Ep. 02 – Starting your law practice early with Adv. Avinash Das
Adv. Avinash Das is a young lawyer practicing in Delhi. He has worked on variety of matters in High Court, District courts and Magistrate courts as well in the National Capital Region.
In this episode we have a conversation on, how he started his law practice, the challenges young lawyers face, etc. He also shares a small incident from his career and shares what lessons did he learn from it.
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Hey Budding Lawyers!! Welcome to the podcast
Today we have advocate Avinash Das with us. Avinash Das practices majorly in Delhi high court and other district and session courts. But also, he has matters in Noida, Gurugram and other magistrate courts as well. So, today we are going to talk about how to start your individual practice early Because Avinash is one guy who I know and I don’t remember any other guy or any other person, who I know personally or in my friend circle, who has started his practise independently at a very early stage or just after his college. Abhinash has done that.
PRASANNA: So, Avinash how did you start and how did you go through it?
AVINASH: See Prasanna, like a lot of people, I’m not unique in this, like a lot of people we discussed this idea during our final years of college. So, what happened was that one day we met sitting together at the canteen and one of my friends brought this up so we discussed it and we had a rational discussion. We had this entire plan discussed finally, we decided this time we took the big step to say so and we just went for it. we joined up. So, it’s a team. so yeah, like you were saying independent practice. So, what I feel is independent practice has this connotation attached like you must be dealing with your own matters and all that. so, we work with each other, we work on each other’s matters, we help each other, we can consult each other. So basically, it’s teamwork. So, you know I personally refrain from using the word independent practice because of this connotation people have that you must only be dealing with your own matter.
PRASANNA: Yeah, and You will be having your personal office that’s not how it is.
AVINASH: we have shared an office. We work together we share resourc0es. We work for each other’s case also and it’s not like we don’t do freelancing. You have to believe that there are lawyers who have much on their plate. They require trustworthy lawyers where lawyers can assist them in certain matters. so yeah, I don’t shy away from doing freelancing. But someone excels in evidence and final argument so I’m always up for it. So, it doesn’t hurt. I’m in open lawyering per se, Right?
PRASANNA: yeah, so after completing your LLB you may not start directly with having your own office unless and until you belong to the generation of lawyers like your parents and your grandparents were lawyers. So, if you are a first-generation lawyer even if you are not able to start your independent practice independently but you can do something like this. like you can join someone’s network or within your friends circle itself who are also lawyers you can also decide to take up work and help each other and start independently. Kind of not completely independent but you gain some percentage of independence here.
AVINASH: Yeah, so you know when we decided this, we collectively had certain clients neither so we didn’t jump irrationally like ok this was our dream or we had talked about it. we had our own clients so we can help each other, always consulting each other like ok, I’ve this matter how to add this matter, how should I proceed? so the work was kind of jumbled up already so when we started it was more or less formalizing the process. So, people can do that also. Working in a team has his own benefit as you can in any way you can work together to help each other under profession if you already have a friendship bond. So, it helps you move forward.
PRASANNA: and it’s quite not possible for a lawyer to be completely independent because that’s why senior lawyers need junior lawyers because they have a lot of matters every day in multiple courts and they can’t be present in every court everyday so that’s why they need other lawyers maybe a junior or maybe a colleagues or friends. Right?
AVINASH: yeah. It’s an ecosystem. I got the gist of your question. Basically, it’s an ecosystem where we help each other out. Our Fraternity is very strong in that sense. There are seniors that I consult to and they are always happy to help. It’s a very friendly relationship and I’d say that networking is pretty much important even if you are any independent lawyer or you’re working under someone it’s much better if you connect with people. yeah, it helps you in the long run.
PRASANNA: how do you choose matters like do you have some set of like criteria or requirement in your mind or within your friends you have decided that you will take up only these matters and skip other matters or something like?
