CAREER IN LAW : EVOLUTION OF THE INDIAN LAWYER

Legal education in India has been governed by the Bar Council of India. In the pre-liberalization era the law schools were unorganized and there was no systematic check on the quality of legal education that was imparted. In the year 1987 National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore was set up. It was the first law school that adopted the innovative 5 year integrated law course which was highly focused and industry driven. It also started the trend of an entrance exam as a measurable criterion to give the most meritorious the opportunity to study law. As a consequence, only the best could make it to this new format law school and by the end of the course, students had multiple offers and fat salaries.

Given the success of this format (which was obvious, given the great demand of an evolving economy) many similar law schools were set up to cater to the need and it changed the face of legal education in the country.

YOU HAVE TONNES OF OPTIONS POST A LAW DEGREE. From getting into litigation to practicing under a firm to working for a bank to doing your masters from INDIA or ABROAD to even sitting for your civil services. If none of them appeal to you, then you could definitely look out for an MBA.

law career india

Depending upon the law school the domestic starting salaries for fresh graduates at law firms, which are the favorite recruiters at law schools, find a range between Rs.4 lacs to Rs.30 lacs per annum. These figures are swelling with every passing year. It compares favorably with the best of the domestic B-schools. Thus, by the age of 23, a fresh law graduate has the potential of earning a very decent amount of money.

India being a common law country has an advantage of having a legal system which is similar to many other jurisdictions / countries of the world. As a consequence, firms from other countries visit the top law schools to hand-pick talent. Singapore based firms are very aggressive on Indian hiring. With international offers, the remuneration also raises manifold. With the foreign law firms being allowed to practice in India in the next few years the salaries are all set to see new highs.

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HERE ARE SOME CAREER OPTIONS THAT ARE OPEN TO YOU

CORPORATE COUNSEL:

Several law students opt to work with the in-house legal department of a corporate organisation after graduating from law school. Legal managers play a critical role in the functioning of a company, and are responsible for drafting, vetting, and in several cases, negotiating contracts for the company, ensuring and monitoring compliance with laws, and handling legal disputes that the company may be involved in. Corporate counsel are required to interact with several different functions in a company, understand business and operations needs, and serve these needs in a manner that is both suitable and legal. GE Capital, ICICI Bank, ITC, IBM, Infosys, Satyam, Wipro, Dr. Reddy’s, Biocon, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, KPMG and HLL are some corporate giants that frequent law school campus recruitment programmes.

  • High starting salaries, comparable with those offered to top B-School grads. Offers often touch Rs.15 lacs per annum.
  • Additional perks such as housing, private transportation, paid for medical expenses etc.
  • Job Security
  • Exposure
  • Opportunity to diversify
  • While starting salaries are high, increases in salary are often fewer and far between than they can be in a law firm or in practice.
  • Opportunity for growth within the organization is relatively limited compared to law firms.

THE LITIGATOR:

The traditional career path for a lawyer, is to “go into practice”, or join the chambers of a senior advocate as his junior. The traditional image of a lawyer is based on this career option. Regarded by many as the true calling of a lawyer, this option involves arguing in court on a daily basis, and applying your mind to a plethora of different issues in order to win the case for your client. There is huge scope for specialization in this field –  Corporate Law, Criminal Law, Civil Law, Income Tax Law/ International Law/ Intellectual Property / Copyright / Patent Law /Cyber Law etc

  • This career option promises the greatest challenges, and the greatest rewards. The most famous lawyers in the country have all followed this career path – Nani Palkhivala, Fali Nariman, and Ram Jethmalani to name a few.
  • Unlimited growth
  • Enterprise and independence
  • Successful practicing advocates make by far the most money in the legal profession. The top lawyers in the country charge to the tune of six digit sums per appearance in court, and appearances often last for just a few minutes. Similar fees are charged for rendering a legal opinion on a case. Since each appearance usually does not last very long, advocates can make a number of appearances for a quite a few different clients in each day.
  • The pay in the early years of life as a practicing advocate is meagre (anything between Rs.2,000 to Rs.8,000 per month).
  • Long gestation period – practicing lawyers usually take 8-10 years to establish themselves.
  • Litigating lawyers start small as they need years of experience in the courts of law to establish themselves. They typically associate themselves with some senior lawyers and assist them with cases.
  • Success in Litigation requires a lot of patience, hard-work, subject expertise, experience and relationship building. Thus, it does not have a predictable success formula following which anybody can be successful.

