ONE of the lesser known facets of ‘practical law practice’ is dodging a judge or Bench whose biases or predilections are so well-known at the Bar that arguing certain types of cases before such judges is inviting sudden death for the client’s case.
There was once a milord on a Bombay High Court Bench who had been a labour law practitioner. He had a marked bias in favour of workers and an evident animus against their employers, i.e. the ‘management’.
After many years in the Bombay High Court this milord finally got to head the division Bench assigned all labour and service related cases.
That is when the slaughter began in right earnest. He was ruthless and gave no adjournment or accommodation to the management lawyers.
Often, the milord included in his Orders submissions supporting the workmen which even their own lawyers had not argued. No one knew how to dodge this Bench.
At around this time, the son of a solicitor who had just obtained his sanad (licence to practise) casually mentioned to his father that this milord’s son had been his batchmate and, like him, had also been enrolled a week earlier.
The reputed solicitor, whose firm represented many of the managements who were being hauled over coals by the milord on a daily basis could not believe his good luck.
He asked his son to invite the milord’s son for dinner to celebrate. There, an offer was made to the milord’s son to engage him as an advocate-on-record (AOR) in some matters for a handsome sum.
The milord’s son replied that he was too raw a junior and would not be able to discharge such an important responsibility.
The solicitor, however, assured him that he just had to sign the vakalatnama, take his fee and hang around the arguing counsel. Everything else would be managed by the firm and its team of advocates and counsel. It would be a wonderful learning experience.
The milord’s son could not believe his luck. But it was quite evident that Lady Luck had decided to favour him.
A very generous amount was fixed per matter as the fee for basically being just a name-lending lawyer.
The moment that happened, all those matters in which his appearance came to be filed on record got removed from the cause-list of the milord who was known as the wrecker-in-chief of the managements. These cases were placed before another Bench.
Soon this news spread.
Several attorneys facing the milord’s firing squad also made a beeline to give a cheque and get the autograph of his son on vakalatnamas for their clients, viz., the employers.
On that one assignment, the milord’s son made enough money to be able to buy a nice one-BHK flat on his own and a brand new Maruti Esteem.
In criminal matters the milord was pro-prosecution.
So criminal lawyers started engaging the milord’s son so that they could be freed from his father’s clutches before they could hope to free their clients from the clutches of the law.
In the seven years this milord was a senior judge (and later a collegium judge too) his son made a huge fortune.
He bought two more apartments, a large office and a pricey car. He even hired a few lawyers who were rich in experience but poor in luck to run his office.
After his father retired, he had no private practice but managed to get appointed to the panel of the Union of India. Lady Luck had not deserted him. She continued to shine there also.
He started being paid huge amounts by the other side to lose cases than he was entitled to bill the government to win them.
The milord has passed on but his son continues to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle without much struggle or effort. No one grudges him his ‘good luck’ even though some may curse their own bad luck!
That is the beauty of our profession. Such things happen so regularly that they are accepted as ‘the normal practice’.
Maybe that is why some still consider this a ‘noble profession’.