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India’s Top Lawyers & their formula for success (.. and the fees they charge!)

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The best way to learn law is to see the great masters at work. The way they study the facts, analyze the law and make their presentation to the Court can teach you more than you can ever hope to learn in a classroom. And the fees they charge can inspire you to do your best in the profession. Surprisingly, these great wizards of the law don’t have a magic wand. Instead, their secret recipe for success is sheer hard work and concentration

The really clever people now want to be lawyers: A. N. Wilson

Lawyers across the World are amongst the most highly paid professionals. Indian lawyers are no exception. Apart from a 5 figure fee for one appearance, limousines to transport you, business class travel (chartered flights, if you are in the super-elite category) and five star accommodations (only VIP suites, if you are in the super-elite category) are de rigueur. Of course, there is no question that all of this is fully justified! So, lets’ get down to listing the top lawyers and see if we can get some inspiration from them.

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Chief Justice Kapadia: Inspiring Story Of Journey From Clerk To Chief Justice

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Chief Justice of India Sarosh. H. Kapadia battled acute poverty and hardship to rise from the level of a clerk to the highest post in the Judiciary. He did this through sheer dint of hard work and perseverance. His attitude towards work, his sense of humility, integrity and compassion makes him a symbol of inspiration and a role model for all professionals, says the author

Forbes has paid rich tribute to Chief Justice S. H. Kapadia over his stellar role in being one of the finest judges and administrators and in “redefining judgeship”.

What is noteworthy is that Chief Justice Kapadia comes from a very humble and poverty-stricken background. His father had grown up in a Surat orphanage and had worked as a clerk while his mother Katy was a homemaker. The family could barely make ends meet.

However, while the parents were poor, they were persons of great principles. From a tender age, Kapadia was taught never to accept obligations from anyone and to always live an ethical and moral life.

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My Name Is Harish Salve

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Harish Salve is known mainly for his spectacular success in the Vodafone matter but there are several aspects to his personality – professional and personal – such as his sense of modesty coupled with his refreshing views on personal fitness & personal wealth – which make him a role model for all of us, says the author and adds that Harish Salve’s name deserves to be taken in the same hushed tone in which we take the names of the Legends

There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures (Julius Caesar, Shakespeare)

For all tax professionals keenly following the litigation between Vodafone International and the Union of India in the Bombay High Court and then in the Supreme Court, Harish Salve was the face of Vodafone. Even now, when the Government threatens to rob Vodafone of its hard-fought victory through the proposed retrospective amendments, one can sense Harish Salve crouching in the shadows, with bloodshot and impatient eyes, waiting for Parliament to give its nod, so he can attack the Government, go for its jugular and have the amendments declared ultra vires.

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Nani Palkhivala’s Top 10 Secrets Of Success

N. A. Palkhivala

Nani Palkhivala incredible professional success has inspired several generations of youngsters to improve their own performance & become better professionals. But how did Palkhivala achieve such great level of success? Yes, he was a genius with great intellectual ability but were there any techniques that he followed that we can emulate as well? The author investigates and reveals Nani Palkhivala’s top 10 secrets of success

Nani Palkhivala was a genius and his incredible success as a lawyer has inspired many generations of youngsters. The law reports are full of cases where he has argued complicated points of law and his treatise “The Law of Income-tax” continues to be a best-seller decades after it was first written.

So what was Nani Palkhivala’s recipe for success? Are there any tips or techniques that we can emulate as well in our careers that will help us become better professionals?

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When Nani Palkhivala was accused of Piracy!

N. A. Palkhivala

It sounds unbelievable but is it true? Did Nani Palkhivala copy from Sampath Iyengar’s book? The author traces the fascinating battle between two of the finest legal minds over the originality of the Commentary to the Income-tax Act that all of us use in our day to day practice and reveals fascinating insights into Nani Palkhivala’s genius personality

Well, life all comes down to a few moments. This is one of them: Bud Fox in Wall Street

It seems incredible that anyone would have the temerity to accuse the great Nani Palkhivala of piracy and copyright infringement especially on a subject such as income-tax law. And what makes this even more astounding is that the person making the allegation is not some deranged and raving lunatic frothing at the mouth but Sampath Iyengar, the highly respected lawyer and author of the best selling treatise “The Law of Income-tax”.

So, what possessed Sampath Iyengar to make this preposterous allegation against Nani Palkhivala?

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Sohrab E. Dastur

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On the occasion of Mr. Dastur’s “Golden Jubilee” in the profession, we pulled out an old article by Mr. Dastur which continues to be as inspiring as ever. Mr. Dastur talks of his humble beginnings and how he succeeded in the profession through dint of hard work & perseverance after being inspired by other stalwarts. There is an invaluable message in the article for all professionals

On account of the delay in penning this piece pursuant to the persistent request of Kahn Narang, I find that it is today almost 34 years to the day when I was enrolled at the bar (7th August to be precise).

When I joined the Chambers of R.J. Kolah, the general advice which all new aspirants received was that the profession was overcrowded. Today my advice to a new entrant is that with the creation of so many Tribunals, Commissions and quasi-judicial authorities, there is unbounded scope for a person with reasonable intelligence, a little more common sense and the capacity to take pains. The great change between now and, say, 30 years ago (and undoubtedly 50 years ago) is the desire in the profession whether of chartered accountancy or of law (and even of medicine) to increase the `turnover’, which is a term that causes so many interpretation problems insofar as S. 44AB and S-80HHC are concerned!

