Interview with Mr. Archit Jayakar, Senior Partner of Jayakar & Partners, Mumbai

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‘Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm’, a person who best personifies this is Mr Archit Jayakar. A lawyer who can proudly say that the law and taking a strong stand against wrongdoers is a part of his blood. He is a Senior Partner at Jayakar & Partners, a young and vibrant law firm in Mumbai. He campaigned for Maharashtra Navnirman Sena in the year 2009 and is a perceptive political enthusiast to this day.

Libertatem Magazine got an opportunity to interview Mr. Jayakar and got to learn about this experience. He talked about his opinions on maintaining an enduring relationship with clients, steamrolling ahead through setbacks and the one indispensable quality every aspiring lawyer must possess. Below is the transcript of the interview.

Trishala: What motivated you to choose law as a career? Please tell us about your experience in law school?

Mr Jayakar: Honestly, there was no Eureka Moment. I was born in a family of lawyers being a 3rd generation Lawyer. I did not have many dinner table conversations either. However, one thing that I did see was how much my father traveled and I probably started dreaming to become a lawyer one day only so that I could travel as much. So initially, that was my inspiration.

Over the years I did hear about the names of some of the matters he did. Whilst I did not understand what exactly was happening in the matter, I remember the names of some of those matters. I sometimes overheard interesting things of happenings in court or conferences in those matters. That got me quite hooked.

Looking back, I think I was made to be a lawyer. I don’t think I have any other talent (a little of sports maybe, but of no great caliber). Hence, Law pulled me towards it.

Trishala: What is your opinion about the caliber of legal education provided in India? What could be done to churn out more competent lawyers?

Mr Jayakar: There is much to be desired still. I don’t want to comment on the system as a whole because I cannot say. But the little I have seen it, I feel there is definitely a scope for improvement. I think that it is upon the legal fraternity to share their knowledge and teach at some institution. Not only will this shape careers, but it will also stop the general trend of young lawyers looking desperately for jobs and internships, to further their knowledge and prospects. Don’t get me wrong, internships are beneficial, but it should not be at the cost of bunking college. The only way to ensure that is to have a more robust learning delivery system.

When I was in college, we had a Professor Pithawala who taught us the Law of Contract. His lecture was usually around 8:00 am and I remember the classroom would be packed with students looking forward to attending his lecture. We stood at the back of the class for a 2-hour lecture only because he taught so well and made it so interactive. He was really a superb teacher and our liking for the subject also greatly increased.

Therefore, good legal training in college is the need of the hour. It can give direction and inspiration to minds and generations.

Trishala: What are some setbacks that lawyers usually face in their careers and how does one become accustomed to such trials?

Mr Jayakar: Yes, there are always setbacks a lawyer faces. Those may be, losing some really good or important case. Sometimes, it can be being admonished by a Judge. In litigation, winning or losing is a daily competition, so there are off days for everyone.

I don’t think one can become ‘accustomed’ to it and neither should one. Every loss should hurt, should be painful. Similarly, every admonishment should also be something you don’t ever want. But, it is important to learn from these setbacks and improve upon them. You should not suffer another loss for the same reason. If you suffer a loss due to the same reason, then you haven’t learnt anything. Setbacks are required to make you get up and get back. No lawyer has not suffered a setback. The great lawyers have learnt from their setbacks and not suffered the same again.

Trishala: You have campaigned for the MNS in the past and have had an avid interest in politics if I’m not wrong. How did that experience give you an insight into the framework of Indian politics?

Mr Jayakar: Yes, I ran for MLA Elections on an MNS ticket in 2009. It was an amazing, albeit a tough, experience and I must thank Mr Raj Thackeray Ji to give me a ticket to stand for elections. But, the experience was a little disillusioning. You see a different side of life. A different side of people. Firstly, there were many people who came out of the woodwork and who appeared to be people who had a great influence over voters. I also saw first hand the power of money in politics and that threw me off. I did not have the money to run a very elaborate campaign and that was limiting. You also see how money distribution is insulated in the election machine. Things are so obvious, rules are broken with so much ease, but nothing can be/is done about it.

Trishala: Did it enhance your legal acumen? What is your stance on politics today?

