An Interview With Dr. Vidyottma Jha [Advocate, Supreme Court of India]

Dr. Vidyottma Jha is an Attorney in the Supreme Court of India. She has been Enrolled with Bar Council of Delhi vide Enrolment No: D/2599/2009 dated 5.09.2009 and is a member of the Supreme Court of India, Delhi High Court and Delhi Bar Association as well.

She did her LL.B from Campus Law Center, Faculty of Law, Delhi University. She did Ph.D. in International Relations from Patna University, Bihar. Her other qualifications are M.A. in Political Science from Patna University; P.G. Diploma in Labour Laws from Indian Law Institute; Delhi.

Her normal place of work is the Supreme Court of India. She has handled various cases of Environmental law, Service matters, Family matters and Matrimonial Disputes, Cases related to Property, Cyber laws, Intellectual Property, Cases of Arbitration and Mediation, etc.

She has also authored a book in International Relations ‘Recent Trends in India and EU Relationship’ published by ‘Lambert Academic Publishing’ and written Articles on various topics of legal importance like Anti-Defection Laws, Child Pornography, Domestic Violence, Corporate Social Responsibility, New International Economic Order and Corporate Jurisprudence, Custodial Violence and the Hypocritical Silence, Rape: A Social Epidemic, Contempt of Court in magazines like India Legal, Nyay Prawah, Law Article etc.

International Academy of Space Law has appointed me as its National Ambassador and National Person of Contact in New Delhi, India. It has also appointed her as a Senior Researcher at IASL Global Space Policy, Center of Excellence.

She was awarded the ‘Great Warriors of Humanity Award’ by ‘International Human Rights Advisory Council’ in honor of outstanding performance, commitment, contribution and dedication towards the humanitarian services and best practices on prevention of Covid19. She has also a member and a State President for Delhi in Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, WEF.

She has been invited as a speaker at institutions like ‘Amity University, Lucknow’ to speak on the topic ‘New International Economic Order and Corporate Jurisprudence’; by CNLU, Patna to speak on ‘Corporate Social Responsibility; by ‘Zakir Husain Delhi College’, ‘University of Delhi’ for delivering a lecture to students on ‘Women Empowerment’; by Laali Project for ‘Leadership Summit’ on ‘Period Pandemic: Politics, Pain and Conflict’. She was again invited to a ‘National Conference’ held in Delhi University to speak on ‘Climate Change and Sustainable Development’. An organization called ‘Immortal India’ invited her for a session where she addressed the issue of ‘Rape’. Very recently She interacted with the Faculty of Amity Global Business School, Bangalore as a ‘Guest of Honour’ for the launch of their Newsletter ‘LOCUS’, and also addressed the students on the issue of ‘Social Entrepreneurship’. She was invited by Christ Deemed to be University as a speaker on Constitution Day i.e. 26th November, 2020 to speak on a topic called ‘Transformative Constitutionalism’. On 7th December, 2020; Parul University, Gujarat invited her as a ‘Guest of Honour’ to inaugurate their new ‘Certificate Course in Energy Law’. She was invited by ‘IMS, Noida’ to give a lecture on Legal Drafting on 14th May, 2021.

1. Madam, How Would You Introduce Yourself to Our Readers? Do You Come from A Family of Lawyers?

Well…I am a simple, optimistic, honest and emotional person. But at the same time am ambitious and driven. I always think about getting opportunities to do better and one thing that keeps me going is that I refuse to settle until I reach my goal. I believe one should have something to strive towards. I don’t come from a family of lawyers but I had keen interest in studying law and  I looked up to the big famous lawyers as role models from a very tender age.

2. Madam, you have completed B.A and M.A in Political Science and also Ph.D in International Relations. What Inspired You to Choose Law as Your Career? Why Law and not Political Science?

I always wanted to be a lawyer and become the voice of the voiceless, help the downtrodden and represent the unrepresented. There are so many people out there who are unable to put their point forth. This happens because they are basically unaware of their rights and there is a lot of work to be done at the ground level. So being a lawyer is more like an opportunity to serve people so I take pride in being a part of the noble profession. It further gives a much wider perspective to the job of a lawyer as it involves the upholding of justice in society and stand for what is right. Besides, studying political science which happens to be another stream gave me an edge and I could understand things better. Political Science is a ‘Master Science’ which enlarged the scope of my thought and intellect to a great extent. So both the streams despite being different in their own ways helped me to evolve in a big way as a person. Thus, Political Science acted as a shaper while Law made me a mature individual who could see through things and have an opinion with conviction. So for studying Political Science all I can say is I was destined while taking up  Law as a career was my first choice since it interested me a lot especially the dynamism that law brings with itself attracted me the most.

