Exploring the ins and outs of Litigation and Teaching

Determining which career path one might want to pursue is just one aspect of the entire journey that follows.

What is it really like to be in the court presenting a case all by yourself? Simultaneously, how can you succeed in the teaching profession, ensuring that all your students like your methods? Answers to these questions only come from experience.

in conversation with:

Nusrat Shah

A self-made lawyer with no Godfather in the profession, having come up the hard way with sheer dint of hard work.

He did his schooling in Andhra Pradesh in vernacular medium (Telugu) and learnt English after coming to Mumbai after 10th Standard, to pursue further studies.

He is a Professor of law at Government Law College for the past 30 years and an arguing counsel in Bombay High Court and Supreme Court of India.

In the court by yourself

Competition in the litigation profession is at a high. Many students aim to fight for what they believe in while entering this profession. However, only some of them manage to leave a mark.

All in all, what matters is your hardwork and how you decided to pursue your journey.

There are many aspects to litigation. Knowledge comes from all directions, be it from the case of a client you are representing or the court where you are going to represent the matter.

1. Imbibing the qualities that lead to a successful career

You have to be a voracious reader and have passion for the subject. Apart from theory, you should also have practical knowledge of the subject with court experience and also possess substantial general knowledge, by constantly reading periodicals on various subjects other than law and also keep abreast of the current affairs and latest judgments of the Hon'ble Supreme Court, High Court and also comparison with foreign countries.
For a career in litigation, one must be prepared to work very hard, have an analytical mind and must have honesty and integrity in the profession.

2. Representing a matter before a High Court and the Supreme Court: Key Difference

In terms of preparation of the brief, the efforts are same for a High Court as well as Supreme Court matter. The only difference is that in the High Court a counsel gets substantial time and indulgence to prepare and advance his arguments, whereas before the Hon'ble Supreme Court, one has to be more alert to answer the battery of questions which the Hon'ble Judges throw at you, even before you can open your brief, which is an exciting experience.
Only an alert counsel who has read his brief thoroughly and is fully conversant with the provisions of laws and the relevant judgments of the Supreme Court, can relish appearing before the Hon'ble Supreme Court. The disposal rate is much faster in the Hon'ble Supreme Court in comparison to the Hon'ble High Court.

Teaching: Is it for you?

Teaching is one of those professions which are considered to be noble. Preparing students to become the future leaders and change-makers of the world can be a peaceful yet stressful task.

Every teacher adopts a different teaching method with different set of students.

However, teaching is not just about imparting knowledge but gaining, too.

1. Standing out amongst others

I decided to teach at a law college for gaining knowledge and experience in oratory and also to brush up my knowledge on various laws. Hence, I was making it a point to change my teaching subject almost every year, solely with a view to keep myself abreast with various laws.
My Principal used to wonder that when other Professors insist on teaching the same subject, I was the only one who used to ask for a different subject every year as I had vested interest in learning various laws which ultimately did help me in my legal practice.

2. Importance of a higher degree

According to me L.L.M. or Ph.D. is not required for teaching, if one is well versed in your subject and confident in their approach towards the students. Fortunately, I have always been very hardworking to understand my subject well.
My constant reading helped me gain confidence and knowledge in all subjects I chose to teach. I share a very good rapport with my students and feel energized when teaching them and sharing my court experience with them

Work hard, avoid unnecessary temptations and follow your passion

Chasing money too soon should be avoided. Work so hard and create a name doing pro-bono work which will command respect from the Bar and the Bench and subsequently, the money shall chase the hardworking lawyer. There is no substitute for hard work.
Maintain integrity and dignity of the profession in all respects.

Pursuing the two career paths simultaneously. Learning from the learned!

It has been an exciting journey with so much to learn every step of the way. Law became a passion and a way of life for me as I have been completely involved in reading bare acts and judgments on diverse branches of law right from inception and till date and it gives me immense pleasure. I became a voracious reader, reading biographies of eminent judges, lawyers and jurists to emulate their great examples and to broaden my horizon of law.
I started my law practice appearing in criminal courts and the first matter which I argued before the Magistrate's court was a bail matter and I was extremely excited getting a favourable order for my client, which gave me motivation to work hard and do well in the profession. After doing some criminal matters initially, within a year's time I began taking up civil matters relating to disputes on various branches, such as disputes under Rent Act, Labour laws, Matrimonial disputes, disputes under Indian Contract Act, Specific Relief Act, Co-operative Society's Act, Writs before the Hon'ble High Court and also conducted full-fledged trials both in civil and criminal cases. Conducting diverse litigations gave me immense confidence.
I got myself enrolled with the Legal Aid Committee of the Sessions Court as well as the Bar Council of Maharashtra in my initial days and began doing a lot of pro-bono work to make my services available to the poor and needy, which helped me to gain substantial experience in different types of matters. On account of my pro-bono work and teaching in the Law College, I was privileged to be among the youngest lawyers to be invited by Bar Council of Maharashtra & Goa for delivering lectures to young lawyers and also the Judicial Academy, Uttan, Maharashtra for delivering lectures to trainee District Judges.
With the passage of time, I gained immense confidence that I can conduct any type of litigation in all branches of law. After 37 years in the profession, I have restricted my matters to mostly the Hon'ble High Court at Bombay and selected matters in the subordinate civil and criminal courts and occasionally before the Hon'ble Supreme Court and other High Courts in India for those clients who insist on my appearance for their matters. These days during the lockdown I have been appearing for matters online through video-conferencing before the Hon'ble High Court, Bombay , which is also an exciting experience according to me as lawyers should learn to adjust to all circumstances and equip themselves with the changing times.

In conclusion,

A road to success can be really long without an end. Success is not something you gain at the end of your journey rather it's the efforts that you put in and their product that count as your successful years of hard work and passion.

Become a litigator or a teacher or do both, what we all need to take from the people who have experienced this field, is that what matters is the happiness you derive from your work and the willingness to continue!

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