Bharat graduated in law in 2011 and in 2013, at the age of 23, he secured First Rank in the prestigious Delhi Judicial Service Examination and joined as the youngest Civil Judge /Metropolitan Magistrate in his batch. Bharat served in various civil and criminal judgeship assignments in about 4 years of judgeship.
In 2016, and at the age of 27, he resigned from a judgeship in order to return to the practice of law.
We recently got a chance to interview Bharat. Here’s the :
Legal Bites: You have been a part of the judiciary, a corporate firm, and has an exceptional career in arbitration and litigation. Which among them was most challenging to adapt and why?
Bharat: Well, each of them have their own peculiar challenges; One can’t be compared to the other. It’s like comparing apples and oranges. Though all of these careers involve serving the cause of justice, they require very different skill-sets and attributes.
For instance, being a judge requires one to have great reservoirs of patience and compassion. One is required to selflessly devote oneself to doing meaningful justice and try making a difference to people’s lives despite logistical challenges and, sometimes, systemic limitations.
A litigating lawyer’s challenges are somewhat different; he is tested at each point: by the court, the client and one’s peers. A lawyer has to sometimes take up very unpopular causes and do his best regardless of the verdict of the court of public opinion. Also, a lawyer is expected to stay ahead of the curve and there’s never a moment when one can rest on what one’s achieved. A lawyer, as they say, is as good as his/her last performance.
Especially when one litigates with a corporate law firm where the matters are extremely complex and the stakes are incredibly high. Similarly, a legal career as a corporate lawyer and in-house comes with its own set of challenges.
For instance, a corporate lawyer/in-house counsel has to advise a corporation on a number of issues strongly connected with business, finance and strategy and this requires a deep understanding of the world of business and finance and provides one an insight into the world of commerce. And, this isn’t easy:
A corporate lawyer/in-house has to be an enabler of business but at the same time – a voice of conscience, compliance and reason who is not afraid of speaking truth to the power.
Legal Bites: You have an interesting journey. Please share some thoughts on that and also tell us what really prompted you to opt for judicial services first before starting to practice law?
Bharat: In the initial few years at law school, I hadn’t thought of being a judge; I shared the prevailing stereotype that one doesn’t get to be a judge unless one is in 40-50s and has more salt than pepper in their hair. I had never imagined I’d be a judge at 23. What I did aspire for, always, was being good at law.
My father is a lawyer. My father’s law practise was brought to a premature halt by a major brain stroke and paralysis in 1995, which left him hanging at equidistance between life and death and practically bedridden for the rest of his life. I was six years back then, and my elder sister – ten. This destabilised our already tenuous financial position and pushed us to the brink of homelessness.
Our school threatened to strike our names off the roles. It became hard to eke out that princely sum of Rs.1500/- per month that we used to pay as rent. The landlord asked us to vacate the one-room matchbox of an apartment that we used to live in. However, throughout this, my parents put up a brave face and managed to keep us afloat.
Both my mother and father were the ones, to borrow Kipling’s expression, people who could “watch the things they gave their lives to, broken, and stoop and build’s up with worn-out tools…and never breathe a word about their loss”.
My father regained some of his health and started doing work from home. Me and my sister started assisting my father in drafting pleadings since he couldn’t use the typewriter himself, and as we could not afford a professional stenographer, either. So my first brush with the law began when I was around ten years, with me taking dictations from my dad and hammering them out on an old Remington.
By the age of 13-14 years – I was not merely accompanying my father to the court and drafting pleadings, I was also doing the filing, getting affidavits attested, applying for certified copies, filing process fees, etc. When my classmates were learning the first principles of science and math., or just plain fooling around – I was handling my father’s law practice from a seat near State Bank of India, right below Tis Hazari Old Nazareth Branch, under the stairs, which was our headquarters. It used to be the hub of all activity.
A lot of learning in the actual ways of law happened by osmosis by just being in the middle of the action. Like any other 14 years old, I was at times happy on being excused from the drudgery of banal school work, and at others upset over being plucked rudely from the comforts and certainties of a normal childhood and all that comes with it. However, the early initiation in law, I think, gave me a sense of fortitude and a ‘I can deal with whatever life throws at me ‘attitude.
