20 Things I’ve Learnt in My First Year of Litigation Practice

Written by  //  September 9, 2010  //  Law & The Judiciary  //  2 Comments

In a casual conversation, someone obviously well versed in these things told me that the first year of litigation is a “learning experience”. Having completed one year in litigation, I thought I should list out all the useful things I have learned during the course of my one year in litigation.

That list was too boring, so I decided to do this one.


1. Never judge a book by its cover. Especially that notebook with the tatty cover and random scribbling which you tossed in the rubbish pile. It is where your boss writes his notes for the day’s cases.

2. The paintings in Courtroom 2 are portraits of Justice Venkatarama Aiyer and Justice Hans Raj Khanna, or at least a proper portrait of Justice Aiyer and what one can only assume is what the artist dashed off on the night before the deadline for Justice Khanna.

3. That black thingy attached to the PC which runs SCC Online in your office is not a useless little widget to be tossed into the bin. Apparently it is very vital to the operation of SCC Online in a manner no one has been able to satisfactorily explain to me so far.

4. A case that you are prepared for like no one has ever prepared for in the history of the law, will NEVER be taken up by the Court until the brief is no longer being handled by your office. Conversely, the matter you didn’t bother preparing for because it was far too low on the causelist will ALWAYS be taken up on that day.

5. Abbreviations are everywhere. Those that I have been able to decipher so far: Supplees – Items on the Supplementary list of the Court; miscy – miscellaneous day or miscellaneous matters; CoD – An application for condonation of delay; DB – Division Bench.

6. Excessive and unwarranted use of above abbreviations in a given conversation is also the surest way to identify a lawyer who is just one year into practice but wants you to believe otherwise.

7. Memorizing the full names and exact dates of retirements of all the judges of the Supreme Court of India impresses no one apparently.

8. Drafting is a fine art demanding great knowledge of the law, the English language, the facts of the case and the ability to be succinct… unless you’re drafting a Special Leave Petition in which case all four are entirely negotiable.

9. It is perfectly acceptable to use “qua” in a conversation and not sound like a complete idiot… if you’re a Senior Advocate.

10. The Display Board in the Supreme Court and the Printer in your Office NEVER work when you need them the most.

11. Contrary to the canons of good sense, you need to have your daily pass on you, file an affidavit and sacrifice a pigeon in order to be allowed to leave the premises of the Supreme Court of India once you enter. (Ok, I’m kidding… about the affidavit and the pigeon)

12. Deep in the warren of the Lawyer’s Chambers in the Supreme Court, when you least expect it, you will find a place that sells fruit juices.

13. The Delhi High Court Bar Association canteen is far superior to the Supreme Court Bar Association canteen.

14. There’s a smoker’s corner just past the Judges’ Library in the Supreme Court where lawyers who believe the no-smoking rule is a guideline anyway can puff away in peace, far from prying eyes.

15. There’s no shame in finding out that your manupatra skills are not half as good as the fading memory of an 80 year old senior counsel.

16. You will see these advocates every day in the Supreme Court hanging around, engaging in conversation with other lawyers, and generally giving the impression that they belong there… except that neither you nor anyone you know has ever seen them with a brief of their own or argue a matter in court. You shudder to think if that could be you in twenty years.

17. For every proposition of law for which you can find ten Supreme Court cases as authorities, there is always also the opposite proposition of law for which you will also find ten Supreme Court cases as authorities.

18. No lawyer has any clue as to how any given court will react on any given miscellaneous day in a particular case. In this regard, astrologers are as accurate as seasoned Supreme Court veterans.

19. Litigating lawyers, with a few exceptions, are all luddites.

20. When engaged in litigation for the Government, one can always expect the officers briefing the counsel to be completely dispassionate, informed and articulate. One should also expect to see pigs take wing over the Supreme Court’s dome.

Watch this space for “Twenty Things I Should Have Learnt in My First Year in Litigation (but didn’t, and That Is Why There Is No ‘Twenty Things I’ve Learnt in My Second Year of Litigation’ blog post)”.

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A Supreme Court/Delhi High Court lawyer who writes a bit with a potentially fatal weakness for hyperlinks, tags, and the reader's approval. Follow @alokpi

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