A Mooter Then and an Advocate Now: Chidambara Sastry Sarva, an alumnus of NLU Jodhpur, on his litigation experience

Please tell us something about yourself.

I am an Advocate. I graduated in 2013 from NLU Jodhpur and have been litigating ever since.

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Law is a profession where your opinion or perspective is your investment and I wanted to use it for myself.”

What were the reasons behind choosing law as a career?

It was a very interesting choice. A lot of people wouldn’t actually believe me because I hail from a family of lawyers. I was as confused as anyone about my career after my 10th. I had pursued coaching for engineering entrance exams in my 11th class just to keep my options open. In that pursuit to keep ‘my options open’ I met one person who gave coaching for law school entrances. She taught a group of students every year, pro bono. I went and attended her classes for an entire year while pursuing my 12th. I think her classes were the game changer and they attracted me towards law. Apart from that my father has always been a great inspiration growing up. So I can’t deny his influence on me, albeit not intentional.

Tell us a bit about your life at the University.

It wasn’t easy, to be very honest. The initial years were very difficult. One had to first get adjusted and then understand what is going around. There were too many things like assignments, tests, presentations, moots etc. Most of us were doing all of it for the first time. But once I fell in the rhythm, and started planning my time properly, it was good. The exposure I got at the University not only in terms of academics but also people and cultures, has had a lasting impact on me and my thinking. I wouldn’t replace those five years with anything else. It was the best time.

What were the extra-curricular activities you participated in during your college years?

I had given a lot of time to mooting in college. Mooting was more like a curriculum for our entire batch. We took it very seriously. Alongside this, I did a couple of debates and I was also into organising different events in my 4th and 5th year. We tried to experiment a few reforms in the Moot Court Committee. Some were successful and some of them are being implemented now.

Another important aspect which I could not give as much time as I would like to is Writing. Whatever little I wrote, I tried to get it published.

Apart from these, I played badminton. I started playing for the University only in my 3rd Year and was lucky to win a few competitions as well.

In which year of law school you became certain that you will be pursuing litigation after graduation?

To be honest, I never intended to go for a firm job. The only kind of advocacy I had seen was litigation until I reached college. In my 3rd year or so, I was little confused looking at my friend who took keen interest in pursuing a firm job. But most important factor in my decision-making was that I wanted to work for myself. Law is a profession where your opinion or perspective is your investment and I wanted to use it for myself. The kind of internships I did in my 3rd and 4th year were also helpful. I had the opportunity to work with one of the Grand Old Men of the Indian bar, Mr. K. Parasaran. His approach and his conviction to the law inspired me even more. I think that was when I had completely decided to get into Litigation.

For litigation as a career, what kind of internships should one do?

Litigation has various facets to it. For instance, Trial Work is completely different from Appellate Work. And when things reach the Supreme Court, it is a completely different story. So, one should try to get exposed to all these levels through internships before deciding which level one wants to concentrate on. I don’t mean to say that one can’t work at all these levels. But at the beginning it might get a little difficult to do so. I would suggest to choose your internships in accordance with the courses that you just completed. Taking up a Trial Court internship wouldn’t make sense until you have studied procedural laws which are usually taught in the 3rd year or so. Apart from this I would recommend at least one or two firm internships as well only to understand how things work.

In litigation, how should one choose the field of law to specialize in?

A particular field of law will eventually become ones USP. One can choose a subject that interests him to be his USP and pursue it during the internship or the USP will eventually choose you. What I mean is if you start litigating by yourself, you will be identified as being good with a particular field of law. So, those cases start flowing towards you. This field might as well be the field that you chose while in college but there is no guarantee to it. However, one cannot deny a case dealing with other fields. As an Advocate, all subjects are your subjects. A case is a case for you, be it taxation or family law or criminal law. Whoever is aspiring to specialize in a particular area, my advice is that one should go ahead and learn as much as one can but that does not mean you can turn a blind eye to the others.

Is it necessary to work under a senior for a few years before starting one’s own  practice?

Working under a good Senior is the most important thing for an aspiring Advocate. Ideally one should identify whom they would want to work for during their Internships. Very few relationships in life are special. One such relationship is with your senior. He/She is your de facto parent professionally. So this choice has to be made carefully. One should choose someone who can devote time to his/ her juniors. The Senior you choose should be someone who has a credible standing. And standing is different from ‘credible standing’. With credibility, I mean that the Bar has to acknowledge him morally, legally and ethically. He should not be a crook who just teaches you the backdoor skills and spoils the rest of your life.

An Advocate will always be associated with his Senior even if he stops working for the Senior. So it’s a life long choice. There was an incident recently. My father was appearing in a matter and I was assisting him. I think the judge was impressed with the ingenuity of the argument put forth by my father, so he immediately asked him, who was his Senior. My father is a Senior Advocate and has about 4 decades of standing at the Bar, but he is still associated with his Senior. The formative years are very important for an Advocate and one’s Senior plays a huge role in that.

How true is the common perception that “the first generation lawyers ought to struggle”? 

Initial years are tough for anyone. Even if you have a legal background things are not going to be that easy. If you are looking for financial stability, then litigation is not for you. It requires a lot of dedication and hard work. But it also guarantees results in the long run. If you work, you are bound to succeed. There is no hit and miss here. But one must play the patience game. There are no shortcuts to this.

Mr Parasaran once told me that he categorized his career into three phases – 1. No Work No Money, 2. Full Work No Money and 3. No Work Full Money. This is mostly how the career of a litigator will span. So one has to be prepared for that.

What is the normal routine of an advocate?

When I was working under a Senior, I used to reach office at 9 in the morning and wrap up things before the court started. I used to be in the court from 10:30am in the morning to 4.30pm. After a short break, I used to resume the office at around 6.30 in the evening. On a hectic day, I had to be in the office till 10 also. Basically we would work for a major portion of the day and had no social life. I have worked for seven days in a week when I was working for myself and a senior simultaneously. Even Saturdays and Sundays were working days for me. So it is going to be hectic.

How has your experience, as an advocate been, so far?

It has been satisfying to be honest. It has its own ups and downs. But I can say with conviction that I am satisfied with my work even though it doesn’t pay as much as I would like. I had to make my mistakes and learn from them. I was fortunate to have a senior who didn’t get mad at me when I screwed something up. Rather, we worked and fixed things together.

Any messages or tips for our aspiring litigators?

Firstly, one mistake which I committed was that I did not understand the importance of subjects like CPC, CrPC etc. Getting a GPA of an eight or nine in these subject is not hard in college but one has to learn more than that.  There are fancy subjects like International law and IPR, which definitely need a lot of understanding but the subjects which I have mentioned are the bread and butter in litigation. They should not be ignored.

Secondly, do not lose hope. And do not get over awed by the personality of big lawyers you see. Do not worry about the things. All of us can put in efforts and we can reach wherever we want.

 

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