This is a highly specialised field; is there enough work for aspiring maritime lawyers?
There is enough work. There is plenty of work in ship financing, arbitration and other areas where no court-bound work happens.
Maritime conflicts do take place in India, so why aren’t Indian universities offering courses in maritime law?
The National Law School in Bangalore started a programme some time back. But lack of talented faculty is the primary concern. As a matter of fact, Indian clients try and look for British solicitors. Even today, you will find clients looking for foreign solicitors.
It clearly shows that there is a lack of maritime lawyers in India.
When you started practising, there were barely any maritime lawyers. How did you get the motivation?
I was a criminal lawyer and was fed-up with representing smugglers and all sorts of criminals. Out of exasperation, I desperately wanted to sneak out. By a sheer stroke of luck, I got a break with P&I Club (an organisation providing protection and indemnity insurance to ship owners) immediately after emergency in 1977. Then I was asked to take over a lot of pending cases on a retainership basis.
Does practice in maritime law mean you get to travel a lot?
It certainly does. In 2010, I have been travelleding across India, London, Singapore, USA and Dubai.
What kind of work is an Indian maritime lawyer required to do in the foreign courts?
One doesn’t appear in the court there. One can do arbitration, or help the other lawyer arrange evidence – especially in the cases when matters pertaining to Indian laws arise.
Is it advisable to pursue an LLM in maritime law?
My answer would be both yes and no. Yes, because when you have studied it in great detail then you come back with a lot of authority on the subject, which is very important. You can’t afford to make mistakes in this profession. One can’t give the wrong impression to the client (that you lack knowledge).
And no, because even if you go to a university there is little you can learn. Not many universities have good faculty in maritime law. But there are a few universities in some countries abroad which offer this specialization – such as the University of Southampton, and University of Tulane.
You made a move from criminal law to maritime law. Would you recommend that fresh law graduates pursue this profession?
When you start practising in a certain field, it becomes very difficult to give up what you are pursuing and start something afresh after a few years. So, if a law graduate wants to become a maritime lawyer then one shouldn’t waste even a single day. Right from day one, one should give this a try.
How much money do you get in this profession? Is it more paying than criminal law?
In terms of amount of work, I would agree that work is relatively less, but when it comes to payment, there is scope for making a lot of money. At the same time, there is no denying the fact that people, including newcomers, might have to struggle for a while initially However successful maritime lawyers can make money to the tune of R1crore to R2 crore a year.