Interview with Sriram Vishwanath, Advocate, Himachal Pradesh High Cout

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Mr. Sriram Vishwanath is a law graduate from Himachal Pradesh State University. He is a corporate litigant dealing with matters on Banking, Finance & Insurance & Labor & employment law, in the High court of Himachal Pradesh and has been a part of legal industry since 2007.

Below is an excerpt of the interview with Advocate S. Vishwanath

Akanksha: Law was not considered to be a very good career option. However now, times have changed and more people are opting for law. What do you think has changed and what motivated you to take up law as a career option? How effective is Indian legal education in your opinion?

Sriram Vishwnath: My family disputes and circumstances had motivated me to take up law as a career option. I often saw my father taking rounds of the chamber of lawyers which made me up to take the law as a career. Secondly, when I joined the LLB course at Himachal Pradesh University I saw another phase of law career as lawyers have a very good reputation in the eyes of the society and this social approach attracted me to pursue my LLB and build up my own practice. In 2007, when I graduated in law I found the technology had managed a good space in law and a number of software of law judgements are available in the market which considerably reduced the demand for the print version of judgments. Indian legal education still lacks the practical aspect of law and the moot court system is not sufficient to impart the legal education effectively. Thirdly, I found the students and people have a very casual approach to pursue the law as a career. Therefore, there is a dire need of a National Testing Agency to allow only highly eligible persons into this course and career. In view of this, I find the legal education system is moderately poor and highly casual one. Most of the universities have no up-to-date legal syllabus in their curriculum. Internships during the LLB course is merely a formality, therefore, in my opinion, it is highly needed that the law students must undergo intense practical training for one year at least after the completion of their LLB.

Akanksha: Sir, you have been in the legal field for quite a long time and have accomplished so much. You have seen the legal industry taking a turn. In your opinion, what areas of law are experiencing the most growth, and why?

Sriram Vishwnath: As of now, the law is getting a wider horizon in the field of Corporate Laws Practice. The corporate law has many branches in it in which the most suitable and emerging branches of this are the Insolvency and Bankruptcy, Finance Law Practice which includes Banking, Finance and Insurance, Merger & Acquisition, SEBI & Securities Laws, Arbitration, Corporate Compliances. But if I am asked to opine which law practice is the most emerging and paying one then I would definitely point out the Company Law Practice in Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) is the most magnificent and lucrative practice amongst others.

Akanksha: Recently, the union cabinet has approved to make changes in the Companies Act, 2013 to decriminalize certain offences, like the criminality clause on tax issues is to be removed, and also civil defaults have been decriminalized. All this was an attempt towards India being a $5 trillion economy. What are your opinions on this and what other changes do you anticipate in the corporate field in the next five years?

Sriram Vishwnath: Actually decriminalizing certain offences under company law regime does not fulfil the purpose of this special branch of law. Decriminalizing certain offences would conversely put the burden on the corporate creditors to operate effectively from a financial point of view. Such changes in company law would definitely affect the finance sector to recover its outstanding lending dues since the Indian Legal System is not time effective and the corporate debtors will take disadvantage of this elasticity in their favour. Decriminalization may be okay but better if a separate Recovery of Financial Dues is introduced in the alternative for the effective recovery of corporate dues through Civil side. I can not predict the forthcoming changes in the corporate field since the GoI has opened its doors to the foreign investors by way of FDI and Ease of Doing Business and it’s still in the first phase of its origin, therefore, the GoI may introduce certain other changes in view of the difficulties the foreign investors may face in India. Above all, it is unpredictable what changes could be introduced in coming next five years.

Akanksha: You have been in the legal field for quite some time now and have seen the legal industry taking shape. What part of being corporate litigant interests you the most and why?

Sriram Vishwnath: I am very much in corporate law practice (litigation) especially in the Financial sector, Insurance, Banking, SARFAESI Act, Recovery of Debts Due to the Financial Institutions Act and Labour Issues. I feel more convenient in these areas of my practice on account of their easiness and comfortability to pursue, timely settlement, less time consuming and result-oriented one. In nutshell, this field of law just mentioned above is a kind of Standard Litigation where I do not have to engage in the labyrinthine legal process to pursue these matters like pure civil matters.

