THE coronavirus related lockdown reducing cases and incomes, many lawyers have been left in the lurch. Anxiety about the future has taken a toll on many young and aspiring lawyers looking to make their mark in the noble profession. The reduced access to support systems and isolation in today’s times has the lowered morale of many lawyers.
The Delhi Women Lawyers Forum began its Virtual Canteen initiative in July this year to bring back the camaraderie and provide a support system to young lawyers, who may find themselves questioning their own choices for the future. “Sometimes, you just need to hear that you are on the right path from someone senior to you,” said Advocate Amita Singh Kalkal, moderator of the event, in a conversation with The Leaflet.
She added, “Earlier practice was different with fewer number of cases. It was later that things opened up. So the experience of our senior on how they struggled in those times will resonate with lawyers who now struggle in post-COVID times.”
The struggle period in litigation is a daunting period for every lawyer. Delhi High Court’s Justice Jyoti Singh, speaking at the event, narrated how she found her initial days as an advocate very challenging. “I just used to sit behind and observe the seniors argue in court. I socialised very less and my visits to the canteen were also less at the time. It was a difficult time and I decided to quit as a lawyer and started looking for other jobs,” she said.
She received a phone call after three months from Senior Advocate Mr. Aggarwal who was impressed by her arguments in court and offered her a job. She recalls “I complained to him that law field was very boring. But he trusted me on all matters that were assigned to me and gave me the freedom to take calls. This support from senior lawyers is very crucial when one starts as a junior counsel.”
Advocate Kavita Jha, Senior Partner at Vaish Associates, spoke at the event about her love for criminal law and beginning her career as a lawyer with passion. “I am a lawyer by choice not by compulsion,” she added.
Advocate Amita Kalkal, before the event, had described the webinar’s intention as “Behind every success story there are years of struggle. We see the result and not what happened behind it. A senior saying that I too had a tough time is inspiring for a junior.”
Advocate Kavita Jha spoke about her experience and learnings as a lawyer. She said “One should be aware of every fact even if they are not the arguing counsel. I had to go to court on a Saturday for a case before Justice Muralidhar, who gave me a patient hearing. I lost the case but had complete satisfaction because I had made my argument the way I wanted. I learnt that if someone is hearing you patiently, then you are making sense.”
Young lawyers have to, at some point, make the crucial decision of going independent. A senior’s guidance can be critical to this crucial decision. Justice Jyoti Singh praised the kind of support that her senior provided her at this crucial junction in her career. “My senior was very welcoming and supportive when I spoke to him about going independent. He even offered me some portion of his office. My client was a low cadre clerk, and he came to with a box of halwa after I got the order in his favour. That day is still precious to me as I never experienced that kind of satisfaction.”
There is satisfaction in helping out clients. Advocate Kavita Jha recalled one of her first pro bono matters “I was very nervous because my client’s life was at stake. If I lost, he would end up in prison. Justice Sahni was very patient and I got my client acquitted. Later, my client’s father asked me if I had got the bail and I informed him he was acquitted and set free. The amount of satisfaction I experienced was very dear to me.”
Justice Jyoti Singh advised young lawyers and reminded them that there is no substitute for hardwork and determination. One has to remind oneself that you are here to stay no matter what. “This profession does not come to you on a platter. One has to prove his or her worth here,” she said
“I learnt that if I win or lose, I will learn something,” said Advocate Kavita Jha.
(The Leaflet thanks Jithendra Palepu for his assistance with the report.)