Research Foundation for Governance in India
कार्यम सर्व हिताय

Projects > Litigation in India


Litigation and the thrill of arguing in the Court is an exciting career option for any law graduate. Litigation is also one of the most demanding professions – in terms of time commitment, intellectual alertness as well as the impact it creates in the lives of the citizens. Besides, in India, it is mainly through the profession of litigation, that judges of the High Courts come to be appointed. Some of these judges also become judges at the Apex Court. Decisions of the Supreme Court have tremendous impact on the way India is governed. Our judges, with the help of judicial activism, have often changed directions of how things work in our country. Therefore, it is imperative that only the finest and most committed individuals are encouraged to enter the profession.

However, it is extremely worrying that students with good educational records but no family background in litigation scarcely join litigation as a profession.

RFGI is taking up the challenge, as one of its first initiatives, to evaluate barriers to entry to the profession of litigation in India by joining hands with various Law Schools in different parts of the country.

The ultimate aim of the project is to spread awareness so as to encourage more young legal minds to join the profession of litigation, recommend changes in the existing system and also write to relevant authorities in the country to make amends, wherever required, in the existing system.

Abstract of the paper “Governance in India: Entry Barriers to the Profession of Litigation”

Of the three pillars of a democratic Government, Judiciary plays a very prominent role in India. Decisions of the Supreme Court and the High Courts have tremendous impact on the way the country is governed.

The Bar and the Bench are inextricably linked – it is mostly from the pool of lawyers of the High Court that the judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court come to be appointed. Therefore, it becomes imperative that only the finest and the most committed individuals are encouraged to enter the profession of litigation.

Most of the young lawyers entering practice start with the stereotypical stepping stone of what is called ‘juniorship’. As they say, it helps gain experience by working with a senior and once established, can start his/her own practice. But how often is a lawyer able to explore his avenues as a junior? Does this programme lead to his development or is he/she only a person to carry the briefcase around? How many people are influential enough or well placed to get juniorship with a good senior? These are questions worth answering when one looks at the youth before they enter the Herculean profession.

In this light it would also be proper to look at the incentivization provided by the corporate field in terms of the attractive pay packages that they offer to the young lads, just out of Law School at the age of 22 or 23 years and earning more than majority of the youth in the nation. The numbers unerringly reveal a systematic emergence of students’ inclination towards jobs with corporate law firms as opposed to taking up litigation.

Secondly, the role of a godfather while starting practice as a mentor or as a platform cannot be ignored. One of the most important things is that litigation is based on legal fraternity - a tight society which resists taking any body inside that easily. Thus, people who don’t have a legal background find it difficult to make a place.

Keeping these points and issues at the background, it would become a worthwhile exercise to look at the contribution of National Law Schools to the Bar and how significant has the same been. Indeed, 17 years since law schools were established, a cursory glance at graduating batches reveals without doubt a trend wherein the majority of students, opt for a career with corporate law firms and only a few (fair to say even a handful) actually take up litigation and choose to practice advocacy.

Thus, the present paper shall try and analyze the reasons for the low level of influx from well-educated youngsters in to litigation - especially from the National Law Schools, the reasons why the same persists in the context of juniorship and lastly, what steps should be taken to encourage bright youngsters from joining litigation.

Seminar Summary > Entry Barriers to the Profession of Litigation

Research Foundation for Governance: in India (RFGI), an Ahmedabad based think-tank, organized a seminar on “Entry Barriers to the Profession of Litigation” to discuss how best to attract young bright Indian minds to the bar at GLS Auditorium in Ahmedabad on July 5, 2009.

Litigation Seminar
(Image: Dr. Madhava Menon and Hon. Chief Justice Radhakrishnan)

The event was graced by chief guests Honorable Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court, Mr. Justice Radhakrishnan and the founder of National Law School Bangalore and National Judicial Academy, Dr. Madhava Menon. The seminar included a presentation by RFGI on their survey, speeches by the chief guests, and a panel discussion with the chief guests along with Mr. Devang Nanavati – Advocate, Gujarat High Court, Mr. Sachin Malhan - Founder of Law School Tutorials, Mr. Vyapak Desai – Head of Cross Border Litigation, Nishith Desai Associates (Mumbai) and Mr. Rajshekhar Rao – Advocate, Supreme Court of India.

