Review in Muse India:

Seshail Kamanna: ‘Legal Confidential

Ranjeev Dubey
Legal Confidential: Adventures of an Indian Lawyer
New Delhi: Penguin Books India. 2015
ISBN 978-0-670-08839-3
Pages 299 | Rs 499

A journey worth talking about – purpose, dilemmas, dragons and sharks

Legal Confidential: Adventures of an Indian Lawyer by Ranjeev Dubey is an autobiography. It narrates the incidents of life as a court lawyer and as a lawyer at a city law office. He talks of the struggle and ethical dilemma he has faced in the profession and of the different individuals that have made it to the top. This book is something that one would not like to stop reading until the end. The chapters are placed with connectors that bind the story.

Ranjeev takes us back in time and relates to how the ecosystem was placed at that time. His struggle, triumphs and muses are lucidly elaborated and have a gripping effect on the reader. He then briefs us about his work as a corporate lawyer. He highlights the work culture, the politics and his struggle to make a space for himself and his team members. He also highlights what it takes to be a corporate lawyer and what it takes for someone to join his team. Ranjeev has been candid about the various dilemmas and in many instances takes view of other person and is self-critical.

Right at the start of the book Ranjeev sets out why the reader would want to hear about his journey: "For one, most people still don't understand what the justice machine is really about. To live in this aggressive hostile world, and not understand the law, is a lot worse than hobbling about on two wooden legs. If you find yourself confronting the legal world – which is possible by merely jumping a red light at the traffic signal – you need to understand the plot that will invariable unfold." True to his remarks in the Author's Note, the plot folds and unfolds until the last page – but your expectation does not. After reading the book one would end up being more aware and would have more arsenal to dredge the world of transactions.

Ranjeev provides a glimpse into his early years. The unsophistication and the crass reality (as a divorce lawyer) will initially make you think if the book is a right one. But after reading through the chapters you would appreciate the reason of such insertion. Sometime when you write you don't stop and write just about the beautiful lanes of the road but also about the untraversed by lanes which acts to provide the contrast and clarity. He expresses his impressions in the learning years: "Like the largest and most dominant carnivorous dinosaur with its long powerful tail, the worth of lawyer was measured mainly in terms of the number of juniors who followed him from court to court."

Ranjeev details the machinery called law. If you think law is not engineering, just read the explanations, and you will see the responses and stimuli at their best. The different wheels of the machinery – which include the lawyer, judge, clerk, stenographer and court reader – work in unison to deliver justice. Oops, a correction! A verdict based on the strongest advocate of the story. We have heard beauty is in the eyes of the beholder – you will start believing truth is in the words of the lawyer who can strongly advocate it. For someone to advocate strongly the entire machinery control needs to be established which again implies that there is grease that is required quite frequently so that the unfortunate clogging of wheels does not happen.

Ranjeev not only dwells on the legal side but also talks about the legal firm and its business, the politics and the partnerships, and of course the clients; and it makes an interesting read. One of the interesting stories that Ranjeev shares is how a sales person did not lose his job though incompetent. He takes the reader into areas where his imaginations would turn a blind eye and I guess that is what books are about, helping you view the world more clearly.

Ranjeev explains the background of law-making: "The courts have been created to enforce the law, Laws flow from agendas of dominant groups of people: Society's elite groups. These elite groups create laws in their own self-interest. Such laws cannot be fair to everyone nor are they intended to be."

Even as being self-critical, Ranjeev talks about how he is good at his profession and that is what makes the reader think that he is promoting his profession. The undercurrents are quite visible. Ultimately it's a lawyer who is writing a biography. What good is a lawyer if he cannot advocate his profession and himself? And yes, Ranjeev does a good job at this giving the readers an opportunity to reassess their thoughts.