In a recently organized webinar by Livelaw on How to extend classroom training into good advocacy, Justice Akil Kureshi, Chief Justice of the Tripura High Court imparted his valuable insights on a range of topics relevant to the profession. Starting from the role that a strong bar plays in the justice delivery system to discussing the adequacy of the current academic structure of law schools in the practical training of students, Justice Kureshi offered a detailed analysis of these issues. While sharing his opinion on nepotism, he opined that the Bar must take strict actions against incidences of illegitimate favoritism in the profession. He inspired first generation lawyers to overcome their initial handicaps with rigor and hard work and provided some actionable tips to be an outstanding lawyer. He advised lawyers and students to keep themselves motivated in the current COVID-19 crises while recommending them to utilize this time in sharpening their skills and increasing their knowledge. He also addressed the issues of inadequate representation of women in senior positions in the profession and viability of virtual courts. The session was moderated by Advocate Prachi Dutta.
In his concluding message, he advised all young professionals to uphold their convictions no matter what and to never compromise with their principles. He said
"As lawyers, you are in a unique position to continue the journey of the nation in securing equality and social justice for all. India represents an unprecedented experiment in social restructuring of classes. As you grow in experience, keep a close vigil on this journey. Do not worry if the pace of this journey is slow sometimes but definitely worry if the course of this journey seems wrong. "
Highlights from the webinar
Moderator: Why, according to you, is the topic "How to extend classroom training into good advocacy" relevant in the current times?
Justice Kureshi: A strong bar is essential for an efficient justice delivery system in the country. A strong bar, firstly, strengthens the judiciary as it is only with the help of inputs from great lawyers that judges pass landmark judgments. Secondly, it ensures that competent law students and lawyers join the judiciary. Lack of competent candidates is the dominant factor responsible for shortages of judges across the country.
Going by the latest report of August 2, 2020 of the Law Ministry, across the country there are 1079 vacancies in the High Courts of which 685 are filled up and 394 are vacant. There are slightly older figures of 2018 which reveal that in the District Courts, there were 22,474 vacancies of which 16, 726 were filled up and roughly 6000 were vacant. The dominant factor associated with recruitment at district courts across the country is the non-availability of competent candidates.
Thirdly, lawyers are essential to ensure an independent and impartial judiciary in the country as they are the stakeholders that have immense courage and conviction and can hold a judge to the correct course and it's their role to protect the citizens from the excesses of arbitrary power by the Executive.
Moderator: Do you think the present academic structure is non-conducive to hone a candidate's skills for professional roles like judiciary and lawyering?
Justice Kureshi: The advent of National Law Universities has attracted very bright minds to the profession which was hitherto not the scene in my times when very few people entered the profession as their first choice. The entire focus has now shifted from classroom training to a practical learning approach through moot courts, essay writing competitions and internships and these are very positive changes. I would say that we definitely need a second wave of reforms now. Academicians must decide on the nature of these reforms.
Moreover, students can hone their professional skills by building their problem solving techniques. They should pick hypothetical or real life problems and work on finding solutions as the process of resolving problems is central to the profession's requirement. During internships, students should make a point to not use Google to find answers to research questions and should undertake original research using legal databases, books and commentaries.
Moderator: What are your views on nepotism and do you think it's important for a young lawyer to have a legal background in order to succeed in the profession?
Justice Kureshi: Nepotism, although unfair, is a fact of life. Benefits accrued to sons and daughters of lawyers and judges through legitimate means cannot be complained about but when illegitimate means are involved, the bar must take action. Moreover, first generation lawyers should never allow their handicaps to limit their progress.
History of mankind is replete with people who have defied all odds and achieved things impossible to imagine for people like you and me… Do not succumb to your shortcomings. Defy them and succeed and your success will be even sweeter. But that will require putting enormous efforts in becoming good or if you have the capacity and conviction, to even be an outstanding lawyer.
Young lawyers need to focus on two areas to be an outstanding lawyer- preparedness and presentation. To be well-prepared for the profession, a lawyer should have a life-long child-like curiosity and absorb as much knowledge and information of diverse fields as is possible.
