Lawyer Career Information
What a Lawyer does
The judiciary represents the third wing of any democratic system; the other being the legislature and the executive. It is the organisation that guards the rights of an individual.
Being a lawyer isn't only about talking and debating. You have to continuously read to keep yourself up-to-date with the latest happenings the world over. Apart from legal knowledge, you should be capable of quick thinking and logical reasoning, both rounded off with a thick finishing coat of self-confidence and excellent communication skills.
If you choose law you can be a lawyer, solicitor, advocate or a legal executive. Of course a lawyer can also become a judge after years of experience.
Solicitors only prepare the paper work while an advocate represents the case before the judge. A legal executive works for a corporate firm and acts on behalf of the firm.
Apart from these activities, lawyers also vet contracts between parties, corporate or individual, advice on transfer of technology law, corporate mergers and acquisitions, oversee statutory adherence, legal compliance, etc. They handle matters related to property, insurance, taxation, contract, and so on.
There are various specialised areas you can work in:
Corporate lawyer: You'll specialise in matters such as violation of Company laws, Income Tax laws, Industrial dispute Act, Agency laws, Copyright Act, Consumer protection laws, Patent laws, etc.
Criminal Lawyer: You'll specialise in matters with legal implications under Indian Penal Code such as murder, rape, theft, dacoity, arson, abduction, burglary, etc., which are considered as serious offence.
Civil Lawyer: You'll specialise in cases involving civil damage, compensation for damage, breach of contract, insurance claims and other such civil matters. Preparing and drafting various types of deeds and contracts, lease agreements, sales agreements, rights transfer agreements, mortgages, wills and other related documents would be your area of work.
Property Lawyer: You'll deal with cases involving properties - mainly real estates. Property tax, disputes on real estates, transfer of property, leasing of property, rental laws and other related cases would be dealt by you.
Environmental Law: You will deal with air pollution, coastal areas, common law nuisance, endangered and protected species, hazardous waste and materials, impact settlements, mining reclamation, noise pollution, nuclear power. Pesticides, solid waste, underground storage takes, water pollution and wetlands.
Income Tax Lawyer: Obviously deals with taxation - wealth tax, capital gain tax, gift tax, excise duties, etc. You'll advise individuals and corporate organisations on matters relating to taxes.
International Lawyer: You'll specialise in human rights, trade and commerce, citizenship, criminal acts, etc.
Intellectual Property/Copy right/Patent lawyer: You'll deal with intellectual property laws, patent acts, copyrights and all other related matters.
Information Technology Lawyers: This is a relatively new field, which deals with cyber crimes. India is a new entrant in this field.
• In Solicitor firms specialising in Corporate Law/Criminal law/Income Tax law/Real estate law and other specialised areas of law.
• You could first practice as a junior lawyer under a senior lawyer and then become an independent corporate or criminal lawyer.
• In legal and secretarial department of a company
• In government judicial services like Central Government Legal Services and State Government legal services, Intelligent services like in CBI, etc.
• Defence services like Army Law cadres
• In management consultant firms
• In corporate auditing firms
• Notaries - they are public officers appointed by State Government to draft, authenticate and certify various types of deeds and documents
• Journalism - to write on legal matter and issues in various newspapers and law magazines
• Publishing - publishing of law books and journals is quite a big industry. You could work as editorial assistants with the publishers and then with experience become co-ordinators
• In teaching institutions you can get a job as a faculty member or as research associate. This is possible if you have a Master (LL.M) or higher degree in law
A career in law has always been sought after, very respectable and paying. Growth in your career entirely depends on your performance, which builds up your reputation. Reputation will get you clients and thus build up your career. After a few years in the session courts, you can enroll yourself in the high court with recommendation from an attorney on the rolls of the High court. Practicing in High court will bring you more money and reputation.
More and more jobs are opening up in the corporate sector as well. With Multinational companies setting up base in India in large numbers the competition is high and so are the legal issues, legal implications of corporate decisions, disputes, and claims. All this adds up to the opportunities for aspiring lawyers like you. After BPO and KPO comes LPO with bounteous opportunities for skilled lawyers.
Indian lawyers now days are doing most of the paperwork for their western counterparts - litigation support, contract review, patent writing and Para legal services. Legal process outsourcing (LPO) as it is being called, has very high growth potential, and according to latest estimates, it can fetch 79,000 jobs in India by 2015.
Abilities & Traits Required
An ability to see through the surface into the deep waters, however murky, to get at the truth is called for. As a lawyer, you need to defend your client to the hilt; provided that you are absolutely convinced your client is innocent. Further studies, ability to handle more than one case at a time and constant reading are imperative in this field.
Gift of the gab Good reasoning Analytical thinking Ability to concentrate Patience Perseverance and ability to discuss matters with all types of people Self-confidence Good communication skills Good voice Diplomatic and discreet Awareness about national and international affairs Reading habit *Pragmatic
On the educational front there are two possibilities: you can either do a five-year course after HSC or a three-year post-graduate course which is open to graduates, immaterial of their previous academic background, provided they clear the entrance examination of the institution. However, as a lawyer, you can even opt do your BSL degree (Bachelor of Socio-Legal Sciences) after completion of the five-year course.
