Sahil Narang is a Partner with the Dispute Resolution and arbitration team at Khaitan and Co. Delhi and is qualified to practice as an Advocate-on-record of the Supreme Court of India. Sahil has substantial experience in advising and representing domestic and international clients in commercial litigation and arbitration. He was awarded the “40 under 40 - Rising Star 2020" by LegalEra and ALB India Rising Star 2022 by Asian Legal Business.
He has dealt with a broad variety of complex disputes including one of the biggest ever corporate frauds in India, the Satyam scam. He has also worked on numerous shareholder disputes and has represented clients before various forums. His work ranged from advising on regulatory issues to litigation before the Supreme Court of India, various High Courts consumer forums and Tribunals across India. He is currently representing clients in the entertainment industry and EV sector across multiple fora.
Sahil has been extensively dealing with emerging areas of law such as sports law, food safety, data privacy, insolvency and bankruptcy and has advised various domestic and global clients on issues involved in these areas of law. He is also a Co-Chair, Competition Law & Consumer Affairs Committee, PHDCCI. He has also assisted and appeared before the domestic arbitral tribunals as well as institutional arbitral tribunals constituted under the SIAC, ICC and LCIA amongst others.
1. Thank you for considering this interview session with us, sir. We are honored to have you as our guest, and we look forward to hearing your insights and experiences in the legal profession.
I request you to introduce yourself to our readers, we believe it would be an excellent opportunity for them to learn more about your esteemed background and experience in the field of law.
Response: At the outset, thank you for this interview. It’s always great to share your insights and experiences with the members of the legal fraternity, particularly the youngsters. I am an enthusiastic lawyer and am extremely passionate about litigation and arbitration matters. I am currently a Partner at the dispute resolution practice of Khaitan & Co Delhi. I have been working with this Firm since the beginning of my career and have advised and represented various domestic and international clients in commercial litigations and arbitrations across India and abroad.
Presently, my work ranges from advising on regulatory issues to commercial litigation and arbitration matters before various for and tribunals. I am currently representing clients in the entertainment and cinema industry across India. I have dealt with emerging areas of law such as food safety, legal metrology, data privacy, sports & gaming, and insolvency & bankruptcy and have advised and represented various domestic and global clients on issues involved in these areas of law. I have also assisted and appeared before the domestic arbitral tribunals as well as institutional arbitral tribunals constituted under the SIAC, ICC, amongst others. I also got admitted as an Advocate-on-record of the Supreme Court of India in the year 2018 and have a substantial practice in the Supreme Court as well as the Delhi High Court.
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: I have completed my schooling in my hometown, Abohar in Punjab. I pursued my graduation from DAV College, Chandigarh and LL.B. from Department of Laws, Panjab University, Chandigarh, which is one of the oldest institutions in the region. After practicing for some time in the Chandigarh courts, I secured my LL.M. degree from NALSAR, Hyderabad. I got a PPO offer from Khaitan & Co, Delhi after a short internship in 2010. I rose from an associate to a Partner in a span of less than 8 years. My primary source of motivation to pursue law was my father. He was a practicing advocate at the City Civil Courts, Abohar and I grew up seeing him working very hard as a lawyer which also inspired me. My father had inspired several of my relatives to pursue law. He also trained his juniors to become successful lawyers. All of them were and are doing very well in practice. This was an obvious motivation for me.
3. What challenges did you face during the starting of your legal journey, and how did you overcome them?
Response: In your initial years, dealing with long working hours and working on a variety of matters before different fora like Supreme Court, High Court, CESTAT, Consumer Fora and even outstation matters including advisory matters can be quite overwhelming. However, I was provided excellent mentorship at Khaitan & Co which was instrumental in helping me sail through my formative years. Another challenge was moving to and settling down in a new city like Delhi. When you are away from home, you have to take care of a lot of things on your own and the means were quite limited at that point. However, you learn to manage these things eventually. The legal profession is seen by many as an intimidating, small circle of lawyers. For a person just joining the profession right out of college, the idea itself seems daunting. Thanks to great mentors and peers, I was able to overcome this fear. I learnt to be confident about my own work product, my skills as a lawyer and my ability to preempt and solve problems, only because there existed people who reposed their faith in me time and time again. Quality exposure and the belief that I could manage whatever was being assigned to me, also helped steepen my learning curve.
