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After working in top tier firms, Shri Venkatesh set up SKV Law Offices in 2013. SKV’s practice areas range from Arbitration, Consumer Protection, Disputes, Energy, Environment, Insurance, Projects and advisory in all aspects of law.
Apart from representing national conglomerates such as the Adani Group, Jindal Power Limited, Tata Power Company Limited, Reliance Power Limited, Shri also represents the Central Government as a Standing Counsel before the Supreme Court of India.
In this interview conducted by our Campus Ambassador Rahul Kumar, Shri discusses his professional journey, the use of technology by Indian lawyers and judges, and a whole lot more.
It is a pleasure having you here. Can you tell us a little about how long you’ve been in practice and what it takes to not just survive, but also be successful in the legal profession?
Thank you for giving me this platform to share my knowledge and expertise. I’ve been in practice a little over 12 years.
As we all know this is a profession that is extremely competitive and there is a lot at stake. A lot of hard work and perseverance is needed right form the inception of your practice. My mantra has always been “Work is worship” and there is no short cut to hard work. Of course, to make it successful you have to not just know the law, but know the matter like the back of your hand.
It’s all about understanding the specific details of each and every case you work on and then using the law within those details to your advantage. This is something I have always focused on since the beginning of my practice-- studying and understanding the brief extremely clearly.
To survive and continue growing, there is no way around hard work. The key is to put your head down and focus on what is in front of you each and every day. Just as each act of hard work leads to fruition, you will be able to see your hard work come to fruition 3-4 years. It’s a slow ascending slope which can be made steady through focus and hard work.
With video conferencing being the new norm for court hearings, how do you think the pandemic has affected the court procedure, and the arguments presented by lawyers?
The current climate of the pandemic has of course changed the course of how we used to present our arguments. Now it is through video conferencing which has its pros and cons. One of course feels the lack of court ambience and the adrenaline felt when one is in a courtroom presenting the case.
As a litigator, you gauge the body language of the judge and answer questions in accordance to that – something which has definitely been subdued during video hearings. In some institutions where the infrastructure is weak, they have problems with the network bandwidth and distortions within the argument which hinders your presentation.
Both sides must be technologically savvy for a smooth and successful hearing.
The biggest pro would, of course, be that it is safer and no one is at risk while the work is still continuing. As a counsel the scope of your approach has been increased drastically. That is to say that you can now appear for cases in any forum pan India from the comfort of your office which I view as a boon for young lawyrs, since a lot of time is saved through the process of not having to travel.
In a courtroom, you are unable to have an interpersonal interaction with the judges due to all the distractions that are a part of the physical court. But, through video hearings you have more scope of making a mark and leaving an impression on the judge who is completely focused on your argument. Being able to use technology to its optimum use and being able to show the judges the citations and references to page numbers by sharing it on the screen has had a tremendous impact.
In some Tribunals, where I appear regularly, they have started recording the arguments with the page numbers referred to within the arguments, which helps the entire system deliver the judgements in terms of arguments more efficiently which was lacking in a physical court hearing.
Overall, it has helped us present our case better and broadened our horizons. However, the feeling of being in a physical courtroom is altogether a different rush.
As a managing partner, how have you been able to manage and run your team during this pandemic? Can you share some of the hurdles you faced and the creative ways you dealt with this unprecedented time?
When the pandemic first started, it was all about trying to understand what the pandemic was and keeping each other safe while staying calm. The month of March and April were extremely challenging with the introduction of work-from-home, something which is quite disruptive in the field of law.
Of course, there are other responsibilities we all have and it took some time to understand the flow of the work environment. We had to set down time limits and specific timelines to discuss each matter.
Since everyone was at home, there were a lot of distractions which led to a decline in the productivity levels. We’re a small and young firm and working from home for a prolonged period of time was not feasible. We opened our office on May, with limited capacity, in accordance with the rules of the Delhi Government and I was the first one to start coming to office.
It was necessary for my clients to realise that we were back to work and all the work that had to be done would be done in the same fashion as if the lockdown never happened.