By the time, I was 15, I was thoroughly disillusioned with conventional schooling and thought of it as an unnecessary financial burden. I got to know about the possibility of school education from correspondence, usually for children who cannot attend school. After completing 8th standard (I stood 1st in 8th Standard), I dropped out. I filled the application form for 10th Standard from the National Open School.
I frog leapt 9th Standard and gained a useful year in the process. This allowed me to assist my father during the day-time and also doing other odd-jobs for those extra bucks each month. My teachers, neighbours and class-mates were taken-aback and did their best to dissuade me from the decision.
I started going to courts almost everyday. I still remember, cycling my way to Pitampura Sub-Registrar’s office from our house in Shalimar Bagh, to buy stamp papers for the affidavits that I used to draft for people in my locality. I used to charge Rs.100 for an affidavit, out of which ten rupees were spent on buying the stamp paper, ten rupees for the attestation by the notary public and five rupees for the notary stamp.
I used to roughly save seventy-five rupees on one affidavit, which was great money for a 15-year-old boy. I was living one day at a time. Eventually, to supplement the income I also started designing websites, teaching kids basic computer courses, repairing and assembling computers, in order to supplement the family income.
What at first blush may appear to be a setback – turned out to be a huge advantage. The exposure to work ethic and law, at an early age, gave me a head-start. Though, I was missing school classes, I was learning some valuable life skills.
Things went on like this, and I completed 12th Standard, again from the Open School. I skipped 11th Standard. I was poised to enter law school at the age of just under 17. I joined the Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia and kept working in the evenings. I used to travel from my place in Shalimar Bagh, all the way to Jamia in South East Delhi, changing 3 buses in the process.
So more than the conventional schooling, I was schooled in the college of adversity.
During this time, I also became enamoured with finding a voice for myself. I worked hard on my language. I knew that words were the foremost stock-in-trade of a lawyer. I started honing my linguistic skills. I was initially very hesitant, but moot courts/debates helped me overcome that hesitation. I won the ‘Best Speaker’ in a couple of moots, and a legal quiz, in the first three years and that gave me a huge boost. Mine was one of the few teams picked from the world over for a SIAC International Construction and Infrastructure Arbitration Moot. A first in many respects for our college.
Along with my batchmates, I also started an organisation called ‘Law Students Collective’ wherein a couple of us came together to provide 24 x 7 free legal aid to the needy and the disenfranchised. We also collaborated with the Delhi Legal Services Authority on various legal aid projects. These projects gave us a ringside view of the law, as it plays out in Society.
In my fourth year of law, I got hooked to reading great Judges like Justice Chinappa Reddy, J. Krishna Iyer, J. Chandrachud, Lord Denning, Oliver Wendel Holmes, Lord Atkin & Justice H.R.Khanna, amongst many others. They inspired me a great deal.
I was fascinated with how these judges breathed life into the dead letters of law by creative interpretation, fashioned remedies, where they apparently were none and did substantial justice. During this time only, I first got enamoured with the idea of being a judge. I have seen a lot of injustice and inequity early on in my life, my heart used to be rankled at each injustice.
This was a beautiful opportunity to be a part of the solution and actually dispense ‘Justice’: A service that allowed one an enormous ability to correct injustices and contribute to the evolution of law. Contrary to popular misconception, a civil judge/magistrate is the first defender of civil/personal liberties/due process and his/her role extremely important. A Trial Court judge also has immense powers under the system, which if used with discretion, can go a long way to ensure the protection of rights of people.
For instance, Code of Criminal Procedure (“CrPC”) has provisions which allow a judge to exercise a jurisdiction similar to a habeas corpus petition before the High Court. Similarly, a civil suit for mandatory injunction is strikingly similar to a mandamus petition. Civil Judges and Magistrates spend the maximum time in the trenches, and are, as I love to say, brand ambassadors of the system. This makes their role so much important and so much more exciting.
Life as a young judge
Bliss was in that dawn to be alive; to be young was very heaven. ….…Wordsworth.
At 23, I took the oath of office on 28th May 2013. The text still sends adrenaline rushing down my system, each time I read it, and the text will be incomplete if I don’t reproduce it in full:-
“I, Bharat Chugh, having been appointed a judge, do solemnly affirm that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established; that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of ability and knowledge and judgment perform the duties of my office without fear or favour, affection or ill-will and that I will uphold the constitution and the laws.”