WORK IN A LAW FIRM:

A law firm is usually a partnership between lawyers who have come together to offer their expertise to clients under one name. These partners share the profits of the firm as well as the risks (liabilities), and engage other lawyers to work with them as associates. These associates can work at the firm for a period of time, and, provided they establish their competence at work, can even become partners at the firm and share in the profits and management of the firm. Law firms cater to the interests of companies and private individuals alike, though most of the large law firms deal exclusively with corporate houses, i.e. companies. Work at a law firm involves dealing with a wide variety of problems that may or may not be restricted to a particular area of the law (depending on the specialisation and culture of the firm).

Major law firms have separate litigation and corporate departments. The litigation department deals with the disputes which the firm’s clients are involved in. Working in the litigation department of a law firm or in a firm that does mainly litigation entails interaction with leading lawyers and a feel of the world of court practice. The corporate departments of law firms advise companies on the corporate deals which they are involved in, such as acquisitions of companies, important inter-company agreements, investment in India by foreign clients, financing of massive projects undertaken by clients and so on.

Major law firms, both Indian and foreign, recruit from the top Indian law schools. Among the major recruiters from the domestic legal schools are top law firms such as Amarchand Mangaldas Suresh A. Shroff & Co, AZB Partners, J.Sagar & Associates, Luthra & Luthra Law Offices, Khaitan & Co. Nishith Desai Associates, DSK Legal, ARA Law, Dua Associates, Khaitan & Co, Fox & Mandal, and Victor & Moses, among others.Foreign law firms that recruit from Indian law schools include the UK-based Linklaters Alliance, the Singapore-based Khattar & Wong, and others. Recruits join as junior associates and are promoted based on performance

  • The top Indian law firms offer salaries that can go as high as 6 lacs a year (with the occasional offer reaching as much as 10 lacs). Foreign law firms (with foreign postings) offer salaries that can go as high as 16 lacs. Some of these numbers include bonuses, which can be quite generous in most instances.
  • You may wonder why the salaries are lower as compared to those offered by corporates – what you must remember is that most law firms keep the recruit on a ‘retainer’, allowing for more flexible tax management. Furthermore, salaries in law firms rise faster than in companies. An associate with 2-3 years of experience at a law firm is likely to overtake his classmate at a company.
  • Corporate Exposure – At law firms you interact with senior officers of client companies and handle tremendous responsibility at a young age.
  • International Opportunities – The corporate culture with its jet-setting lifestyle is an attraction of its own.
  • Competition, and consequently stress, at these law firms is tremendous since a large number of associates compete for very few partner positions. The larger the law firm, the tougher you can expect the competition to be.
  • There is also the possibility of being pigeon-holed in a practice area i.e. being a specialist in one area and losing the flexibility of doing different things.

BECOME THE SOCIAL ADVOCATE

WHAT IS IT???

Law schools often include several courses designed to address relevant social issues in their course curriculum, including gender concerns, caste-based discrimination, employment, working conditions, environmental protection and the marginalisation of various peoples.

The effect of such exposure is reflected in the fact that a sizeable number of law school students join NGOs that work with these issues. Graduates from law school are also offered opportunities to work with international organisations such as the United Nations and with international war and crime tribunals.

The law school tries to address relevant social issues through its courses. The effect of such exposure is reflected in the fact that a sizeable no of students join non governmental organizations that work with children women environment etc.

Students are placed also in organizations ranging from public interest groups like Lawyers Collective and The Alternative Law Forum to specialized agencies like the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and The Commonwealth Human Rights initiative.

  • Tremendous job satisfaction awaits you if you are passionate about working with socio-legal issues, as you can contribute directly to betterment of society.
  • Respect and recognition
  • This career path offers travel prospects and promises interaction with a variety of people.
  • If you work with an established NGO, you would also be financially comfortable.
  • However, the job entails a degree of financial insecurity because all NGOs are not well funded, and the pay may be meagre. This could be a serious issue if you need to support a family at some point.
  • Further, the experience may be one of disillusionment and frustration if you cannot realise the fruits of your effort because of hierarchies within the organisation and mismanagement of funds.

