Advocate Tariq Khan is currently working as a Senior Associate, Advani & Co., Barristers-At-Law (New Delhi) and has also been appointed secretary to the tribunal for SIAC Arbitration. He specializes in International and Domestic Arbitrations, MSME disputes, Commercial Laws, Writ Remedies, etc. He is also a guest faculty in various law colleges across Delhi and NCR including Indian Law Institute and is currently working on his next book. Recently, Tariq featured in Fortune 500 (India) magazine (Special Issue, 2017-2018) for authoring the best seller book ‘On the Rise’ published by Universal Law Publishing (an imprint of Lexis Nexis). He was recently interviewed by INBA’s Student Reporter Anany Upadhyay.
Q1). How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers who are mostly law aspirants, law students and young legal professionals?
Ans: I did my graduation from Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia. I am currently working with Advani & Co., New Delhi as a Senior Associate. I am extremely fond of music and I love to travel. I find myself drawn to literature that fills me with inspiration and I feel that reading has shaped me personally and professionally.
Q2). Tell us about your student life. Are you a first-generation lawyer? What motivated you to pursue law as a career?
Ans: I spent my early childhood in Shahjahanpur, a small city in Uttar Pradesh. I was an average student; English was a language I was not very familiar with. When I was in my seventh standard, I was relocated to New Delhi where I jumped eighth standard and took admission directly in ninth standard. I am a first-generation lawyer and I never thought of pursuing law as a career for three reasons: firstly, I did not have command over English language; secondly, I had stage fright and detested even the thought of public speaking; and thirdly, my aversion to studying/reading. I can clearly recollect my father advising me to take law entrance exams, however; I told him that I would do anything but law. I began exploring other options as I did not feel the influence of law, lawyers and judges in my life early on even though much of my character was built early in life as I grew up in a household where free expression and the liberty of thought was practiced and encouraged. Since I was a science student, I wanted to be an engineer and hence, I appeared for various engineering entrance exams, however, I failed miserably. As far as pursuing a career in law is concerned, it would be appropriate to say that I didn’t choose law, law chose me.
Q3). How would you describe your experience as a student aspiring to be a professional?
Ans: To be honest, in the initial years of my college, I never thought about my career. I did not find law school very interesting initially and I was not very regular in law school. I used to find the B.A subjects very boring. Additionally, my law school journey was fraught with obstacles and controversies. Compared with my contemporaries in other law colleges, I was a struggling law student in the first two years of my law school. What was even more disconcerting was the lack of mooting or debating culture in our college and the fact that there was hardly any support from seniors barring one or two. Further, there was a dearth of internship opportunities and there was no campus placement which was a major concern for all of us. We used to compare ourselves with NLU students and we always had that feeling that we are not as good as the NLU students. However, there is a silver lining; in stark contrast to this depressing picture, Jamia gave me a wider canvas to draw on. Although opportunities were rare, there were very few takers of these opportunities, and that was one thing that I capitalized on. Jamia gave me the liberty to explore and improvise, and the opportunity to learn. I believe, we learn best when we learn by doing and that’s exactly how we learnt. Third-year onwards LLB subjects were being taught to us and that’s when I developed great interest in law and became career oriented. I realized that there is no point in focusing on the limitations and I promised myself that I will only look at the possibilities. After all, it’s ‘what you know’ that gets you ahead in the profession and not ‘what college you are from’.
Q.4). Did your internships during law school help you in your career after your graduation? How would you recommend the present law students plan their internships?
Ans: I think internships play a very vital role in shaping up your career as they provide that platform to law students whereby they get exposed to the practical aspects of law. Further, students get to learn in a professional environment which eventually helps them in understanding the nuances of the law. The good thing about internships is that the lawyers you work with help you in your career e.g. in my case Mr Sidharth Luthra (Sr. Adv), Mr J.P. Sengh (Sr. Adv) and Mr Sandeep Sharma (Adv) always encouraged and motivated me which is very necessary in the first few years of struggle especially for first-generation lawyers like me.
I think it is always better to apply at least six months in advance for any internship that you wish to do especially in a tier 1 law firm. Also, I strongly recommend that students who are confused about their career choice should explore various fields of law by way of internships e.g. by interning with a criminal lawyer, civil lawyer, IPR Firm, Arbitration Firm etc. This will help any student in understanding what is best for him/her and by the end of 5th, he/she will be in a position to sieve out what’s best for him/her. For students who are clear about their career choice or about their area of interest, I suggest that they only focus on that one subject and do all their internships with lawyer/law firm dealing with that kind of work.
Q.5). What all co-curricular activities were you involved in as a law student?
Ans: I did not leave any opportunity that came my way during my law school. I was always prepared for all challenges and by virtue of participating in various competitions; I overcame my stage fright of public speaking. I participated in various competitions and won various national and state level moots. To my surprise, my team qualified for the Oxford Price Media Moot Court Competition and we were adjudged the 12th Best Team of the South East Asia Rounds. This was the first time Jamia participated in the prestigious Oxford Price Media International Moot. I was an avid debater in college and won in various national debate competitions. As the President of the Debating Society of my college, I organized the 1st Jamia National Parliamentary Debate and also worked as the Coordinator for the Internship and Placement Committee.
