- Apprentice Lawyer
To be a first-generation lawyer is an adventure in itself: Adv. Abhinav Sood, P&H High Court
Abhinav Sood is enrolled as an advocate with the Bar Council of Punjab and Haryana. He completed his LL.B from Department of Laws, Punjab University and worked in Delhi on various international Arbitrations under the able guidance of Justice A. S Anand (Former Chief Justice of India) before starting his practice at the Punjab & Haryana High Court at Chandigarh. Sood was earlier a counsel for Union of India and is presently a Govt pleader for UT, Chandigarh.
In this interview conducted by our Campus Ambassador Shubham Gupta, Sood offers his thoughts on being a first-generation lawyer, practicing in a non-metro, and a lot more.
What are some of the things required for a first-generation lawyer to establish his or her name? Is it important to have a God Father for someone to establish his/her name in the Bar?
It is referred to as “the practice of law” because you are always practicing to get better and never stop learning. This profession demands ‘Perservance’ ‘Persistence’ and ‘Patience from everyone.
Many lawyers assume and lose hope over the fact that being a first generation lawyer is quite an up-hill battle and sometimes in the beginning they lose their way while trying to see their future.
The age-old beliefs do not hold much essence in the present day context when young lawyers are increasingly making their presence felt everywhere, especially in the new emerging areas of law such as international taxation, mergers and acquisitions, finance, energy, infrastructure, information technology laws and intellectual property.
So, the question of being a first generation lawyer is in the mindset. To be a first-generation lawyer is an adventure in itself.
Having a god father in the profession does not give one surety of making it big in the legal profession as the nature of the profession in itself is such that one’s individual capabilities are constantly being seen and monitored.
Most of the renowned & successful lawyers of the Country did not come from a legal background or had a god father.
Has your litigation experience been any different from practicing litigation in the metro cities?
It has been an absolute delight working at the Hon’ble Punjab & Haryana High Court, the court best known for its landmark judgments and legal minds.
I have got the opportunity to work on a very wide and diverse array of work considering the fact that the work here caters to varied clientage from two States (Punjab and Haryana) and the Union Territory of Chandigarh.
My senior colleagues have been very supportive, inspiring and had given me the opportunity to display and hone my skills.
The work opportunities here are similar to any other metro. The only difference which I can point out is that all the major MNCs are headquartered in metro cities, so the opportunity to work for international client is more in metro cities. Also, the Arbitration culture will take some more time to come into its full bloom as the same is still not a preferred first option for many litigants here.
What changes have you observed in the Dispute resolution sector because of COVID-19? How have you been affected by the current situation?
Online mediation has enabled the mediator and the parties to assemble together, each on their computer screens perhaps hundreds of miles away. When separate meetings are required, the mediator can, at the click of a button, move the other party and its lawyer to another virtual room.
The great advantage of online mediation is that it is convenient, cost-effective and an efficient use of time. Parties do not have to bear costs, do not have to travel, do not have to wait long hours, and do not have to undergo adjournments and multiple visits to the mediation centre.
Much can be done by using this medium to get faster results.
What is missing in this process is the immediacy, directness and complete contact that is possible only in face-to-face meetings. Confidentiality can also be compromised since hearings could be recorded. On the other hand online communication has started to exclude the underprivileged, who cannot afford access to Internet or do not have the capacity or assistance to use it.
Limited virtual hearing and non-functioning of routine courts has lead to lesser revenue and the burden of having to pay the Cost’s like rent, associates & overheads still remain constant. Though now work is getting back on track with almost all urgent cases being taken up but with every passing day, we still look forward to the day when physical courts will resume and ordinary & regular admitted matters shall also be taken up.
How has your experience been of virtual hearings?
We have had to learn to adapt to virtual hearings as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been a case of “the show must go on” with limited proceedings continuing despite the pandemic.
Though it was challenging in the beginning but with the efficacious steps taken by the Supreme Court/ High Court by issuing guidelines & the Bar Council/Associations forming committees and releasing statement of procedures for the proper functioning of the courts everyone has adapted to it and Virtual hearing has become the new way of litigation for now.
Nonetheless, one cannot deny the fact that more technical and procedural aspects of proceedings cannot be replaced by conducting e-hearings. I would admit to the fact that these uncertain times have evidently made us more flexible but certain aspects of the legal profession cannot be replaced with substitution of technology, at least till date.
The biggest advantage I see is that we are able to present our cases from anywhere and it saves time, travel and cost.
How do you think the concept of e-courts will evolve post COVID?
I think that e-hearings will continue to coexist with physical hearings in a regulated manner even after the pandemic is over. We have to remember that the recourse to online hearings was taken as an option and cannot be an absolute substitute to the physical hearings.
As I have mentioned before, virtual hearings have their own set of obstacles and demands. However, if we can iron out such obstacles beforehand, a huge chunk of cases can be dealt virtually and in a more effective fashion.
One must remember that the revolution that is the virtual court system is because the outbreak of COVID-19 & not a preplanned execution; hence the courts are treating virtual court as an option not as absolute.
How does the future look for lawyers working in Dispute Resolution post COVID?
In the coming days the cases emanating due to Covid-19 breakout will further increase and the horizon of Dispute resolution will widen in addition to the existing disputes as many new cases such as retrenchments, closures of business units, disruptions in supply chains, non-performance of contracts, calling off projects, implementation delays which will add to the existing massive pendency of cases.
The future of alternative dispute settlement mechanisms like arbitration, conciliation and mediation will see a significant increase as it would present itself as an accessible solution with a time-savvy mechanism.
Appointment of lawyers who are professionally trained in the field of Arbitration and Conciliation will lead to opening up of new avenues and likewise younger professionals will be encouraged into exploring this arena of law.
Arbitrators with requisite experience or expertise in the subject will also be motivated to establish platforms for lawyers to settle cases in respect of various categories likes of which include the disputes pertaining to civil, taxation, consumer, services, etc which would help facilitate easier and quicker decision-making.
The future landscape of the Arbitration, Conciliation and Mediation looks promising as the cases can be conducted effectively through virtual means, presenting itself as a cost-savvy mechanism for the large businesses in the future far ahead.
How important it is for law students interested in litigation to first intern in district courts and then work in High Court / Supreme Court?
Lower courts form an integral part of the Indian Judicial System and it is necessary to acquaint one with cases coming from the grass root level where one can witness how the foundation of a case is built.
Even the root of High Court cases are in the State’s district courts, leaving aside the cases on the original side and inherent jurisdiction.
Every law student, now, gets time to do multiple internships every year, which has therefore increased their work experience and learning opportunities manifold. Since, the number of internship opportunities has increased, it is recommended that one should intern in the lower courts first and then move on to higher courts in the later years of their law school life.
What one should keep in mind is that when a case is decided by the higher courts any non compliance of an indispensable procedural requirement at the lower court can make or break the case which will only be apparent to a lawyer who has understood such nitty-gritty of the profession.
So an intern/ law graduate’s best bet who is trying to make it into litigation or any other associated field is to take your time learning procedures and then keep on building that knowledge over the course of time.
As a parting message to the young and bright I would only say that, d
on’t think it was easier, wish that you were better and then be better.