Nitin Sarin is from the batch of 2003-2008. He has been an aircraft enthusiast and this was one of the main reasons behind the inception of Leiden Sarin Air Law Moot. In this interview, he talks about his journey at AIL, Air Law, his LL.M. at Leiden University and being a Managing Partner at Sarin & Co.
Shreya Vajpei: What made you choose law as your profession? Is there anyone in your family who has been in the legal profession?
Nitin Sarin: I come from a family of lawyers, my grandfather; Mr. Harbans Lal Sarin was a Senior Advocate who started off his practice in the year 1932 in Lahore, now Pakistan. Apart from that my father, Mr. Manmohan Lal Sarin, is also a Senior Advocate. Surprisingly, I had no pressure at all from my family to get into the family profession. I am the youngest of 3 siblings, none of whom have studied law. At the end of high school, I must admit that I was slightly aimless and hence chose law as my career path. Although, from there, there was no looking back.
SV: How was your journey at AIL?
NS: My journey at AIL was a rather good one, the teachers and faculty were extremely friendly and having peers who were from an army background, truly set a standard which other Universities could never have achieved in North India. The 5 years (strangely) feel like they flew by and at the same time feel like they took forever to end! AIL basically gave me enough breathing room to pursue my passion for aviation for which, I am grateful. The weakest link in the whole chain was probably the Institutes affiliation with the Punjabi University, as in the initial years, the policies of the University towards the Institute were rather vague. A small example is when we had an exam on the 1st of January one year; a small act, which completely wrecked everyone’s holiday, plans!
SV: Looking back, what do you miss most about the college?
NS: Simply put, while you are in college, you cant wait till you become a full blown lawyer, but once you reach that stage, the huge responsibility makes you miss your college days immensely. I also miss the ability to be relatively free and having to only worry about exams!
SV: Any views on the current state of the college?
NS: I am very closely associated with AIL as we conduct the national India rounds of the Leiden Sarin International Air Law Moot Court Competition every year. Both the Sarin Memorial Legal Aid Foundation and the AIL work together like a very well oiled machine. Apart from that, each year the competence, the ability and the outlook of the students increases so much so that one can easily predict that the Institute is going to reach new heights in the future. Every year I am proud of the quality of students which, when you add the fact that each one comes from a grounded Army background and is immensely travelled, only affirms my feelings about the rising quality of the Institute.
SV: You were and still are an aircraft enthusiast. How did it all begin?
NS: Yes, I am still a very avid aviation enthusiast. I think the passion started years ago when we used to take our annual vacations in June. I used to be completely and utterly fascinated by the machines we used to fly in and the fact that how when you boarded an aircraft, it was a whole new world. When you are young, the fact of travelling to another land full of Kit Kats and Cokes (which were not readily available in India at that point) was extremely exciting. Apart from that, aviation has always amazed me; it truly is a form of time travel that permits you to reach any point on this massive planet in a matter of hours. A little known fact is that AIL falls on an international airway, i.e. M 890 which is like a highway in the sky for international flights overflying India. I used to spend the better part of my time in AIL, plane spotting from the parking lot with my 400 mm lens.
SV: Upon graduation, you went on to pursue an LL.M. from Leiden University. What were the key factors that drove the decision and what was the experience like?
NS: As mentioned earlier, I had and have a massive passion of aviation. So, once I had completed my B.A., LL.B. from the AIL, I researched LL.M.’s in aviation and actually was lucky enough to find two such programmes. One of the Masters was offered by McGill University, Montreal, Canada and the other was the one offered by the International Institute of Air and Space Law, Leiden University. At that point, I choose to study at Leiden University as it was based in the Netherlands and it allowed me to travel extensively to most of Europe during my 1 year. The experience was absolutely mind boggling! Education outside of India is a whole new experience. Here, we are taught the law, the accompanying interpretation by Courts (the case law) and are expected to close our books and recall all that has been taught to us which is the most undramatic and somewhat “boring” method of testing ones skills. While in the rest of the world, you are taught to “apply” what you are taught. You are allowed to have your text books open while being examined (as you would in real life) and the examiners are looking at your ability to find what you are looking for in a time bound manner. My most fantastic experience was in Leiden when each of us was given an individual classroom to take our final exams where we were allowed to take in our books and had access to our computers (which obviously had internet access). We were merely told that using the internet was not allowed and all of us followed that rule to the hilt! Other education systems really encourage you the improve your skills by following the honour system and since they want you to “apply” rather than “reproduce”, you end up really learning and coming to the conclusion that you enjoy a particular field of law.
SV: You are the brain-child behind the Leiden Sarin Air Law Moot. How did it all start? What is the structure of the Moot Court Competition?
NS: I had always wanted to start some international event under the “Sarin” banner, mainly for the fact that my grandfather, Mr. Harbans Lal Sarin was a self made man, being torn away from his life and career at the time of the partition of the country in 1947, to rising again to the very top through his sweat and hard work.
