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AS JSA has just celebrated its twentieth birthday, we are publishing a guest blog post by JSA of counsel Desh Gaurav Sekhri who writes about his boss' photographic memory, lunch with Jyoti, outbursts of temper and the personality of the "pulse of the firm". Here goes...
As J Sagar Associates (JSA) completes 20 years of its existence as a law firm, the focus will be on its growth and journey since 1991. And, as is typically his wont, Jyoti Sagar, JSA’s founder partner will deflect the limelight that will accompany this proud milestone for the JSA family. For those on the outside, this may seem a little against the run of play, but for those of us who have had the opportunity to interact with Jyoti, this is hardly surprising.
I met Jyoti for the first time in December 2008, when I interviewed with him to discuss the possibility of starting a sports law practice. I had heard a lot about him and his ability as a lawyer, so it was with much trepidation that I entered the office and met him in person. It’s been twenty years since the institution of J Sagar Associates was established, and from that perspective I am a greenhorn in many aspects. I haven’t witnessed the transition and growth of the firm over the last two decades, or even the last five years. So, I haven’t had the opportunity to witness firsthand the effort, the challenges, the discipline and the organic growth that the firm has experienced, helmed by the founder partner and his vision.
But, this narrative isn’t about the firm- rather, it’s about interacting with Jyoti as a junior member of the firm, and learning about life more than the practice of law. And, having had the opportunity to be mentored by him, as well as having directly interacted with him to establish the emerging practice I feel I might be able to provide this article a semblance of justice. With complete humility, I can accept and acknowledge that he has taught me more about my area of expertise than I could have ever known.
Jyoti is someone who epitomises passion and discipline, traits which often leave him unsatisfied with the diminished capabilities that some of us around him possess. I think if any of us were to recall where the most eclectic interactions with Jyoti typically transpire, then I think the unequivocal response would be: at the lunch table.
All of us have had the pleasure of his company at lunch in office on more than a few occasions, and it is during casual conversations that one can truly grasp the length and breadth of his knowledge and experience. Conversations can range from aspects as unique as cartography and the history of car engines, to the team selection of the field hockey squad. His anecdotes coupled with his photographic memory and natural flair for narratives makes lunch an enriching and oftentimes humbling experience.
He has an unlimited capacity for retention of facts that has served him in great stead for his career, but it’s the more sensitive nuances that make him exemplary and endear him to all of us. His Eidetic memory is used so well spatially and inter-temporally that most of us are left reeling at his ability to display equal aplomb in retaining information about each of us that goes beyond the domain of professional interaction.
He inquires with genuine concern whenever he interacts with any of us. He really isn’t judgmental despite the never-ending quagmire of questionable decision-making that any of us are guilty of, especially in our impressionable years at the firm. We quite often feel the heat of his wrath, but that doesn’t in any way alter the fact that he genuinely cares for each of us. His actions cement that feeling.
Does he have a temper? Yes! Have most of us irked his ire and received an earful consequently? Absolutely. In fact, to varying extents, each one of us has been the recipient of his anger. An inside secret is that some of us try and gauge his mood and prioritise our meetings with him based on mutual sharing of information.
Oftentimes I enquire discreetly and carefully as to the treatment meted out to the colleague who preceded me in the queue to meet him, and I prepare myself accordingly based on the feedback. There are times when I’ve walked in with a swagger, and crawled out bearing little resemblance to the jaunty individual who had walked in less than five minutes earlier. I’ve often anticipated the pending interaction with Jyoti with a sense of trepidation and a furrowed brow (not to mention extreme shortness of breath!), but for every corrective measure he suggests, there is usually a sound and viable reasoning, although the trauma of the moment makes it hard to see the silver lining!
He bears few grudges, minces no words, and he understands and sympathises with his colleagues’ personal setbacks and their consequent effect on the struggling colleagues’ office productivity. He encourages an open forum for conversation. Conversations can range from the aforementioned lunch table interactions relating to his numerous (and extremely amusing) anecdotes from his professional interactions, the history of watches and watch-makers, economics models and theories, cricket, tennis, or Hollywood.
He is equally adept at discussing the prevailing politics of the African continent as he is in recalling his time at St. Stephen’s college. Or, he is always willing to provide a willing and ready ear to the personal and/or professional challenges that each of us face. His time is precious and sought after, but his willingness to spare some for all of us is a given. He can be impatient, irritable, or irate on occasion, but never personal. I am quite sure that none of us have ever felt demeaned, belittled, or scarred by anything that he might have said. Even at our rookie mistakes he is never condescending or insulting, he forgives shortly after he explodes, and virtually never brings up the egression again.
He is methodical and detail-oriented. He is passionate, but more than that, he is a compassionate individual. And that, more than anything is what has made knowing him an enriching experience. He imparts the need for excellence and ethics, but more than that he believes in loyalty and emotion. For anyone who has worked directly with him, this is the common theme. We are here because of him, but we are also here due to him. I know that he respects all of us for what our individual attributes and qualities are.
And that is the sole reason why Jyoti to us is more than just the founder partner at the firm we work at. He is the firm’s pulse, and that makes a huge difference.
He won’t compliment you to your face, but does speak with pride about you to the outside world time and again. His policy is to never call anyone after 8pm at night or on a weekend without messaging first to check if that person is available. He will try and make it a point to wish everyone on their birthdays or anniversaries, and for the most part manages to do so. Barring extraneous circumstances, I also cannot remember a single occasion where either he or his wife Prema his wife were not personally in attendance, if it involved a colleague of theirs.
He has a passion for architecture, and although his passion may have led him to an entirely different profession had he pursued it instead of law, I think all of us at JSA are grateful that he chose to build his piece de resistance in our field, and architect all of our futures, no matter where each of us end up.
I’m sure I reflect everyone’s opinion when I claim that it has been an enriching yet humbling experience to have known, met and worked with Jyoti. And we look forward to continue this experience for many more years!
Written by JSA of counsel Desh Gaurav Sekhri. Views are personal.