AVINASH: yeah, I have told you before that we can’t afford to be choosy at this stage. So, you know it’s not written somewhere that certain type of client will bring you certain type of cases. if I know a client and he has a criminal, suppose I’m dealing with single cases and suddenly he has a criminal complaint against him so he will like to approach me, right? because he knows me personally. so, he brings me this criminal matters so now I can’t just say No. No, No I just want to do civil matters because I can’t. I don’t have that luxury yet so This is why it helps you being in a team. so, I have a friend who is very good at criminal law so this is the first thing you know, I approach him. this is what it is here is a complaint. What is it that I should do? so, he tells me initially you do this, then this and then I of course I go through my own materials, I study a little bit and proceed further so this is one of the biggest advantages of working in a team
PRASANNA: Yeah so, I got your point. so, you can’t be choosy but it also conveys a message that you have to have the knowledge of like everything lightly. at least you have to try and gain knowledge of every particular subject. you can’t also promote yourself as an expert of a particular subject only even if you may be having much knowledge about it but if one comes to you asking something regarding some other Law or some other topic where you are not practicing and you have to help him with regard to that
AVINASH: yeah, it’s mostly like you don’t choose the expertise, the expertise chooses you. You deal with a particular matter overtime and you need some expertise and you feel confident in those matters or you have templates of how to proceed. so that helps but you know we have to keep an open mind. I still deal with cases that I’m dealing for the first time. People come to me and like this is a consumer matter which I’ve not heard at all. this is an example. so, then I go to the procedure, then I learn this through panel. I learn this through trial and error. This is why its practice. you make mistakes and you learn from it. You have to be open. I think while starting out you can’t be choosy this is a luxury you only get when you are working under a senior who has this expertise who is known as ok, I’m good at criminal law, ok, I’m good at civil. so, I’ve given an example. I’ll give you a hypothetical example. So, what happens is if you have joined a chamber which is very good at criminal law So what happens is you basically working in that chamber gives you a reputation. so, when you go independent from there you have a goodwill attached to you. like I learn the criminal law that helps you bringing in matters to you of a particular type but if you know even then those lawyers might get the majority of the matter then again, they can’t be choosy like I won’t take any other matter. because if you go independent and I don’t know if they have very good savings or very good connections then it’s a different story but if you just decide I’ve to go independent then you can’t be choosy. There might be people who might you know, say I’ll stick to this particular field because I feel very strongly towards it but otherwise as many people as I know who you know, tend to go independent they are always open with matters.
PRASANNA: yeah so, there may be certain problems which you would have faced like what was the problems which you faced initially?
AVINASH: yeah, so financial management is a big one. you have to arrange your finances and you have to have enough savings or you’ll have to have your financial support from someone. Either your family or someone. So that is one. I think apart from that you will have to manage everything. what I mean is you will have to talk to the clients, you have to do all the clerical works be it presentation or uploading anything then you have to attend court hearings yourselves, then you have to run from one court to the other because you’re basically the centre of it. Right? you have all the responsibilities. It’s a little bit overwhelming at times. I think apart from that you pretty much like the process of it but then there are responsibilities, something you will have to deal with.
PRASANNA: To sum it up it is like one is financial management and two, that you are the only responsible person for everything. like you have to be the senior, you have to be an expert, you have to be a lawyer, you have to be the clerk.
AVINASH: Right, you know, I don’t know you probably won’t be able to employ your Munshi(clerk) from the very start so you have to know all the procedures and all. Like how to get a certified copy, how to file a matter, and everything you will have to know. yeah, so it’s not about getting everything to know but you will have to take out time for everything. So, when I initially started working together in our team so I remember my timetable got totally messed up. so, I used to go back at 2:00 o’clock at the night. There was no time. some days I would be unexpectedly totally free. It’s like I’ve nothing to do and some days I’ll be like ok I can’t give a minute to myself. so, I have been on both sides and this is one. it has its own difficulty and it has its own perks.
