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The Indian Legal Profession in Evolution

by Kamal Wadhwa - India

(for any comments, please contact Brian Risman, Publisher of The Law Journal UK)

The legal profession in India is in the throes of change today; the onset of liberalization and globalisation of the Indian economy and culture has left it no other choice. It has to sink or survive what with the anticipation of foreign lawyers soon being allowed to practice in the hallowed precincts of Indian courts.
By all counts, the Bar and the Bench that were established with such socialistic ardour and ideals, are beginning to become unwieldy with cumbersome court procedures, belated and repeated adjournments and the threat of loss of clientele as a result. Perhaps it is too soon to sound the death knell of the grand edifice of Indian law, especially with its lasting linkages with the British Raj and English law that have continued to fascinate young Indians even to this day.
Yet ideals must yield to expediency when the economic basis to hold aloft those ideals cannot be maintained in any tenable form. Legal education today is very expensive and drawn out and, as a result, creates great expectations among the hordes of LLBs who graduate and join the legal system every year, but with no ready or willing chambers to take them in. Nor do any other worthwhile prospects exist for them except perhaps to take up jobs as paid executives or salaried counsel. As a baneful consequence of this limited space for legal professionals, the vast majority of newly-graduated lawyers must find alternative avenues of employment outside their professional expertise.
This development is a singular tragedy for the Indian republic and its legal and educational systems because no proper planning was undertaken to meet such disastrous contingencies. Therefore, it is not surprising that a whole generation of disreputable "street lawyers" has developed as a consequence who poke their noses into every human activity outside the courts in the name of safeguarding the public interest.
Needy lawyers are unwelcome in the legal profession; so are excessively privileged ones. What the legal system lacks is a core of competent professionals with modest monetary ambitions who can do the daily, methodical and mundane work of the courts without having to resort to deceit and skulduggery to earn their fees.
Democracy cannot survive without law and lawyers. Hence it is a continuing and tragic malaise of Indian democracy that those who need legal services the most do not have ready access to them. Not because clients do not have the means to pay but simply because they cannot find honest and dedicated lawyers to take up their briefs. 
In the newer dispensation of post-reform India, there are no freebies available; neither is there free time! All are pushed into making a living without any pretensions to nobility or grandeur. There is real sanity here; not the vanity of a bygone era when legal heavyweights slugged it out in the courts with fancy language and fancier arguments - all the while forgetting the poor client whose cause was lost in the din and drama enacted before the court gallery.
In the new regime of law imposed by economic exigency, the legal system needs to train a body of "paralegals", who with merely a two-year diploma in Law, can solve many of the immediate and pressing problems facing ordinary clients -- without having to take recourse to the older procedures and formalities of the law that cost clients so much time and money without yielding anything substantive in return.
Note about author:
Kamal Wadhwa is a graduate of the University of Chicago and former Assistant Editor of Lex et Juris - The Law Magazine. He had originally planned on a career with the World Bank but chose an alternate career in journalism and freelance writing. He has spent fifteen years in Iran and one in Ethiopia. His articles, poems and book reviews have been published in leading Indian periodicals and in some abroad.


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