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Bakshi Mohit – A tale of perseverance to the Bar

By: Gemma McLoughlin Burke

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Bakshi Mohit, who is from Mauritius, is a first year devil practicing in the area of crime. Although he studied the Diploma and the Barrister-at-law degree in the Inns, Bakshi’s path to the Bar has been anything but conventional. In fact, it was in 2006 when Bakshi first opened a legal textbook while studying the LLB in the University of Buckingham. After 14 years of many twists and turns, he was able to achieve his goal and was called to the Bar in 2020.

Bakshi began studying law in 2006 in the University of Buckingham. He moved from Mauritius to Buckingham alone, with his siblings dispersing to other parts of the world. Unfortunately, for financial reasons, he was unable to finish the final semester of the course and ultimately returned to Mauritius to live with his parents. After some time in Mauritius, Bakshi was in a position to finish his degree. “I only had a few modules left to complete to get my LLB and saw I could do this with the University of  London or in France. Studying in France was very appealing to me” (Bakshi speaks fluent French and also tells me the legal system in Mauritius is a dual system of both French and English law) “but the course with the University of London would allow me to finish what I started in the University of Buckingham. In the end I applied and was accepted into both.”

Bakshi went on to France to study civil law. Bakshi enjoyed the University itself but he was again living alone and this time in a particularly rough part of Paris. “I just couldn’t settle there. After the first semester, I decided I would leave. At first, I had planned to move home to Mauritius, but then I visited Ireland and everything changed.” At the same time, he was taking his six modules with the University of London. The course was self-taught “I had no classes, I was just sent the manuals and had to learn the course myself. It was very difficult.” In spite of this, he finished the LLB in the University of London and moved to Dublin.

Bakshi quickly settled in Ireland and his plan for a short visit soon turned into a long-term plan to study law and take the Bar. “Unfortunately, the King’s Inns didn’t recognise my LLB from the University of London so I had to study the Diploma course.” Bakshi secured a job in Apple, first working in customer service fielding queries from French-speaking countries such as France and Belgium. “The civil law jurisdictions are so different from Ireland and the code is applied pretty strictly so consumers are very well protected. It was interesting to deal with this side of things and to be engaged in a completely different type of law.” He was then promoted to the department handling what is referred to as “digital estates”. “Basically, when a person passes away, the question would arise as to what should be done with all of their personal information and data stored on the Cloud. You never think to leave someone your digital estate in your will! So ultimately, the question is, how does a loved one get access to this? In the civil law countries, you have to make an application to Court compelling the data controller, in this case Apple, to furnish you with the information, so I was advising on those cases and working with Apple to deal with that litigation.”

While working days in Apple, Bakshi studied the diploma in the evenings. He is very complimentary of the Diploma course. “The tutors were excellent and I felt that the course was very focused on practical learning as opposed to academia. I felt the things I was learning would really stand to me in Court.” Eventually, he obtained the Diploma and went on to take the BL degree full-time. “I decided to do the full-time course purely because I had been studying for so many years and felt like it was taking such a long time for me to get to where I wanted to be.”

Although the route took a little longer than the average student, Bakshi is happy in the path he’s taken as it has given him a vast amount of life experience he wouldn’t otherwise have. “I like to believe that everything happens for a reason. I now have so much more invaluable life experience and maturity to bring to my practice. You learn so many things along the way when you are working in different places. At one point I was teaching English grammar, for example, and this has definitely improved the quality of my legal writing.” And anyway, he says, once you’re here, you’re here, no matter how long it takes you to get here. “There were a few hiccups and it took longer than I thought but this is my long-term plan so it was worth taking my time.”

So why did he decide to study law? “I was never really interested in law to be honest! I always loved design and being creative. For my A-levels I studied Maths, Design & Technology, Computing, French and English. I always thought I would become an architect or engineer but there were so many other factors at play when I was deciding where to go to college.” Bakshi explains both the familial and cultural input associated with these decisions back home. It was suggested that he become a lawyer and in the end, he decided he would apply to study law and see where it took him.

Having applied to his local University, he was informed that he was more suited to technology and design and was offered a place on one of their engineering courses. The system is different to Ireland, he explains, in that the University has a say in the course you are more suited to. His inability to study law in Mauritius ultimately led Bakshi to move to the UK to study the LLB at the University of Buckingham.

