The Law is an Ass

What sets it apart from the plethora of books on the legal profession is that it tells us how the legal profession actually functions — does it actually? — and not how it should.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | Published: January 23, 2016 12:22 am
legal-book-cover-759 The book exposes, with humour, all that is wrong with the system.

Book – Legal Confidential: Adventures of an Indian Lawyer
Author – Ranjeev C Dubey
Publisher – Penguin
Pages – 312
Price – Rs 499

Picking up a semi-autobiographical account of the adventures of an Indian lawyer does not seem to be the best way to spend a holiday. But corporate lawyer Ranjeev C Dubey’s book ensures that your choice doesn’t turn out to be a dud. The book is a roller-coaster, written in simple English, without any heavy-duty legal lingo, taking us from the (now) unwalkable lanes and bylanes of old Delhi to the five-starred hotels in Lutyen’s Delhi, where most of the deal-making in the government and corporate sector happens these days.

What sets it apart from the plethora of books on the legal profession is that it tells us how the legal profession actually functions — does it actually? — and not how it should. In doing so, it also exposes, with humour, all that is wrong with the system. It is a John Grisham legal thriller in an Indian setting.

So you have the young rookie lawyer, Dubey, admitting how he messed up cross-examining a man, who was the husband of his client, and who wanted divorce on the plea that he had “stumbled on her getting it on with the neighbour”. Dubey struggles to eke out a living in the Tees Hazari courts but he finds success as a corporate lawyer, rising from a basta vakil to a managing partner of a law firm. In between, he also tells us the history of the Tees Hazari courts in a delightful way.

The most illuminating portion of the book is the one that talks of the “naked truth about the law”: “Most people are incredibly ignorant about what lawyers really do for a living. They think we are here to help our clients get justice. This is rubbish. What we really do is help our clients to get the court to apply the law, or violate it or circumvent it. At any rate, what lawyers don’t do is worry about justice or try to deliver it.” This is as honest as it comes.

Some of the incidents narrated in the book, while being true and entirely possible, will appear outlandish to most of the new breed of law school-educated lawyers, many of who won’t ever get to see the inside of a lower courtroom.

If there is one reason to read Dubey’s book is his self-deprecating take on his life as a lawyer as well as his honesty about how the legal system is completely at odds with the person at the bottom of the pyramid — the poor litigant. It should be mandatory reading for students of law, especially wannabe lawyers, judges and policymakers.

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