Q. You come from a science background and thereafter you went on to pursue Law and MDBA in International Trade & Personnel Management. What made you pursue a career in Law?
Destiny…. Now I am of firm faith that destiny is the biggest force in your life and the Almighty God has thought the best for you.
Since my childhood I wanted to be a lawyer, but as you know that I belong to a small town of UP where at that time, no parent used to think that they will make their son a Lawyer until unless one of the parents is a lawyer. From beginning I was raised with a mindset that I have to be an Engineer, I was good student of Science and my teachers were sure that I would clear any of the competitive exams of engineering but whenever I took engineering entrance exams, due to one or another reason, I could not take it properly despite of very good preparation, in my first attempt I had typhoid, malaria & chicken-pox together and my last three months including exams time got ruined while in another attempt, I met with a severe accident in which I had a memory lapse for 15 days and it took me more than 6 months to completely recover . After that, I did my B. Sc (Physics, Chemistry & Mathematics) with 70% marks, while doing B. Sc, I planned to do LL.B as one of my known joined LL.B in Delhi University after doing B.Sc. but due to my introvert nature, I could not tell to my parents that I want to pursue Law. I was in a very confused state of mind and wanted to leave Science Stream therefore I joined CA Course and joined a very reputed CA Firm. There I did lots of audits of several banks, PSUs and Multi National Companies independently. But unfortunately, before the first attempt of CA exams, destiny again played its part and I was caught by a disease named as WRITER’S CRAMP. In this disease, a person can do anything except writing fluently even today I am unable to write for long. Fortunately, in year 2000, CCS University launched new pattern of examination, which was combination of Objective, Short and Subjective questions. Due to Objective Questions I could complete the Law. While Pursuing Law, I did the MDBA in International Trade & Personnel Management. That’s how I pursued my career in law. Though some years of my life went in to this struggle, but today I feel that Science Background gives me an edge especially in Construction Arbitrations as it involves lots of Physics and CA training in commercial matters be it litigation or transactional work as banking and financial transactions with its impact are very clear to me.
Q. How would you describe your journey as a lawyer so far?
So far, my journey as a lawyer is satisfactory. As on date I have hands on experience of both sides of tables i.e. experience as a lawyer as well as In-House Counsel. Experience of In-House Counsel is really very helpful while you do your own independent consultancy since you are precisely aware about how & what management thinks and wants. Another big advantage of being an In-House counsel is that you understand business in greater depth because while working as In-House counsel, in a meeting with top level management you come to know what real issues the management is facing and how these issues are impacting business and to what extent. You get a holistic analysis of the issue with all the departmental heads. I have In- House experience of Infrastructure, Oil & Gas, Power, Mining & Steel industry, which gives me a lot of help in providing opinion to my existing clients as they get the practical solutions of their real time issues.
But I am a man who sees perfection in all the things, therefore still miles to go. It’s just a beginning.
Q. While you were working with M/s. Gagrat & Co., you were part of the Bofors case, representing Hinduja Brothers. Please share some experience about this case and early part of your career with our readers.
I started my career with Gagrat & Co. Delhi under the guidance of Mr. Ujjawal Rana, the Managing Partner of the firm. I always admit that my father taught me the basic fundamentals of the life and Rana Sir taught me fundamental of the legal profession. Whatever I am in the legal profession today, it’s all because of him. He always transformed my mistakes into valuable lessons and brought out best in me by converting all my strengths into skills. He involved me in the Bofors matter after joining the firm in 2003. Working on high profile case like Bofors, that too at the beginning of your career is always very fascinating and it gives you the great feeling of satisfaction when your clients get favourable order after a long battle. I still remember the day when he came to know that I am suffering from Writer’s Cramp then he gave me a book about great lawyer Mr. Nani Palkiwala, wherein all leading lawyers had written articles about Mr. Palkiwala. There was an article written by Mr. T.R. Andhayarajuna where he mentioned that Mr. Palkiwala had a problem of Write’s Cramp. From that day I never thought about this disease and have been working continuously with out any looking back. The most important thing which I learnt from him was that there is NO SHORT CUT in legal profession and NO SUBSTITUTE of CONTINOUS READING especially for the first- generation lawyers.
Q. You have worked on U.S. laws for two years. Compared to Indian laws, any interesting fact that you would like to share with us.
I was associated with a company which was developing a legal search engine for US Law. While reading the judgments the only major difference which I could assess and that is very important as well that the speedy nature of US judicial system. As compared to Indian Judicial System, US judicial system is very fast.
