Being a first-generation lawyer is not as bad as is made out: Abhinav Shrivastava, GSL Chambers

Abhinav Shrivastava is the co-founder and Partner at GSL Chambers
Abhinav Shrivastava
Abhinav Shrivastava

Abhinav Shrivastava is the co-founder and Partner at GSL Chambers. He is a qualified Advocate on Record, and has spent more than eleven years in commercial litigation, and arbitration. In this interview conducted by our Campus Ambassador Ankit Pal, Abhinav shares his experiences as a first-generation lawyer, the COVID pandemic's effects on the legal industry, and a whole lot more.

(Edited excerpts)

How does it feel to be a first-generation lawyer in dispute resolution? Is it as difficult as it is made out?

It does feel like a struggle in the initial years and one feels that a little push would help. But that is the beauty of Litigation and Disputes – it is completely driven by the amount of hard work you put in, your tenacity and your capabilities. You realise very quickly that everyone has a different path and there is plenty of scope to make your own mark.

I hadn’t imagined that I would end up doing matters like the National Anthem matter, Rajghat Samadhi matter, Wrong Foot Surgery matter (which led to the drafting of Guidelines for punishment of Delinquent Doctors) or the challenge to the winding up of 6 schemes of Franklin Templeton Mutual Funds to name a few.

If as a first-generation lawyer I have been doing these cases, I would say that being first-generation is not as bad as it is made out to be!

One has to realise that this is a profession that will become your whole life, and so a couple of years here and there would not matter when you look at the big picture.

What changes have you observed in the Dispute resolution sector because of COVID-19? How have you been affected by the current challenging situation with Coronavirus?

In college I read this book , “Who moved my cheese” by Dr. Spencer Johnson. That book has been my motto ever since. ‘Change is the only constant’ and people who are ready for it are the ones who will not get bogged down by it.

Undoubtedly, COVID-19 has bought huge changes in the way we work, we have virtual courts, e-filings have become a reality, we need to learn to use pdf editors. But that is what makes it exciting. Being out of the comfort zone gives the opportunity of growth, for example we are in the process of moving into a bigger office.

I would not deny that initially we were a little lost, and work had completely stopped. But now things have changed. We took stock of things, and thanks to a wonderful team we started writing articles (something we were not able to do during normal times), brushed up on latest developments in areas of law that are often not touched upon.

This gave us the unique opportunity to go back to college and become students. We were having internal presentations and weekly discussions over virtual platforms.

What is most exciting for me is that the current COVID situation has opened a wonderful opportunity to appear in different courts on the same day! We have been appearing on a day-to-day basis before the Karnataka High Court in the afternoon sessions for the Franklin Templeton Matter, while also attending to other matters in Delhi before the Supreme Court or Delhi High Court or National Commission or NGT.

It’s almost like being in two places at once! And not having to spend time on travel means more efficiency in work management. I would not deny that there are downsides too, take for example, technical glitches which create issues. But these are bound to happen when you start something new. In time, I believe, everyone will benefit more and more from increased use of technology for dispute resolution.

How does the future look for lawyers working in Disputes post COVID-19?

There is a lot of debate over the resumption of physical hearing these days. Rightly so, as a lot of people in the lawyers’ community have been affected by closure of physical hearings. We also need to be mindful that it’s not just the lawyers, all the people connected with the legal community such as the photocopier, the clerical staff, the staff at the canteens have been affected too – their livelihood has taken a big hit.

Speaking only for the lawyers working in disputes, I believe they would be back on their feet not long after COVID-19 if they have not already. The nature of disputes has changed since I joined the profession. A lot of disputes are getting settled out of court or through arbitration or mediations as litigants do not want to burden themselves with the high cost of litigation.

However, none of this is attributable to covid-19 as such. COVID-19 might have changed the way we function, though use of technology has increased from e-filing to hearing in virtual courts and having to argue while sitting at your desk. But as I said the legal community will adapt to the new way of working.

What drives you and keeps you going?

The thrill of arguing before court and to be thinking on your feet. Every case is new - never has it happened that there were two cases where the same questions were asked by the court. There is always something that is different.

What career advice would you give law students looking to make a career in dispute resolution?

Resilience is very important. Also, hard-work and focus, you have to always believe that there is scope for learning something new. This is undoubtedly a harder path to take, as financially it may not be as lucrative as other opportunities which one can choose after graduation.

But if you can weather the initial phase of 5-7 years, there is nothing to limit your ambitions!

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