In this chat with Bar & Bench’s Murali Krishnan, the VM Salgaocar College of Law graduate (Class of ’09) talks about the AoR exam, and his experience working with Senior Advocate L Nageswara Rao.

On being the first AoR from Goa

The feeling is yet to sink in! I think it was just an opportunity because nobody else was there and I was there at the right place at the right time (laughs).

On clearing the exam

I had done reasonably well in three papers, so I was confident that I would get through in those. I was unsure of the Drafting section but fortunately it worked out. Senior Advocate Indira Jaising was evaluating [the answer papers] for the first time and therefore I wasn’t sure of what she was expecting.

Classes conducted by the Supreme Court

Those are helpful, because they practically give away the whole paper. For Practice and Procedure, we had a class by Senior Advocate Indu Malhotra, and whatever she taught in the class came as questions for the exam.

The same applied to lectures by Senior Advocate PP Rao, for Leading Cases. It is pretty straightforward; you can’t miss those classes. If you attend them, half your work is done.

The Advocate-on-Record system

I think it should stay. At the highest court, if you control the advocacy, at least in terms of filing, I see nothing bad in it. It is reasonable to expect the lawyers practicing at the Supreme Court to be of certain standard.

The best part about being an AoR is the independence of filing in your own name, and then arguing your own matter. That is how I see it.

On the journey to Delhi, and the Supreme Court Lawyers Welfare Trust Fellowship

I came to Delhi because of the Fellowship. I got the right advice from Justice Mukul Mudgal, Justice JS Verma and advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan. I then joined the chamber of Senior Advocate Nageswara Rao. I did not know anyone in Delhi so I owe much to Justice Rohinton Nariman, who started the Trust! (Gaonkar was one of the two recipients of the first fellowship instituted by the Trust).

Building a Supreme Court practice

I started in 2012 and it has been a very good experience, each year I have learned something new. First, I was with AoR Nikhil Goel for 6-7 months, where I learnt the basics of filing and drafting. After that, I joined Senior Advocate L Nageswara Rao and that changed the whole game for me.

Whatever little I know about law, I completely owe it to him. The way one must think about a brief, the direction of one’s research and handling of a client, are some things I have learnt from him.

When I was in Goa, I had my own practice, and I realised that without a Senior, I am nowhere. When I came to Delhi, I learned how to approach this profession. You can learn the law by studying and reading, but the right approach to a matter comes when you dwell in a chamber.

Working with Nageswara Rao

I was there for both his terms as the ASG. That had a great influence on me, because I got the chance to work on some big Constitution Bench matters, including the challenge to Section 6A of the CBI Act. I also worked with him on the death sentence reference, Radia tapes case, dispute on KG Basin etc.

Working with Mr. Rao is tough. You have to be on your toes all the time and be ready to put in the long hours. He expects you to be innovative with your work and wants his juniors to always come up with new and better points.

It was definitely a great learning experience. I hope I can imbibe some of Mr. Rao’s characteristics, most importantly his work ethics and discipline.

Tips for AoR exam

Don’t miss out on those lectures, they are very important. Otherwise, if you have worked in the Supreme Court for 2-3 years, the exam is not too hard. You can easily clear it and get your 60% overall.