In conversation with Anmol Anand, topper of the 2022 AoR exam

Anand shares his strategy while preparing for the AoR exam at the eleventh hour and the many non-negotiable prerequisites to do well in one of the most competitive exams.
Anmol Anand
Anmol Anand

Advocate Anmol Anand recently topped the Advocate-on-Record (AoR) Examination, 2022.

Anand is a 2014 graduate of ILS Law College, Pune and holds an LL.M. in Taxation Law from Georgetown University Law Centre, Washington DC.

In this interview with Bar & Bench's Jelsyna Chacko, Anand shares his strategy while preparing for the AoR exam at the eleventh hour and the many non-negotiables in terms of time management, rigorous pen and paper writing practice and other prerequisites necessary to do well in one of the most competitive exams.

When did you plan to write the AoR exam?

I decided to take the exam quite late actually. I think around the last week of November last year. The workload was such that I had to manage my time judiciously. I didn’t have much time to spare for anything apart from work and strategic studying. I decided to take the exam only when I figured that I can do this in the next couple of weeks. The exam was scheduled from December 19-22, 2022.

How did you go about preparing for the exam in such a short time?

I had help. One of my friends from college had taken the exam a year before and he himself had a stellar performance. He is the one who guided me on how to take the exam. The most important part of the exam is time management. He helped me with the notes he referred to as well - some were prepared by him, some were collected from others. That was the beginning point for my exam preparation.

Could you share tips that you received from your friend while preparing for the exam?

Though it was daunting at first, the guidance that I got and the notes that I had made me believe that if sufficient time is devoted, I can do well. Especially because these subjects that you are tested on are subjects that are ingrained in you as a litigating lawyer. 

For example, Practice and Procedure, Drafting, Advocacy and Professional Ethics, and Leading Cases. Earlier, there were fewer judgments, but the syllabus now has 64 leading judgments that you have to read for the Leading Cases paper. These subjects that you are tested on must and should be ingrained in you if you have been litigating for more than five years.

My theory and my application, as far as the exam subjects were concerned, was to limit myself in terms of the syllabus. I had to burn the midnight oil, stay up late and carry out my other assignments as well. I think I took the exam because I liked these four subjects. Once I started reading and writing for the exam, I realized this is a really good exam to take. At this point, when people are ready to take this exam, I believe they are mature enough to understand these concepts, because in law school, these concepts become really difficult to articulate.

How difficult was the exam last year? Was there a change in pattern?

This was my first attempt. I didn’t know what to do and how to go about it, so I had to look at the previous papers. I’ll give you an example of the Leading Cases exam, where if you have 10 questions, only 5 are supposed to be answered. I was told that that is what will happen this year as well, including the other papers. Everything will remain the same. In the lectures that we had, which were arranged by the AoR Examination Committee, we were given certain hints as to what to expect from the examination, what not to expect from the examination.

My experience of the actual examination was something very different. While they said that there will be options, the options were curtailed. You had about 6 questions out of which you had to do 3. At times, there were no options, so you were mandatorily required to answer all questions. Having said that, if you have studied the material and you had actually put an effort to understand the material, I don’t think it is difficult to answer any question whether there is a choice or not.  

I felt that the Practice and Procedure paper this time was relatively difficult compared to the previous exam. The Drafting paper was particularly tricky, since we were expecting that we would have instructions as to how to draft. In the papers of the preceding years, the Drafting paper had instructions. Let’s say you need to draft an SLP, they tell you whether you need to draft the list of dates, synopsis, affidavits along with the SLP or whether you are not required to do that at all. This year, to everybody’s shock and surprise, they did not provide those instructions. At that point, the way I took the exam at that moment was to stick to the main draft, which is drafting the SLP. I did not pay any attention to drafting anything else because you don’t want to miss any of the other questions. We had 8 drafts to make within the 3 hours we were allotted - 5 short drafts and 3 long drafts. So, time management within the exam is very important. That call had to be taken and I think I came up on the right end of it.

