In Conversation with Prashant Kumar, AOR Supreme Court of India, Principal Associate, DUA Associates
Updated: May 1
Prashant Kumar is an Advocate on Record in the Supreme Court of India and currently working as a Principal Associate in one of India's prominent Law firm Dua Associates. He is practicing in the domain of commercial/civil litigation, Insolvency laws, and Alternate Dispute Resolution including Arbitration. He represents clients before the Supreme Court of India, High Courts, National Company Law Tribunals, National Company Law Appellate Tribunals, District Courts, and other forums. He is also a trained mediator.
1. May I kindly request you to introduce yourself to our readers? It would be an honor for our readers to learn more about your esteemed background and experience in the field of law.
Response: To start with, I was born and brought up in Gaya, Bihar and did my schooling there until Class X. Thereafter, I moved to Ranchi where I completed higher secondary schooling. I come from a business family background and thus I am a first-generation lawyer. Legal acumen coupled with business sense is very much required for a lawyer to succeed in the profession. Therefore, inspite of being a first-generation lawyer, I have never considered it as a disadvantage, and my business family background has helped me immensely in the profession.
2. Can you tell us about your journey in the legal field so far, and what motivated you to pursue a career in law?
Response: The starting point of my journey with law was a matter of chance as I was clear as to what I was not going to do (engineering and medical). During my school days I never imagined myself studying law. However, when I look back today, I think that joining law school was one of the best decisions which I took. Infact I took a year drop and prepared for law entrance examination by joining Prime Tutorial at Kolkata and gave exams for almost all the law schools which existed during the year 2005. There was no CLAT back then, and I got through Gujarat National Law School, Gandhinagar. I performed well in other law schools but not to the extent that I qualify for them.
My journey so far has been quite enriching and fulfilling. I have worked with excellent seniors who have shaped my career in numerous ways.I started my journey in the profession in the year 2010 under the able guidance of Ratan Kumar Singh, Senior Advocate. I firmly believe that initial years for any lawyer is very important, and I am indebted towards Ratan Sir for sharing insights and for his guidance. Even today, I remember all the teachings of Ratan Sir.
After working for few years with Ratan Sir, I joined Kapil Sapra & Associates where I had exposure to multifarious works. Being a small set up, work was of different kinds, and the exposure there helped me understand the finer nuances of corporate commercial laws, under the guidance of Kapil Sir, Vikas Sir and others. During my stint with this firm, I relocated to Bangalore for two years, where I assisted the firm in setting up their office in Bangalore and managed work from there.
In the year 2016, after Ganesh Chandru Sir moved from Singapore to Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan, New Delhi, I joined his team where I was exposed to high stake arbitration matters. As is rightly said, the more the stakes in the matter, the more the effort required. Therefore, the exposure at this firm was of a completely different nature.
Since 2020, I have been working with Dua Associates, where I am dealing with commercial disputes, insolvency, dispute resolution, food law related matters etc. I have enjoyed and learned immensely from different stints in the legal profession.
3. What challenges did you face during the starting of your legal journey, and how did you overcome them?
Response: The biggest challenge for me at the start of my legal journey was to keep doing what I liked the most, i.e., litigation and arbitration. When you start your career with a lawyer’s chamber, the initial stipend is not that great, which was the case with me. On the other side, when you look at other branches, the payouts are really nice. Therefore, to continue doing what I liked, without getting fascinated towards other areas was the most challenging aspect. The way in which I could overcome the same was self-motivation, seeking guidance from your seniors, peers and friends.
4. What do you consider to be your biggest achievements in your legal career thus far?
Response: The biggest achievement for me so far has been to establish rapport amongst peers, seniors, and friends in legal profession and otherwise. I am still in touch with most people with whom I have worked at some point of time.In addition,clearing the Supreme Court Advocates on Record Examination in the first attempt is another feather in my cap.
5. How do you stay up to date with the latest legal developments and changes in the industry?
Response: Its very essential for a lawyer to be updated with latest legal developments and changes, especially in the areas in which he/she works. The way in which I stay up to date is by regularly reading legal updates online and offline. Although I must admit that at times, you are so engrossed in work that being up to date takes a backseat, but whenever I get time, I check for the latest development in the areas of law in which I practice.
6. The position of Advocate on Record in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India is highly respected and sought-after in the legal field. Could you provide some insight into the steps that aspiring lawyers can take to increase their chances of achieving this designation, and what qualities or skills are necessary for success in this role?
