal Singh Rana v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 663, decided on 05.07.2016]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court: Dismissing the appeals, the bench of M.Y. Eqbal and R. Banumathi, JJ held that the retired officials who joined legal profession constitute a separate class and the disentitlement of the benefit of lump sum welfare fund under the Tamil Nadu Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 1987 to this group of advocates cannot be said to be unreasonable.

The Court further said that the retired employees have the substantial retiral benefits, gratuity apart from receiving pension. Some amount of financial stability is ensured in the form of pension and terminal benefits to these advocates who joined law profession after retirement. Making them eligible for lump sum welfare fund under the Act would actually amount to double benefit to them placed better than their counter part lawyers who struggle through difficult times.

The class of lawyers who choose this profession as the sole means of their livelihood are the real deservers because they stand difficult times in the profession and. also because they form a separate class from that of retired persons. The retired officials who joined legal profession constitute a separate class and so this distinction is not arbitrary, unreasonable and violative of Article 14. Therefore, the disentitlement of the benefit of lump sum welfare fund to this group of advocates cannot be said to be unreasonable. 

Advocates Welfare Fund is enacted with the object of providing social security in the form of financial assistance to juniors and the welfare scheme for indigent or disabled advocates. As the appellants are already in receipt of pension from their employers so there is no arbitrariness in excluding them from the applicability of Bihar State AdvocatesWelfare Fund Act 1983.S.Seshachalam v. Bar Council of Tamil Nadu, 2014 SCC OnLine SC 1011, decided on 16-12-2014