A 2003 graduate of the National Law Institute University (NLIU), Bhopal, Gaurav Chopra made history for his alma mater when he was designated as a Senior Advocate by the Punjab & Haryana High Court in 2021. .In this interview with Bar & Bench's Shagun Suryam, the senior counsel speaks about his experiences in law school, circumstances that shaped his practice and views on contemporary issues surrounding the legal profession. .Below is the video and edited excerpts..Shagun Suryam (SS): Where did your interest in the law stem from? Do you come from a family of lawyers or was there a different inspiration?.Gaurav Chopra (GC): Yes, I do. I am a second-generation lawyer. My father himself was a designated senior counsel. He was designated in the year 2001. So, I have that exposure to the legal profession. Right from the time I was in my ninth standard, I told my parents that I wanted to be a lawyer..SS: You are from the pre-CLAT era of law schools. How did your admission to NLIU, Bhopal happen?.GC: It happened by chance, to be very honest with you. In 1998, there was only the National Law School (NLS) Bangalore. I had taken the competitive examination for NLS after my plus two board examination. I secured AIR 80, but as luck would have it, I did not manage to get through. Thereafter, I applied to some graduate courses. But while that was underway, I came to know through a very dear friend of mine that there was something on similar lines as the NLS which was opening up in Bhopal. So, then I got a copy of the employment exchange paper and then I applied for it.The rest, as they say, is history. I appeared in the competitive exam and I was AIR 1..SS: How was your time at NLIU?.GC: It was fantastic! Perhaps the five best years of my life and very formative. Because when you got to a professional college and when you are staying away from your family, it teaches you so much. How to be independent, how to develop relationships, how to manage everything while you’re away from your family.I have very fond memories and very strong friendships which have lasted the duration of time, it's been almost twenty-five years now. I have absolutely no regrets..SS: There has been a lot of discourse recently about nepotism in the legal profession, particularly in litigation. As someone who comes from a family of lawyers, are there any unique challenges you faced that sometimes people may be oblivious to?.GC: Mine was a very strange case. While I am a second-generation lawyer, I did not get much time to spend with my father. My first day in court was on the July 1, 2003. My father, unfortunately, passed away on August 8. So, I never got that so-called advantage. The advantage was that I was still the son of a very well-reputed lawyer. So, yes, I inherited an office. But then there was the burden of expectation. That if you do well, it was because you’re somebody’s son and if you didn’t do well, you are a blot on your father etc.Nepotism is a very exaggerated concept. Ultimately, in this profession, it's your hard work, delivery in court and level of preparation that will determine whether you make it big or not. I believe it would be very unfair for anybody to not give credit to a person who despite belonging to a legal background does well. It has its own shares of ups and downs..SS: Why did you choose to set up your practice in Chandigarh? Many in the city prefer to start in Delhi or other metros..GC: The fact that I came back to Chandigarh and started practising was all because of my father. I had offers and I wanted to be in Delhi. The glamour of Delhi at my age, at 22, was a very big deal. My father was very encouraging, but he said with time, I’m also getting older so might as well come and join me, rest is up to you. I took that decision because that was the first time my father had ever asked me to do something, and little did I know that going forward, that perhaps would be the best decision I ever took because I at least got to spend one month with my father. Even in that one month, my father used to discuss so many things with me, share so many things with me and tell me so many things which I have not forgotten. Each and every thing my father used to share is still very very fresh in my mind. I was destined to be in Chandigarh..SS: Can you recount some of your initial years at the Bar for us?.GC: I had to take over the reins of the office after my father passed away. I did not have the occasion or the opportunity to actually work under anybody. So, the moment my father passed away, there was a propensity for clients to actually take back the brief because I was a newcomer and my father passed away as a designated counsel, so it was tough. I used to spend countless sleepless nights because I had to run everything on my own. I learnt from seeing the stalwarts in my profession argue in court, and was amazed at the level of preparation they had..SS: Was it a struggle to start on your own from the very beginning? Most people tend to learn and take some time to get settled into the profession..GC: Absolutely. And those were the days way back in 2003 when we didn't have the advantage of having all the journals on the computer. There was no software, nothing. Personally, I was left all by myself to manage the entire set of cases. So, I used to spend time at night doing my research on all the cases myself, which is why my sleep pattern was the biggest casualty. Now I look back at those times very fondly. Between 22 to 30 is basically when you get time to settle into the profession, you learn, and there is not too much stress or burden of expectation. With me, the burden of expectation was there, not from the world around me, but from the expectation that I had from my own self. Now, when I look back...it was worth the journey. I would not trade it for anything else..SS: How did the Senior designation happen?.GC: The designation happened in May 2021, after I applied. The last designation in our High Court took place in the year 2014. After that, because of the proceedings in the matter of Indira Jaising’s case, things got deferred and once the judgment of the Supreme Court came laying down the criteria, then the rules had to be framed by my High Court. Then in 2019, the High Court sought applications for senior designations and while that process was underway, we had COVID-19 and things got stuck there. Then, ultimately in 2021, the permanent committee submitted its recommendations, we had the interview and then the Full Court decided the way it did..SS: In 2021, there was