Graduates in any field are also eligible for a two-year Masters Degree course in Labour Welfare. There are even one-year diploma options in DTL (Diploma in Taxation laws). Graduates in any streams are eligible for this course.
Note: To be eligible to practice at the Bar you ought to have completed the three or five-year courses, plus another year of internship for which you have to register with the Honorary Secretary, Bar Council of the state where you reside.
Government Law College, Mumbai, offers both, the five-year and three-year course. Each of these courses is independent from each other and is affiliated to University of Mumbai. Each has its own admission criteria.
Now let's get down to the numbers. If a soliciting firm employs you, you will begin with about Rs 15000 per month. But once you are reputed, you will rake in money by the hour.
As a junior of a senior lawyer, you can earn about Rs 35000 - 40000 per month in the beginning.
In Government jobs and Army, your starting salary will be around Rs 42000-45000 a month.
Corporate attorneys in large cities generally make good money. Depending on the size of the firm and the city, typical salaries for a first-year corporate lawyer will be between Rs 45000 to Rs. 100,000 or even more per month.
The real earning starts when you are practicing independently. There is no limit to that. A reputed lawyer earns Rs 15000-20000 or more per hour of work for a client - whether just advising or advocating.
Interview with a Lawyer
Apurva Diwanji, Lawyer
Did you always want to be a lawyer? Well, yes. My family has been in this line for almost seventy years now. I grew up around lawyers and wanted to be just like them. I was never pressurised to take up law. I guess it just happened.
So how did you go about it? After completing my BA in Economics from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, I went on to do my law degree at Cambridge University, United Kingdom. The Bar Council of India recognised the Cambridge degree. Not only did I study there for two years but I also worked in two large law firms in London for a year. It was a fantastic experience. I got a first hand experience of how a top-notch international law firms operates.
Which was your first case? Well, it was not so much a case as a series of assignments over a period of few months. It was so insignificant that I can barely remember it.
However, I do remember one of the first big cases that I handled. Although I cannot get into the specifics, I can tell you that it was the first foreign investment in a particular sector. Seeing that deal go through gave me a lot of satisfaction.
You specialise in corporate law. Tell us what it exactly means? As a corporate lawyer, you will help companies navigate through seas of legalities related to mergers, takeovers, acquisitions, foreign direct investment, etc.
For example an Indian company may decide to obtain foreign investment. This would involve legal issues to be sorted out such as the Companies Act, foreign exchange laws, securities laws etc. You would need to look at the legal aspect of this business. You will explain to your clients as to what kinds of approvals are needed, the key regulatory issues, the various legislations, etc.
So what kind of work goes into putting a deal like this together? Clients usually have investment bankers or merchant bankers advising them on the financial aspect of a transaction. You will also have accountants to look after the tax aspects of the transaction. As a corporate lawyer you will prepare the drafts of the agreement and get the various government approvals.
You will also advise the client on the enforceability of these documents. You will have to sit through negotiations with the other side and interact with their lawyers too. So you see, it's a big team effort.
The time taken to complete a transaction depends on its facts. A smooth transaction can take two to three months. You will spend the whole day either going over lots of paperwork or communicating with your clients and their associates and advisors.
This could be over the phone, via email or over meetings. The international nature of corporate law means that at all times of the day some part of the world is open for business. Managing your time therefore becomes important.
How does one become a corporate lawyer? The law degree enables you to have a basic understanding of all the legal issues. As you grow with experience you branch out into an area that you like. Most law firms including ours recruit law students as trainees when they are in their fourth or fifth year of their law degree.
So by the time they complete their degree they have already gone through the nitty-gritty of everyday legal issues. They are therefore able to make an informed choice as to which area they wish to specialise in.
What are the qualities essential for a lawyer? A good lawyer must have a solid grounding in the basics of law. You must have good commercial sense. You must have the ability to think. And most importantly a lawyer must be honest, be prepared for hard work and have the ability to attract clients.
What does the future hold for lawyers in India? With the onset of economic liberalisation, corporate law in India has become very attractive. Areas such as international finance and project finance are very rewarding. Not only will lawyers find opportunities with law firms but also with many major corporations and financial institutions.
Increasingly, clients are looking for quality service. Very soon foreign law firms may also be allowed entry into India. Most Indian law firms are therefore bringing themselves in line with the best that the west has to offer in terms of infrastructure and technology. There is more competition these days and that has helped upgrade the quality of practice of law in India. So the future is definitely bright for young lawyers wanting to do international legal work
What is your advice to youngsters? Try to get a good senior - a mentor who can guide you and help you grow professionally. A couple of years of experience will help you decide whether you want to be a solicitor or an advocate or a counsel and which areas of law you would like to specialise in.
Your work must be very stressful indeed. How do you relax? I spend maximum amount of my leisure time with my family. That is my relaxation. I would like to take out more time to travel though.