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).
A survey of corporate law departments conducted by the American Corporate Counsel Association suggested that a majority (to an extent of 86%) cited legal costs as their top concern. Does it not mean an opportunity for the legal players?
To draft a patent by an US firm, an attorney charges about $250-$600 per hour in the US whereas in India, it is $50-$60!
According to a study done by Snapdata Research, the US legal market revenue during the year 2003 was close to $197 billion. Research by Hilderbrandt International estimates that the worldwide spending on legal outsourcing might touch $6.5 billion by 2006.
With over 850,000 law professionals conversant with the legal system in the US and UK, India is the ideal destination. GE, Citigroup, DuPont, Oracle and Cisco have certain law firms which are already outsourcing legal services to India.
Traditionally, law studies could commence only after graduation. One can do 3-year LL.B course after graduation. With the intention of attracting talent towards law at a young age, the Bar Council of India introduced the 5-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 5-year degree course in law, while the 3-year LLB continues. One can also specialize in civil, criminal, constitutional, tax, property, international and family law. Other institutes of repute are listed below:
- Amity Law School , Noida
- Faculty of Law, Delhi University
- Govt. Law College , Mumbai
- National Law School, Bangalore
- Nalsar University of Law, Hyderabad
- National Law Institute University, Bhopal
- Symbiosis Society’s Law College, Pune
Areas of specialization
- Civil Law – concerns private rights of individuals, handling breach of damage & contract suits. The major job is to prepare & draw up deeds, leases, wills, mortgages & contracts.
- Corporate Law– deals with advising corporations on their legal rights
- Criminal Law – deals with offences against the society/ state
- Patent Law – deals with securing patents for inventors from the patents office
- Tax Law – specializes in cases on problems of inheritance, income tax, reals tax, etc
- International Law – deals with customs & traditions observed by different nations
- Real Estate Law – handles the cases related to real estate/ property
- Labour Law – related to workers and their unions, their working conditions, rights and duties
- Others – Human Rights, Family Law, Constitutional Law, Excise 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. T here are one million lawyers in India and 70,000 graduating from law schools every year. 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. The National Association of Software and Service Companies, an Indian lobby group, said in July that outsourcing firms had barely scratched the potential of the estimated 250 billion dollar legal services market. It estimates Indian firms now get $60-80 mn worth of outsourced legal business annually.
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.