A person wanting to quit this line might find it difficult to get mainstream jobs (firms or companies).

MOVE INTO RESEARCH

Research in a law school is not just confined to a specific field; today an average law student has to conduct studies and examine issues on diverse fields ranging from Intellectual Property Rights, Environment Law, Space Law, to International Arbitration.

The second stage is publication and presentation of ones works at the International Arena in publications like International Law Journals such as Harvard Law Journal, Oxford University Law Journal etc. which brings along with it recognition on the international arena and $$$$. The incentives and perquisites for your hard work don’t just end there, when the country’s top most Corporate, Law firms etc. throng your college, what will make you stand out among you classmates and put you in high stead with these recruiters will be these initiative which you would have taken in your days as a law student. Standing evidence to this is the hundreds of National Law School Alumnus, who are working with International organizations like International Court of Justice, UNICEF, Amnesty International etc obviously because of their inventiveness, but some credits also goes to research conducted by them during their Law School days.
They say the lack of monetary reward is more than made up by the satisfaction of teaching. Compared to other options available, Research and Academics initially don’t offer lucrative pay packages and of course requires a lot of hard work, but then this is true for most careers. Sharp wit and intelligence is required wherever you go.

Academics, Pursuing teaching as career option comes good to those who like it, National law School Alumnus are counted among the best faculties throughout the Top National Law Schools of the country. This career option gives you more flexibility than any other stream; a Lecturer of law is paid on a per-hour-basis. The remuneration being directly proportionate to the experience you carry and the credibility that you gain during your stint as a teacher.

  • The options don’t end here, incase you have been blessed with or have developed good oratory skills (with the exposure you get in a law school, that is a rule rather than an exception) you can develop your own knowledge unit and start taking individual sessions the remuneration for which has no upper limit and is on a per-appearance fee.
  • The only drawback with a career in Academia, which we can list here is that this field requires a lot of hard work and a will to research extensively which does not comes easy to everybody.
  • In terms of remuneration, you may have to wait for a while before you can treat your friends who may be corporate lawyers. As far as your personal growth goes it completely depends upon your wit, intelligence and the effort you put in. But then aren’t these true for all professions: Legal or not?

LEGAL PROCESS OUTSOURCING

Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) is a sort of offshoot of the BPO industry which has been growing rapidly in India in recent times. Vendors or in-house departments of organizations outsource legal work from off-shore areas where it is costly to perform (For example, USA, U.K, France, Australia etc.) to cheaper destinations like India and Phillippines.

Career prospects are tremendous, as the LPO industry in India is set to achieve significant growth from its current share of 3-4% to 7-8% in the 300 billion dollar global market, by the year 2010. Recruitment opportunities are skyrocketing, and the number of indigenous LPO firms is set to double within the next three years.

The gamut of services offered by different providers varies from indexing and coding to database maintenance, patent support, contract review and management, litigation support, legal compliance, research and drafting, content generation and combinations thereof; and the working hours are usually from 9 A.M to 6 P.M, though this might vary depending on the culture and size of the firm.

All legal experts working in LPO firms receive attractive pay packages. LPO firms are recruiting fresh law graduates from premier law schools, and are offering starting salaries in the range of 3 lakhs to 8 lakhs per annum. Even global LPO giants such as Pangea3 and Mindcrest are turning towards India for fresh legal talent.

  • The Industry is growing at a very fast rate, and is yet to reach full potential. The opportunities for growth are excellent.
  • There is tremendous variety of work at all levels of expertise, and a corresponding range of remuneration as well.
  • The advent of offshore legal services has presented India’s lawyers the opportunity to take their place at the heart of the organisation and to be directly responsible for its success. Lawyers in these companies are provided a secure and stable work environment with world class infrastructure and progressive HR policies, where the opportunities for career enhancement are based solely on merit, like in any healthy corporate structure.
  • Offshore legal services companies help motivated lawyers develop multiple layers of skills that go well beyond the application of their legal knowledge.
  • The LPO industry in India is at a nascent stage, so one must be careful not to rush in before doing proper research about newly established recruiting firms.

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