PRASANNA: yes, so there is this thing in mind of most of the people that if you want to be a successful lawyer then you have to go to Mumbai or you have to go to Delhi or some major Metro city like that and then build your practice there or practice under some senior there and then grow. so, is it like obviously there are valid reasons for that but can young lawyers start independent practice from other towns be a two-tier cites as well?
AVINASH: I started my practice from Delhi so I don’t know if I can attest any difficulty of others is a question. but yeah, what I believe is that you know anyone who has connections, who has been established lawyers in their family will probably make it regardless of difficulties. so, if you have established lawyers in your family you are probably going to make it somehow you can start your independent practice you have a client base, your shared client base from family. but for first generation lawyers also I think it’s equally difficult anyway. see Delhi provide more opportunities, of course, Delhi and Mumbai will obviously provide more opportunities but at the same time there’s going to be heavy competition. Delhi has fifty-five thousand practicing lawyers so the competition is very. You know that in Mumbai and Delhi also the waiting list of chambers in Delhi is 35years or something. its structurally the same. this is totally in my opinion, you know, the limited knowledge what I have on this matter. I think so it’s pretty tough anywhere if you are first generation lawyer.
PRASANNA: From that question I would like to know that have you applied for getting that chamber in Delhi?
AVINASH: you always have to be optimistic so I have. I don’t know when I really get it. It’s more of a custom when you get your membership. We have been hearing from our judges also. Recently when justice retiring in a speech that the day he got appointed as high court judge is the day, he got his chamber in the Supreme Court. so, he just unlocked the door, went inside and came back because he you know he was joining as a judge of the Delhi high court.
PRASANNA: So, he didn’t use his chamber once. so, it was of no use?
AVINASH: Not once
PRASANNA: So, after becoming the High Court judge his like he was in the sequence of getting the chamber and it took so many years to get him the chamber, right?
AVINASH: yeah, he said he was working in a van before and he had applied for these chambers so and he had been working with and he was a well-known advocate of course and the day he got appointed or something like that he got his chamber.
PRASANNA: I haven’t heard this concept of chambers and all in Mumbai I think it is restricted to Delhi or some northern state
PRASANNA: It is for sure it is for sure not like custom that you have to apply for the chamber once you get a canter
AVINASH: In Mumbai so I’ve actually worked in Mumbai so I know they have small you know small rooms taken on rent.
PRASANNA: Yeah, yeah that’s for there
AVINASH: Mumbai has such scarcity of lands and we can convert small plots of land into multiple offices also so I think that may be the reason but in Delhi there are so many districts in Delhi itself so there are a lot of the district courts and lots of chamber plots popping up here and there. I think people are more optimistic in Delhi than in Mumbai, that might be the case.
PRASANNA: OK let’s move on, so how do you get clients as a young lawyer when you start?
AVINASH: Networking. See in our profession You cannot solicit or else word the only form of marketing that you are allowed to do is like mouth of word marketing. That is basically mouth to mouth publicity. So, what I would suggest and what I did myself was let people around me know that I’m a capable lawyer. So, when opportunity came, I gave it my 200%,I made a flash i, you know I left a memorable impression and I just hoped that they would recommend me to others. That’s I did. And also, you know don’t shy away from distributing your visiting pass. Make them cheap if you need to. keep distributing your visiting cards. most of them will probably discard it but some of them do keep them in their wallets and when time comes, they might require your legal assistance. personally, it hasn’t found out that much for me but I’m still optimistic. Like I said I’m a very optimistic person.
PRASANNA: this one thing is networking and keep distributing your visiting card. I think most like many people are reluctant doing that, right?
AVINASH: yeah, be shameless.
PRASANNA: so, surviving litigation is tough did you take up any other work apart from any work regarding the related to lawyers or litigation to survive at the initial state?
AVINASH: Prasanna, I’ll be extremely honest I had my family support so I was lucky enough to focus on just litigation but that being said I did some law related jobs here and there. like I did draft some agreement for my family that’s it for me but I do know people who are taking up business on the side to sustain in the litigation field. so, it’s not something that’s unheard of or uncommon but I personally haven’t so I just focus on litigation.