"If you want to be an outstanding lawyer, you need to develop only one quality. And if I can describe that quality in one word, it is curiosity. Have life long child like curiosity. Absorb as much knowledge even from fields outside law...it will develop your mind"
What is the most important quality needed to become an outstanding lawyer? Akil Kureshi, Chief Justice of Tripura HC, explains. pic.twitter.com/r00X5Wlgc8— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) August 12, 2020
What is the most important quality needed to become an outstanding lawyer? Akil Kureshi, Chief Justice of Tripura HC, explains. pic.twitter.com/r00X5Wlgc8
He offered the following tips for presentation of arguments:
1. Style of arguing should be persuasive. Instead of forcing a judge to give a positive order you should persuade him in a manner that he wants to give this order to you.
2. It is very important to figure out and tell the judge what your opponent is going to argue before the Court and your answers to those arguments. This will diffuse the situation and not allow the opponent to build a tempo against you.
3. Any piece of information that is adverse to you, present it yourself instead of letting the other side project it against you.
4. Try to make the reliefs asked from judges appear simple as judges will always be apprehensive of giving something that is big, something that is being done for the first time
5. Don't be blindsided by a crucial point that your opponent can make. It's okay to forget a point in your favor but it would be a sacrilege to forget a point against you.
6. At an initial level of your arguments, try to judge the preparedness of the judge and his comfort in the given field of law. Pace of arguments must be decided on the basis of the grasp of the judge.
7. Be flexible in your approach and in your arguments. Don't be rigid in the sequencing of your arguments.
8. Difference between a good lawyer and an extraordinary lawyer is the ability to argue extempore arguments. Try to build your preparation in a way that you can handle unforeseeable situations.
"There are different styles of arguments; forceful, persuasive, aggressive, assertive etc. But it would be better to be pleasantly persuasive, so that the judge feels that the order should be passed, rather than forcing the judge to pass the order" - CJ Kureshi. https://t.co/1bvIUyXlws— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) August 10, 2020
"There are different styles of arguments; forceful, persuasive, aggressive, assertive etc. But it would be better to be pleasantly persuasive, so that the judge feels that the order should be passed, rather than forcing the judge to pass the order" - CJ Kureshi. https://t.co/1bvIUyXlws
Moderator: Any advice to young lawyers to handle the COVID-19 crises?
Justice Kureshi: Hang on, the times are not permanent. Everyone is talking about virus coming under control and vaccines will be formed sooner than we believe. Till then, keep working, keep yourself motivated, sharpen your skills. I have no concrete solutions to people who are struggling financially. Just hold on for 2-3 months, things will be better.
Moderator: What are your views on the lack of women lawyers in senior positions in the profession?
Justice Kureshi: Times are changing for the betterment. In Tripura, nearly 40% women occupy judicial positions, its very heartening. There are responsibilities on women that should not be expected from a person working full time. But times will change. You are the first generation of female lawyers who are taking their profession very seriously and you should push for societal changes. It may be possible that you will have to work more than your male counterparts but if you have the courage and the character, you can surely make your way to the top positions.
Moderator: Do you think virtual courts are a viable option in the long run?
Justice Kureshi: I have mixed feelings about the use of technology. We must use it with caution and balance to make sure that it doesn't result in a class divide between haves and have nots as many technologies like video conferencing and high speed internet are not accessible to many in the country. We must take everyone along before pushing these reforms in the long run.
Before ending the session, he said that he wanted to leave a message to young lawyers.
"Never compromise on your principles when you grow. Always have the courage to uphold your convictions", he said.
He added that lawyers are in in a unique position to continue the journey of the nation to achieve the constitutional resolve to secure social, political and economic justice for all.
"When you grow in age, keep a close vigil on the journey. Do not worry if the pace of the journey (of the nation to achieve constitutional ideals) seems slow. But definitely worry if the direction of the journey is wrong", on this note he ended the webinar.
Watch the full video here :