Supreme Court of India (Image: Shutterstock)
1980 was a watershed year for India. A coalition of ideological oddballs, caste jugglers and court jesters running the government for the last three years fronted by a Jurassic idealist fell apart and India’s very own iron lady stepped into the breach. That is when cynicism became the new normal in Indian politics and I became a lawyer.
It was a career for sons and nephews. An uncle I talked to didn’t think a pretty kid from a snooty school in Rajasthan would survive a brutal contact sport like law practice in India. Still, Delhi’s trial courts remained the only way for a newbie to make a small living. I took his advice, only to find myself in a daily blood bath. I learnt soon enough that law practice didn’t have too much to do with justice. It was a dog-eat-dog world of self-serving street fighting, no quarter was asked for or given, and the winner took all. It took a decade, perhaps two, for the reality of the legal world to sink in. If history hadn’t taken a vital turn, I could have lived out my days in that world to the end of my time.
Then India went bankrupt. Not many realize that lawyers of my generation owe a life debt to Narasimha Rao’s liberalization. The induction of foreign capital into the Indian economy led to an explosion of local law firms in 1992. I found myself fortuitously riding the tidal wave of history without understanding the tumultuous changes that were occurring. In the chaos of the time, ‘departments’ were unknown in law firms. In today’s terms, I was a litigation partner of this law firm in 1992, an infrastructure partner in 1994, a capital markets and corporate finance partner in 1996, a M&A partner in 1997 and back to being a litigation partner in 1998.
Consequently, I failed to specialize singularly in any one thing but learnt a very great deal about a great many things, thus developing a unique perspective on the ever-elusive nature of the Justice Machine. I believe that historical conditions will never again allow anyone to live my variety of experience or facilitate anyone to write a book like Winning Legal War. This is why this book is still read 18 years after it was first written.
Winning Legal Wars: How to Successfully Fight Court Cases in India, when it first appeared, was a coming-of-age story, but it wasn’t about a young lawyer coming of age! Instead, it contained a bunch of ideas, a lawyer’s first understanding of how the Justice Machine worked. My delight expressed itself as a voice too triumphant, too pompous, too self-aggrandizing: I hated the book within weeks of it hitting the shelves.
In the years that followed, I transformed the book into a series of weekend workshops for senior corporate executives. It was fun, and it was enriching. I felt the book didn’t talk to its audience like the workshops did. The reader deserved better.
I took the book out of print around 2010. The publisher waited patiently for a rewrite, but life got in the way. My law practice kept me engaged. Yet, at every turn, I found myself using the same principles to advice my clients. Tragic as it has been, the lockdowns of 2020 gave me space to rewrite the book. Creative energy flows poorly when both nature and humans inflicting violence on one another: when a great and ancient civilization is being reduced to a wasteland. Still, one grits one’s teeth and here we are.
This time around, I refuse to take a buck off someone’s back pocket to share my learning. I am told people do not respect things they don’t pay for. Perhaps that is true of those who have a great deal of money. For much of my life, I was not that person. In giving the book away free, I hope something other than money will determine the shape of my audience.
If you choose to browse the book, you will find that my central conceit is the idea that the results of a war are known long before the war begins. Once you understand how the Justice Machine functions, you are able to predict the outcome of every war and can therefore plan how to either win it or stalemate it. To explain the underlying principles to you, this is how I structure the book:
- Part A: The key features of our Justice Machine. If you understand how it works, you can easily see what results you will get if you press this or that button.
- Part B: The five rules by which you assess if you are capable of winning this war, and if you are not, how to change yourself to develop that capability.
- Part C: The five preparations you must make before you go to war.
- Part D: The seven strategies you use to plan your war.
- Part E: The seven tactics you use on the ground to project your strategic power and win your war.
At the end, may I timorously suggest that the universe is a vast and inexplicable place. This book is a map, and maps tell you more about the map maker than they tell you about the places so mapped. I have tried to share what I understand. If I am wrong, being offended at my lack of understanding would be churlish.
Download it here, and have fun with the book as you see another perspective, another form of Krishna’s Leela