Debanshu Khettry is a Principal Associate of the law firm Leslie & Khettry.
Q. There is a common perception that first generation lawyers have to struggle more than those who come from a family of legal professionals. Could you give us a glimpse into the other side of the story. Being a fourth generation lawyer, have you faced challenges in your legal career? Do you think there is always a benchmark against which your performance is evaluated?
It is probable that first generation lawyers struggle more than those who come from a family of legal professionals. However, coming from a family of lawyers has its own inhibitions. You are always compared to your forefathers or seniors in the family. The base or the standard with which you start is already raised. If you are evaluated against a set benchmark, the stakes are higher because you not only have to aspire to rise to the expectations but also ensure that you protect the reputation generated by your forefathers. Compare this to a person who is starting afresh, has very little to lose. The next generation has to ensure that not only do they protect the downside (what the previous generation achieved) but grow further. I feel that it is always more difficult for the next generation.
In addition, each generation has to prove himself / herself since the laws are ever changing and so is the work pattern along with outlook and requirement of businesses / clients.
Q. You graduated from NUJS, Kolkata and thereafter you pursued your LLM from UCL. How different is the legal education system in the UK as compared to India?
It may not be fair to do a comparison as I did my undergraduate from India and postgraduate from UK. The teaching methodologies may differ with the nature of the degree / programme being taught. Having said that, I noticed that in India there is a great deal of focus on lecture method whilst in UK the emphasis is more on the Socratic method.
Q. Being the co-founder of P-PIL, with a vision to promote practical advocacy among law students, do you feel that there is a lack of practical training in law schools in India? How can this gap between learning law and its practice be bridged?
There is definitely a gap between learning law and its practice in law schools in India. To some extent the gap is bridged by focus on internships and platforms such as P-PIL. There are many practical courses these days (within or outside the university) which students can consider taking based on their interest areas. Law schools should also encourage inclusion of practical modules apart from theory-based modules in their course structure.
Q. You are the founding member of IDIA and founding executive editor of Journal of Telecommunication and Broadcasting Law. You are also the co-founder of P-PIL, SILC and Lawctopus. What has been the decision factors behind the creation of these ventures?
Each of these ventures is the result of efforts of several others and a gap in the industry that needed to be filled. The Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA) project was the brainchild of Late Prof. Dr. Shamnad Basheer. The emphasis is to promote diversity in law schools by uplifting the under-privileged. The Journal of Telecommunication and Broadcasting Law (JTBL) was the result of lack of any journals devoted to the ever-growing, vital and complex field of telecommunication and broadcasting laws.
Similarly, for Promoting Public Interest Lawyering (P-PIL), we wanted to create a platform from where students can get an experience of practical advocacy which unfortunately is not fully achieved with the current system of mooting in law schools. The Standard Indian Legal Citation (SILC) was also conceptualised due to the absence of any indigenous citation methodology designed to cater to the reference of Indian legal sources.
When we started Lawctopus, there was no website that offered information on the various opportunities available to students or an insight into how their internship experiences at various places have been. The portal helps law students and aspirants make informed choices.
One of the major inspirations behind these ventures was Mahatma Gandhi’s oft-quoted phrase ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. It is easy to remark that there is a problem or there is a lack of a better solution, nevertheless, each problem or the lack of a better solution is an opportunity that can be seized.
Q. You are part of your family’s legacy firm, Leslie & Khettry, which was established in the year 1944. Could you share with us the history behind this extraordinary journey of 76 years?
If one sees our Firm, Leslie & Khettry’s logo, there are 3 rising stars followed by the words practising since 1944. This was carefully thought out because we want to indicate that there is something before 1944. The Firm was started by my grandfather (Sreenath Khettry) in 1944, however my great grandfather (Golap Khettry) was also a lawyer at Calcutta.
Q. Technology has revolutionised the way the law firms and how lawyers work. How do you see the development of technology in the future affecting your work?
Technology is both a boon and a bane for lawyers. On one hand, it brings in efficiencies and creates new opportunities. For instance, the adaptation of e-courts will help lawyers who have multiple hearings in a day and it also opens the door for making appearances in courts at different cities or locations. However, technology is making a lot of legal skill sets redundant. For instance, you can get due diligence done by bots instead of lawyers. We may also have bots who will predict the outcome of a case on the basis of precedents and various other inputs.
Q. What are your future plans professionally? Do you plan to expand Leslie & Khettry?
Yes, we are already expanding organically and will not shy from looking at inorganic growth opportunities. Our plan is to grow our practice and cater to the needs of those requiring legal assistance to the best of our ability. We do not call ourselves experts of anything and we are always students / practitioners as law changes its shape on a daily basis.
Q. What are your other interests, other than law?
I have deep interest in finance and how the financial markets across the globe function / react to various events. I also devote some amount of time in doing angel investments and meeting entrepreneurs and understanding their needs. I also enjoy engaging in new activities, be it learning a new language or an instrument or taking up a sport.