In the end, despite the many bumps along the way, Bakshi seems to be thriving at the Criminal Bar. He is devilling in crime this year with David Staunton BL, “You’d know him, he’s very tall and he’s the author of ‘Drunken Driving’!” and Bakshi has nothing but positive things to say about both David and the Bar. “David is really excellent, I was lucky to get him to be honest. I was so concentrated on getting through the BL course that I didn’t start looking for a Master until February. As luck would have it, a friend had heard that David had become free. I contacted him and thankfully he was happy to take me. This year we’ve had so many interesting cases, it’s really been great!”

Thankfully, COVID hasn’t impacted him too much as things in the CCJ have been trundling along in spite of the lockdowns. When he isn’t busy with David, Bakshi is sure to go and have a look at other matters going on. In any event, as he says, “I don’t really know any different so I’m happy with how this year has been.”

I ask Bakshi for his highlight from the year and he is bursting with stories. From dodgy prosecution statements to angry accused persons smashing up the Courts, the year seems to have been a rollercoaster. For Bakshi though, there is one moment that stands out. “I was asked to go to a Court out in the country for a mention. It worked out financially that I would only make 6 euro after transport costs but a colleague encouraged me to go do it anyway. I was told it was a minor drugs offence, s3 of the Misuse of Drugs Act, listed at 10.30am. I got up early and got the bus out but when I arrived I was told the matter wasn’t going to be heard until 3pm.” After a consultation with his client however, the mention soon turned into a plea in mitigation. Bakshi also had a look at the documents his client brought with him and realised that he was in fact charged with a far more serious drugs offence which carries a heavier penalty! “It all happened so quickly, suddenly I was dealing with a plea in mitigation for a section 15 offence, which is obviously a lot more serious!”

The matter was finally called at 3pm. “I had been sitting in the Court all day and could see the Judge watching me waiting for me to speak in relation to something. Finally, my case was called and I told the Court that my client was pleading guilty. After the Garda evidence, I started my plea.” The Judge was highly interventionist and the submission was more akin to a cross-examination but Bakshi got through it. It was his second plea and at the start, the masks and social distancing made it difficult. He laughs that at one point the Judge misheard Bakshi’s statement that his client’s profession was that of a plasterer, thinking that Bakshi had said his client’s profession was he was a “person.” “He had a good laugh at that!” After the plea, the Judge asked Bakshi where he was from and other personal questions like why did he choose the Bar? I ask Bakshi if this made him uncomfortable or awkward “Not at all, I answered all of his questions and the Judge finished by saying “it’s nice to meet you!”  And the best part of the day? “At the very end I made my application for legal aid and unexpectedly, the Judge said he was going to give me a certificate for counsel given the seriousness of the charge!”

Bakshi insists that the experience was a good one, he’s not offended when people ask him where he’s from, he puts it down to curiosity. He also says it happens so often that he’s used to it. He does say, however, that at first he found it difficult to be one of the few non-Irish people at the Bar. It can be isolating to be different from so many of the people you work with and Bakshi tells me about experiences he’s had with some people being dismissive or cold towards him. “I try not to worry about it though, I just keep a positive attitude and don’t take it personally. I focus on the many colleagues who are highly encouraging and who look out for you, and who try to include you as much as possible. There are a lot of great colleagues!” I ask him if there are any identifiable barriers to practice when you are from a minority background but he says they are difficult to articulate. They’re more intangible, he explains, it’s the way you are made to feel sometimes or how you feel you are treated by certain people. Nonetheless, he would encourage others who come from minority backgrounds to come to the Bar. “If you have drive and ambition, you’re willing to work hard and this is what you really want to do, I think you should just come down and give it your best shot. There may be barriers and sometimes it’s difficult but just do it and see where it leads you.”

So, what’s next for Bakshi? “My plan for next year is to devil with Cathal McGreal in crime, and Rosemary Mallon, who does lots of employment, which I find very interesting. My mentor put me in touch with her and I’m really looking forward to exploring the civil side next year too.” Overall, despite COVID and other challenges he’s facing, Bakshi’s attitude is one of resolute positivity. “I can’t wait!” he says.

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