Mr Jayant Bhatt on Contemporary Law Practice

The Legal Arc Volume 1 Issue 1 Interviews

Mr Jayant Bhatt

Interviewed by Ghazal Bhootra

Jayant Bhatt is an independent lawyer based in New Delhi, India. He holds a dual LL.M from New York University, USA and the National University of Singapore. He is a member of the Supreme Court Bar Association and Delhi High Court Bar Association. Besides being a practising advocate, Mr Bhatt is a prolific speaker and believes in greater societal good. He has a keen interest in mentoring young minds and is an advisory member of various organizations.

INTERVIEWER

Who or what was your inspiration or motivation in becoming a lawyer?

MR JAYANT BHATT

My failures in life, because in 11th and 12th I actually failed in science except for English and then my uncle told me to look at law as a profession as I had a good hold over my language. So he gave me the prospectus of the National Law School, Bangalore, and it really inspired me because I did not know much about law back then. My view of lawyers was very much like in Bollywood; Blackcoats, arguing before the courts, in a very filmy style. The prospectus gave me a lot of insight and that helped me to surf on the internet and search about what lawyers do and the five-year law course as it was very new in India even back then. That is what inspired me to become a lawyer in the first place.  

INTERVIEWER

Considering that you are well connected with, and take great interest in the academic and holistic development of today’s youth, what advice do you have for today’s aspiring lawyers?

MR JAYANT BHATT

My advice is very simple: do not overburden yourself with expectations because this is a very slow profession. If you want instant success, then maybe try becoming a sensation on Instagram, Snapchat or Youtube because it has a very good scope of getting viral. For a lawyer, people value you for your legal skills and that comes with a lot of training, and that training requires a lot of man-hours which requires undergoing tutelage under law firms and different lawyers. 

Young people don’t understand this because when your peers are making millions of dollars either on Youtube, TikTok or Netflix, then naturally we think that we are comparatively slow. But the law has always been and will always be a go-to profession for people in trouble or people in problems, and we will always need good lawyers, so stick around. 

I think five years is a long course, it should be two years or three years and not more than that. The time period can be tinkered with by the Bar Council. I know it’s not related to the same question but just saying that as youth, you can appeal to the Bar Council to revise its schedule as now the New Education Policy is in line for all of India on the education front. It’s a slow journey but it’s worth its time. Do not rush and enjoy the walk.

INTERVIEWER

How do you manage your busy schedule, and keep your calm in stressful situations?

MR JAYANT BHATT

I look very calm but there is always a thought process running in my mind as there are multiple things that I am juggling with. There are court cases that I have to deal with almost on a daily basis via VCs, then I have clients seeking advance, then you have to manage the office, and then other commitments too. Having said this, I think I am comparatively a less busy person, and there are a lot of successful people out there. At the end of the day all of us have twenty-four hours to manage, and I keep saying that having post-its helps you clear your mind, and structuring it by making a to-do list and by putting your agendas on it then it’s the easiest way to do things. For example, ten agendas that I have to finish in a day and then I keep finishing the agendas, and striking them off, and that’s also why you need a good team to support you where you share a common equation of understanding and commitment, because I think that also helps a lot. Team-building is as important as managing your time, rest of it is an interplay between the two. 

INTERVIEWER

What is your take on NLSIU Bangalore’s decision to conduct its own examination?

MR JAYANT BHATT

I think there was an objection to it too saying that they should not be doing this as when there is a structure of common law entrance tests except NLU Delhi, all the other National Law Schools subscribe to it. One school of thought might say that you are an autonomous university and you have a right to take a call for the betterment of the students, but once there is a consortium of National Law Schools then you have to take the interest of all the students in account. It can’t be a self-serving thing; you can’t think that we are the only institution producing brilliant legal minds, that’s not true as there are equally good institutions that are producing great legal minds in the country, so, please don’t put yourself on a pedestal. 

Yes, it was a good experiment in 1988 and it has produced many good lawyers and I have the utmost respect for the National Law Schools, but having said that, for the future generations to come if you create confusion in the market then there would be other people suffering resulting in unrest. There is already a lot of unrest in the world, do not add to the chaos, especially as legal bodies because you have to think it through. I don’t know much about what is going on in the legal world as I am not faculty or a decision-making body, but from an outsider’s view I’m saying that let’s create less chaos. 

