Exciting avenues in legal career
Today the career opportunities available to a legal professional in India are manifold. Apart from entering into practice, law graduates have the option to join an industry. The day-to-day business of most companies involve contracts, joint ventures and strategic alliances, licensing, securities, mergers and acquisitions, and support of the manufacturing, marketing, sales, and distribution functions of the company, which require legal experts. Large industrial houses are recruiting law graduates directly from the campus and lawyers are now in demand in the various industries as negotiators and law officers. A career in law demands good communication skills, patience, a sympathetic attitude, being well-informed, the ability to absorb facts and analyse them quickly, a retentive memory and a sense of drama (for the court room).
Traditionally, law studies could commence only after graduation. With the intention of attracting talent towards law at a young age, the Bar Council of India introduced the five-year degree course in law by setting up the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) at Bangalore. The motive was to attract talent towards law at a young age and to train them in a comprehensive manner to make them better-motivated lawyers. Over the years, many universities have introduced the five-year degree course in law, while the three-year LLB continues. One can also specialize in civil, criminal, constitutional, tax, property, international and family law.
Usually a young law graduate joins a senior lawyer as an assistant in his practice. As an assistant or junior lawyer he is paid a stipend but the actual wealth which accrues are experience, exposure and the opportunity of building up business contacts. Once a junior lawyer is secure in these areas, he can establish his own practice.
Entry into state or defense judicial services is through a competitive selection process consisting of written tests and/or interviews. Public sector undertakings offer openings for legal officers. Promotions in these services tend to be time-bound.
Companies and even government bodies may hire private legal practitioners as their counsel paying a retainership fee. The lawyer continues private practice extending counsel according to the retaining company's legal needs. In bigger cities law firms employ a number of lawyers at junior and senior levels who may be linked to departments specializing in a particular branch of law. Examples: Mulla & Mulla, Batlivala & Karani and Singhania & Co.
Corporate law is another area which has seen a major boom in recent years. With the coming of multinationals and the proliferation of the corporate culture, there has been a spurt in the demand for legal experts to handle matters pertaining to the Companies Act, intellectual property rights (IPR) and labour issues.
Many big business houses and companies have started keeping their own solicitors and legal experts to deal with the legalities involved in mergers, collaborations, agreements and undertakings, to frame internal rules and regulations and handle labour laws, etc. Every company has its own criteria for recruiting legal professionals but experience is given a lot of weightage.
In this era of Net explosion, when computers have become the storehouses of information and a prime source of communication, it is very important to safeguard data. In order to protect the information stored in computers, the Information Technology Act, 2000, has made certain cyber crimes punishable by law. These include hacking, source code attack, obscenity, failure to comply with controller's directions, breach of privacy, making available digital signatures for fraudulent purposes and the like. This has opened avenues for lawyers in the cyber world. The Act has also proposed a separate cyber tribunal wherein cyber law experts can adjudicate the proceedings.
Outsourcing is rapidly moving into a new realm of law. According to a recent study, a large section of U.S. legal work, including patent prosecution, will be outsourced overseas by the next decade. In the past, outsourcing patent work meant using a less expensive firm in the Midwest. Now it often means sending work to India instead of Indiana. The simple reason is cost saving. Fees may average as little as $2,000 per application for an outsourced patent versus U.S. law firm fees of $8,000 to $12,000 for the same application.
Immigration companies too are increasingly employing lawyers well conversant with the immigration rules and regulations of various countries. The services of legal experts in this field are required to represent these companies in case of rejection of cases, inquires related to immigration and to deal with complaints registered against or by them.
Human rights is another issue of great social concern, especially in cases of blatant state oppression or atrocities being committed by the authorities. The growing awareness about human rights violations necessitates action and intervention by activists and lawyers. With a number of social service organizations and NGOs working to uphold the human rights of the underprivileged and oppressed sections of society, the demand for lawyers specializing in this field has risen manifold.
Business hours and work schedules of judicial service officials, corporate lawyers and lawyers in private practice, vary. Salaried judicial service officers in government service, corporate or in-house lawyers tend to have structured work schedules.
Lawyers in private practice usually work irregular hours, while conducting research, conferring with clients, or preparing briefs during non-office hours. Preparation for court includes keeping abreast of the latest laws and judicial decisions.
Now, when every business contract needs the legal touch and every job contract has to be legally drafted, the future for lawyers in the corporate sector is getting brighter and many are making their way up the corporate hierarchy. Intellectual property rights, patent law, environment law, and human rights law are emerging as favourite specialities.
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