3. Tell Us A Bit About Your Study Time During College Life.

For me, it was all about studies all the time. But I think there should be more activities in which the students should indulge themselves and enhance their skills. This profession requires one to communicate a lot so it is very important to hone the skills of communication with the studies.

4. Did You Pursue Any Extracurricular Activities Such as Mooting, Debate, Seminar and Sports? How Did This Contribute to Your Holistic Development? Do You Think Such Activities Are Important in Law Student’s Life?

Yes. All these activities are crucial for law students. The basic things are taught by the law schools because it not only tells about the basics it also acts as a naturer. As far as these activities are concerned they give a good exposure to students which helps them in understanding things in a better way which further helps them in making better career choices. In my opinion, students should indulge in these activities more and more because participating in the moot court competitions will help them in enhancing their researching skills, communication skills, interaction with peers and judges, etc because it is the research on the basis of which they will be fighting their case and represent their side.

5. Did You Ever Had an Internship Experience During Your College and How Much Internship Is Important for A Law Student?

It depends on what is the goal or ultimate target. If someone is interested in corporate jobs or litigation they need to delve and then finalize the area of interest and look for internships accordingly. Then as far as the number of internships is concerned there are no fixed criteria regarding that; the students perhaps get 10 internship breaks in the entire course so they can try to do as many internships as they can which may benefit them in the future especially at the time of placement. The law firms will certainly consider their performances during the internships and if they are well satisfied by their performance they might even get a pre-placement offer. The placement is primarily for those law students who want to start working right away once their course finishes whereas for the aspirants of judicial services things are way different. The judicial services aspirants need to focus on the upcoming exams and the syllabus of different states as per their aim. For them, an internship is not recommended though they can definitely have exposure and then see what exactly they want for themselves.

The internship is heavily recommended for those law students who wish to have a career in litigation. During the internship period, they will be exposed to different courts from District Court to Supreme Court and learn the basics with a practical application which will make them familiar with nuances of different laws. Then, there may be students with keen interest in a career in legal journalism for them it is very important to have an in-depth knowledge of contemporary legal issues and they must also be good legal writers. Thereafter, there is this noble profession of teaching for which the law students must pursue LL.M and then can further go for Ph.D. and LLD. Besides this, there is an option for a government job like the post of legal officer in different government banks. The Public sector undertakings also hire legal officers to deal with their legal matters. The government jobs offer a number of opportunities for the law students; for example; SEBI, RBI, finance department is also looking for law graduates so the law student can also get into these organizations by clearing the respective entrance papers.

6. Do You Think That Methods of Alternate Dispute Resolution Such as Arbitration Are the Future of Dispute Resolution in India?

Arbitration is a method of alternative dispute resolution and it has been around for a long time. The Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 has been modeled on lines of the UNCITRAL or the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. It is basically a framework of laws with the idea to modernize Indian arbitration law and bring it in line with the best global practices. It aims at making India a global hub for arbitration.
Due to Covid-19, there has been a tremendous change in every sector. This change impacted the legal sector also in a big way. The changes have made arbitration a popular alternative to litigation. But most of the arbitration in India is ad hoc arbitration with institutional arbitration which is a minor proportion of all arbitration conducted. In India, a lot needs to be done as it lacks institutions which are at par with organizations of international repute like ICC or the International Court of Arbitration, LCIA, SIAC, HKIAC, etc. Due to this the foreign companies mostly refrain from business and prefer a foreign arbitration center rather than India. The recent amendment in the year 2019 has tried to remedy this problem. It has tried to provide the framework for institutionalized arbitration in India. It also mandates the creation of the Arbitration Council of India.

The Arbitration Council of India has the duty to take all such measures as may be necessary to promote and encourage arbitration, mediation, conciliation or other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.  The organization can frame policies guidelines for the establishment, operation and maintenance of uniform professional standards in respect of all matters relating to arbitration. We can clearly see and feel the impact of pandemics on our work culture and how it has increased our dependence on technology.  When everything came to a standstill the world began to look for methods to overcome the situation so the dependence on technology increased manifold and not only this it also changed the ways of legal recourse which started looking for alternative methods.  All these changes which took across the globe increased the importance of alternative dispute resolution increased which has now become a very important method of dispute resolution. The  Apex Court and the  High Court have also considered the importance of arbitration and the appointment of arbitrators. Thus, all these happenings give a clear indication that Alternative Dispute Resolution has a great future in the coming times.

