Sun Tzu says in the famous, “Art of War”, “If it is to your advantage, make a forward move; if not, stay where you are.” As a litigating lawyer, it is important to prepare your strategy so as to ensure that one has flexibility in making the necessary shifts in a particular case, according to the many variables that occur in Court. As my Ustaad says, “Never prepare your own case first only; always be able to see it in 3-D – prepare your opponent’s case and attempt to consider what a Judge would require assistance for, in being able to comprehend the facts and applicable law.” One has to encounter all the elements in a Court, but thankfully, they are human elements – the learned Judge who might be in an irritable mood, or the crafty opposing Counsel, who will interrupt your track of arguments just to put you off course, because that is what he does. As legal practitioners, it is our job to make sure that we put our best foot forward in Court for our Client – but that does not mean that we are all perfect. We too make mistakes and at times, pay a hefty price for it – the trick is to learn from those mistakes, accept that they are a part of life and try to make sure they don’t happen again.

The litigating lawyer is expected to know the facts and law relating to his case – but he is also required to persuade a Court to decide a case in his favor through advocacy – an art, which one learns through many experiences. Whilst undergoing my apprenticeship, I would often visit the High Court and the Subordinate Courts to go and understand what particular Judges were like. It was compelling to watch lawyers argue in all different ways before a Court and most importantly, it gave an observer a reasonable idea of how Judges respond to submissions made by a Counsel and what type of assistance was to be rendered to the Court. Be it preparing written submissions for the Court so as to make it easy for a Judge to follow your particular line of arguments or making highlighted and marked copies of the relevant judicial precedents being relied upon to substantiate the arguments made at the Bar, it was and still is a truly educational experience. However, there are times when a lawyer who is arguing a particular case is stumped by a particular question of law put forward by a Court or by a legal submission made by the opposing Counsel, which may have been overlooked whilst preparing the case. That’s when the panic button gets pressed. The lawyer will begin to shuffle nervously through the case file; or will stand at the Rostrum for what seems like an eternity, looking for an answer amongst his papers. It is not a pretty sight, and neither is it a particularly good feeling for the lawyer who happens to be in the line of fire.

After obtaining my High Court license, I was assigned to argue and prepare certain cases in Karachi before the Sindh High Court. That was a completely different scene than the Lahore High Court– big, open courtrooms with high ceilings and fans; courtroom doors open for all and sundry to walk in, but decorum is maintained efficiently. I also had the privilege of appearing in a Criminal Complaint Case before the City Court in Karachi, which dealt with Banking Fraud. It was a 150 page Complaint along with some 3000 documents of evidence and on the opposing side, about 12 accused persons, being represented by the best Criminal attorneys in Karachi. The first day I appeared in the case, I was quite nervous – me on the one side, the deplorable attorney for the Complainant and on the other side, six seasoned veterans of our noble profession, defending the “innocent” accused. I was taken aback by all of this and consequently, it wasn’t my best day of advocacy. But after that day, I learnt my lesson and from then on, I made an imaginary wall for myself, blocking out the piercing stares of the opposing Counsel and focusing on assisting the Court and making sure that I communicated effectively with the Judge. After many hearings and long drawn out arguments on many miscellaneous applications, one of the opposing Counsel (about 50 years older to me), came to me outside of Court and said “Issi tarha mehnat karo, seekho, aur phir tum aur bhee achay vakeel ban jaao ge.” I felt very humbled because they always treated me with such disdain whilst in Court.

Being a junior to my Ustaad is not an easy job. He argues a case with his mind, body and passion. He always wants us to make sure that all of his relevant papers and case laws are arranged in a way that will help him smoothly argue a case in Court. There have been many times where I have struggled to keep up with him; have made some mistakes as well whilst standing next to him, mistakes which have been noticed by the learned Judges hearing the cases. As long as it doesn’t happen too frequently and as long as you do the needful to rectify such mistakes by preparing better, by paying attention to detail and not just thinking but “re-thinking” (as my Ustaad says), there is no better learning on the job. We are lawyers, we are professionals, but we are human too... and that is okay.

The writer is a legal practitioner with hopes for a better future for his profession in the land of the pure.