After taking the oath, I, along with my batchmates underwent one year of extensive induction training at the Delhi Judicial Academy, Dwarka which included – academic sessions as well as hands-on experience in court management, docket management and court craft. We, along with our seniors – presided over various judgeship assignments, such as: Civil Judge, Guardianship Court, Metropolitan Magistrate, Crime Branch court, Special Court for cheque bounce cases, Special Court under the Prevention of Corruption Act, Sessions Trials etc.
The Training at the Delhi Judicial Academy is truly transformative. The academy works as a think tank and training institute for newly recruited and existing judges.
After the completion of one year of training, me and my batchmates were poised to take up the independent charge, with full zeal and enthusiasm.
I took over my first judgeship assignment in June, 2014 as a Metropolitan Magistrate (NI Act), Tis Hazari. Life had come a full circle, so to speak; My father had started as a typist in Tis Hazari only, roughly four decades back, and I also began my career from here only as a judge. He was ecstatic, to say the least. I had fulfilled the promise that I had made to him.
I worked in my first assignment for one a half years. It was one of the heaviest courts with over 5000 cases; I disposed of about 3800 cases in the first one and a half years. I tried to implement new court management strategies, and ended up increasing my disposal quantitatively as well as qualitatively. During this time, I also kept working on articles/papers and also made a reference to the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi on a question of law relating to ‘Mediation/ADR in Criminal cases’. The reference was subsequently entertained, amici appointed to assist the court and I received a commendation for the same from my learned seniors.
During this time, I also acted as a Railway Judge, for a brief time, as an additional charge (called the link judge), where I was aghast to find that young men and women were being prosecuted for begging/selling tea on the railway platform under an archaic provision of the Railways Act. This was a classic case of, what one author calls, ’Criminalisation of the Poor’.
The sight of these unfortunate people mired in poverty, and disowned by the State moved me a lot. I gave voice to my anguish in one of my poems called the ‘Confessions of a young judge’, but more on that some other time. This gave me sleepless nights, and I had to find out a way to help them, of course within the framework of the law. The relevant provision in the Railway Act clearly prohibited such activity; however, convicting them will amount to me being a court of law and not a court of justice.
Taking a cue from Justice B.D. Ahmed’s remarkable judgment in Ram Lakhan v. State (2006), I dropped proceedings against many of these people, invoking the doctrine of ‘necessity’. I ruled that: A person was excused from the crime of begging if he begs in order to save himself from starvation and certain death. I wrote, with great anguish, that if the so-called welfare state could not provide basic necessities for these people, it had no right to prosecute them.
These orders were never challenged by the State before the higher echelons, which was undesirable insofar as a judgment by the High Court on this point would have had a wider coverage and could have provided a much-needed security cover to these forgotten souls and benefits would have trickled down on a much wider scale.
In 2016, I took over my second assignment as ‘Metropolitan Magistrate (Traffic)’ and was entrusted with the task of trial of traffic-related offences. Here I was faced with ‘imprisoners’ dilemma’ on whether to send a person to jail or not Deterrence versus Reformation, Societal Defence versus Second Chance.
This posting allowed me to work on sentencing innovations, and I passed community service orders in a variety of cases. This served a twin purpose: firstly it prevented a first time offender from being exposed to the deleterious effects of jail life and stigma of a jail sentence, and at the same time, ensured that he is not let off scot-free and contributes to the overall health of the society, in some way or the other, as a useful citizen.
I finally took over as a Civil Judge in Tis Hazari and had a fascinating stint. I faced some of the most vexed legal questions relating to property/commercial/contract law during my tenure here. Whereas criminal side (where I had been for long) required one to think on his/her feet, civil law was relatively relaxed but extremely challenging all the same, considering the wide gamut of issues that one is faced with. Here, I was assisted by some very competent counsel, who used to appear before me and taught me a lot.
Legal Bites: Sir, you have been a member of the esteemed Young Singapore International Arbitration Centre Committee. How much has the ADR processes reached in order to provide effective remedies to the clients nationally and internationally? And how far India is from inculcating the mindset of achieving the benefits through the ADR processes?
Bharat: ADR is definitely the way forward. Having experienced this up close, having been a civil judge myself, I can say that people are turning away from civil actions. Contrary to popular misconceptions, India does not have a very litigious population; our civil litigation ratios are amongst the lowest in the world.
