This article ‘Stepping Stones to Success for A Young Litigator’ provides 5 important pointers for a young litigator stepping into litigation.
As you don your court, band, and gown and set foot into the court corridors, you might find yourself overwhelmed and confused as to what baby steps you should be taking to find a foothold in the profession. While you will have senior colleagues hand-holding you through the first few years, here are a few additional pointers to help you sail through the initial years.
Stepping Stones to Success for A Young Litigator
1. Never say no to any work that is given to you.
Most of the time you may have little or no knowledge or experience in the subject-matter of a piece of work that you are entrusted with. If you cite a lack of experience or knowledge as the reason to refuse work, there is no way you will get ahead. Take on the work given to you with enthusiasm and then put in the necessary efforts to give it your best shot.
Extensive reading and seeking guidance from experienced lawyers are exceedingly helpful in being able to successfully complete a piece of work. While it is of utmost importance to work on a new and challenging piece of work, it is also important to communicate to your senior that you have limited knowledge so as to set expectations right and to receive necessary guidance.
2. Focus on learning the art of courtcraft.
Though knowledge of the law and in-depth understanding of the facts of your case laid the foundation, that alone may not be sufficient to earn you success. You will also need to have the skill of courtcraft to be able to taste success.
Court craft is the art of representing your case before a judge and includes various aspects including how to address a judge, how to answer questions put forth by a judge, holding the attention of the court, voice modulation, demeanor, and so on. Though you may learn a few tips by reading autobiographies of senior lawyers or articles on the subject, the best classroom to learn the art is the courtroom itself.
As a young litigator, you would spend hours in a courtroom and this time should be put to use by observing lawyers make submissions, conduct cross-examination, and address arguments to learn numerous valuable lessons. The dos and the don’ts can be learned to be keen observation.
3. If you observe the seniors in our profession, you will notice that they read and re-read the briefs diligently prior to the hearing even though they may have read the file multiple times of previous occasions.
At any stage in our profession, it is important to be through with the facts of the case before appearing in a matter. Even if you are appearing before a judge only to seek an adjournment, it is necessary to have read the file thoroughly and to have checked the records to understand the stage of the case and what had transpired in the previous dates of hearing.
Making notes with all relevant page numbers, dates, and chronology of events is extremely useful and will be handy while making submissions in court. If as a young litigator you are well prepared, it will always shine through and impress the judge and all present in the courtroom and lack of preparation is bound to put you in an embarrassing situation so never underestimate the importance of preparation.
4. One can never emphasize enough the importance of reading in our profession.
The law is ever-evolving, and the multitude of legislative amendments and judgments make it extremely difficult for a lawyer to stay abreast unless she/he makes a conscious and systematic effort to read. The first couple of years is the best time to strengthen the foundation and the only way to do so is to keep reading and amassing as much knowledge as possible. Collating important judgments will hold you in good stead.
5. Do not get disheartened and give up.
There will be plenty of sleepless nights, you may embarrass yourself in court, you may get reprimanded by your seniors or be at the receiving end of a client’s rage but you must learn to accept these as part of the game and learn from each of these situations and emerge stronger than before.
This profession is not for the weak-hearted and you will find success only if you are ready to dust yourself and get up every time you fall.
Move ahead courageously and before you know it you will be walking on the court corridors, with heavy briefs and head held high.
By: Meenakshy Natesan
The author is a Senior Associate at J. Sagar Associates.