Justice Sanjiv Khanna
Justice Sanjiv Khanna

Important for lawyers to do self-study during their practice: Justice Sanjiv Khanna advises young lawyers

While speaking at a webinar, Justice Sanjiv Khanna observed that self-improvement and character-building exercises are very important for young lawyers.

Shruti Mahajan

Justice Sanjiv Khanna commented on Saturday that there is a gap between what is taught in law schools and what happens in litigation practice and that to bridge this gap it is important for lawyers to do self-study.

Justice Khanna was delivering a special address in an online discussion organized by the Bar Council of Punjab & Haryana on the theme "Perseverance is not a long race, it is many short races one after the other: Lessons for a young lawyer."

Justice Khanna was joined by QC Geoffrey Robertson in delivering an address on this theme.

On advise to young lawyers, particularly with the idea of perseverance in mind, Justice Khanna said that there is a need for young lawyers to consistently carry out self-study given that not everything that happens in actual practise is or can be taught in law schools.

"One must acknowledge that there is a gap between what is taught and what happens in actual practice. It is important for young lawyers to conduct self study when they start practising."
Justice Sanjiv Khanna

When a lawyer is before the Court, they are expected to not only be thorough with the facts, the Supreme Court Judge said, adding that lawyers are also expected to know the law and procedure well. For this, every young lawyer must study the procedures that are applicable before Civil as well as Criminal Courts, he said, while advising lawyers to engage in their own study.

However, at a time when a young lawyer may find themselves to be lost, they must approach senior counterparts to seek help given that this would help young lawyers to draw from the enriching experience of the seniors too, Justice Khanna said, while encouraging young lawyers to not be disappointed and lost.

In addition to the knowledge of law, a lawyer must also possess the skill to simplify the law for their client and have the skill to explain the case to the Court as a teacher, Justice Khanna opined. While Judges often give a leeway to young lawyers, it is the duty of the lawyers to ensure that even while seeking an adjournment, they do not fall short on their knowledge of the case and its facts, the Judge said.

Having said so, Justice Khanna also advised young lawyers to hone their oratory skills and practise the same.

"Oratory skill is an important attribute for a lawyer, oratory is an art to be cultivated and worked upon for advocacy. I cannot overstate the importance of practice."
Justice Khanna

It is also pertinent, the Judge said, for young lawyers to develop an area of expertise. He opined that with the growing trends and evolving areas of the law, young lawyers have a very bright chance in developing expertise in the arena of laws such as securitization, artificial intelligence, to name a few.

Ultimately, stressing on the need to ensure that the exercise of character building is consistent for every young lawyer, Justice Khanna said that no victory should be celebrated or loss mourned beyond usual. Quoting Late Mr. Ashok Desai, the Judge said,

"Self-improvement and character-building exercises are very important for young lawyers. As was observed by Late Mr. Ashok Desai 'if you over celebrate your victories, you will have to over mourn your losses.'"
Justice Sanjiv Khanna
(L-R) QC Geoffrey Robertson and Justice Sanjiv Khanna during the webinar
(L-R) QC Geoffrey Robertson and Justice Sanjiv Khanna during the webinar

QC Robertson also stressed on the need for perseverance in the legal profession and said that while lawyers cannot abolish laws their, efforts may lead to a change in legal systems.

Drawing from his own experience, Robertson said that it was only after the Harvey Weinstein case that the Courts in England laid down that lawyers cannot get people to enter into non-disclosure agreements.

Further, he cited his own example and experience in the field of the death penalty jurisprudence while recalling that his first case before a Privy Council Court for commutation of death sentence was argued in 1973. Robertson said that it was only after several unsuccessful cases over 20 years that a Privy Council Court in jamaica in 1994 agreed with the argument advanced by him and commuted the death penalty awarded to a convict. With this example, he encouraged young lawyers to not stop persevering.

Lawyers often need to display courage especially in countries with authoritarian regimes, Robertson said. He added that while India is a democracy, keeping in view the recent instances of lawyers being taken action against for fighting cases concerning human rights of a certain people, there is now a need for lawyers to display more courage.

"In many countries, lawyers have to stand up to the government who act oppressively."
Geoffrey Robertson

In their concluding remarks, both Justice Sanjiv Khanna, as well as Robertson, endorsed the idea for young lawyers to consistently work at polishing their skills to succeed in the profession and bridge the gap between education and practice.

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news