a big controversy surrounding designations. Do you think the current system of conferring the gown needs further improvement?.GC: Perhaps it will not be right for me to pass a judgment on whether it requires any modifications or not. I believe, to a very large extent, by virtue of the fact that the Indira Jaising judgment has now come, it has become objective insofar as the assessment is concerned because of that 100-point table. That being said, one thing is very sure and very clear. You are conferred a designation; it is not your right to be designated. The judges of the Court have seen you perform and how prepared you are etc.But, yes, to some extent, the criteria has been objectified a lot because of the judgment. Going forward, perhaps it might be made more objective, I don’t know. But I believe the Full Court should always have the final say so far as conferring the gown, that’s my take on it. I have been reading about various litigation that have now reached the Supreme Court regarding clarification etc. Well, everybody is entitled to their own view, but I believe once the Permanent Committee awards you marks and perhaps prescribes a cut-off criteria for recommending the names of people that they have shortlisted for designation, the final decision should always rest with the judges, because they are the best adjudicators of your performance in court. It is not the number of years you spend at the bar, but various attributes that they personally believe..SS: You were the first graduate from an NLU, aside from NLSIU, to be designated as a Senior. How does that feel?.GC: Frankly, I did not know about it. When I got designated, there were these forums - I am not a part of those forums - where my classmates, batchmates, juniors from college started sending me congratulatory messages on WhatsApp. And when they started sharing it on those forums, I was like, 'Okay...I’m the first!' These are all statistics. I would not call it a burden, it's a responsibility, one in my own estimation, I have been shouldering since the time I joined the profession. My own expectations from myself are the benchmark which I always compare and then the results follow..SS: What are your thoughts on the new crop of young law graduates? How do you think they differ from more senior lawyers such as yourself?.GC: Well, first of all, they have access to technology! That, to a very large extent, blunts the advantage that a senior will have. A senior, with the passage of time and his experience, would know which point to impress upon the court, what is the strongest point in the case and what you have to research on. But, I think the greatest thing is the technology advantage. I think it is also a very big disadvantage. Way back in the day, when we did not have the advantage of technology, we used to have journals which used to come every week. I used to pick up those journals and update myself on whatever the law. I used to prepare a register, and I used to take down notes so whenever there is a case which involves a similar kind of pattern and you are looking for a ratio, you just have the advantage of taking out your register and just seeing that citation and taking it out. It saves a lot of time. Today, that does not happen for the simple reason that you just go on the software, put in a keyword and get the judgment. Second, the fun of reading a judgment from the book is gone. I am slightly old-fashioned that way! You do not get the same fun from reading a judgment from a print out which we now prepare compilations on. I believe that compared to the exposure that we had, for the people who are joining the profession today, the horizon has widened so much..SS: What do you think about their approach to the profession? Do you think it is different or similar?.GC: No, there I see a huge disconnect. It is a very tough profession and I will not be critical of what they are doing. A lot of people do not have the luxury of time, you have to fend for yourself, you have to fend for your family, you have to earn etc. This profession, at least for the first five years, is not at all financially rewarding. In fact, you have to do a lot of hard work, you have to be very patient. It's easier said than done. So, what I see is that lawyers’ propensity to actually do criminal work which involves one to maximum three hearings in a bail matter is far more. The disinclination towards the civil side of the profession, that is for all to see. Neither are they interested in doing civil work nor do they want to do civil work because it is very technical, it involves a lot of reading. There is an art in doing criminal cases. But at least for bails and all, it does not involve the same kind of hard work, the same kind of preparation as a civil revision or a regular second appeal etc. would involve. That is what I think is the biggest problem with youngsters. And the profession is not going to grow if we do that, because criminal law, so far as bail jurisprudence is concerned, is very judge-centric. Civil, on the other hand, if you are prepared, if you make out a point and if you have law to support you, then you kind of bind the judge. Criminal is very judge-centric, I believe..SS: On a parting note, any advice or tips for young lawyers?.GC: There are no shortcuts in this profession, the one thing that you have is your hard work, your diligence and your integrity. They are non-negotiable. Prepare well, be polite in court, be firm in court when you have to be. Do not be rude and do not adopt any shortcuts. It is a noble, wonderful profession. It is a profession where God has given you the opportunity to represent someone who has ultimately lost all hope and his only hope is now the judiciary. Just imagine the plight of the person who has come to you and treat the case as if it is your personal case till the time you argue it. After that, you need to learn to be detached, but while you are pursuing that case, you need to be attached to that case because that is the only way you will be able to deliver the goods. Do justice to yourself, do justice to the profession that you are a part of, do justice to the client who has reposed faith in you. You play a very important role in the dispensation of justice. One advice to youngsters is that judges have a very tough job, so the best way we can actually ensure that they do what they are there for is by being very well prepared with our cases to render wonderful assistance to the court. That is my advice to youngsters and I wish them well in this profession.