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The distinguished legal luminary Mr.

Fali Nariman recounts his varied experience

s, anecdotes,
reflections and memorable instances in his practice to provide a number of usefu
l practical tips to
the budding lawyers who desire to enter the profession. He persuasively argues a
bout the need to
do away with certain commonly prevalent vices and pitfalls and at the same time
inculcate good
habits which will form the recipe of success.
The personal integrity and dedication to the profession rather than the client i
s his foremost
lesson. He recounts as to how one should not fall in the ‘sporting chap syndrome’ of
a case just because the client wishes to, despite having full knowledge that the
re are little
chances of success. He also cautions us to not fall prey to the madness of citin
g case laws
without understanding the facts and gravity of the issues first, a condition he
refers to as ‘case
law diarrhea’. At the same time, he impresses upon the need to have knowledge of t
he reputed
judgments up to the date because these form the armory of the lawyer. He beautif
ully explains
the importance of being clear and succinct. One should be simple and methodical
in his approach
and think logically like a lawyer and not like a philosopher.
The anecdotes which he shares form an endearing reading as they are informative
and very
educative in nature. He gives us the practical advice of arguing the worst argum
ent first and
then moving on to the less worse of the two, as the court would be more sympathe
tic in that case
having already cornered the lawyer before. The importance of erudite scholarship
through the
incident between Justice Bachawat and advocate Vishwanath Shastri as well as the
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of Blanco while writing Halsbury’s Law of England is marvelous and even Mr. Narima
n feels
envious of such scholarship which he finds is rarely on display these days.
He attributes the success ladder of a young advocate in the legal to the phenome
non of
Parkinson’s Law which means the amount of work available is directly proportional
to the better
application of mind, more experience and greater sharpening of the mental facult
ies and vice
versa. He takes pains to distinguish the difference between ‘work’ and ‘monetary rewar
d’ and
calls a fixed monetary reward as the worst enemy of hard work since there is no
incentive to
work in that case. Then he moves on to underscore the point that it is the duty
of the client to
state a case on the point that is being argued in the court even if it is can be
distinguished on
facts but cautions an advocate to never cite an overruled case. In his opinion ,
it is also always
better to understate a case rather than overstate it because of the natural urge
of the judge to cut
down the lawyer to his size if the advocate professes that the law is ‘watertight’ a
nd immediately
demands a judgment in his favour. This may be counterproductive.
Another learned advice which comes from Mr. Nariman is to not ‘count your chicken
before they
hatch’ meaning thereby that one should never be too cocksure about winning cases.
He explains
as to how the unfortunate death of Chief Justice Chainani of the Bombay HC in 19
60s led to a
reversal of fortune for him as he lost his case, through the presiding judge (Ju
stice Tarkunde)
was kind enough to let him know that the notes on the files of Justice Chainani
showed that he
was ready to deliver the judgment in his favour.
Mr. Nariman, having a wealth of experience from his long practice in the court a
lso refers to
certain phrases that must be avoided as they risk the danger of offending the ju
dge like ‘I have
never heard of such a thing’, and ‘Your Lordship will bear with me’. He also points ou
t the
fallacy of exaggerating arguments, use of rhetoric, over smartness, the folly of
being funny or
cracking jokes and putting absurd arguments by referring to interesting incident
s. Anger and
vitriol can be the nemesis of any lawyer as is evident from Mr. Nariman’s personal
as well his narrations of Lord Eldon and Judge Ruth Ginsberg. Another golden les
son is to have
a pleasant demeanour and resist from quarreling with the opponents or being nast
y with them as
the major part of any advocate’s life will be spent with the colleagues at the bar
and a ‘sense of
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camaraderie’ at the bar is must for preservation of the continued sanctity.
Another important message that we draw is to address the court in a correct mann
er befitting
the stature of the judicial hierarchy. He also gives a stern warning against mak
ing an incorrect
statement consciously as this might lead to the judge ‘mentally blackballing’ the la
wyer which
is practicing lawyer’s ‘greatest occupational hazard’ as his statements are not truste
d on their
face value. A judge should never be criticized in public or the Bar or before cl
ients. If a lawyer
is truly aggrieved and unhappy he should take the advice of a balanced non-opini
onated senior
lawyer and go in appeal if necessary but not resort to cheap gimmicks. Patience,
dignified silence and the art of learning to lose with dignity as only one side
can win a case are
essential qualities of a legal professional.
As the media has become very important these days, Mr. Nariman points the folly
and idiocy in
giving interviews or talking to the media in cases where a lawyer has appeared.
This not only
smacks of despicable publicity but is also unfair to the judge as well as the op
ponent as they
cannot retaliate and refute. A criticism of the judgment is best appreciated if
it comes from third
parties who are disinterested and can take an objective view. Mr. Nariman allude
s to the instance
of the great legal luminary, Mr. H.M. Seervai who, in his leading Volumes of Con
of India severely criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in Escort’s case where Mr.
had lost the case in the Supreme Court in appeal after winning the same in the H
igh Court.
The happiness he felt on reading those passages was immense and fulfilling as hi
s stand was
vindicated even though he had lost the case in a court of law. The same would no
t have been
true, if he as an interested party went around criticizing the judgment which wo
uld have looked
bizarre, absurd and devoid of respect for the judiciary.
Finally, the art of time management is one of the key traits any lawyers need to
master. The
inadequacy of time should never be an excuse especially when it’s pre-set. Further
more, the true
skill of a lawyer lies in hard work and forensic skill rather forensic eloquence
, flamboyance or
verbosity especially in the modern times where time is scarce. Also, according t
o Mr. Nariman,
the notion that great cases are won or lost because of their inherent strength o
r weakness is
fallacious because advocacy plays a vital role as a judge is also human. He quot
es the example
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of the great lawyer Mr. Kanhaiya Lal Misra, the formed Advocate General of Uttar
Pradesh. A
lawyer should also have an outstanding memory as the great lawyers like Bhulabha
i Desai have
exhibited this trait. Other attributes are good sight and food hearing, good ind
icators that age has
taken the better of an advocate and its time to gracefully retire.
Mr. Nariman has given important practical instructions to the students of law. T
he treatise forms
a must-read for anyone who wants to practice in a Court and make his own way. Th
e author is
courteous, modest, witty and very humble in his approach and the beauty of his a
pproach lies in
the fact that he authoritatively delivers his message successfully without being
too prophetic or
preachy about the same and yet wins the heart and head of the reader in terms of
sound logic and
behavioural sagacity.