Why is it so important that I choose the right lawyer? Aren’t all lawyers basically the same? Can this lawyer win my case? These are some persistent questions that nag litigants in the throes of tension and uncertainty. Lawyer and author Rajesh Talwar explains the need for a good lawyer citing the example of the Allahabad High Court’s landmark judgment that went against former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and resulted in the declaration of Emergency in the country.
“After she lost her case, several legal pundits spoke of how she would not have lost had she engaged the services of a trained constitutional lawyer. Her opponent Raj Narain was being represented by Shanti Bhushan, a lawyer who was thoroughly abreast of constitutional law whereas Indira Gandhi had engaged a lawyer whose practice was largely confined to civil law. Romesh Thapar, the former editor of Seminar, is reported to have suggested to her many times that she change her lawyer, but Indira Gandhi didn’t pay heed to his advice.”
Talwar in his book How to choose a Lawyer - and Win your Case goes on to describe very lucidly, the need to hire a lawyer, the circumstances that lead to litigation, the situations warranting a lawyer and of course, not just any lawyer.
The author gives you various tips to look for the best person who can take up your case and represent your interests in the best possible manner.
Do not look for lawyers in the Yellow Pages, he cautions because a lawyer with a bigger practice may not necessarily win the case for you. Sometimes, a lawyer with a smaller practice may win as he may dedicate his entire time and energy and not get diverted by too many litigations.
The author cautions against lawyers who do not follow ethical practices and are just after making money. Describing the various qualities of a lawyer, Talwar writes, “Your lawyer must not be a ‘fixer.’ When your lawyer tells you that he knows the judge extremely well, and he is asking for a certain sum of money in order to decide the case in your favour - it is time for you to change your lawyer ........I repeat, stay clear of ‘fixer’ lawyers. They are a blot on the legal profession and society, but it would be untruthful to say that they do not exist.”
In the process of explaining how to choose the best advocate and win your case, Talwar also unravels many aspects of the legal profession, their functioning, the different kind of practicing advocates in India and the US, how different is litigation procedures in India and how in the US, a lawyer can claim a percentage of the damages and the compensation awarded by the court.
It is better to be frank with your lawyer especially regarding payments, he writes. In the US, one pays by the hour and the lawyers are also permitted to work on a percentage basis. But this is not so in India.
He advises clients to settle the fee at the outset, however, it is very difficult for lawyers to give the right estimate initially as payment differs from case to case and court to court in India.
A senior advocate’s fee in the Supreme Court runs to lakhs of rupees per hearing, the author cautions and says since a client cannot directly deal with them, one has to pay the amount and be prepared for an exorbitant fee, if he or she is a well known practitioner. Other aspects of the legal profession which have been covered in this book include : how best to utilise your lawyer’s skills, what can you expect from a lawyer, professional rules of conduct for every advocate, a lawyer’s duties to his clients, and how to avoid unscrupulous lawyers.
A must for every person who is planning to take the litigation route, this book is divided into two sections ; one part details how to look for a lawyer and the second part deals with the guidelines and warning signs on the path of successful litigation.
The author advises the litigants to be proactive and use the RTI route for getting information wherever necessary and which would be beneficial for the case. In this regard, he has cited many real life cases under RTI.
Studying at Harvard, Nottingham and Delhi, Rajesh Talwar has worked for the United Nations on legal and justice-related issues in Somalia, Liberia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Timor- Leste. Prior to working for the UN, he practised law and taught law at Delhi University and Jamia Millia Islamia.
He is the author of more than a dozen books including Making Your Own Will and Courting Injustice: The Nirbhaya Case and Its Aftermath .