Q.6). It is generally believed that one must have a strong legal background in order to succeed in legal profession. What is your take on this? Do you believe that it is comparatively more difficult for first generation lawyers to establish themselves in any field of law?
Ans: Even today, in litigation it is extremely difficult for a first generation lawyer to make his way into a good chamber/law firm. Nonetheless, it doesn’t matter ‘who you know’, the only thing that gets you ahead in the profession is ‘what you know’. It doesn’t matter whether you are a first-generation lawyer or a second-generation lawyer, if you are determined and possess the resolve to make a mark in this field, you will eventually carve out a place for yourself. There are ample opportunities for anyone who is ready to face the challenges and strive for such opportunities. Yes, being a second generation or a third generation helps to some extent e.g. you may have a chamber/office to sit in and you may have a small library etc, however, clients will only come to you if you perform. In this profession, there is no alternative to hard work and it is a result oriented profession.
Q.7). What motivated you to choose arbitration as your speciality out of the plethora of other options in the legal profession? What is your take on future of arbitration in India?
Ans: I did not study arbitration as a subject in my law school. In fact, I was not familiar with the subject until I joined Advani & Co. In my case, I did not choose arbitration as a career I started developing the interest in the subject because it was very different from litigation as there was less emphasis on technicalities and dispute resolution was speedier than the protracted litigation. Arbitration in my view has already taken over in India which is clear from the fact that almost every lawyer is now doing arbitration in addition to his/her main area of practice. These days in almost all the commercial contracts there is an arbitration clause which proves that companies have adopted the practice of getting disputes resolved through arbitration. In other words, the future of arbitration is bright because the future of litigation is not.
Q.8). What do you pursue during leisure time?
Ans: Since my days as a student of law, I have always idolized and looked up to centenarian Justice V. R. Krishna Iyer for inspiration. With his multifaceted personality, the enviable wealth of vast vocabulary and inimitable qualities of judgeship, he has contributed immensely towards Indian jurisprudence and his judgments have helped me a lot in gaining interest in law and improving my vocabulary.
Most of my pursuits during leisure time entail travelling and reading as I am an ardent traveller and an avid reader. The prospect of exploring new places, cuisines and cultures lures me to travel to new destinations whenever I get an opportunity to do so. I am also fond of music and food, and I make it a point to acquaint myself with the music and literature of places I travel to, as these open a window for you to the culture of the people there. Reading definitely helps! In my free time I see speeches/videos of the legends of law and learn from them and I read judgments of my role model Justice Krishna Iyer, which has also improved my legal lexicon over the period of time.
Q.9). You recently authored the book “on the rise” which later went on to be one of the best sellers. What prompted you to write a book?
Ans: I realized that there is no dearth of opportunities, but it is the dearth of information that impedes young law students and budding lawyers from the innumerable opportunities that are available in the field of law. Hence, I felt that there was a dire need for a publication to give budding lawyers an insight of the legal profession, the challenges that follow and to acquaint them with relatable examples of young legal professionals who have successfully triumphed over the trials and tribulations confronted by law students and budding lawyers. I must thank my mentor Mr Shashank Garg who helped me extensively and also motivated me to come up with a book like this. Incidentally, when I first nurtured the idea of this book, many people, in fact, discouraged me, making it one of the most challenging tasks of my life which I was resolute to accomplish, come what may. It was difficult to execute the idea as it was my first book and being a first-generation lawyer I did not have any connections, however, I felt that there was no harm in taking aim, even if the target was a dream.
This book would not have been possible without the support of several veteran legal eagles, namely Justice A.K. Sikri, Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Mr. Sidharth Luthra, Mr. Fali S Nariman, Mr. J.P Sengh, Mr. Arvind Datar and Dr. Faizan Mustafa, who have shown immense faith in me, constantly motivated and guided a me. Surprisingly, the book went on to become a bestseller and was even featured in Fortune 500 Magazine. Presently, I am working on my second book which you can expect to be published by the end of this year.
Q.10). What advice would you like to give to law aspirants and law students?
Ans: I would advise all the readers to first and foremost, get rid of all the negativity around you. Some people in our lives act like anchors that are constantly trying to slow us down, and they need to be cut loose. Always remember that the greatest successes come from having the freedom to fail and by keeping your mind on the objective, not on the obstacle. No obstacle is insurmountable and it is the hardships in life that we muster the courage and grit to confront and conquer, which build our true character. If you are determined and possess the resolve to make a mark in the legal profession, you will eventually carve out a place for yourself.
Try to keep yourself updated with recent judgments and contemporary developments in law which can easily be done by following legal news portals like Livelaw, Bar & Bench, etc. Browsing through these legal news portals on a daily basis gives insights of what’s happening in the legal fraternity to anyone who intends to stay abreast of the same.
Lastly, I would like to sign off with the borrowed words of Chief Justice John Roberts whom I often quote and who is without a doubt, one of the most brilliant judges in the world: “From time to time in the years to come, I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice. I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty. Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. And when you lose, as you will from time to time, I hope every now and then, your opponent will gloat over your failure. It is a way for you to understand the importance of sportsmanship. I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion. Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes”.
Student Reporter- INBA