This post has been contributed by Prof. V Narayana Swamy. He has more than four decades of experience as a lawyer in the High Court of Karnataka. At the same time, he has been actively involved as an academician and has also authored several law books.
Lesson no. 1: A Lawyer’s Library
A library comprising mostly of law books is a must for every practicing lawyer. It may be a mini library as in the case of a fresher, or a large law library as we see in the Supreme Court and in chambers of Senior lawyers, but it should be there.
Ordinarily, as a common man would say that the term ‘Research’ means RE-search, that is to say, search again. It means something is there, but only missing and it may be traced by searching again and again. A lawyer is a serious student throughout his life but not a book-worm. In each and every case he is required, rather, compelled, to do research on the case under study. The major research involves the study of case law or precedents relevant and opposed to his stand in a given case. This search for decisions makes him a good reader and develops a reading habit. The success in the profession depends on his success in cases handled by him. The success in the case depends on understanding and analyzing facts of a case, which often begins in the research stage when he identifies the relevant supporting case law that determines the legal issues. The skill of analysis continues and gets refined as he decides on the aspect of searching; where, how, and what to search. When he finds some useful material he will understand and apply to the facts of his case. This research process provides a crucial analytical foundation to make him arrive at proper decisions for the success of the case. When one views the role of a lawyer in this angle of research one can see that it is not momentary but as a critical, continuing process of representing his client.
Young lawyers should take research seriously in case you are really serious about your successful career in the legal field. This is for those who take the legal profession as a challenge no matter whether it is financially viable or not. Financial difficulties and risks are there in every profession. Is there any profession without challenges? One must not be coward and run away from the risk, which is temporary and imbibed in every trade, commerce, industry, science and technological field.
I take it for granted that you, one like me, take the legal profession as your only career. My senior, Prof. C B Motaiya was a leading advocate on the criminal side. When I applied for working under his guidance he said, in a strict straightforward manner,
“If wish to join my chamber you must take the profession seriously. You can’t keep one leg in the profession and other in politics. You can’t keep two legs in two boats. Select any one of your choices. If your choice is the legal profession you are welcome to join me otherwise there is no place in my office. You are free to select your chosen profession. There is no urgency. You may think over again and come tomorrow.”
I expected such a condition from him as I had seen him for years as a disciplined teacher. I replied
“Sir, I had this confusion during my student days. Now I have determined to make advocacy as my career. Please bless me join your team, Sir”. He was pleased with my answer and provided a separate table and chair in a portion of his chamber on 10.7.1970. It was in Gandhi Nagar, Bangalore.
If you are ready to practice competently, you should be committed to develop your professional skills. The more you put forth your efforts the more you will get out of learning. Your law library is a promoter of all things for legal research. You should have a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page or any other new tool that keeps you up to date on new databases on legal research made by others. By keeping track of these resources you will be surprised to get additional legal knowledge. Your gain from using these will help you in strengthening your power of knowledge.
It is said by many experienced seniors that for lawyers, “education and training are not somehow distinct from a well-resourced law library.” It is where a great deal of meaningful legal education and training takes place, with the lawyer or law student doing it for themselves, or with the assistance of experienced and trained law teachers or librarians.