Our biggest challenge was one of the colleagues contracting the virus which led to panic within the organisation. Fortunately, as a team, we were able to discuss it internally and got tested as soon as possible with no positive results. We had to shut down the office for a few days again, but got right back into it.
Something which had to be realised was that the pandemic is not going away anytime soon and we’re going to have to learn how to live around it. I’m thankful for my team members for understanding and dealing with the situation in a mature manner. None of them put their hands up or said they would be unable to come, I received cooperation from them and am very fortunate to have such a team.
Overall, it was a challenge but we’ve been able to work around it and find our feet again successfully.
With the shift from traditional energy sources to renewable energy sources, what kind of changes do you think are on the horizon with respect to energy law?
Presently, the Government of India is extremely focused on promoting renewable energy which is extremely necessary for the greater good of the planet.
There is a huge impetus currently on renewable energy and the government is doing what it can to promote it.
Though renewable energy has brought down costs significantly but, it cannot be viewed as a replacement of conventional energy because it is not generated round the clock.
According to me, the future lies the intermediate hybrid technologies that are being introduced which should be able to supply power as a base flow generating plant like a Thermal Power Plant.
I expect the change in integrated hybrid technology, that are being promoted by companies as well now, to be the future since that would essentially be able to supply power round the clock like solar power through storage, and wind and hybrid through peak load looks like the future in my opinion.
It’s a great initiative taken by the government and I’m sure the renewable sector is going to thrive in times to come.
What do you think is the impact of Atma Nirbhar Bharat (and its related incentives) on the MSMEs and large corporate energy firms?
According to me the Atma Nirbhar Bharat package, if implemented in the right fashion, will be a big boon for the Indian economy. Though the Indian economy has been in a comfortable position to set up manufacturing units and carry out businesses but, India has been dependent upon imports extensively and quite a lot of it comes from China.
With the current political climate between Indian and China, and the ongoing pandemic, the government of India recognises the importance of having integrated manufacturing units within the country itself, not to dissuade the imports but to have a self-sustaining infrastructure where the market as well as the demand that must be met, is within the country.
Systemic changes are required in terms of approval and setting up of manufacturing units, especially with respect to economic zones and highways.
The benefit of this shall be reaped long term when industries come to India, and the country is able to cater to its own demand. Since we are gunning towards being the largest populated country in the world, it leads to a safe assumption that we also have the largest demand in the world.
This demand needs to be tapped into and met from within India itself which will be one of the biggest achievements of this Government because it’ll help in the creation of employment, job-opportunities and increase to GDP to unparalleled numbers. Provided certain systemic changes in each specific sector are implemented, this new initiative stands to be beneficial for large corporates as well as MSMEs.
What advice would you give to aspiring lawyers looking for jobs in the current climate and how to make it big in this profession?
I would like to speak honestly and be frank about the current climate with my younger colleagues. It is challenging and can be depressing at times, but one need not get bogged down with this thought because every situation gives rise to a newer and perhaps, bigger opportunity.
The climate keeps changing especially in such a fast-paced profession, so just as there are bad times there are good times too.
If you focus on what is in front of you and keep your head in your work you are surely to succeed. The tip that I would give to everyone is to not focus on things that are beyond your control, rather steer your energy to prowess towards things that are within your control.
The current climate has, of course, made job offers sparse. However, I did come across an interesting thing quite recently which I even spoke about in a Webinar. Kevin O’Leary, a successful and famous American entrepreneur and a shark on the show called Shark Tank.
He suggested on his YouTube channel on how to tackle the low rate of job opportunities by offering to work free for a month in your CV which makes it stand out from what the others are willing to offer.
Within that month you get an opportunity to prove yourself and your caliber, apart from displaying extreme confidence within your work. I would definitely give someone an opportunity to prove themselves and I appreciate the confidence it takes to do so.
During unusual times it is necessary to come up with creative solutions, no matter how far they are from the norm. Things will get better and we will see the economy bounce back along with the country.
If you’re a fresh graduate, do not lose heart. This time can be utilized to read up on current events and revise your law. Do not lose hope, stay focused and persevere, things will hopefully get better soon.