I.M. Lall, a prominent member of Tiruchi’s legal community, feels that giving good advice to a client is as important as being ethical

“As a lawyer, you cannot be judgemental.” Senior advocate I.M. Lall minces no words about the practicalities of his job, but goes on to add, “it is the duty of a lawyer to protect his client. Giving good advice to a client is a social service too.”

Mr. Lall, (born Indar Mangilal), meets visitors at his office-cum-residential Phoenix Plazaa complex in Double Mall Street, and confesses that work never ends. “I never switch off my phone after midnight, because that’s when the serious calls come,” he says.

His day starts at 7 a.m. after a quick browse through the day’s newspapers. He is in office by 10 a.m. to delegate work, and then leaves for court by 10.30 a.m. The evenings are spent back at the office, which closes at midnight.

It’s been a routine that has hardly changed for Mr. Lall over the past 40 years since he started his practice in Tiruchi. The third-generation descendant of a business family from Faludi, Rajasthan, Mr. Lall studied law at the behest of his father Indar Chand. “My father was in the jewellery business with a pawn-broking base. The Second World War (1939-45) caused huge losses, so he diversified his interests to start an ice factory in Tiruchi,” recalls Mr. Lall.

“He was interested in education, and made the three of us (two sons and a daughter) study. It was his dream to see me qualify as a lawyer, because he was a ‘naatu vakil’ (rural arbitrator). Law is a noble profession if you do it properly. If you maintain your ethics and respect the law, you are respected,” says Mr. Lall. “I started my life from zero. My father’s factory did not make much profit. My brother could not complete his chartered accountancy due to family circumstances. My brother-in-law passed away leaving a young family behind, so my brother sacrificed his education to support my sister and her children by starting a business in electrical equipment,” Mr. Lall sums up the early days.

Survival strategy

Mr. Lall admits it was his determination rather than academic ability that got him through the course. “I got just pass (35) marks, but I was eager to fulfil my father’s dream. I completed my law degree in 1974, after I got married in 1972. I was junior to A. V. Natarajan, the only man practising civil and criminal law, for two years. ”

Has he ever faced a problem being a north Indian lawyer in a south Indian state? “Never,” he emphasises. “We argue cases in English, because somehow in Tamil, the arguments don’t seem to have the same impact. But while you can argue you cases in English, you may need to cross-examine witnesses in the local language, and that’s where the intelligence of the lawyer lies,” he says.

“I studied in Tamil-medium schools, because English-medium schools were not so common in Tiruchi then,” the fluent Tamil speaker adds.

Changing social mores

A lawyer is perhaps the best person to get a warts-and-all view of the society he practises in. “There have been many changes in the social set-up since I started out,” agrees Mr. Lall.

“The number of divorce cases has gone up in Tiruchi, even in conservative communities like ours, mostly because of the lack of understanding among the in-laws. Mothers-in-law don’t give their daughters-in-law the same importance as their daughters. Or the daughter-in-law may not consider her husband’s mother as someone akin to her own mother. Such unreasonable expectations, influenced by the internet and television, have changed our society forever.”

Living in a joint family himself, Mr. Lall says he says it’s important to strike a balance. “I have three sons, three daughters-in-law, their children and my wife who I have to share my life with. The internet and TV are like a knife, you could use them to kill someone or cut vegetables.”

Home is …

The Lall family, also known for its local philanthropy in Tiruchi, keeps in touch with their roots in Rajasthan. “Times have changed in Faludi, too,” says Mr. Lall.

“Our relatives are all much better off today. Of course they always joke that when there’s a crisis here we’ll all be sent back. But we don’t care, we’re working in Tamil Nadu since my grandfather came here, trying to serve the community as best as we can.”

A true lover of his adoptive city, he declares, “Tiruchi is the best city in India. We can know the neighbours, there are no communal tensions and it is basically a city of good people.

“I love Tiruchi and wouldn’t want to practise anywhere else.”