With those thoughts in mind, I can clearly remember walking in to the office of Prof. Dr. P. Mendes de Leon who is the Director of the International Institute of Air and Space Law, Leiden University and talking to him about starting something new, something international and something that tapped the vast potential the Indian market had to offer. An international moot court came to my mind and the instant I mentioned that, Dr. Leon jumped at the idea and within a matter of a few minutes; the Leiden Sarin International Air Law Moot Court Competition was born! Further meetings were held in Leiden with Mr. M.L. Sarin, Secretary General of the Sarin Memorial Legal Aid Foundation which saw the event gaining a more concrete structure.
SV: What is the process of finding sponsors and judges for the Moot Court Competition?
NS: Finding sponsors and judges for the Moot Court is always a challenge. For the national rounds, the Sarin Memorial Legal Aid Foundation usually bears all the expenditure and has sponsors who provide the gifts and prizes to the participants and teams. We have a few tireless individuals who, without fail, provide us with their valuable time to act as judges to judge the national rounds each year. We are one of the only Competitions wherein each of the Courtrooms has a sitting Judge of a High Court as a moot court judge. For the international rounds, both Leiden and the Sarin Foundation find a host sponsor in a host country. As far as judges go in the international rounds, we are unbeatable. We have experts in air law fly in from around the world to judge the international rounds – this also includes sitting judges of the International Court of Justice. In fact, we have unique situations where participants are quoting or citing findings and works of authors who are actually judging that particular round – how much more challenging can a Competition get? Apart from that, the Leiden Sarin Air Law Moot is all about interaction. We try and encourage all the participants to interact with the other participants and judges, to form their own contacts and make use of these contacts in the future.Air Law is an extremely niche segment of the legal industry. What are the opportunities for someone pursuing this field?
SV: In your opinion, how do moots benefit a law student?
NS: Moot Courts help students of law build their confidence in speaking in public, in being able to analyse situations from different perspectives and helps students train their minds into thinking in a way that is in the best interests of their clients. More often than not, Moot Court scenarios are more difficult and trying than actual Court scenarios therefore proving that Moots are a great way to prepare young budding lawyers.
SV: Air Law is an extremely niche segment of the legal industry. What are the opportunities for someone pursuing this field?
NS: Air law is actually not so extremely niche! It is as specialised as any other aspect of law. At the end of the day, someone has to do the work and it so happens that persons who are passionate about the subject dominate the sphere. The opportunities are immense! I specialise in aircraft finance and aircraft leasing – this entails advising foreign Clients who are the owners of financiers of aircraft that are being leased into India. It is virtually basic asset securitization law that means you have to try your best to enable your Clients to secure their aircraft in case of a default by a Lessee. Anyone who has a passion for such work is encouraged to get in touch with us and if we have a vacancy, will be happy to have you work with us.
SV: You are currently the Managing Partner at Sarin & Co. What are the responsibilities of a Partner?
NS: At our firm, I am trying to encourage a “Google” sort of atmosphere. This basically means that I want to try and encourage my Associates to be informal around myself and other seniors, come to work in any attire (of course this does not apply to meeting Clients) and adopt any work hours. All this as long as the work I require, is done in a timely manner. We are also good in rewarding our Associates for exemplary work done. Further, I am trying to modernize the legal sphere in India – while most are trying to add more leather and wood to their offices, we are trying to add more colour to make the atmosphere conducive to getting good results.
NS: Lastly, would you like to share anything with the current AIL students.
SV: Apart from the usual advice of working hard, I would recommend all to follow their passion. However, I would also recommend that at least a few years of litigation are most important. One must bear in mind that even the largest corporate lawyers in India will always be second best to an advocate who appears in Court. This for a simple fact that, the duty of a Corporate lawyer is to keep his clients away from Court! Hence, if the Corporate lawyer does not know how a Court works how can he or she ever do a good job in keeping their Client litigation free? Also, I would also like to emphasize that each advocate should have a few goals to keep in mind:
- Uphold your ethics – do not engage in any activity that would lower the esteem of an advocate in the eyes of the public – read and learn the Advocates Act, 1961. Keep in mind that money is not everything.
- Always uphold the interest of your Client – full fee or no fee, we are performing the duties as important as a doctor. Keep in mind that no Client comes to you out of choice, but rather out of compulsion. Be sensitive with Clients, be gentle, be human, only then shall they become recurring Clients.
- Be humble – more often than not, successful advocates seem to become pompous folk. Try to avoid this, a pompous person never comes across in a positive light. Subtly highlight your successes, do not bask in their glory.
- Work hard, harder and hardest – there are no timings for successful advocates – learn to balance your professional life with your personal life.
- Be able to divide your mind – more often than not, advocates bad mouth Judges and other advocates for comments said or acts performed in Court. Remember, you need to train your mind not to get offended for acts said or done in Court. We are actors and if you cross the line of having your feelings hurt for roles played during others acting – you are doing something wrong.
- You will always be a student – the moment you think you know everything you are finished. Even the smartest and richest persons in the world are always learning and are aware of the fact that they do not know everything! The day you stop learning is the day you stop growing.
- Take risks – simple economics, i.e. the larger risk you take, the larger portion of the pie you get.
Nitin can be reached at email@example.com.