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Inspirations from Nani Palkhivala, one of the greatest lawyers India has ever had.

You may wonder what a CLAT hacker can learn from Nani Palkhivala. Admittedly, there will be next to nothing from a study point of view. But I believe CLAT is won and lost in the head, and being motivated is critical to winning this battle.

Over the course of my life, I had just known about Nani Palkhivala through his reputation, that of being a famous lawyer. I was not inclined to, and neither did I have a chance to learn more about the man. However, after deciding to pursue Law and securing admission in a National Law School, I got a chance to read his biography, a rarity since I have seldom read non-fiction. After reading an account of his life written by M. V. Kamath, I have a new-found admiration of a man who is legendary in the profession I intend to take up someday, and would like to share some inspiration with you.

Palkhivala is described by Kamath as “an erudite scholar, outstanding jurist, and a staunch defender of the Constitution”, qualities which are no doubt marvelous, but at the same time not the ones which make him the legend he is. It is the culmination of various characteristics and habits which Palkhivala inculcated that make him a cut above the rest – special and incomparably brilliant. There have been many lawyers who have fought landmark cases, and have accrued a lot of respect and fame, but what sets Nani Palkhivala apart is his unparalleled focus and drive during his formative and early years at the bar – an inspiration to any law student and budding lawyer.

In this age, where every student’s potential is hampered the most not by lack of opportunity, but by laziness and indifference to the benefits of a maximum utilization of the chances on offer, Nani’s formative years is a model to be followed by the youth.  He packed in so much value; obtained so much from the limited time, money and chances he had, that the reader may give up on it as impossible to be implemented today. Today, where most children are pampered and busy enjoying their flowery childhood, Nani was in contrast extremely focused and hardworking, and resultantly brilliant in every sense of the word. Quoting the eminent jurist himself, “A child’s character is formed by the time he is ten years of age, and this will influence the rest of his life. I had learned when I was young that one has to strive for excellence and there is no shortcut to excellence.

His self-confidence was admirable. Who would have thought that this magnificent orator was once severely hindered by stammering? He was determined to overcome his condition, and he did. He was extremely neat and organized from his childhood, something which he carried throughout his life, as his brother noted. His parents were enterprising but of modest means. Yet they strived to educate him in various areas, and even their leisure was meant to be meaningful and knowledgeable, for they could not afford to idle away time. Nani inherited their habits.

His reading habits can be termed as ‘voracious’, to say the least. He read anything he could get his hands on, and tried to squeeze and save every anna he could so that he could purchase a book. His love for reading in knowledge far surpassed any other considerations. So deep was his hunger that the proprietor of a large bookshop permitted him to read the books on offer for free, a gratuitous act which Nani cherished forever. It is inspiring that he pursued his passions despite financial difficulties, a point we should note since we tend to get disheartened and drop ideas at the first signs of difficulty.

Nani had a phenomenal memory and mind-blowing speed reading skills, which soon resulted in his development as a prolific writer. In addition to these, proficiency at musical instruments and a consistently top-notch academic record all added jewels to what was already pure gold.

His impeccable academic record and single-minded focus (in the true sense of the term) got him the opportunity to start his career under the legendary Sir Jamshedji Kanga. He soon rose to astronomic heights, writing a landmark book The Law and Practice of Income Tax, and successfully getting the court to issue a writ of mandamus against the government, the first such instance in the country. This was just the start to what would be an illustrious career. He is a testament that sheer hard work can take you places in life, and his saga is a lesson to aspiring members of the Bar, who often crib that not having a family background or godfathers in the practice make it impossible to fulfill one’s dreams. You, as law aspirants must look up to the very best of the line you have chosen, and motivate yourselves.




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