People do not like to take even their just and legitimate claims to civil courts for the fear of the remaining pending for years and years, which is well-founded. Unfortunately, India has over three crore cases pending across the Supreme Court, the High Courts, and the subordinate courts (As of April 2018). This problematic reality, while keeping courts clogged, also keeps people away from approaching them.
The trials and tribulations of a litigant do not end after obtaining a decree or an award since execution of a decree or an award is a greater mess. Realizing the fruits of the decree in one’s hands is a different challenge altogether. In this background, ADR is definitely the way forward. There has been a huge emphasis on mediation and arbitration in the recent times and for good reason.
For instance, statutorily, under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC), there is a strong focus on mediation. This comes in the form of Section 89 of the CPC, which encourages a civil court to proactively refer disputes before it to mediation, and Order X Rules A-G, place a lot of emphasis on pre-litigation mediation.
In August 2018, the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Act, 2015 was amended to require mediation as a mandatory pre-action procedure prior to the filing of a commercial suit (unless a party required urgent interim relief from the courts). These requirements would apply equally to disputes of an international nature being litigated in India
In the context of arbitration, ‘The United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation’ or more conveniently, the Singapore Mediation Convention, is a huge step forward. India is, in fact, one of the initial signatories of this convention, having ratified it in August 2019.
The Convention gives legitimacy and sanctity to mediation settlements and makes them enforceable in the same way as an international commercial arbitration award. The Convention allows parties to a cross-border mediated settlement agreement to directly seek enforcement of the settlement agreement before the competent authority of a country, without facing the challenges associated with incorporating the terms of settlement in an arbitral award or judgment.
It is envisaged that ratification of the Convention will be accompanied by the adoption of the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Mediation and International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (the “Model Law on Mediation”). The Model Law on Mediation provides a template for National legislation through which the Model Law on Mediation will be implemented.
The success of the Model Law on Mediation will depend to a significant extent on its global adoption by India along with other countries, which will have to enact a national legislation along the lines of the Model Law on Mediation for its effective implementation. This would prove to be a huge shot in the arm for international mediation settlements.
Earlier people were not inclined to opt for mediation in big international commercial disputes for the reason that there were substantial concerns regarding enforceability. Sometimes a mediated settlement would only be taken as a contract which would have to be taken to a court in a particular country, made a decree of that court and then enforced. This two-tier enforcement structure turned away a lot of parties from mediation, but this is changing now.
Apart from India, even US and China have also ratified the Singapore Mediation convention, and US and China being on one page for anything is an unexpectedly pleasant surprise in today’s day and age so this is a promising step in the right direction.
The 2019 Amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act (“the 2019 Amendment Act”) are a welcome change and addition to the law already in place. There are some concerns on the constitution of the Arbitration Council of India (ACI), with the government being the biggest litigator on the one hand and having a say in the accreditation of arbitral institutions and gradation of arbitrators. However, the move towards institutionalization is welcome. Indian arbitration has suffered from ad hoc-ism for a long time which turns out to be costlier than institutional arbitration.
In my opinion, moving towards institutions would not only provide a better framework to Indian arbitration but would also provide a huge impetus to formation of a dedicated arbitration bar in India. If you look at the SIAC statistics, India is one of the biggest consumers of SIAC and what the amendment seeks to do is to create a robust arbitral institution within the country. This intention of the legislature to promote ADR is being met, with judicial intervention and activism becoming a thing of the past.
The recent amendments have minimized the scope of judicial intervention, resulting in the burial of the ghost of patent illegality in international commercial arbitration and to a great extent in the taming of the unruly horse of public policy, by defining strictly what public policy means in the context of domestic and international arbitration.
With this, the challenges are now confined only to cases where the most basic notions of morality and justice and the most fundamental policy of Indian law are under challenge. The recent judicial decisions in this regard are extremely welcome and a mere transgression of the law is not taken to be something that may make the court refuses to recognize a foreign award.
Legal Bites: Sir, you have served both bar and bench. How do you see the problem of delayed justice?
Bharat: Speedy dispensation of justice is a crucial aspect of the rule of law and democratic governance. As Chief Justice Warren Burger of US Supreme eloquently expressed –
“A sense of confidence in the courts is essential to maintain the fabric of ordered liberty for a free people and three things could destroy that confidence and do incalculable damage to society: that people come to believe that inefficiency and delay will drain even a just judgment of its value; that people who have long been exploited in the smaller transactions of daily life come to believe that courts cannot vindicate their legal rights from fraud and over-reaching; that people come to believe the law in the larger sense cannot fulfil its primary function to protect them and their families in their homes, at their work, and on the public streets.”
