Author of this article is a practicing advocate at High Court of Judicature at Allahabad, Lucknow
The legal profession is a very serious and challenging profession. It is a noble calling and all those who belong to this profession are its hon’ble members. Its notability has to be preserved and promoted. An institution can’t survive on its name or its past glory alone. The glory and greatness of an institution depend on its continuous meaningful performance, with grace and dignity. The profession of law, being a noble and hon’ble one, has to continue its meaningful tasks and retain its sense of purpose.
I would like to draw your kind attention towards some difficulties and hurdles lawyers face in serving the court and society.
We often see that a judge takes unnecessary actions, such as ‘dismissal on default’ even for a small cause. They do not consider the drastic effect this has on a petitioner’s/litigant’s life. By doing this type of work, they themselves violate the landmark judgment of the hon’ble Supreme Court of India, which came in the case of “Mohan Lal vs Union of India“, in which the hon’ble Supreme Court observed, “It is a well-accepted and settled principle that a court must discharge its statutory functions whether discretionary or obligatory according to law in dispensing justice because it is the duty of a court not only to do justice, but also to ensure that justice has been done.”
There are other hurdles like kharcha and bakshish (a small fee for rendering some small service). In India, especially in trial courts, this tradition is very prevalent. If this is demanded from a client, then it is tolerable to some extent. But when this demand knocks the door of an advocate then it becomes intolerable.
Another difficulty for lawyers is the atmosphere of the courtroom. The present atmosphere of the court reminds one of the British colonial period. You have to lower your head while entering and leaving the courtroom. In this regard, my view is that the masses will respect the court and judicial system naturally if they were convinced of receiving genuine justice. Justice means justice and not the speedy disposal of cases. I think we don’t have to go by the number of cases disposed of in a month, but rather look towards an effective, efficient and transparent judicial process whereby people could get swift and sure justice.
There is also the problem of wrongly interpreting laws, especially by bureaucrats of sub-ordinate civil services. There are various examples of violation of the basic and most important concept of ‘res judicata’ by giving the excuse that since the Supreme Court can reverse their orders or judgments in the same case, then why not these people. This is done without knowing that only a higher bench of the hon’ble Supreme Court can change the judgment.
Now let us discuss the main challenges that the young lawyers face almost every day.
Learning the law and working very hard would not be enough to become a partner. You have to attract clients. Being a hardworking good lawyer without your own clients’ means you have almost no chances of becoming a partner. This is one of the main concerns of the young lawyers. You can be really talented and hardworking but unless you have not also developed as entrepreneurs and figured out how to attract and retain clients your future is compromised in private practice.
Let us agree that after all law firms are businesses and each attorney in it must contribute to finding and keeping clients. Of course, this is especially true in larger urban centers where it is more competitive. It is obviously much easier in smaller communities where there is a growing shortage of lawyers and an increasing number of clients.
Being an introvert
Now let us talk about the biggest challenge for so many younger lawyers. The type of person attracted to study law often lacks the characteristics needed to be a success in business.
It is known that lawyers are typically very academically oriented. Unlike the stereotype found on TV shows most lawyers can read copious amounts of material, analyze it and do well on exams. For many young lawyers joining community groups, working a room at a social event, speaking at a public gathering, making cold calls and marketing can be a very hard task.
Business side of practicing law
After the above mentioned rises a question: how can young professionals overcome this hurdle and develop a client base? Young lawyers need to understand the business side of practicing law. This is the first and the most important thing to do. It is a must for them to be able to understand the economics of over-head, the cost of accounts receivables, payroll expenses and a host of other business decisions.
No support from senior lawyers
Usually, most young lawyers starting out often do not even know where to begin the process of finding clients. Who are the ones that should help them out? Of course, the senior lawyers are. So the obvious place for young lawyers to learn is from more senior lawyers who can take them along to client meetings. They can advise how the partner’s practice developed and act as a mentor to help the younger lawyers get started. Sadly, this happens very rarely.
Normally, most senior lawyers are too busy to do more than answer file questions. They consider mentoring as taking away precious billable time from their own practice. And, yes, established practitioners often guard their hard-won clients closely. They do not want the client to develop an independent relationship with the junior lawyer (in case, future work starts flowing to the junior).
Your gender counts
Sadly up till now, there are particular challenges for young women lawyers who must find clients in what is still a largely male business world. Being a skilled lawyer, working hard and giving excellent client service may not be enough for a young woman lawyer to create a sustainable practice. Again and again, the key for many young female lawyers is to work with others who can give advice or support.
Young lawyers development
Of course, attorneys in all stages of their careers face these challenges. Newly qualified attorneys entering the field must differentiate themselves from others in the market. The young lawyers need to develop traits that set them apart from their peers. When first entering a profession all of the above mentioned may not be as easy as it can seem.
Another problem is that the younger generation already has less of a learning curve when it comes to technology. So this challenge will be about finding the best ways to use new technology to their advantage.
It is a great idea for younger lawyers to form peer support groups either inside or outside the firm. They can meet there regularly to support each other and exchange ideas. And yes these groups need not be all lawyers. The main point of this is not struggling with this on your own if your personality or your workload gets in the way of reaching out to potential clients.
Lastly, I would like to say that there are many difficulties for a lawyer in serving the courts and society. I hope this country could come towards a concrete conclusion regarding the above-mentioned hurdles.
These above-mentioned views are not in contempt of the judicial system. They are only to eradicate the evils of our great and noble Indian judicial system. If anyone has any disagreement with the above-noted views, I am open to hearing out their arguments.