INTERVIEWER

Recently Mr Prashant Bhushan was penalised with a fine of Re. 1 for criminal contempt for his comments on Twitter. What is your opinion on the situation?

MR JAYANT BHATT

My comment was already out through my post. I agree with the Supreme court as far as the conviction was concerned because I read the judgement, all the 108 pages. It was scandalous, and as a senior lawyer you can not say that. You are a product of this institution, and so are we. You can’t start tarnishing the image of the very institution which has put you on a particular pedestal. I am not saying that you have to be true to it, hold the mirror to the judges if they are wrong but have cogent evidence to support it. 

Your tweets are not right and that is what the Supreme court observed too. As for the fine of rupee 1, I think that was very fair by the Supreme court. In my post I have mentioned that: as a senior member of the Bar, there has to be a good equation between both, the Bar and the Bench. They must not be harsh on people because it was just a tweet. Rupee 1 was right and as I said, he is a very respected senior member of the Bar, so it was a good way to put the heated debate that generated in the civil society to rest.

INTERVIEWER

Considering the above, how do you think social media acts as a powerful tool of expression, and how should it be used judiciously?

MR JAYANT BHATT

Social media is extremely powerful because now there is a parallel media because normally, you will be hooked to news, but today we have multiple forums to express our views. Twitter, of course, and then Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram where you express your views, but I still find LinkedIn to be the most favourable as it does not have a word limit. I am not on Twitter because I think that how does one express their thoughts in 280 characters. A classic example is Prashant Bhushan’s case, had he written on LinkedIn with a thought process and a logical flow to it, then people would have read it properly. Tweets may be misconstrued; as either you are jumbling up, or specifically targeting those characters. Your thoughts have to be cogent, they have to be seamless, and I think that is one problem with social media today. ‘The Social Dilemma’, a movie on Netflix, shows how all of us are being controlled. We are just hooked to our phones constantly. Earlier we just had ET, TV, or Doordarshan, but last time I checked there were so many news channels that you start doubting the credibility. Being neutral about the information is the fundamental goal of journalists, and to give people neutral news, and then let them decide. Today social media and media tend to manipulate you, so people are sitting with agendas. I am not saying that agendas are wrong, but when an agenda becomes propaganda, then it’s an issue. 

INTERVIEWER

Did you have an opportunity to work on both civil and criminal matters? If yes, then what helped you to recognize your passion?

MR GAJENDRA MAHESHWARI

As a law student, I got an opportunity to intern a lot on the criminal side, but when I started practising, especially as a first-generation lawyer, I did not have the luxury to say that I want to be a criminal lawyer. Although somehow I always got criminal matters in the beginning. I was a junior at Mr Sibbal’s office and he practices both civil as well as criminal matters. There I had an opportunity to learn, and then I joined Mr Jadhav in the Supreme court for six to seven months where he handled both civil and criminal matters. I did a hardcore criminal practice in the High court and the trial court, and handled appeals on the criminal side. 

When I ventured on my own, I used to tell people that I am a criminal lawyer because I had a lot of clients. Now seventy percent of the cases are criminal and the thirty percent hovers around commercial matters. I want to convey to the readers that you do everything when you are a junior lawyer for a good four-six years as it gives you a good grounding, and that also helps you understand how the law works. You do not become the master, of course, as the law is a vast ocean, but then keep reading and keep evolving. Do everything but in the end, do what you are passionate about.

INTERVIEWER

Being a successful and an inspiring first-generation lawyer, what advice do you have for aspiring first-generation lawyers?

MR JAYANT BHATT

Slog and work hard, there is no substitute for this. People have been saying this to my generation and I feel that I am bound to convey this to you. Get up, suit up, and show up. That is my mantra, and there are no two ways about it. You have to work hard day in and day out. As I said earlier, law is a slow profession in terms of the progress you make as you can not know how to function in the court, argue, or research about any matter. All these things take time, and a lot of rigour, hard work, and focus. Sometimes you might feel dejected or disoriented, perhaps from the work environment, or the client has been nasty to you, or maybe the judge has been rude. As a young lawyer when you move out to work, you have to face all these challenges and you have to take it in your stride. These challenges make a lawyer an enabled lawyer, and teach you advocacy skills. Be prepared to work extremely hard, and that is for any profession. There is no shortcut to hard work. It requires your time and energy, so do not compromise on this.



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