Fali S. Nariman, the other grand old man of Indian law, is the anti-thesis of Ram Jethmalani. Fali is known to be quick tempered and very impatient with his juniors and the instructing attorneys. A conference with him will leave you feeling breathless and helpless. Nariman will shoot ten questions at you at the same time and if you don’t have the quick answers to them, he will glare you down. “Its’ like being before a firing squad”, a client said after he came out of the conference. Fali’s intellectual comprehension of the facts and law is so fast, that you just cannot cope with it, no matter how well prepared you are.
One thing to remember is that if Fali gives you a conference for 6 O’ clock, you shouldn’t land up at 6PM. Why? Because the conference will usually be for 6 in the morning. Fali Nariman likes to start the day early and it is not unusual for him to hold early morning conferences, when he is still dressed in his night clothes, with a robe on top.
Reminiscing about Fali Nariman, Ghoolam Vahanvati (himself an eminent senior advocate) says he is a very “hard taskmaster” and that the one thing he learnt from Fali was “the importance of extreme hard work“. Vahanvati recollects how, when he was a junior, Fali would give him work late in the evening and expect the legal research to be done by 9 am in the morning. Vahanvati and the other juniors would sit throughout the night preparing for the cases. Fali Nariman is a “phenomenon“, an “irresistible force“, Vahanvati says with awe in his voice.
Nariman’s personality also frequently intimidates the Judges. They dare not question the propositions of law that he formulates for fear that Nariman will lash out and they will appear ignorant. Of course, the foundation to this is the confidence that Fali Nariman will never formulate a proposition that is wrong or can be faulted.
In his autobiography “Before Memory Fades”, Fali Nariman has set out some priceless & practical tips on how lawyers must prepare for and argue important cases. He says that the “most important” and “invaluable” lesson that he learnt in his lifetime was that “it is better to spend more time thinking about a case than merely reading the brief”.
Fali Nariman also says that “when you argue a case in court, be clear and precise, not confused. Your mental outpost must flow. And for it to flow you must be well equipped and well prepared”. He adds that “the skill of a practicing lawyer is not flamboyance or verbosity but hard work”. “Avoid histrionics and stick to the record; you will find the judge receptive to your pleas”.
When engaging a giant like Fali Nariman, you can’t be worried about mundane things like fees. But if you really have to know, his fees are really not that exorbitant when compared to some of his younger peers. Between 5 to 15 lakhs a day is the fee that you can expect to be charged.
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