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Fali S. Nariman – Judges are not fragile flowers to wilt in the heat of criticism

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Fali Nariman’s magic is that he is an original thinker. Never willing to give up, always optimistic. Always thinking of how a point can make all the difference to the matter. Even at the final stage in the Supreme Court, does not stop thinking of how a new approach or a new angle can make the difference. He can turn a point around on its head and discover an angle missed by others. That quality is what makes the difference

Fali S. Nariman, the doyen of the profession, recently completed 56 years of practice.

Nariman started his practice in 1953 as the first junior of Kharshedji Bhabha. He left Bombay in May 1972 to practise at the Supreme Court.

Nariman credits his success to Bhabha. “If I am a good lawyer, it is because I was so moulded, devilling with KH Bhabha.” He said in a memorial address at the Bombay Bar Association. He also credits Bhabha for his sense of humour. “It was not law alone that I leant from Kharshedji but conviviality as well”.

Nariman was Additional Solicitor General of India from May 1972 to 25 June 1975, resigning from that post upon the Declaration of Emergency on 26 June 1975. Fali Nariman was the recipient of the Padma Vibhushan in 2007 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991 for his contribution to jurisprudence and public affairs.
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Rustom. J. Kolah

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In this fascinating personal account, eminent senior advocate, Sohrab E. Dastur walks down memory lane and reminisces about his own senior. One incident that stands out is where Sohrab Dastur was tempted to join Industry after he got a ‘fascinating’ offer and changed his mind only after he was severely reprimanded by Rustom Kolah

To write about a personality like Mr. R. J. Kolah in whose chamber I cut my teeth at the bar is difficult because so many memories and thoughts come flashing back. I first saw Mr. Kolah in 1957. On a visit to Delhi for an all-India debating competition, we decided to visit the Supreme Court which was then in Parliament Building. The Court was hearing a challenge to the constitutional vires of the Bombay Labour Welfare Fund Act. We heard a most persuasive argument from a man of medium height and spare build who was later identified as Mr. Kolah. The judges heard him with rapt attention, a phenomenon I witnessed repeatedly thereafter.

After I passed the examination for “the office of an Advocate of the High Court at Bombay”, as the qualifying examination was then known, I had to decide on the “line” to pursue and the chambers to join. Having been (now, as it happens, very fortunately) turned down by one chamber, my father and I approached Mr. Manek (Botty) Mistry of Messrs. Kalyaniwalla & Mistry who was a great friend of Mr. Kolah. He immediately rang up “Rustom” and I could hear the voice at the other end say that he should ask the “boy” to see him the next day at 9.45. Kolah (at Bar, the juniormost advocate is supposed to refer to the seniormost by his surname) had a place in the chambers of Sir Jamshedji Kanga, which chambers were then located on the ground floor of the High Court on the left hand side as one entered the High Court from the gate near the University. The interview was brief. He accepted me saying how could he turn down a request from “Botty”. He later confided to me that I could have come through my father because he remembered him from his days with Payne and Co. in the late 1920s, when he used to visit the liquidators’ office and my father was there as an auditor. When I recounted this to my father he was surprised that Mr. Kolah still recalled those few meetings. He told me that Kolah used to come from Payne & Co. always wearing a “Parsi cap.” This was but one illustration of Kolah’s phenomenal memory – for cases, facts and faces. Whatever be the size of the brief and howsoever complicated the facts, he never made detailed notes and sometimes just jotted down a few dates. He said that one should not become “notes bound” because one then tends to get tied down to the “plan” and one does not “go” with the judge as one always must. This was in marked contrast to a neighbour, when we were in chamber No. 2 in the High Court, who used to mark his briefs at the first reading in pencil, then in blue, black and red ink. There was a problem when the matter was adjourned for the fourth time!

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N. A. Palkhivala

N. A. Palkhivala

It is given to few to be considered a legend in their lifetime: Palkhivala’s greatness as an advocate can be attributed to an incredibly analytical mind, a prodigious memory and a lucidity that made the most complex argument simple to the meanest intelligence. Add to this a felicity of expression that elevated that argument to something that resembled an essay in classical prose and you have Nani Palkhivala

To most practitioners of income-tax law, N. A. Palkhivala is best known as the author of the treatise “The law and practice of income-tax” which he wrote in collaboration with Jamshedji Kanga (“Kanga & Palkhivala”). A crisp commentary on the complicated subject, giving you almost predictively, a judgement on the very point you were looking for.

The treatise was written when Palkhivala was only 30 years old. That gives you an idea as to the genius of the man.

Another introduction to Palkhivala is through the judgements. Almost every important judgement on income-tax where the core principles have been laid has been argued by Nani Palhkivala. But it would be a mistake to think that his contribution was confined to income-tax law. His contribution to the development of constitutional law is also incredible with landmark cases like that of Bank Nationalization, Privy Purses, Golak Nath, Keshavanand Bharathi and Minerva Mills.

Palkhivala’s magic is best understood by looking at him from the perspective of other legends.

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