PRASANNA: Can you just give some examples like what type of work you usually lawyers take up to pay their bills?
AVINASH: I have a friend who runs a coaching centre for law coaching and CLAT and all that. Now 2020 has been a tough year for lawyers. so, there are people who are taking the opportunity like one of my dear friends who also I also work with. He started making sanitizers and masks so anything you will have to do something and not just any mask. His family is full of doctors so he made a really good one. so, you might do anything to survive. I hope that answers your question.
PRASANNA: Yeah, yeah you have previously interned in Delhi high court. What work did you usually do and how was your experience working there?
AVINASH: experience was pretty good. As intern’s soul objective is to gasp as much knowledge as you can, learn as much as you can while impressing our seniors, of course. so yeah, as per work my routine was pretty much reaching the court before my senior did. I always had to study. So, what I used to do is I used to take out my phone and research some case laws or something not for the matter that was listed in that day but in fact for the matter that was listed for next day. all the citation in case laws and if I had certain points to add on, I used to do that. And only after that I used to take up the case files because it’s a matter is coming tomorrow; I’m not going to be able to get the file. Because the senior will keep the file, read it and probably take it home also. So, I won’t get the chance. So basically, if the matter is on day three, I used to read the file on day one. And day two and three I used to find case laws and citations. So that was my routine.so I followed this. I don’t know if it worked well or no.
PRASANNA: so basically, the work was regarding research.
AVINASH: yeah, the one you are talking about I believe, it’s about research. Initially also I worked in Delhi high court but back then its only in the law school that they actually take you seriously before that it is more of hearing the court hearings, trying to figure out the procedures and everything. so back then I remember I used to speak to the munshi to explain me the procedure. how do you find things and which is very important by the way I would actually suggest interns to do that more. First time I interned in the high court I did this and the second time I was more researching and legal assistance work.
PRASANNA: yeah, you twisting into munshi is very important. I think by munshi you are referring to the clerk. Right?
AVINASH: yeah, the clerk
PRASANNA: well law students this thing is very important like many people think that once you graduate you are a lawyer you start working is like going to courts, arguing matters and all that stuff but even filing a matter has a lot of things you must know the process. lawyer who just started his practice if it is given this work of filing matter, he may not a be able to do that. Right?
AVINASH: right. Totally, I would say, see law school doesn’t teach you all these procedures and everything and when you come into the field right away you are like OK what have I learned? how is it useful? how much of that is making my daily life easy. I don’t know so the clerks are really helpful man and if you have good relations with them then it’s much better. so, I have always stuck with them to learn the process. and that if you think about starting your own practice you must know all this because either you have a munshi or you don’t. If you don’t then you will have to do all the work yourself but if you do, I’m not saying all clerks do this but lot of clerks take you for a ride so you will have to know the procedure. Because he knows how it works. This is general conversation you have with your clerks once you know how the procedure works if you don’t
PRASANNA: OK so let’s move to some interesting to our viewers. You must have heard about our lawyer’s stories so please tell us a story or an incident from your legal career which is very memorable to you.
AVINASH: yeah, see I don’t know if this qualifies for story per se but I hope you know, it provides a lesson on what not to do or how not to mess things up. yeah so, this happened to me when I when I just started my practice relatively and I got this recovery matter on my hand so now that recovery matter it wasn’t very substantial. so, at the time I was you know I was engulfing much larger matters or recovery another more matter so somewhere in my mind I decided that ok I’ll be dealing with this matter maybe later like three or four weeks later. So now Fast forward three months. it totally slipped my mind. so, I like I called for the files I go through it and then I figure you know, I realize that the limitation period has already expired. so now I’m a little worried. I’m not little bit worried, I’m very worried.
PRASANNA: So, why did you delay it?
