How is law as a career choice in India?
These are the excerpts from the interview of Justice DY Chandrachud of the Supreme Court at the New Delhi book launch of the The Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization, by the Harvard Law School Centre on the Legal Profession.
Law graduate - What do you do to earn?
Prior to the emergence of the corporate legal sector, jobs available to graduating lawyers were mostly assisting as junior advocates that paid little or nothing. Law was, thus, not a reliable profession for students who did not have families that would support them for a long period of time. The late 1980s and 1990s saw the setting up of the National Law Schools with the objective of supplying well-trained lawyers to the bar and the bench so that access to justice is enlarged and the quality of the justice to the common man is improved and strengthened.
Liberalisation in India jump-started career in law:
The most significant impact of the last 20 years or so has been on the legal education in India due to the increasing number of law graduates, particularly from the elite law schools, who chose to work in law firms. Because the 1990s were also a milestone in the Indian economy and the landscape of a liberalised Indian economy, created a demand for lawyers who could provide legal advice in a completely new terrain. This led to the growth of the corporate legal sector.
The high-pay packages that are offered at law firms, even at the entry-level, have now made law a whole more lucrative and alluring a profession leading to a dramatic increase in the number of students pursuing law as a career option.
The demand of corporate law firms for law graduates and the exceedingly high supply of law graduates has significantly altered the landscape of legal education. Students interested in securing these jobs scramble to gain admission into one of these select law schools in India. Prospective law students and lawyers are willing to pay much more and even take loans to attend law schools that offer highly remunerative jobs.
The Indian Corporate legal sector - Truly Indian?
There have been a few empirical studies in India on the legal profession. Most of India's influential law firms have developed their own identity, characterised by some values that are deeply connected to India's history and culture. For example, family and communal ties are very important to some of the most influential of India's law firms.
Corporate Law versus Public Law - A convergence in reckoning:
The fact that now the legal education is now being viewed as a means to secure a job in a high-paying law firm is evident in the manner in which law schools are ranked. Recruitment by the corporate sector is the most important factor in determining law school ranking.
In a developing country like India, the constitution enjoys a legal system to facilitate the eradication of discrimination, inequalities of status, and of opportunity and to ensure justice to all in social, economic and political spheres. However, an overwhelming majority of the top students in India's best legal institutions now work in the corporate sector. Yet, there are positives. There is an increasing social and economic mobility and overcoming of some of the barriers that exist in litigation in India even today.
Women in Law - The minority?
The Indian legal profession has been predominantly male dominated. Recent comparative research on the demographics of the international legal profession shows that Indian women have the lowest representation in the legal profession as compared to other countries, while women in most countries represent 50 percent in the case of Finland, 20 percent in the U.S. of the total lawyers; the representation in Asian countries is generally between 10-20 percent. While the percentage of women in the Indian legal profession has remained only 5 percent.
Women in Corporate Law - Strong footing!
Women in corporate law firms seem to be entering and succeeding at par with their male peers at all levels of advancement including partnerships. These seemingly gender-neutral trajectories in elite law firms are very encouraging, given the general inequalities of the workplace in India in particular.
The age of technology - Law as an element:
In the age that we have, which sees an expansion in the information technology landscape, the pervasive role of the internet technology cannot be ignored. In such an information-centric world where cloud computing, information processing, machine learning, knowledge processing and speech synthesis are the mainstay, organisational boundaries are being realigned and are continuously shifting to new directions to meet these emerging realities. Artificial intelligence systems find increasing relevance and usage in fields and industries including finance, healthcare, education, transportation and more.
Insolvency and Banking - Magnet for Corporate law
As India’s banks try and resolve the bad loans that have long burdened the industry and pose a significant macroeconomic risk, insolvency professionals stand to get a big career boost. The process gained momentum with the government having put the ecosystem in place with the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), which stipulates the need for insolvency professionals. They play a crucial role after a company is admitted to the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) as part of the process. A three-fourths majority of a committee of creditors will entrust insolvency professionals with the job of either drawing up a defaulting company’s revival plan or liquidating it within nine months. Though the CA, CS and ICWA are in demand, those practicing corporate law are in huge demand as well given the intense litigation in the insolvency process.
The public sector banks that are getting bogged down by the NPA are engaging the services of lawyers from elite law schools to represent banks in the spate of civil suits filed.
Elite Law firms making a queue at elite Law colleges:
Ever heard of Clifford Chance, Herbert Smith Freehills, Allen & Overy? These are giants in international legal firms. The profiles offered include Litigation, Intellectual property (IP), In-house/corporate counsel and Legal journalism. In addition, the judiciary in India has many opportunities to offer to the law graduates from elite Law colleges.
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