4. What do you consider to be your biggest achievement in your legal career thus far?
Response: I believe my biggest achievement is the fact that young students across colleges and universities are now seeking mentorship from me. The fact that I am able to guide these young professionals in the field, hopefully in the right direction, gives me immense satisfaction and joy. I try my best to ensure that the troubles I myself faced do not become hurdles for my juniors. Training and mentoring them also gives a sense of achievement. Some years ago, I was myself a young student staring wide-eyed at and in awe of all the big-wigs in the legal profession, seeking guidance and mentorship from them. I have now transitioned to a place where I bring to the table some experience that can hopefully help the young professionals and law students become better professionals and go-getters in life despite adversities.
5. How do you stay up to date with the latest legal developments and changes in the industry?
Response: Ours is a profession where survival is impossible if one does not keep themselves updated with the latest developments. Settled laws and principles can turn overnight by a judgment of a court. Client approach on a daily basis, seeking clarity on the implications that one award or judgment may have on their business operations, and we are expected to be on top of all the latest developments to provide valuable inputs. I prioritize spending time reading newsletters and legal publications that offer insights into recent case laws, legislative changes, and emerging trends in the legal field. In addition, I actively participate in legal conferences, seminars, and webinars. The opinions and insights of prominent legal professionals on current legal issues and practices are extremely invaluable. It is also important to not just limit yourself to a particular field, say commercial law, while that in itself is also too wide. It is also relevant to know of developments across all fields, be it constitutional law or commercial law. One never knows which random discussion with a colleague over coffee would help one frame an argument months later. Therefore, I constantly endeavour to engage with members of the legal community and try and learn from seniors at the bar.
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: During my formative years in the profession, I had exposure to high-stake litigation before the Supreme Court, which naturally sparked a keen interest in the court’s practice and procedures. As a result, I applied for and successfully cleared the Advocate-on-Record examination of the Supreme Court of India in 2018. This designation as an Advocate-on-Record (AOR) has significant advantages, even while working in a law firm. One of the key benefits is the ability to file cases on behalf of the firm. This recognition also attracts lawyers and clients who directly approach AORs for representation in Supreme Court matters.
7. As a partner in one of the most prestigious law firms in India, can you tell about the challenges that you encounter in your daily work? The legal industry is renowned for its complexity, and I am certain that as a leader in your field, you have a unique perspective on the daily challenges that must be navigated to maintain your firm's reputation for excellence. Would you be willing to elaborate on some of the most significant obstacles that you face in your role, and how you work to overcome them?
Response: I would like to preface by stating that being a partner at a law firm is much more than simply being a good lawyer and that’s where the challenge lies. On the one hand, you are required to be good and diligent at your work, i.e., being able to understand and advise on complex legal issues, coming up with creative solutions, keeping abreast with legal developments, etc. However, you are also required to manage client expectations, keep the firm’s goals and interests in mind, effectively manage your team’s resources, ensure a healthy team environment, and maintain an effective coordination with the senior counsel. This is where the challenge lies, in my opinion. Advising the clients can be tricky at times as commercial interests would weigh more than law in their eyes. Striking a balance is the key.
8. What qualities do you believe are essential for success in the legal profession, and how can aspiring lawyers develop these qualities?
Response: I think one of the biggest qualities I appreciate in fellow lawyers is diligence. Hard work and perseverance can make or break a lawyer. In addition, I think young lawyers who are just venturing into the profession would do well to have a hunger for work. The more matters you work on, the more you learn. At a young age, it is easy to experiment and make mistakes. It is through the process of trial and error that one learns how to go about drafting and arguing cases. While I do not suggest an unhealthy obsession with work, some amount of excitement about each new matter only adds fun to an otherwise mundane and tedious job.
9. How do you balance your professional and personal life, and what strategies do you use to manage your time effectively?
Response: I like to maintain a healthy balance between my professional and personal life. I ensure that I spend sufficient time with my family and give time and attention to my own hobbies. I believe it is not difficult to take out some time for yourself as long as you maintain good work ethic as well as efficiency. For instance, I always push for the work to be done well in advance, so that I can avoid any panic situation. I also try to avoid working over the weekend and late nights as long as there is no urgency. I also take a relaxed approach towards work, i.e., I try to enjoy myself as well as with my peers even while we are working. I believe if you maintain a fun work environment, you can significantly avoid fatigue from work.
10. 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: In my opinion, the most essential skills to become a good lawyer are good analytical skills, attention to detail and effective communication. To the young lawyers and law students reading this, be extremely passionate about your work, taking pride in being a part of such a noble profession, maintain a strong work ethic, resilience and professionalism, and never ever let your curiosity die. You will eventually be a star lawyer.
The Interview was taken by Abhishek Bhushan Singh (Advocate Litigation and Disputes Resolution, Founder and MD Nyayshastram)