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First NLS senior counsel interview: Akshay Bhan on the importance of seniors and who’s next from NLS

Akshay Bhan, who is the first NLSIU Bangalore alumnus and advocate designated as a senior counsel, as first reported by Legally India this morning, recounts how being a former Supreme Court judge’s son helps, the importance of seniors and how he thinks other NLS alumni are likely to be elevated soon too.

Bhan told Legally India that he started his practice in Punjab and Haryana high court after graduation and has now been practicing for around 15 years, doing general counsel practice across all fields, including tax, criminal, civil and writ work.

“Of course NLS has been the biggest factor on me to be reaching where I am,” he said. “One owes everything to your alma mater, which I do.”

“You have to love the profession and have to stick in – there will be ups and downs, play it and you win it and you lose it, but you just have to stick to something,” he said.

His father, Ashok Bhan, was a Supreme Court judge until 2008 and began his practice in the same court, he explained. “My father was designated senior in Punjab & Haryana high court before he got elevated here [to judgeship]. Then he was taken to Bangalore, where he was acting chief [justice] and got elevated to the Supreme Court, from where he retired.”

Ashok Bhan then headed up the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and retired last year in October.

When asked whether having a father who was a former apex court judge helped politically in the senior designation process, Akshay Bhan said that it didn’t. “Politically we are way apart – my father actually retired from active judicial service 5.5 years back, so I can’t even [benefit from that],” he joked, and added: “Yes, in the initial stage of my career the old clients [of my father] that used to come in and all, it did help because my father had a huge office when he was elevated.”

But he added: “The biggest step [in my career] was in 2004 when my senior [Ajay Mittal] was elevated [to judgeship in the P&H high court where he still sits], I got his whole office, which turned out to be a very big [help].

“Your visibility quotient goes up and you get a tremendous amount of exposure.”

Bhan noted that working with someone as a senior can have a huge impact.

When asked whether it was easier to get elevated in the P&H high court, Bhan said that he wouldn’t necessarily agree. “Even Delhi HC has a few NLS alumni who I think should be on the verge of being designated - primary amongst them, being Mr Dayan Krishnan [who graduated in 1993 from NLSIU’s first batch.”

“And if you go down to Bangalore, my batchmate Aditya Sondhi, he’s doing amazingly well there, and there are many, many more,” he said, and also mentioned Siddharth Aggarwal in Delhi.

Bhan is the first national law school graduate to be designated senior at any court in India. Research by Legally India last year revealed that 26 per cent of recent partners at India’s six largest firms hailed from NLS, ahead of Delhi University, which constituted the second-largest contingent at 17 per cent.

Readers: Please leave your nominations in the comments below for who should soon be senior counsel from NLSIU, or from other national or younger law schools.

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