Senior Advocate P. S. Narasimha On Legal Practice And Super Speciality—A Roadmap For Young Lawyers

Mr Narasimha sheds light on the do's and don'ts for young lawyers and the future of the legal profession in India.

What is common between N Santosh Hegde, L N Rao, U U Lalit, Indu Malhotra, R.F. Nariman and P.S. Narasimha?

Ever since the collegium system came into existence in 1993, only 5 lawyers have been directly appointed from the Bar as Judges to the Supreme Court. If his name is cleared for appointment, Senior Advocate P.S. Narasimha could become the sixth lawyer from the Bar to become a Supreme Court Judge post the adoption of the collegium system.

The seasoned lawyer with a profound interest in Sanskrit and Shastric teachings played an instrumental part as an officer of court in the outcome of the Ayodhya verdict.

Here is a quick fireside chat between Senior Advocate P.S. Narasimha and Ashima Ohri on Legal Practice and Super Speciality—A Roadmap for Young Lawyers

Mr Narasimha, would you please shed light on a lawyer's role in today's society

It is said that wherever there is excellence, there is godhood. So, it should be looked at differently in the sense that if there is excellence, and that is the God who reads itself.

Our first identity is as a lawyer, and as lawyers, we all have been given the monopoly. Under the Advocates act, our profession is given the monopoly and the lawyer is given the monopoly to represent in any court of law. Why is it so, I keep asking this question. 

The reason is that a lawyer is a part of an institution of three entities. One is a lawyer who puts forth one perspective. And the other lawyer who is appearing, either as a prosecutor or a defense or the respondent puts forth before the court another yet another perspective. And finally, the judge decides. Without these three institutions, It is impossible to arrive at the truth. Because truth by itself is not visible. 

So humans have to identify this methodology of finding out where exactly and how the truth is to be arrived at. Therefore, we perform this most important role. Most important role for the purpose of identification of the truth without which no society can ever exist. If we work, keeping this in mind. Nothing will ever go wrong. Because we are integrally connected to the purpose of our profession. 

What is your take on specialization in a particular field for lawyers?

As you proceed to grow, you begin to become more and more specialized in a particular field. Specialization is extremely good because it gives you recognition. If you are talented. It makes you the person on whom clients, as well as the law firms are dependent on, because of the specialized knowledge that you have acquired over a period of time. It also fetches you money. Specialization also makes you eligible to occupy senior positions as a judge or law officer over a period.

Simultaneously, what it does is, specialization slightly alienates you from the generality of practice. And the concern is that we become, in a way less and less available for other fields of law, a person who is specialized very much in acquisitions, might, at a point of time, realize that it's not possible for him to do matters concerning agricultural land, that's a far fetched, or even routine criminal law matters. It is not a matter of concern to that extent, because you would definitely, definitely never be going into a practice which is completely different from what you have been doing. 

What should be a lawyer's approach when building a practice while specializing in a particular field?

You must never cut yourself off from the broad perspective of other laws that prevail at every point of time. You should know, generally speaking, what's going on in the lead matters so far the criminal law is concerned. How did the Supreme Court or the High Court deal with the present situation, relating to, for example quashing of proceedings, or what are the fundamental rights of an accused person in the cases of TADA Act, or you would also be very well equipped. If you get to know what are the most important constitutional landmarks. For example, if a situation where the parliament is considering to shift the obligation to adjudicate anti defection from that of the speaker to that of a Election Commission, then that awareness is absolutely necessary. In cases where the Supreme Court has for example decided on the right to privacy, those aspects of it, absolutely become necessary. We cannot detach ourselves despite becoming specialists in a particular field from the development of law in other areas. 

It's not for general knowledge or general awareness, first and foremostly, it continues to attach you to the basic obligation of being a lawyer, that obligation to be one of those who supports the society for the purpose of taking the society ahead for truth wherever the situation arises. So while you acquire specialized knowledge, general knowledge of laws, which are parallelly existing around you, gives you the ability to be connected and creative in your own field. A person who is very well connected to civil laws or contractual laws and constitutional laws will get to know the method by which a new concept has evolved, a new idea has emerged, a new thought process which has come in. And this will definitely contribute to us in analyzing and applying that to the subject that you are specialized in. It has a couple of advantages. One is that you will be connected to society, and at the same time you will be able to do better as far as your specialized knowledge is concerned. 

Law like many other professions is a challenging one, what will be your one tip to lawyers to build a holistic career in law?

Our identities are not, and should never be confined to legal professions.

All of us must create additional identities for ourselves. And as Voltaire has said that each one of us must have a little garden, what he meant by that was to create an interest. Create an interest which will last all along, and will help you to be cheerful and happier because this profession inundates you with so many things. If you start looking at news, If you start thinking about the case that you had argued for hours together, your mind doesn't calm down. It's necessary for you to leave it aside. Go back to the second identity which will eventually flower in times to come, taking you along towards a better, satisfying and a  happier life. This will enable you to go a long way. It will be a sustainable life, it will be a happier life. And the contribution will be substantial. 

What are your predictions for the future of law in India?

There is really a long, long way ahead for us as a nation. We are now 70 years after independence, physically we have acquired our independence, but intellectually. We are still suffering with colonialism. We need to decolonize. Most of our laws are seeped into coloniality. So apply yourself, apply to the laws and change the laws as required for the betterment of our country.

The prediction is very very positive, because I think the future of law is going to change very much. You know, most of our parents who are on the cusp of independence, where they had seen before the time before independence and after independence. 

And next is my generation, which is completely post generation and all of you are post generation. You are the generation which is of greatest confidence. Confidence started when we got independence with our age, it was slightly better. And your generation is far ahead of that. 

What happens because of that is that you will begin to realize your own identities, independent identities. And that will enable you to take your generation, and the country closer to realities. 

It will enable us to have a better life and a better realization of what we want to achieve. So I have great confidence. So that's the great thing that is extremely positive about the economy.

 *The conversation was a part of the inaugural edition of BW Legal World' s 40Under40.

Note: The automatic transcription has been lightly edited for a better reading experience. Some names and parts of the transcription may carry inadvertent errors that we are in the process of editing. Thank you for your understanding. 

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