Alarmingly Indian judicial system is struggling with the disposal of a colossal number of cases pending in different courts across country. The pendency of cases has been alarmingly high in the most recent couple of years.
According to statistics displayed by National Judicial Data Grid an initiative launched by Supreme Court in 2015 as part of broader effort to digitize the court records a total 89,30,872 civil cases are pending in different district and Taluka courts of India on November 2019. Out of these cases, nearly 73% of the cases are more than one year old. Around 44,39,404 cases are simply civil suits filed in different courts. Around 20% of the cases are pending for more than 5 years.
The judiciary suffers from severe structural problem which hinder its proper functioning. Factors like lower judge to population ratio, very long adjournment period, poor infrastructure, ambiguous legislation and procedural complication make the situation worse.
To address the issue of delay there is a need to critically reform the judicial administration focusing on the development of better case management frameworks and vigorous use of technology. There is a need to establish more courts, increase the number of judges, get the best people to join the bench, simplification of procedures, reduction of government litigation, harnessing technology and building more e-courts and emphasize on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.
Legal Bites: In recent years, we have seen the graph of commission of rapes going up despite sterner laws and punishments. Since you have held a judicial office and also been a part of criminal litigation, what steps can be taken by law enforcing agencies/prosecution in order to aid while countering the problem of increasing crimes against women?
Bharat: The certainty of punishment is a greater deterrent than the severity of the punishment. Though crimes against women have to be dealt with utmost severity and deterrence is one of the soundest principles of penology, it is not the only principle; the requirement of individualisation of punishment cannot be lost sight of. Our legislation sometimes is populist and knee-jerk which leads to changes in the law without the degree of deliberation.
The government responds to incidences of rape by increasing the severity of punishment without however the conviction rate remains dismal. There are several factors which exert pressure on victims and impede their access to justice. There is a lack of cooperation between and police and there are incidences where police showed prejudicial attitude towards rape victims.
The investigation requires considerable time and painstaking work but due to inadequate manpower, the investigation takes unusually long time leading destruction of crucial evidence.
An investigation by India’s Tehelka magazine with NDTV news channel in April last year found more than half the police officers interviewed had prejudices — blaming the victim’s clothes or the fact that she was out at night, suggesting that she was asking for it.
Police reforms have been proposed for decades, but few have been put in place, because many of them involve making officers less susceptible to political meddling something politicians have little incentive to seek. Hence there is a need to channelize the protest towards demanding a more victim-friendly criminal justice system especially a victim-oriented police system.
Due to lack of robust witness and victim protection laws it deters witnesses from cooperating with processes of investigation and testimony and increases the likelihood of them turning hostile. A larger section of victims belongs to lower socio-economic strata and don’t have access to adequate legal assistance.
Further societal barriers make it hard for victims to report the incidences of crime. The stigma attached to sexual violence, self-blaming, myth of the lie, intrafamilial abuses which always involves the reputation of family if revealed, victim-blaming and social stereotypes are certain reasons for low reporting of rape incidents. Hence there is a need to develop victim-centric approach which will incorporate needs and rights, and in essence the well-being of victims by prioritizing a personalized and trauma-informed perspective in training to support and protect the victims.
Police reforms have been proposed for decades, but few have been put in place because many of them involve making officers less susceptible to political meddling something politicians have little incentive to seek. Hence there is a need to channelize the protest towards demanding a more victim-friendly criminal justice system especially a victim-oriented police system.
Legal Bites: Law and the legal profession are profusely interacting with other disciplines especially technology which was inconceivable a few decades ago. What is your take on challenges and opportunities thrown by such interface?
Bharat: A walk down the history lane reveals that the revolution of the powerless still gets an audience but no one pays attention to the revolution of the redundant, as Harari aptly observed. Are lawyers facing irrelevance? What, in other words, is the future of the legal profession. This question is important and is specifically pertinent for us as lawyers to answer because we, as a species, are conditioned and hard-wired to look behind: precedent, analogy, custom, tradition.
