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ADVICE TO BUDDING LAWYERS

T.P. KELU NAMBIAR *

It is my privilege and pleasure to be here in connection with this function; and address the up-and-comer in the profession of law. I am here as of right. Yet, I should thank the Bar Council; and, I do so.

The legal profession is admirable. Ours is said to be a frontline learned profession. A lawyer of today should learn a lot, apart from law books. He should be a man of multiple excellences, capable of discerning the glory of the past and the hope of the future. While carrying on the duties of our profession, we should ever remember that the law is made for man, and not man for law. This statement is not a mere ritualistic refrain.

You are upbeat on your upcoming enrolment as advocate. This is the right time for you to know the locus of the problems facing the profession, though my expressions may not be music to your ears. I should think, everything is not hunky-dory with the legal profession. Before venturing to gather the items in your wish-list, you have to take stock of the profession’s present position; and take steps to fin-tune the Bar.

I am not going beyond the obvious when I say that the bell tolls for the legal profession. I hear the death rattle of our profession. The legal profession seems to be blotting its own copybook, thus facing a daunting challenge. I have very pronounced views on the subject. I should think that the stage has reached for us to go inventing or scouting about for advocacy. Every lawyer seems to have forgotten the professional idiom. This is not a tortured confession of a lawyer. Nor am I taking tough. A durable solution for the malady has to be found out. It is time to generate comprehensive professional improvement. It is time to take venture some initiative, not patch-work policy.

Our profession, said Daniel Webster, is good if practised in the spirit of it. The Preamble to ‘Standards of Professional Conduct and Etiquette’ in the Bar Council of India Rules, exhorts: “An Advocate shall, at all times, comport himself in a manner befitting his status as an officer of court, a privileged member of the community, and a gentleman, bearing in mind that what may be lawful and moral for a person who is not a member of the Bar, or for a member of the Bar in his non-professional capacity, may still be improper for an Advocate”.

It is the duty of the lawyers to stand guard for the essential foundation of liberty, namely ‘rule of law’ or ‘rule under law’, and bid challenge to ‘rule by law’ which can be the most efficient instrument in the enforcement of tyrannical rule. And it is here that the lawyer should emerge as a protector. And it is here that a lawyers’s responsibility lies. And it is here that the legal profession has to play its role with courage and conscience. Responsibility walks hand in hand with capacity and courage. And courage consists in seeing and conquering danger. Faith is courage. And faith knows no disappointment, said Gandhiji. We should strive for a brave, bold, intrepid, doughty and confident Bar.

According to Disraeli, himself a master of argument, an Advocate is one who is able to “illustrate the obvious, elaborate the self-evident, expatiate on the common place”. The aim of advocacy is the persuading or convincing of an audience to agreement with a contention about facts or with a programme of conduct. This calls for perception and clarity, patience and determination in the presentation of the essential details with emphasis, order and significance, using common sense.

Sir Edward Clarke K.C., a famous member of the English Bar, once said that success in the profession depended on three factors. The first was to have an infinite capacity for hard work; the second was to have no money; and the third was to be very much in love; not, of course, carnal, but professional. A capacity for hard work combined with such powerful incentives will no doubt carry one far towards success, of course, with other qualifications necessary to attain it. Who dares, wins.

The profession of law is a great profession. Lord Hailsham, in his ‘Sparrow’s Flight’, says that he has never ceased his sense of loyalty to the profession to which he belonged and that he has never ceased, to the best of his ability, to maintain its traditions and promote its interest; and adds that he believed sincerely that we are insufficiently aware of the extent that our own professionals, whether Judges or Advocates, show a shining example to the rest of world.

Try to become an intense lawyer; real lawyer; a great lawyer; not a Quetin Lawyer, or a great pretender. You should have an intense and sturdy professional anchorage. Your professional journey is more important than the destination. A lawyer will have to wait for a long time before popping the champagne cork. Once you start batting, do not go on back foot; drive straight. Try to go over the hump slowly and steadily. Killer laziness will cripple your professional ability, and ultimately lead to the obituary of your professional career. Please read and correctly comprehend the law. I lament about the reading habit being kicked up in favour of television or asinine computer games. Do not throw the conventional grammar of advocacy to the winds.

I should think, today one becomes a lawyer all-on-a-sudden. It is even felt that there is a surfeit of layers. But our profession is not expected to bring its shutters down for any reason. Juniors do not learn under senior. It is not enough that you come into the profession with an impressive inheritance. Too much will not come too early for a young lawyer. (I take pride in declaring that I have emerged from the shadow of my senior). The difference in years of practice between a senior and a junior, these days, is only a few months. You have to work as a junior under a senior for the tariff period.

An Advocate practising the law is under a triple obligation, an obligation to his clients to be faithful to them unto the last, an obligation to the profession not to besmirch its name, or injure its credit by anything done by him, and an obligation to the court to be and to remain a dependable part of the machinery through which justice is administered. The profession cannot afford to have a member who fails in keeping to the required standard of conduct. Rules of the profession, verify, are written for lawyers, unlike ghost stories, which are, certainly, not written for ghosts. Adhere to the rules, and make a mark in the profession, by putting a stamp of great name on every-thing you do and achieve, so that your name will score fame, as Homer achieved fame by authoring the Iliad. And remember what Aldous Huxley said: “The author of the Iliad is either Homer or, if not Homer, somebody else of the same name”. So retain your sure name. Try to become the front-man of the profession. And, be proud of your own calendar and culture, remembering that law practice is not a job.

I wish and pray, every lawyer be blessed with the talent to manage his own profession in an extraordinary manner, thus turning the very system to produce good and great results, extending unconditional warranty to the legal profession. I exhort the junior lawyers to show great heart for small men. At the end of the day, I should think that the legal profession is a great, glorious, noble profession. And, if there is a rebirth for me, and if I am asked what type of birth I would like to take next, my answer would be: ‘I wish to be reborn a lawyer only’.


*Speech delivered by Senior Advocate, Shri T P Kelu Nambiar as chief guest at the enrollment function at the Kerala Bar Council Hall on