This interview has been taken by Tejaswini Kaushal, a 1st-year learner at Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow
Adv. Avneesh Arputham is an Advocate-on-Record in the Supreme Court of India and an Associate at ELP. He has done his LLB from Delhi University. Further, he has done his LLM in International Commercial Law from The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), LLM in Comparative International and European Law from Universitat Pompeu Fabra Universitat Pompeu Fabra, and LLM in European Law and Public Affairs from the University College Dublin.
In this interview, he talks about his law school life, internship experiences, and practicing as a litigator in the Supreme Court of India.
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
I am Advocate-on-Record in the Supreme Court of India. I have been practicing law for around 12 years and have represented clients in some of the most complex and contentious matters before different forums.
Why did you choose law as a career? When did you make the decision?
After completing my schooling, I pursued Economics at St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. During this time, I pursued a diploma in Intellectual Property Rights from the Indian Law Institute, which made me realize that while I enjoyed studying economics, my real interest was in law and this laid the foundation for me to pursue my LLB.
I was fascinated by the challenge that each case presented and the process of interpretation of the law and its application to the facts of each case. A career in law seemed like a path filled with intellectual challenges along with the opportunity to make an impact in people’s lives.
How was your law school journey?
I studied law at Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi and I count the three years of law school as some of best years in my life. I had a First Division throughout, and apart from my academic work, I focused in gaining exposure to various kinds of opportunities that a law degree can give.
Apart from interning with prominent lawyers and law firms, I had the opportunity to intern with Late Prof. NR Madhava Menon at the Commission on Centre-State Relations and the Dr. S. Radhakrishnan Chair on Parliamentary Studies, Rajya Sabha, which allowed me to develop my research skills and gain immense knowledge of constitutional law.
While I focused on academics and undertaking different internships to get experience, I also had a keen interest in mooting during college. I participated in over fifteen national moot court competitions across India in three years and won several of them, including winning the best speaker on many occasions.
In recognition of my achievements, I was made the convener of the Moot Court Society in CLC, where I used to mentor my juniors in preparation for moot court competitions.
Mooting was the most valuable learning experience in college as it was the closest activity to real-life litigation where not only did I learn to apply legal principles to factual problems, but also develop the ability to formulate arguments from both sides on the same factual matrix.
Tell us about your stellar academic record. What were the activities and internships you pursued in college that helped you to get where you are today?
I completed my schooling at St. Columbus School in New, Delhi, after which I joined St. Stephen’s College to pursue my graduation in BA (Hons.) Economics. After graduation, I studied law at Campus Law Centre, Delhi University.
After completing my LLB, I worked for a year and thereafter pursued my LLM from the London School of Economics. I was fortunate to receive the Marchant Foundation Scholarship which covered all my tuition fees at the LSE. While studying at the LSE, I also worked with the Scrutiny Unit of the House of Commons, UK Parliament. This was a tremendous opportunity as it allowed me to gain a rare insight into the intricacies of the legislative process and the various legal and political considerations to be borne in mind while enacting laws.
I was also fortunate to pursue a second LLM under the Erasmus Mundus Program of the European Union in Ireland and Spain, for which I received a full scholarship that not only covered all my tuition fees and living expenses but also gave me a substantial monthly allowance.
Throughout my academic career, I focused on maintaining an excellent academic record but also made the best possible use of developing my abilities through various extra-curricular activities and internships.
I believe that law is a profession that is premised on the lawyers’ knowledge and understanding of first principles. Therefore, students should not compromise on academics in law school in the quest for other pursuits.
Walk us through your professional life after graduation.
After graduation, I worked for a year with Mr. Parag Tripathi, who was then the Additional Solicitor General of India. It was an invaluable starting point for a young litigator like me to work on some of the most complex constitutional cases before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
I thereafter worked for some time in the chambers of Mr. Satish Tamta, Senior Advocate where I learned about the intricacies of criminal litigation in the trial court.
After my LLM, I worked in the dispute team of Economic Laws Practice, New Delhi for a few years where I focused on a wide range of corporate commercial litigations and also developed my interest in cases dealing with white-collar crime.
Subsequently, having gained experience in different areas of law, I set up my own practice in 2015 where I continue to work across all areas of law in different forums. I also became an Advocate-on-Record in 2018 which allowed me to further develop my practice before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
How has the experience been as a litigator?
When I set up my chambers it was a leap of faith. While I had training in different areas in law and wide experience, getting clients was challenging in the initial years. I worked very hard on each matter and slowly gained a reputation as an expert in some areas of law and before some forums which led to more work coming my way and that helped the practice grow.
My key learning has been that you have to treat each case with equal importance and make the best case for each client, as it may not be the most important case for you, but for the client, it is the most important case.
What do you/would you seek in an applicant when she/he applies to work under you as an intern or employee?
Most importantly, I try to understand the motivation of the applicant and their interest in pursuing litigation. I feel that unless litigation really interests you, you would not put in that extra effort that is needed to work on a case.
Secondly, I also see if the person is capable of independent application of mind and ability to formulate arguments and an objective manner to assess this is the kind of internships and moots that the person has done.
What is your opinion on the remuneration that young advocates receive in litigation? Is the initial hustle necessary to make it big in litigation later?
I think the practice of law is different from a lot of other professions. Unlike other careers, the value of litigators comes from the training one receives in the initial years of their career and the exposure to a wide variety of matters. This is why the emphasis in the early years should predominantly be on gaining knowledge and experience and also developing the necessary skill set for succeeding in litigation.
We have certainly come a long way from the time when new entrants in the legal profession had to pay their seniors to get training as an advocate. There is an increasing importance for young graduates to have a work-life balance, which was not so important around 10-15 years ago.
At the same time, young entrants joining litigation must bear in mind that it requires a tremendous amount of hard work, dedication, and perseverance to succeed in this profession, and therefore, it may not be possible to have an ideal work-life balance, especially in the early years.
One must always remember that a lawyer bears a very heavy burden while performing his work because invariably most matters involve the client’s liberty, livelihood, or a large amount of money, and therefore, this responsibility towards the client must take precedence before any pursuit of a work-life balance.
That being said, things are evolving and with that, I feel that young litigators should be paid decently to motivate bright young individuals to see litigation as a viable career option. There is a growing trend for young graduates to join law firms or take up jobs as in-house counsel, which is to a large extent due to the large pay gap in litigation as compared to the other jobs.
Therefore, better monetary incentives may have to be given to young graduates to motivate them to join litigation.
What is your message to our readers who want to enter litigation?
The initial years are certainly very difficult and it takes time to get clients and also deliver for them. One must bear in mind that litigation is not just about knowing the law and having good oratory skills, but also having good interpersonal skills, team management, and a lot of hard work and perseverance.
Having worked in a law firm earlier and having worked internationally, I feel that litigation in India provides an unparalleled avenue for intellectual satisfaction and there is always something new to do, which is not there in other jobs.
While it may not be the most lucrative in terms of money initially, it is quite rewarding once you have overcome the initial period of training and learning. Therefore, perseverance and hard work, along with great intellectual curiosity, are quintessential for a career in litigation.
This Interview is a part of our Star Student/Faculty/Professional interview series wherein our campus leaders interview the star student and faculty of their college and a start professional. Stay tuned for more!