The event began with welcome address by the Founder Director of RFGI, Ms. Kanan Dhru, who gave a brief introduction to the Foundation and to the topic. In her address, Kanan spoke about how the organization aims to spread awareness and encourage young legal minds to join litigation by recommending changes in the existing system to ensure that the profession becomes a desirable one rather then a last choice. This was followed by a presentation by RFGI team members on the results of their survey suggesting that entry barriers do exist to the profession of litigation. The organization surveyed over 250 juniors, seniors, law students, and judges and found that while 58% of those surveyed found the practice of juniorship helpful, nearly half the juniors did not receive any compensation for their work. 74% of those surveyed did not think that bright youngsters in India end up joining litigation. Other key findings included that 92% of those surveyed believed a family background in the profession was helpful and 48% of those surveyed believed that the practice of juniorship should be institutionalized in some way. The presentation also compared the salaries of young litigators in India to those in the US and UK and found that while there is a great discrepancy between the income of young litigators and young corporate attorneys in India, no such discrepancy exists in the UK or US.

Litigation Seminar

The chief guests of the event then spoke presenting their views on entry barriers to the profession of litigation. Dr. Madhava Menon discussed the gap between legal education and practice that exists especially in the field of litigation and how law schools in India are not equipped to fill this gap. He discussed the need for other institutions including the Bar Councils and Bar Associations to create institutions that teach the specific skills necessary to become a successful litigator. He went on to discuss the need for improvements in legal education, especially for 3 year law programs, and his desire that every law school in India be a National Law School. Dr. Menon also stated that he did not believe entry barriers to the profession existed and hoped that young graduates interested in litigation would create lawyers collectives and start their own practices rather then being deterred by juniorship.

Honorable Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court, Mr. Justice Radhakrishnan then graced the stage and spoke of the importance of the judiciary not only for those involved in the legal profession, but for the entire citizenry. He discussed the necessity of encouraging young lawyers to enter the profession and spoke of an earlier suggestion he had made to create a lawyer’s training establishment that would teach the skills necessary to become a litigator that law schools are not equipped to. He also suggested having less involvement of senior lawyers in the lower courts, labor courts, and tribunal courts so as to allow the juniors more opportunities to gain experience. While he agreed that family background in the field was important in establishing one’s career as a litigator, he emphasized the role that the Bar Council, Bar Association, and entire legal fraternity could play in encouraging young lawyers. The Chief Justice also discussed the possibility of creating a system for young law students to enter the judiciary directly, rather then after years of experience as a lawyer.

Litigation Seminar

The speeches were then followed by a panel discussion intended to further the debate. Supreme Court advocate Mr. Rajshekhar Rao talked about how he did not believe entry barriers to the profession existed, as no profession is easy in the early years. He chronicled his own story and the struggles he faced as a young lawyer, but how he continued to go to court everyday because he loved the profession. Mr. Sachin Malhan, the founder of Law School Tutorials, narrated how young students often want to join corporate law, but have little knowledge of what the field actually entails. Examples were also given of young lawyers who were interested in litigation, but joined corporate law due to the incentives provided, and found themselves leaving to join litigation soon after. Mr. Vypak Desai from Nishith Desai Associates discussed the frustrations faced by litigators due to the long delays in the courts and lack of adequate infrastructure. He joked of the importance of believing in reincarnation because that is the only way many trials will be heard. Mr. Devang Nanavati also suggested that while family background in the profession may be helpful it also comes with its own burdens.

The event was only the first phase of RFGI’s efforts to improve the system of juniorship in India. The organization plans to continue its efforts through additional research and seminars and hopes to bring an end to the exploitation of juniors and improve the quality of young litigators in the Indian legal system.

Seminar: Presentation

Download the Presentation: RFGI litigation presentation.pps

Survey for Law Students

Please take the survey: Survey for Law Students

Litigation Team

Malak Bhatt – Coordinator
Jeet Bhatt – Advocate
Vidhi Bhatt – Advocate
Apoorv Shah – Second year law student, GNLU
Anisha Mehta - Student, University of Pennsylvania


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