Mr Jayakar: Law and Politics go hand in hand. Being a practising lawyer there was a little bit of competitive advantage I felt I had. I could give the public speeches, could see through some of the unachievable campaign promises that were being made and highlighted them. I don’t think politics enhanced my legal acumen, rather, my little understanding of law helped me more in politics.

Even today, I am very drawn to politics. There is still so much that needs to be done, in terms of nation-building. Even in the legal field, through politics, there is so much that we can do. I want to serve my country and hence want to get into politics again.

Today’s politics is no different from yesterdays. It’s just that you realise that today’s politicians (world over – as our world view has widened) are all the same but today’s people (world over) are no longer the same, they are more awakened, as they should be.

Trishala: Your firm, Jayakar and Partners is relatively young. What qualities do you look for in a potential candidate while looking to make them a part of your enterprise?

Mr Jayakar: Hunger to learn. That’s the first quality. We are known to be a firm that trains young professionals. We give them a lot of experience and exposure. They are given great opportunities and are thrown into the deep end (under supervision ofcourse!). But what sometimes is disappointing is to see a young lawyer only in it for money. Not that it isn’t important, but my personal belief is, if you’re a young lawyer in your 20’s, you will learn more if you’re struggling and broke, but hungry to learn. A young lawyer must go through tough times in his early days. It toughens you up and shapes you. So, I do look for a person who can handle those times. Presently we have several Associates who have been with us for many years. They all went through the grind and what superb lawyers they are today. So for every young lawyer, just be hungry to learn. That quality, every firm, including ours, are looking out for. The rest will come to you automatically!

Trishala: Commercial disputes have already arisen from the many disruptions to the ordinary course of business across all industries. Do you think the ‘Force Majeure’ Clause is being abused by various commercial sectors in the face of COVID-19?

Mr Jayakar: Yes and No. Some cases are genuinely Force Majeure circumstances. In other cases, yes, there is an exploitation of the Force Majeure clause. The Courts have been quick to recognize this too. We had a recent judgement of the Delhi High Court, which did not permit the recision of a contract on Force Majeure. So it is very subjective and each contract/circumstance needs to be examined individually. There can’t be a generality here.

Trishala: What kind of relationships do you believe a lawyer must maintain with his or her clients to secure a long and stable association?

Mr Jayakar: Honesty. That’s the key. There are times when the case of a client may not be good. Or there may be a time when a lawyer commits a mistake in the case. In other times, the client may be expecting too much. It is the lawyer’s duty, to be honest to his client. Tell it to him/her straight. It is tough and you will have to hear a few words (especially if a mistake is made), but it is always better than lying to your client. The relationship will never be tarnished and in the long run, the client will always appreciate the good honest advice of his lawyer. That is what he pays you for, not for you to be a yes-man, but to give him advice, truthfully.

Trishala: What is the significance of networking and contacts in the legal field for a fresh law graduate?

Mr Jayakar: It is important. But at the end of the day, competence, caliber and excellence have more drawing power. For a fresh law graduate, only if he/she is starting out on their own, networking is important. But for every other law graduate who is looking to get a job in a firm, please just concentrate on your work. You’re not expected to get clients into the firm in your first year on the job, you’re expected to know how to draft a legal notice for the already existing clients of the firm.

Trishala: What would be your two cents to law students who aspire to work in Law Firms? What are some essential qualities and skills required to be successful in this field?

Mr Jayakar: As I mentioned before, be hungry to learn. The field is very vast. It can also be complicated, daunting and tough. But don’t lose the yearning to learn. If you think you’ve ‘learnt’ it all, it will cause stagnation. This is no embarrassment in not knowing something about the law. Learn about it.

Another quality to have is humility. You may be better, more intelligent, maybe the son of a prosperous father and hence have a full set up, you may be great at oratory or anything, but be humble. Don’t act like you’re bigger than the Profession. At times I have noticed lawyers when they want to change jobs because they believe prospects are better somewhere else (which they most certainly maybe) become ungrateful about where they are and the opportunities they got. As a Lawyer in a Firm, you should never think you’ve become bigger than that firm. Remember the people and places that taught you. Don’t lose sight of that.

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