Q. Tell us something about MSA Legal, its clientele and what made you start your own law firm?
MSA Legal is a full-service law firm having Lawyers, CAs, CSs and MBAs. We provide Legal, Financial, Secretarial, Taxation (Domestic as well as international) and management consultancy under one roof. I belong to a family where everyone is either in business or in profession. From the day one I wanted to work independently but considering number of constraints, I preferred not to start from beginning but side by side from the first year of my career, I kept handling matters independently with the help of my family friend and existing general litigation partner & AOR Mr. Umang Shankar. At present, we are a team of 16 lawyers including me and we have very good associations on PAN India basis. Our firm is mentored by Dr. P.K. Seth, Ex Joint Secretary MHA & Ministry of Law& Justice. While working in Corporates, I felt that all the Corporates demand good quality of work at reasonable rates, therefore we have kept our strategy not to spend on lavish infrastructure, to keep standing cost as less as these can be and transfer direct benefits of cost to our Clients. With the God’s grace after leaving Cairn Oil & Gas, I restarted the firm in January 2019 and right now we are serving Vedanta, Hero Future, NHAI, IFFCO, CN- IFFCO, Vishal Mega Mart, IMC Limited, MECON, Punj Llyod, Air Arabia, Anwesha Engineering, Easy Policy etc. Nowadays we are assisting one of our clients which is acquiring gold mines in Africa and one restructuring is going on for an IT firm having several companies in different geographies. I personally do the construction arbitration and some claim management expert take my services for settling the pleadings in high stake construction arbitration for Infrastructure, Oil & Gas and Power Industry.
Q. With more than 17 years in the legal world, you have in depth Litigation and Corporate consultancy experience. Which one do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy both the things equally. If I divide my career between Litigation and Corporate consultancy %age wise, it would be around 60% and 40% respectively. However, in long run I want to be an arguing counsel with special focus on construction arbitration. I was hired by Cairn Oil & Gas to defend one very big arbitration having more than One Lakh Sixty Thousand pages, which I successfully defended and after getting favourable award, started my own consultancy firm. This is the area where all my education i.e. science, CA training and Legal be utilized in most efficient manner.
Q. In this current pandemic, for the first time, the Supreme Court of India is carrying out proceedings via video conferencing. Do you as a lawyer feel that for the Courts in India, it is a viable option for the future hearings?
Of course, It’s a viable option and with a passage of time, definitely there would be improvements to overcome the difficulties being faced in the starting phase. It would be difficult for miscellaneous days in Supreme Court but in regular hearings it may be beneficial. In arbitration, it can be very beneficial and cost effective as well. Entire arbitration hearing can be conducted through video conferencing except recording of evidence.
Q. You developed a legal search engine as a quality analyst while working on US Laws. How efficiently do you think a legal search engine can help lawyers?
My opinion is little bit conservative in this, in initial phase of the career, lawyers should not use the search engine but after some time like 5 years use of search engine is very helpful and it’s a great saving of time. Why I am against the using of search engine in the initial phase of life reason being reading habits decreases.
Q. Do you have any message for young lawyers?
I have only one message for young lawyers that there is no short cut in the legal profession. One has to be very patient in the early days of the career, keep continuous study and update yourself as much as you can. This is the profession where you can say that SKY IS THE LIMIT. Enjoyment comes in this profession only after a period of 5 to 7 years at-least.
Q. Mr. Singhal, who is your role model and what is your ultimate aim/ goal of your life?
My role model is Sh. Arun Jaitley ji. Since my childhood, when I used to see him on TV, I always wanted to become like him. He was a great orator, successful lawyer, impressive politician and above all an excellent Human Being. I got opportunity of briefing in one matter of Goenka Group in 2005 and there is a reported judgment as well with him.
My ultimate aim is to become a successful lawyer and also serve the nation in whatever capacity I can.
Madhup Singhal is Managing Partner at MSA Legal. He is a science & law graduate and an MBA in International Trade & Personnel Management. He has handled several sensitive, high-profile and complex matters before the Supreme Court of India and High Courts of different states and various Commissions and Tribunals in India. He has vast in-house experience with Groups like Vedanta, GMR, Jubilant & Monnet where he has acquired business knowledge especially in Infrastructure, Oil & Gas, Power (thermal & renewal), Steel & Real Estate sector. He also has experience in Policy Advocacy, Making Representations to Government and Statutory Authorities.