Siddharth Batra is an Advocate on Record with the Supreme Court of India and Managing Partner of Satram Dass B, & Co. He has over 17 years of experience in the legal sector specifically in the area of commercial litigation, contract drafting and negotiations and has helped several Indian and French organisations devise and negotiate successful legal strategies with respect to some very complex corporate contracts. He is a member of the Governing Council of the Indo-French Chamber of Commerce. In addition to the Supreme Court of India, he practices in various High Courts, District Courts and other forums including arbitral tribunals.
Advocate Batra has also handled over 1,000 cases as Retainer to Haryana Urban Development Authority. Furthermore, SCC Online has reported more than 170 cases in which he made representation as a lawyer.
In this edited interview to Bar and Bench, Advocate Batra talks about his journey as a lawyer, his hobbies, ways to crack the Advocate on Record exam, skill-sets required of a good litigator, ways in which one can establish a law firm, and what graduating students should aim for in the global pandemic.
Please introduce yourself and the legal journey that you have so far covered?
My legal career began when I was appointed Assistant Advocate General in the year 2005. As Assistant Advocate General, I handled civil and criminal matters that included arbitration, land acquisition, and public interest litigation. I resigned from the office of the Advocate General in 2008, after which I started my own independent law practice. I was then appointed as Retainer to Haryana Urban Development Authority to represent it before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. In 2011, when I became the Additional Advocate General, my practice became more varied and complex. Later in 2014, I decided to shift to Delhi where I mostly handled commercial matters and started practicing in the Supreme Court of India. Thereafter, I appeared for the Advocate on Record (AOR) exam and successfully cleared it.
All these events led me to establish Satram Dass B. & Co, which is a boutique law firm, in New Delhi, focusing primarily on civil litigation. Since the inception of the firm, I have appeared before different legal forums all over India, including various consumer courts to the Supreme Court of India. Recently, I was involved in an arbitration matter as a lead counsel, whose final arguments spanned over 3 days and claims of both the parties exceeded over INR 800 crores.
What did you do to build up your legal practice?
In legal practice, I believe perseverance pays off. I was lucky to join the office of the Advocate General at an early stage of my career. There are no two ways of building your legal practice. Hard work and honesty towards your brief is what will stand you in good stead and help you create a good reputation as a lawyer. I made sure that even if I lose a case, I do not lose the confidence of the client. It is only by good service that you can build your practice.
Separately, I always charged a reasonable fee from my clients, gave them a realistic picture of the success rate of their case and always tried to do my best in every matter irrespective of the fee that I was paid.
How did you prepare for the AOR exam?
I was told by a few colleagues that you can clear the AOR exam after studying for a week or two which I think is incorrect. For two months I used to leave my office by lunch time to prepare for the exam and thoroughly study the syllabus. I took the AOR lectures very seriously and listened to the audio recording lectures of Late Sh P.P.Rao on leading cases many times, including during my regular walks at the park. In short, I never took the exams lightly. Furthermore, as the AOR exam is hand written and writing pleadings by hand could be a tedious process, examinees will do well to practice writing.
What three skills are required to become a good litigator?
There is so much to read in our profession. You must first, cultivate a habit to read. Second, be honest to your brief and true to yourself. With every new case, a lawyer matures. Enjoy the rigour and the learning curve of law practice. Third, never go unprepared even if you have to take an adjournment. Let the judge know that you know about the matter and make no excuses. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud recently made an observation, and I quote, “Judges appreciate only those lawyers who come to the court knowing their briefs, prepared on the facts and the law and who argue well.” It is your foremost duty as a good litigator to assist the court.
Besides law, what other interests and hobbies do you pursue?
I love keeping myself busy with work and when I manage to squeeze in some free time, I like to spend time with my family, listen to music, play tennis or cycling. I am also passionate about writing articles, mentoring young lawyers, and connecting with other people. The pandemic has helped me in doing activities that I could not do due to lack of time such as learning a language and reading extensively. But then again, with the things easing off, the pressure at work does not allow me to have a lot of free time.
What tips do you have for the young law graduates entering the profession in the post COVID era?
I can confidently say that law is a promising career. Hard work, patience and perseverance will bring results. However, one must wait for the right opportunity and time. It does not matter whether the case is big or small. We, as lawyers, have a responsibility to take up cases pro bono and help those who might not have the resources and means to approach the courts for justice.
First step, is to do as much drafting as you can and sharpen your skills gradually. A young lawyer with good drafting skills is an asset to any senior. I would advise young members of the legal fraternity to follow their passion, be compassionate, understand their clients, and practice taking up moral responsibilities and building their character. Young lawyers must learn to believe that while he may lose a case, he should never lose the confidence of the court and client.
This interview was conducted by Campus Ambassador, Shubham Gupta.