How did you go about juggling work at AZB while studying?

This is probably one of those rare examples where somebody has decided to take the exam very late and this kind of result has come out. To my mind, I believe it wasn’t that difficult to really manage time. I had to complete my work. I did take a couple of days off as well because there was no assignment that required my attention immediately. I have a very good team here at AZB who step up at any point of time to fill in the void. Thankfully, nothing of that sort was required because everything was managed perfectly well. Yes, there were instances of frustration and lack of sleep and feeling down on energy. But that comes with any kind of exam.

Most of my time, after my work hours, was devoted towards writing, using a pen and paper, the traditional way. I ended up making about 200-300 pages of notes. That needs to be done. You need to sit down, have that patience, you need to take notes and prepare your answers because that’s how you’re expected to answer in the papers.

Is there any other advice that you have for future exam takers?

Don’t just take the exam to clear it. The idea should be that you enjoy the subjects. One of the things that I have been talking about to a lot of aspirants is that if you go through the 64 judgments they have provided -these judgments range from the concepts like right to equality, Kesavananda Bharati and the Basic Structure to arbitration and all the latest developments in law. In law schools, you read these only because you have to take the exam. For this exam, if you do get time, at least try to attempt to read these, at least half of the lot, which will not only provide you enough backing for what you need to write in the exam, but will also go a long way in your career as a lawyer.

You need to develop really good writing skills. Your analysis should be correct and to the point when you write the answer.     

How does it feel to have topped the exam?

I wasn’t even expecting that I would end up topping the exam. At this moment, after having topped the exam, I don’t see there being any difference between somebody who has cleared it and somebody who has topped it. The real difference would be what we can make of this opportunity. Topping is not that relevant in this exam. 

How does becoming an Advocate-on-Record change a lawyer’s career?

The answer to this question would vary if you speak to different kinds of lawyers who come from different kinds of practices. The thought process that I had before I took the exam was that being in a very specialized field that I am in, which is International Tax litigation, there are hardly enough lawyers to begin with and there are hardly any lawyers who would be an AoR within this lot. I am the one who is handling a client’s matter to the lower authorities, to the tribunals, to the High Courts. Now I can provide quality service of a litigator before the Supreme Court as well. Plus, this is an opportunity to diversify myself into other fields of law. For a person who is a specialized lawyer, it is very difficult to diversify themselves unless they have something like this.

You have completed your LLM abroad. Do you think that gave you an edge of any sort?

Doing an LL.M. is a personal certification and achievement. It is also important where you do your LL.M. from and how rigorous your course is. One of the aspects that I felt was important after I completed my LL.M. was the kind of confidence that I came back with because of the number of hours and effort that you have to put in while completing your LL.M. from a foreign college like Georgetown University. Your drafting, writing and speaking skills improve enormously.

Working in a Tier 1 law firm also requires you to ace every aspect of your skill that you possess as a lawyer. The skills that an LL.M. equips you with as far as drafting, writing, speaking and logical analysis are concerned helps you while writing the AoR exam. While writing the exam, you need to understand that the people who are judging and marking you in the exam are very senior lawyers who expect you to be to the point and that is where skills come in handy.

Do you think the background of a lawyer, in terms of the work experience they have, really matter before attempting the AoR exam?

No. I don’t think the brand or background or the firm or the office that you come from has any relevance. At the end of it, you really have to manage your time.

What does being an Advocate-on-Record really mean? It means that you are the one who is the face of the matter before the Supreme Court. That comes with a sense of responsibility. You need to understand that you need to have that kind of knowledge and you need to be on your toes all the time with respect to the constitutional aspects of any particular issue and the legal background of an issue. You need to work really hard and put in your efforts. It is then that you can carry out your AoR practice successfully. Our judiciary and judicial system is also reflective of the Bar, so your knowledge has to be up to the mark. It doesn’t matter where you come from.

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