For any junior lawyer, having the opportunity to train with and learn from a Senior Counsel is a privilege, an honor and a step towards one’s own legal education. It is a “step” because what one learns from his or her Senior, should enable a young lawyer to train and want to educate themselves further in the many aspects of being a litigating lawyer during a professional career. Procedures, drafting, legal research, advocacy and case strategies – the quality of one’s learning is entirely dependent on the quality of one’s keenness to observe, absorb, question and apply the many facets of the legal profession, for a particular situation. Aside from submitting to the discipline and requirements of being a professional and submitting to the will and timeline of a Senior Counsel, it is also imperative that a young lawyer receives the necessary encouragement from a Senior with respect to the work that has been labored over by the latter in preparing a case. So, when is a good time to saddle a young lawyer with the responsibility of handling a case in Court? In my experience, I was thrown into the ‘deep end’ as soon as I got my license and yes, it was nerve-wracking and yes, my Ustaad enacted the part of the “Judge” whilst preparing for the arguments but if anything, getting litigation opportunities at the earliest can only benefit one’s own confidence. Mistakes will be made, the outcomes may not always be favorable but having an encouraging Senior makes a world of difference in the shaping of the professional life of a young Vakeel!

As a Junior, one is expected to put in the hard yards, check one’s personality at the door and be prepared to go the distance so that his or her Senior may be prepared to argue a particular case in Court. And should the Junior be working on all facets of the case, he or she would be lucky enough to be able to actually assist their Senior in Court on the given day. What does that mean exactly? Well, it varies from one Counsel to another. But my assistance begins in the dreaded ‘drive’ to Court – when my Ustaad will ask: “Okay…what are the facts of the main precedent we are relying upon? Have you noted down the relevant citations on a piece of paper for me to rattle off in Court? Let me have a look at the Notes for arguments again…” And then, there comes the time when the case is called and from then on, there is no time to fumble, no time to switch off and no time to forget where a reference or a particular precedent is placed in the files. As my Ustaad says, “Please give me notes which I can use and give me the flexibility to adjust to the real-time situation in Court”. Unfortunately, very rarely have we succeeded in giving him what he wants and the quest for ‘quality’ continues – but lucky for us, the blueprint of the case is always strong in his head owing to his own preparation.

About five years ago, we were engaged to defend a Suit by a Bank against a Textiles company for alleged loan default. It was not a simple case and we put in a lot of effort in preparing the case. The case was being heard by a learned Single Judge of the Lahore High Court and after the Counsel for the Bank had argued, it was our turn to argue. The arguments lasted for a couple of days. On the final day of arguments, all of a sudden, my Ustaad submitted before the Court that he was feeling unwell and that I may be permitted to argue the last limb of our arguments. The learned Judge smiled and granted the permission. For a split second, I drew a blank as my Ustaad proceeded to go and sit down on his chair. The learned Judge told me to relax and to not worry about my Senior sitting behind me and watching my every move. I had the notes in front of me and I began to argue. At one point, I looked behind and saw that my Ustaad had left the Courtroom. I argued for about half an hour and upon completion of the arguments, my Ustaad returned and thanked the Court for its patience in hearing our arguments and we left. Once we were outside, I asked him why he did not tell me that he was going to do that. He told me that he made the decision with full responsibility for the case and was confident that I could do it. I thanked him for his encouragement and support but asked him to please give me a heads up, the next time around!

It always helps to be prepared thoroughly for a case. Anything can happen at any time. And the interests of the Client and being able to assist a Court are of paramount importance. But if one is fortunate to have a supportive and encouraging Senior and if that Senior Counsel gives you the opportunity to learn and has confidence in your abilities, seize the day and remember, “With great power, comes great responsibility!”