AVINASH: No, see what happened was I had lot of matters at that times so this is one of the matters which was for an account of the proprietor So what he did was he just dropped by. I was dealing with these matters only but this is one of those matter like it’s been so much time and he had not paid me yet so look after him. the actual well I have already sent so I had some ideas you be I have to file it later but since I was already dealing larger matters so somewhere in my mind, I had this idea that let me see whether the other party sends a reply or not, let me just wait and watch and all that thing. so, I just thought in three- or four-weeks I’ll start drafting. so, this is what was going in my head.
so now what happened three months later I realized on something you know I was talking to somebody ok I have a similar matter and Ive not looked into it so now I call for the file and everything and I realize that the limitation has already expired. so now you know I call up the client I tell him what happened. I pacify him and all that I asked him ok send me all the files regarding any documents, account, ledgers, communications. it doesn’t matter you find it relevant or not just send it to me. let me go through it. I remember it was Saturday back then and the proprietor sends one of his boys and he comes at 10:00 o’clock at night with three bags full of documents. so, I was like I don’t know whether I should go home or not because even if I go home it will be on my mind.so I was like OK let me just go through the full of documents in front of me and I started going through it one by one. yeah, so now what happened is like it took me the nearly the entire night and in morning when I actually found this one correspondence between the defendant and the proprietor in which the defendant had very casually said he knows he has to pay so much or something over the Google Messenger app. So now I kept this aside so I took out the limitation act I started reading it, I went through it and I found this one section 89. Very briefly I’ll tell you what section 89 is. It’s basically says when the defendant acknowledges his liability before the limitation period expires then a fresh limitation period starts but the technology must be in writing and it must be signed.so the keywords here are it must be in writing and it must be signed. this alone doesn’t help me so again I opened Manupatra and look into things like what acceptable principles are there.so it took me a while it was Sunday afternoon. I haven’t showered and stayed at the office, I don’t know what to do because it’s basically my fault right? the responsibility and you never want the client to lose his case solely because of your fault. that’s independent practice 101. if you may. So, what I did is I started seeing manupatra and I see one Karnataka high court judgements.it basically said that the digital acknowledgement even without being signed is valid. So now I found this ok I’ve something to fight on. So, I started to draft it and I finished it quickly and then I prepared everything, kept everything in order so that I can file it the next morning and then I finally go home. Early morning just I came back I finished all my work; I went and draft. And I filed it myself. I didn’t want a single more day delay because if it comes to my argument not being accepted, I had to fight on the delay. I filed it. It came out for hearing the next day and I acted on the limitation aspect of it. Judges were reluctant at first like how is it possible and all that then it took some convincing but then they finally accepted my premise. So, they accepted the matter, they issued notices. And at the end of it I was very happy i was just so relived. So much burden I lifted from my shoulder I felt lighter. Then I just go back to my house and I doze off. I did learn a few things. Firstly, never look down on any matter. You may obviously have to prioritize some over the other but that doesn’t mean that you should look down upon any matter because you don’t deal with. Like you were saying earlier, I shouldn’t have deal with like its less substantial or anything. Secondly what I would say is you should be focused; you should be persistent. If there is a problem, then you tackle it. More often you should tackle it. just give it your hundred percent and then talk to your friends, talk to your trusted people and things work out. i have been working on and it’s been really helpful. And also like I was saying I was very confident in saying things like I remember everything. But after this incident I regularly maintained a to do list. I owe this much to my client. Ive to write everything down. Initially you don’t have much clients, you have number of clients you may remember most of it. A I maintain a to do list and I say this is a must. You owe this much to the clients. This is just one incident. There has been so many and each has taught me so many things and at the end of it just makes me a better lawyer. Like I said this is why we name it practice.
PRASANNA: it just came our minds before you he said it again
AVINASH: yeah, you keep learning from mistakes.
PRASANNA: yeah, thank you Abhinash for joining us and explaining of how did you started your independent practice and how young lawyers should think about it of starting independently or getting other work done.
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