Law and Legal Practice in Asia: a Q&A

Shilpa Sringar and Ed Howard answer some questions about the popular winter intensive. Questions by Reetika Khanna

Where did you intern?

We interned at the Chambers of Rajshekhar Rao. Mr. Rao is an advocate at the High Court of Delhi and the Supreme Court of India. He also appears before Tribunals such as the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Appellate Tribunal (PMLA). At the Chambers there were around 10 junior lawyers who worked for Mr. Rao, and three other interns. The matters which Mr. Rao took were extremely diverse, including intellectual property, white-collar crime, competition, family law, and constitutional matters

Can you describe an average day of work there?

Most mornings we started our day at the High Court. We shadowed Mr. Rao during the day, often having to run between the different court rooms due to the huge volume of cases which he appears in during a single day. Most days we would need to travel between the High Court and the NCLT depending on what matters were being heard on the particular day. When court closed in the afternoon we would debrief over chai in the court canteen before heading to the office. In the office we worked on upcoming cases, predominantly by doing research, and attending conferences with clients.

What was a highlight of your trip?

The internship itself was definitely the highlight. This would have to be because the people we worked with were welcoming and engaging and we were able to work on an incredibly diverse range of legal matters. Family law matters were especially interesting due to the lack of a uniform civil code, and the application of religious personal law to family matters. We were also lucky to look at an ongoing Public Interest Litigation case for which Mr. Rao was an amicus curiae. The matter has been going for many years and revolved around a constitutional challenge to the marital rape exception in Indian law.

The food was also amazing.

What did you find the most challenging about your experience?

Some of the most challenging aspects were the practical issues with the court process. To get into court each morning we had to get passes. This involved joining a flock of interns in 40 degree heat trying to push your way to the counter to get your pass. The volume of interns and lawyers in the Court was also astonishing. In some court rooms you could barely push the door open and advocates with a matter on had to shove their way through the melee of lawyers to reach the bench.

Something that we were impressed with was the work ethic among advocates, particularly within our Chambers. The lawyers in our Chambers worked 7 days a week and 9pm was an average finish time for the day. Hard work was respected, and the junior lawyers aspired to dedicate themselves to work in the same way as Mr. Rao. 

A point of particular interest was the hierarchy among lawyers. Senior advocates were identifiable by different jackets, and paths cleared in front of them as they walked. At lunchtime interns were barred from entering the canteen, they were instead fed out of a window at the back of the kitchen, and had to eat outside.

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