Response: As rightly stated theposition of Advocate on Record in the Supreme Court of India is highly respected and sought-after in the legal field. The first and foremost thing which an aspiring lawyer must understand is that clearing the Advocate on Record examination is just the beginning. What you do after clearing the exam is equally important. Therefore, any aspiring lawyer must chalk out a plan, as to what next after clearing the exam.
The exam is tough, but achievable, if someone is willing to put in effort and focuses on the preparation rather than results. When I was preparing for the exam, I never took the pressure to clear the same, rather I was focused towards preparation and was enjoying the phase and that’s the reason I could clear the exam in the first attempt with good marks.
Someone who is preparing for the examination must do a lot of practice to write and attend all the lectures organized by Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association. Lastly there is no special quality and skill set required to become an Advocates on Record. Anyone who is sincere and who is serious about the exam, can clear it.
7. What qualities do you believe are essential for success in the legal profession, and how can aspiring lawyers develop these qualities?
Response: The most important quality for achieving success in the legal profession is to be humble and have a humane approach. The legal profession is a noble profession wherein we have to deal with various human beings on a daily basis, therefore being humble is very essential. In addition, being sincere and meticulous also helps a lawyer in the long run. As mentioned above, having a commercial bent of mind is also important for a lawyer, especially for lawyers who deal with commercial disputes, arbitration, insolvency, corporate laws and others. Constant upgradation of skill set is also required for a lawyer who wants to succeed in the legal profession.
Lastly, the ability to be focused and remain detached from the surroundings, and staying away from negativity, is also a way in which a lawyer can perform better in the profession.
8. How do you balance your professional and personal life, and what strategies do you use to manage your time effectively?
Response: It is very important to balance professional and personal life and also to manage the time effectively. Till the time I was not married, I could devote most of my time to work and occasionally took off. However, after I got married, I have consciously worked towards maintaining work-life balance. Covid has taught that the most important thing for us is our health. Therefore, my daily routine includes exercise / yoga, having proper diet, proper sleep and spending time with my family. For managing time, I maintain a diary on daily basis for office-related work and for my personal life. By this I can keep a strict check on my personal and professional life.
9. How do you approach difficult legal cases or situations, and what steps do you take to ensure the best possible outcome for your clients?
Response: The best approach for me to deal with difficult legal cases or situation is by remaining calm and composed and by sorting the issue step by step. The first thing which I do whenever I face such situations, is to understand the issue by in-depth reading and analyzing. In case the legal case / issue is difficult, breaking the same into parts can result in the issue being simplified.
Once the issue is clear, reading and understanding the law is the second step. At times, the wording of the legislature is also difficult to comprehend. In such a scenario, commentaries on the topic can be of great help. However, all the above processes require a lot of patience and being focused.
10. Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms such as arbitration and mediation are becoming increasingly popular as a means of resolving disputes outside of the traditional court system. Could you share with us your thoughts on the future of ADR, and how you see these mechanisms evolving in the coming years?
Response: The future of ADR is very bright. The government and the judiciary are working in tandem to make ADR user friendly and have done a great job in terms of tweaking law and passing arbitration-friendly judgments. There is a lot of traction towards making India, an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction and making it at par with other countries which are doing well in ADR.
In terms of mediation, The Mediation Bill, 2021 has also been framed and introduced in the Rajya Sabha on December 20, 2021. The said Bill aims to promote, encourage, and facilitate mediation, especially institutional mediation, to resolve disputes, commercial and otherwise. Therefore, ADR has a bright future and will help reduce the burden of the courts to a large extent.
11. As someone who has achieved significant success in the legal profession, what advice do you have for law students who are just starting their careers? What skills or qualities do you believe are essential for success in the legal field, and how can young lawyers develop these skills?
Response: My advice to law students is that they should focus on the basics first which includes understanding the Code of Civil Procedure, Criminal Procedure, Contracts, Transfer of Property Act etc. Nowadays, when I interact with law students, I find that everyone is focused on specialization from 2nd or 3rd year onwards. While specialization is good but the stage for the same arises at a later stage in one’s legal profession. A good understanding of the basic subjects in law schools itself will go a long way in shaping one’s career. In addition, law students should focus on the preparation rather than results, which means that CGPA is important but at the same time, a habit to read and understand case laws and legislation is also equally important.
To conclude, I must admit that I consider myself an entrant in the legal profession and try to learn on a daily basis. As a lawyer gets old in the legal profession, he/she is required to do much more than just work, therefore, experimentation with ideas, planning for the future etc. keeps me engaged.
The Interview was taken by Abhishek Bhushan Singh (Advocate Litigation and Disputes Resolution, Founder and MD Nyayshastram)