7. Madam, What Is the Skill Set Required to Becoming a successful lawyer?

In every job, there are few key skills that are required to become successful apart from academic knowledge and experience. A lawyer’s job is no different. In fact, if we closely see we find that the work and performance pressure on lawyers is quite high compared to others. This is because they need to win the legal cases for the sake of their clients as well as their own reputation. The job of a lawyer is a lot about all types of communication skills whether it’s oral or written.  The lawyers ought to have strong verbal communication skills to present their arguments in the court, they must be able to convince their clients, speak with witnesses in order to dig out information or for the negotiations etc. A lawyer’s job is incomplete without writing skills. Writing skills are important to draft legal documents or any other type of correspondence because even the slightest error can prove fatal to the case. Similarly, lawyers also need to be good listeners so that they could note even the small points and the minute details which may turn out to be crucial for winning the case.

In addition to all this, a new set of skills has emerged called technological skills. So, the lawyers now also need to be aware of various software tools and mobile applications that can automate and streamline billing, filing, data entry, research and other administrative tasks. The lawyers need to know about technology as it is an upcoming field of law where a lot of scope for practice might emerge in the coming times as this area is yet to be unravalled. This is an emerging field and many technology providers dealing in artificial intelligence, cyber security, digital currencies and any other kind of digital assets seek help from lawyers as they need assistance from them. Law is a dynamic field because changes, reforms and amendments are introduced every now and then. This is done to cope with the social changes, economic issues, changing nature of the crime, technological advancements etc.

Therefore, the lawyers need to be updated with the latest developments in every sector be it domestic or international legal developments social, economic, political or business environment within which the system operates. These skills give lawyers an edge in dealing with their clientele.   Besides all this, we cannot undermine the importance of networking and collaborations. All these lawyers need to interact with media, press, peers, clients and teams. The lawyers have to work for building and nurturing relationships with people which are long-term and sustainable. From all this, it’s well understood that being a lawyer is not easy. It’s a very demanding profession where the competition is very intense. The skills mentioned here may help an advocate and give them an edge in staying at the top of their game.

8. Madam, Please tell us your drafting experience. Any tips for writing good drafting. What are the things to be deliberated in writing a draft?

The skill of drafting is one’s ability to express the thought process in writing. Thus, it is believed that good lawyers are the ones who can express their client’s case most effectively by way of spoken or written words. The legal knowledge and acumen to translate that knowledge into words are a lawyer’s greatest assets. The language and tone of the drafted document matter the most so every draft must be clear and unambiguous. The drafted document has to go through various stages, it has to live and face the scrutiny of several interested parties like the client, other parties, other party’s lawyers, adjudicating authorities, etc.

Therefore, it has to be crafted very carefully which could protect the interest of the client. It should be legally compliant and understandable to everyone who comes across the document. A lawyer has to be very selective in choosing his or her words in all aspects of his work whether it is drafting a legal document, simply writing a response to an inquiry, sending a legal notice or anything else. The documents should be clear, compact and concise. However, drafting a document is not only about good language or formatting, sequencing skills. A draftsman also needs legal knowledge and expertise, client’s expectations, business sense, analytical skills, eye for details, reasonableness and foresightedness. Lastly, drafting is a craft which develops over time with experience.

9. The Best Experience and Success Habit You Would Like to Share with Law Students to Encourage Them.

I have heard about the struggle of law students which is perfectly normal in the beginning. It is so because the students are adapting to the new course materials, teaching methods, and study habits. In fact, everything around them is new. But with time gradually one becomes familiar with the surroundings and things become easier for them. All this forms part of an experience. Though law school is like a marathon; it is not a sprint. I need regular hard work and discipline to study daily. Things would become difficult if one does not have a habit to study daily and they attempt and fail to cram before exams. Hence, it will be good if one plans a positive, proactive stance by setting up a schedule, establishing an accountability structure with built-in breaks, understanding the personal study preferences and habits and finding a place which is conducive to studying. The more these pieces are in place the better off you will be when it comes to keeping up with the workload.

10. What Advice Do You Have for Young Lawyers and Law Students who want to become lawyers?

Well… for the new generation of lawyers I will suggest going where the expectations and demand to perform are high. This will give them the opportunity to grow. They should refrain from joining the easy crowd that won’t help in the long run though it may seem easy in the beginning. Then you will always have two ways in front of you; the easy way and the right way.  Not only in law school but in life also you will come across these two every now and then; committing to choosing the latter over the former can help you not only grow as a professional but also as a person. The shortcuts may seem easier but they may haunt you later. Law graduates have a number of opportunities they just have to take their time, delve into every option available and think about it analytically and then decide which career path suits them the most. I strongly believe that we know ourselves the best and whatever career option we choose is a reflection of the choices that we make. I suggest to think and decide for that one should talk to the seniors, the teachers and the mentors who can help in clearing the doubts and make the best decisions.

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