Team Lex Auxilium quite a while ago got an opportunity to interview Adv. Sanjeev Sagar. Sir has been in the field of corporate litigation for almost 2 decades now. Sir has an established practice in the area of corporate litigation at Delhi and Bombay High Court. The following conversation with him is sure a guide to all the young pass outs who are making their way in the litigation. His experience and insights are surely a blessing in disguise for the law aspirants.
- When did you decided to have career in legal profession?
I was pursuing Law along with my MBA back then. In the year 1997 I got done with my Law degree and MBA. When I sat for the placements in MBA, during the interviews itself I realized that this is not something I want to pursue, I was not a person who can be changed into the hands of the seniors in the corporate houses. When I realized and confessed the same to my father, he told me that I am lucky enough to have dual option with me. Back then Justice Sikri used to be a very good friend of my father, so he spoke to him whether I can intern under him or not. On his approval I went to Justice Sikri’s office as an intern. He already had some 15-16 working for the cases in the area of service laws. But back then like any other student I had in my mind that I want to do criminal litigation, which will fetch more money. But after interning for some more time, I joined another Lawyer and finally after that I started with my own practice.
2. While working under Justice Sikri, did you ever thought of trying and appearing for judicial services exams?
My father was an IAS officer and I have seen him going through tremendous pressure. So, I had an idea how high-profile government jobs are. Secondly. One of my Uncle was a retired district judge. So as per his experience, he once told me that if you really want to be a judge, then aim for higher courts and not the district level; judiciary. Besides, I had some different set of dreams to pursue and to establishment myself as one of the big names in the country in our legal fraternity. And Judicial services would have never had that for me.
3. Being in this profession for more than 2 decades now, would you like to share with the young minds that what all challenges one faces while establishing their own practice?
The very first thing that needs to be kept in mind is, Aim Big! Aim big and take the first opportunity that comes your way, don’t let anything pass by. Do not share your goals and objectives, keep working hard for it. Litigation is not something which you can excel in 1 or 2 days. It is not a 20-20 match. You may score a duck on day 1 of your court, but that doesn’t mean your game is over, there will be a next date, you will have the opportunity to go back and research on it all over again. For Litigation, the usual idea which prevails on everyone’s mind is that, you have to be very good orator, or have some excellent debating skills, but equally important is the research that needs to appear for a hearing. I remember in one of my cases, during the hearing it was quite clear that the case was not going in my favour and the judge will pronounce its judgment against me. But I just submitted one precedent in my favour and the whole situation took a 360-degree turn. So, these are the things that need to be kept in mind. Apart from this stay humble and respect your opponents but while you are arguing then give your best shot.
4. Sir you talked about lots of important things so what’s your take on the soft skills which a lawyer should have and how a fresher can start working on his/her soft skills from the beginning. How to make an impression in the court in front of the judges?
Being a junior, you can’t be selective. Some facts will be given to you and on that basis, you will prepare a case. Because in college life people are used to of short cuts. During your college, you can be selective as to what to study and what not so you can get past through your semesters but in real life you can’t be selective. This is entirely a new beginning, a new chapter in your life. You will have to go through the entire file thoroughly. This is just like driving a car. Once you get onto the driver seat you come to know about the clutch, accelerator, and break. If your combination of clutch break and accelerator is not right your car will not roll you will meet an accident. So, a fresher will have to read the entire file. 10 times 20 times study the file. 21st time you will get to know what is relevant and what is not relevant. Then prepare your notes, mark all important pages, so that you don’t need to study the file again and again. I always used to write the relevant page numbers on the first 2 pages of my file because I never believed in flagging, flags will fly away. Then I also used to write all the points in short. If at all any of my junior has to appear then he can argue it out and within 10 minutes he comes to know what is the case. And secondly a senior has to have confidence in his juniors. He should always tell his juniors that go do your best and if the matter goes wrong no problem, I will sort it out, I will get the relief back. This is the type of confidence that a senior should show.
5. Sir, as you know that when a junior enters into litigation the pay scale is at times very low, which often becomes a discouraging factor. How should fresher keep themselves motivated?
Complaining and cribbing over something is usually very easy. For a medical student to get an internship turns out to be a rather costly affair. They have to most of the times pay to get an internship and train under them. However, in this profession students are fortunate enough that they can land up in internships and get some exposure to the legal field. And while interning if your dedication towards work and your potential is noticed by the senior, you might continue there and land up a job eventually. This will help you to improve your skills and automatically your pay scale will also improve with time. From day one you can’t expect all this. In fact, there shouldn’t be any expectations. The expectation should be only that I get good seniors and I get to learn. Eventually, you will get work from your contacts. I’ve been working for 22 years now and now many of my juniors have taken away my clients. How did they come in contact with each other? Obviously through me. I myself like to promote people. This is my work culture. This is like Krishna’s Sudarshan Chakra. Today it is in my hand tomorrow it will be in your hand.
6. Everyone faces failures in their lives. Any incident when you had a big fallout in any of your cases?
See I’m the most pumped-up man. I get double the energy when I fail. I never sit sadly. I keep on researching till I get results. I never had a fallout and even I have a fallout I will never show it to you.
7. Sir it’s been two decades since you are in this field did you have any case in which you thought this one is a tough nut to crack?
There must be countless. I can tell you one case of Bombay High Court also. Somebody told me that a very senior council is your opponent this time. I was still not worried. With full confidence I went to the court. A rare silence was there in the court that day otherwise which is always hustle bustle. I argued I arm twisted the other side and flying went outside the court. That matter went for four and a half hours. The judge there got an ego issue because he had to favour his own men. In Delhi the scene changed. It became a landmark judgement. This judgement got reported as well. In fact, both of them got reported, Bombay as well as the Delhi one.
8. Sir as you mentioned earlier that while perusing your law you were doing your MBA also so do you that you have an edge while dealing with the business law related cases.
I as a student never took any tuitions. Whatever marks I used to score those were just because of my hard work. It was all in my upbringing. It was all in my blood. So, this doesn’t make any difference. I never had the habit of sitting for long hours and studying. I cannot study without taking a break after every 20 minutes. On the other hand, my partner Mr. Rajiv Sagar can sit and study for long hours continuously. He will not even ask for water. Be it 1 o’clock in the night he will keep on studying if he’s given a target. So, these studies don’t help you much. It is your capabilities which you have developed over the years and your childhood habits. The most important thing is you should be smart enough to carry your work and your clients well. I even have friends from IIT’s and IIM’s they are very studious but at the time of delivering results they have turned out to be big failures.
9. Sir any golden tip you would like to give to the fresh pass outs who would be graduating post this pandemic.
Forget about the pandemic. Lawyers will always remain lawyers. The freshers should try to get in touch with some good lawyers and good law firms. Even if you don’t get into a good law firm don’t get disheartened. Join any of the law firms. Start sailing. If you want to go to a highway also you will have to start with the by lands of your house. Somebody directly lands up in highway and somebody does not. Start travelling first. Maybe once you reach the main river or the main highway you may land up among the best. 80 percent of the lawyers are doing law just for the sake if it. They have their family business also. So, they will do something or the other if not this. Competition will again remain within the 20 percent of you. Only 5 percent will get the law firms and they also pull out because the seniors in those law firms will never allow you to settle and make your mark. So, keep on working hard and remain spirited. Don’t take shortcuts and keep faith in yourself. Nobody will be able to stop you. If you are good to people, they will also do good to you.