Akanksha: You have been a part of many companies such as Bharat Sanchar Nigam ltd., Tata Motor Finance, HDFC Bank, and many more. Over the years you have gained a lot of experience. What, in your opinion, were the key steps that led you to success, and to what extent do you think professional associations are advantageous for one’s career?

Sriram Vishwnath: From the personal anecdote of my experience, success in the legal field means you have to put at least 10-15 years of hard work and struggle. There is no other way out. Hard work, sincerity, deep study of law, foreign journals and textbooks, analysis of the particular case from different angles and mindset, ability to argue a case from an angle different from what already got established by precedents or different from what is being followed and for this a vast legal research and fieldwork is highly required. Secondly, a law aspirant must have a deep understanding of the internal functioning of the organization he is working for, viz. If a lawyer practices in finance field then he must have a deep understanding of the Lending procedure of finance facility, RBI Guidelines, mode of functioning of the FIs and NBFCs, Loan-Hypothecation Agreements etc and the particular law set up by the Hon. Apex Court in this regard. Thirdly, professional association in the legal field is a MUST for a practising lawyer. Such association helps build up a career in the legal field. I can say no one can rise in this field without association, without links etc. So one should go for association with other organizations, firms, persons, public welfare bodies, social organizations etc.

Akanksha: As a result of the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic, force majure has come into play. As a negative effect of it, many tenants have been unable to pay their dues and the fear of rising debt and unequal pay still haunts them. What is your take on that and what more steps do you think the government could have taken for a better result?

Sriram Vishwnath: Broadly speaking, the lockdown period has far-reaching repercussions over the country. The FORCE MAJURE may have two facets in it; one is its applicability in the public sector and other is in the private sector. The Govt. Of India may exempt the individuals from certain legal duties or paying the financial dues owed to the PSUs but certainly, the GoI can not control the intricacies of force majure in relation to the private sector. I can not express my definite opinion in this respect.

Akanksha: Lastly, what advice would you like to give to law students who look forward to being a corporate lawyer? What would be your advice for the lawyers who have been practising for years now and want to open their law firm? What tips would you like to give so that it may help them in the first few years?

Sriram Vishwnath: I would like to suggest the new entrants that they must enter into the legal field with a pre-determined goal as to which particular field of law they actually wish to practice. It is highly advisable to them that once they determine their field of legal practice they must subscribe, study and collect the related law materials including books, magazines, newsletters, research papers, thesis, participation in the seminars, moot court competitions and symposiums, meeting and interaction with the like-minded people, international association with similar persons and organizations, the study of the international trends in the field of their interest and writing research papers of their interest, the study of a treatise on their interested field and more particularly the latest and established precedents set up the Hon. Apex court of India must be on their tips etc and visiting the specialized corporate law firm of their interesting area would be an advantage The study of the books written by other non-legal field writers viz. books on sociology, political science, economics and anthropology must be carried on. I must say that the Post Graduation (LLM) in law is a must nowadays, so the new aspirants must go for it after they complete their LLB. One more tip is that the new students aspiring to choose the law as their career path must opt for LLB (Hons.) Five Year Integrated course immediately after the higher secondary. It will raise the chances to get them placed immediately after completion of their LLB.

Secondly, if someone has been in the legal profession for a long time and wish to open their own law firm; I would suggest them that they must open an LLP law firm, build up a website with latest updates. They must have a team in their law firm and efficient administrative staff with a liaisoning officer with them. Law firms are of two kinds, one who deals with traditional legal work like court cases and the other one is the Corporate Law Firm which exclusively deals with corporate litigation. If an experienced lawyer opens up his law firm in the corporate domain then he requires a high level liaisoning with the corporate sector to procure legal assignments and for this purpose, he needs highly efficient lawyers in his panel. He has to put his first 2-3 years for marketing with corporate clients. The new law firm owner needs to have many rounds of sittings with the top legal officers viz. Company Secretary, Zonal Heads, National Legal Heads, Vice-Presidents (Legal) etc. Therefore, I summarize that the new law firm should have at least 5 specialized lawyers in his law firm initially to get a good start. The marketing and branding is the foremost principle which a law firm needs in its initial days of set up. Social media is the right platform for this nowadays.

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