What it takes to crack the notoriously difficult Supreme Court AOR exam

Varun Chirumamilla

All those intent on becoming an Advocate on Record (AoR) at India’s Supreme Court have to go through a notoriously difficult process of evaluation. How difficult? Well, less than one in five who took the exam in 2017 cleared it.

We spoke to Dhanajaya Mishra, Sumeer Sodhi and Neha Malik, who aced the 2017 AoR exam, and can now proudly file cases in their own name at the Supreme Court.

We asked them what motivated them to take the exam, how they went about preparing for it, what one can do to have a reasonable chance of passing, and just how tough they found the whole process.

Dhananjaya Mishra not only cracked the tricky test in his first attempt, he aced it. Dhananjaya is a 2010 pass out from the National Academy for Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR), Hyderabad.

He  started off his career as a transactional lawyer at Luthra & Luthra in Delhi, where he worked for two years, before switching to litigation. He has since been associated with the chambers of  Senior Counsel Ashok  Parija. He also holds an LL.M. from Cambridge University.

Dhananjaya Mishra
Dhananjaya Mishra

Dhanajaya said that while all the four papers aspirants are required to take were challenging in their own way, the drafting paper was a whole different kettle of fish.

“The most challenging part about the drafting paper is that you are required to  draft a special leave petition by hand. Its actually physically exhausting. No one drafts by hand these days and the authorities should consider providing computers to aspirant. If they are concerned about cheating, they can disconnect internet, but this is one paper they would do well to rethink”, he said.

His advice to those going to take the exam is,

“Start reading the leading cases well in advance. These are extremely voluminous and not something you can do in a week or two, especially if you intend to read them fully. They are well worth investing your time in. These are landmark cases which, as a lawyer practicing at the Supreme Court, you should be well acquainted with.”

Sumeer Sodhi is a 2009 graduate from the Indian Law Society (ILS) Law College, Pune. He has worked in the chambers of Senior Counsel Atul Nanda, who is the current Advocate General for Punjab, and with Senior Advocate Vivek Tankha, who was Additional Solicitor General between 2010-2013.

Sumeer then went independent, and co-founded the law firm VSA legal. He said that the fact that they were relying on external AOR’s was one of the factors that pushed him to take the exam.

The exam is not as tough as people make it out to be. Don’t study like it’s a college examination, don’t cram stuff. Read past years’ question papers to see how the questions are framed. Read as if you’re reading a work of fiction. Ultimately, all that the examiner is looking for is to ascertain whether you know how the Supreme Court functions.”

Sumeer Sodhi
Sumeer Sodhi

Sumeer’s advice to those struggling with the drafting paper is,

“Make sure your synopsis is short and crisp and your questions of law involve interpretation of provisions of law rather than factual aspects of the scenario provided.”

Both Sumeer and Dhananjaya recommended reading a book written by Senior Counsel Raju Ramchandran titled Supreme Court Practice and Procedure.

Neha Mallik is a 2010 graduate of Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University. She worked briefly with Bombay-based law firm Naik and Naik, before pursuing an LL.M. from University College London (UCL) the same year.

She went on to join the chambers of Ravinder Narain and Rajan Narain, where she currently works. It was second time lucky for Neha, who despite having excelled in three of the four papers last year, failed to secure the requisite 50 per cent in the Practice and Procedure paper.

Neha Mallik
Neha Mallik

Neha said that merely reading the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 wasn’t enough to clear the paper. She added that,

“It is important to regularly attend Supreme Court proceedings, and keep your eyes and ears open.”

She also stressed the importance of being able to manage time well, and answering all the questions within three hours. Neha also said that attending lectures held by Senior Counsel, which are usually held a month prior to the exam, could be a game-changer.

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