“Quality of legal education is more important than the numbers of lawyers”
Author: Kush Kalra, Practising in Delhi High Court Admirer of Shri Fali S. Nariman. Excerpts from the autobiography “Before the Memory Fades” of the Living Legend of Law Shri Fali S. Nariman
Golden words by the Living Legend of Law “Shri Fali S. Nariman”
When you mention a famous race horse, they always ask you, ‘from which stable?’ The stable is important. It establishes the ancestry and the breed. When you name a lawyer who has done well, people ask you, ‘From which chamber?’ The chamber is important. It establishes the hierarchy and cultural tradition in which the lawyer has been reared.
The practicing lawyer was given a pride place in our constitution. In the fundamental rights chapter itself, in article 22(1), it is proclaimed that no person who is arrested ‘shall be denied the right to consult with and be defended by a lawyer of his choice’. When the Advocates Act as passed in 1961, it was intended that lawyers should be entitled– -as of right—to practice throughout india in all courts, in all tribunals, and before all persons authorized to take evidence. (Section 30).
There are now a plethora of courts and a proliferation of tribunals, and no one, with any competence and the will to work, can fail (or should fail) to find a berth. The question is where and when to join? The answer is–not necessarily in the Supreme Court. Certainly not at the beginning of one’s career.
Although our country’s lawyer-to- people ratio is 1:1800, and compares poorly with developed countries like Great Britain (where it is 1:1300), mere numbers and statistics do not disclose the real malady. The quality of legal education is more important than the numbers of lawyers. What matters a great deal in India is the quality of law teachers and professors, and how they are treated. In his first G.S. Pathak Memorial Lecture delivered in New Delhi a few years ago, Lord Goff (then one of the seniormost law lords in England) said that the difference between Germany and England was that in Germany ‘the Professor is God: But in England the Judge is God’. In India too, the judge is God!. But we have to give much better status and recognition to our law teachers, who initially move the hearts and mould the minds of law students. It is law students who become practicing lawyers, and it is the bright ones amongst them that become judges.
The most serious aspect facing the legal profession is that the legal education system appears to have lost its ethical content. The education of a practicing lawyer never ceases. It continues throughout his career, and therefore, the national bar associations must adopt a three-point programme:
First, the urgent need to re-discover and reaffirm the professions ‘moral foundation’ (that will help refurbish its image).
Second, to inculcate ethical principles in the minds of young lawyers .
Third, to promote morally responsible and responsive lawyering, or as they say, ‘Make lawyers good’.
Lessons and Advice for Lawyers:
- Let your opinion be honest and responsible. Never begin a suit or an action unless you are satisfied that your client has evidence to substantiate his claim in a court of law.
- The essence of good lawyering is acquainting oneself with the relevant law, including case-law, on the subject at hand. The essence of good advocacy is to know the facts of your case, and then apply the law to those facts.
- When you argue a case in a court, be clear and precise, not confused. Your mental output must flow. And for it to flow you must be well equipped and well prepared.
- Keep yourself informed and be up to date with all the reported judgments and decisions of the supreme court and of the high courts. In this way you will be useful to yourself if and when you are briefed in a case, or even when not briefed whilst watching someone argue in court, you could be helpful to him.
- The less work there is, the less the experience gained, and less will be the work that will come your way-and so on in a downward spiral. The more work you have, the better the application of mind, the greater the sharpening of the mental faculties, attracting a slew of work. Here ‘work’ means ‘being occupied’, not necessarily paid work.
- As a lawyer, it is your duty to bring attention of the court to a case already decided on the point being argued. You may then distinguish your case from the decided case but you must cite it. Never cite and overruled case.
- In court, it is always better to understate a case than to overstate it. Never tell the judge you have a ‘cast-iron case’. In nine cases out of ten, the natural urge of the judge will be to cut you down to size, and prove to you that your case is not as watertight as you profess!
- One of Aesop’s fables reads, ‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch’. In other words, never be too cocksure of winning cases.
- Never exaggerate in court about the facts of your case or the applicable law. Avoid rhetoric, and don’t be too smart. And for heaven’s sake avoid being funny. You will be stigmatized either as impertinent or flippant. In fact, till you have established your reputation as a sound lawyer, never indulge in pleasantries in court. And please, never trump the judge’s jokes or make it appear you are more humourous than he is. If you must tell a story, tell one against yourself, not one in your favour.
- It will do you no credit to put forward an absurd argument. You will be branded as too clever by-half.
- Leave your anger—and all the vitriol that goes with it—outside the courtroom. Never take it into the court with you.
- Don’t quarrel with your opponents or be nasty to them because if you have chosen the law as your profession, the major part of your life will be spent with colleagues at the Bar. You must rub shoulders with them, and a sense of camaraderie at the Bar is essential for preservation of your continued sanity. Your compatriots will always speak well about you if you have not been mean or uncharitable to them—in word or in action. Remember : Dog don’t eat DOG.
- Always address a court correctly. Each judge must be addressed according to the manner in which his station entitles him. For instance, an administrative officer who presides at a departmental hearing must be addressed as ‘Sir’, a magistrate as ‘Your Honour’. Similarly, a city court judge and a district judge must be addressed as ‘Your Honour’ and a high court or supreme court judge must always be addressed as ‘Your Lordship’.
- Never consciously make an incorrect statement in court—or you run the risk of being ‘mentally blackballed’ by the judge.
- Don’t criticize the judge before whom you have appeared either in the corridors of the court or in the Bar Library or before clients.
- Learn to lose with dignity. Please remember only one side in the case win. The other side must lose.
- Never give interviews or talk to the media in cases where you have appeared. It smacks of cheap publicity and is unfair to the judge who cannot retaliate, and it is unfair to your opponent who may not be given the opportunity to refute what you say.
Life is full of surprises. Whether you do or do not believe in destiny or in Providence or in God, be sure that –out of the blue –some stranger, some unknown person, at one time or another, will reach out and give you a helping hand as you journey along on the rough roads of life.
This Article was prepared or accomplished by Kush Kalra, Practising in Delhi High Court in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the LawOF.in
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