This makes many of us change-averse and the status quo-ists. But, as the adage goes – even if we can’t see the future, the future can still see us. Because of the very nature of our profession, some lawyers find it a bit hard to deal with and the essential egocentricity of the profession makes it difficult for us to adopt, what Richard Susskind calls –
‘an outcome-based thinking/approach’: An approach that advocates thinking in terms of solutions. A person having a legal problem is usually not looking for a good lawyer, rather, he’s looking for a solution.
Legal Bites: What are the areas of law that you practice currently at L&L and what’s keeping you busy these days?
Bharat: As a Partner at L&L Partners, I advise and represent clients on a wide range of issues with a strong focus on International Commercial Arbitration, White Collar Crime, Anti-Corruption and Anti-money Laundering Laws, Complex Contractual/Commercial Litigation, Constitutional matters, Private International Law, MLATs, Extradition and issues relating to Cyber-Crime, Artificial Intelligence, Big-Data and Social Media.
I also serve as a member of the prestigious Young SIAC (Singapore International Arbitration Centre) committee. YSIAC aims to promote the use of international arbitration and other forms of alternative dispute resolution, both regionally and internationally. YSIAC provides a platform for young professionals to work together to address the unique challenges faced by the legal and business communities across a diverse range of Asian jurisdictions and cultures.
In the past I’ve also served on various committees, including the Delhi High Court Committee on Arbitration where we helped the institution (Delhi International Arbitration Centre) streamline its functioning by, amongst other things, overhauling its Rules.
I also have a keen interest in academics and have had the opportunity of delivering talks/conducted workshops on a wide spectrum of legal issues, for media persons, business leaders, teachers, Indian and foreign judges/lawyers, on topics ranging from ‘Cross-examination in Arbitrations’, ‘Cyber Crime, Electronic Evidence’, ‘Law and Tech’ to ‘Defence strategies in cases of corporate criminal liability’.
Also close to my heart are issues relating to judging & justice, civil and criminal trial processes, topics such as – ‘The Art of Writing a Judgment’, ‘Social Context Adjudication’, ‘Pro-active judging’, commercial laws such as Commercial Courts Act, Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (“IBC”), Extradition, Anti-Money Laundering laws, Economic offences; issues relating to cyber-crime, electronic evidence, amongst others.
I’ve delivered talks/participated in panel discussions organised by ASSOCHAM, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Singapore International Arbitration Centre (“SIAC”), Delhi Judicial Academy, Legal Services Authorities, IIHS, Law Schools, ICSE, Legislative discussions at various Ministries, Centre for Civil Society, amongst others.
I am extremely passionate about pro bono lawyering, teaching and mentoring aspiring future judges. I also had the opportunity of being appointed as amicus curiae by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court and went on to represent a number of unrepresented defendants in serious criminal cases as a ‘friend of the Court’ before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi.
I got a chance to argue in as many as 12 serious criminal cases on single day and assisted the Hon’ble Delhi High Court (hearing Criminal Appeals) in deciding a huge number of criminals appeal on a single day, thereby helping the court set new standards of efficiency, while at the same time – ensuring competent legal representation and a fair trial for these defendants who could not afford proper counsel.
Legal Bites: What advice will you like to give to our young law aspirants with respect to the career options who have been part of in the legal field?
Bharat: Contrary to popular misconception, this is isn’t a bad time to be a lawyer at all. These are very very exciting times. And no matter what people say about the profession being saturated and there being “too many lawyers”, there is a huge vacuum for great lawyers. In house opportunities are huge. Also big would be opportunities in law and Tech, AI, Big Data, IBC, Sports law etc.
Though being a general disputes litigator is extremely rewarding and interesting given the fact that one gets to experience and engage with different kinds of law and this beats monotony. Having said that, there’s always the risk of spreading oneself too thin.
I would recommend the following formulation: know a bit about everything so that you at least know where to look for a solution to a given problem if it is thrown at you; in other words, acquaint yourself with the general landscape of law and what’s happening around but at the same time – be world-class at some specialised area or the other. This is critical.
Finally, there is absolutely no alternative for hard work in law. However, it must be kept in mind that law is not “suits” – it is the library. The profession has been glamorised a great deal and often unduly. It is sheer hard work and grit.
I’ll quote Justice Joseph Story when he said “The law is a jealous mistress and requires a long and constant courtship. It is not to be won by trifling favors, but by lavish homage.” If you are able to do that – there is little else that you’ll need ever again.