Legal professionals nonetheless face inequities in alternatives: CJI

Law firms have opened fresh avenues for law graduates and incentivised it as a career but inequities in opportunity still exist, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said Wednesday. Speaking at a virtual book launch, he recalled his own graduation years when people were skeptical of those pursuing law. The result, he said, was that a law degree “was often considered a degree of last resort”.

“I remember there was once a time when although it was very easy to obtain a law degree it was extremely challenging to have a livelihood out of the same. During my graduation, people would ask: ‘Why are you studying law? Did you not get any employment elsewhere? Do you not want to get married?’ For a first-generation lawyer, a sustainable practice in the courts was a dream which was rarely realized. Therefore, it was often considered as a degree of last resort”, the CJI said.

“Speaking from personal experience, due to lack of resources, most of us learnt while practicing,” said during the launch of a coffee table book published by the Society of Indian Law Firms.

The CJI said: “I am not sure if the present-day reality is any different… the truth is that there still exists inequity in opportunities for lawyers.”

He said law firms provide economic mobility for first-generation law graduates who otherwise would have struggled within the system of litigation practice. “Moreover, the lucrative pay package that is being offered by law firms have incentivized pursuing law as a career”.

Stressing the need to address questions of lack of diversity in the firms, he said at present the major firms only go to Tier-1 cities and select universities for recruitment.

“In this process, many young talented lawyers, despite their interest and willingness, are left out of the process. There are diamonds in the rough everywhere”, he said urging the firms “to take up initiatives to ensure inclusivity and realize the full potential of our human resources”.

He also asked them to “focus on retaining more women lawyers by incorporating necessary institutional changes”.
Diversity brings wide-ranging opinions to the table and “a diverse team can provide more equitable and holistic solutions”, the CJI said adding that “some of the best lawyers in our countries legal history have been from small towns and villages”.

The CJI said that ever since the economic liberalisation, the growth of Indian legal landscape has been in synchronization with the country’s macro-economic growth.

Underlining the role played by the law firms in this process, he said “while laws and regulations are the backbone of an economy, a well-functioning legal services sector ensures that they are properly implemented. The (law) firms across India are constantly advising and assisting several investors and business houses to comply with the extensive and complex regulatory mechanism. Such commitment to regulatory framework not only saves the clients from unnecessary legal costs and minimises the risk in transactions. After all prevention is better than cure”.

The CJI also said law firms should “pay particular attention to…the impact of ethics in their practice”.

“We all are custodians of a very rich tradition. We must pursue our chosen path with utmost integrity…The future of the legal profession in this country is dependent on the change in our attitudes. It is high time for us to widen our horizon and create an inclusive, fair, competitive platform for our young graduates”, he said.

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