THE MYRIAD HABITATS OF TODAY’S LAWYERS
Courts, where you normally spot the black-robed lawyer, is just one of the many habitats of a lawyer. Here is another way to look at it: black-robed lawyers work in courts; more colourful lawyers have a spectrum of options.
The Air-Conditioned Offices
A law firm, is a group of lawyers, which practices law, unsurprisingly, as a group. This brings in all the advantages a company brings: the risks are divided, the transaction costs are reduced and the people get paid regularly.
The largest and the best law firms in India viz. Amarchand & Mangaldas (AMSS), AZB, Khaitan and Co, Luthra and Luthra, Jyoti Sagar Associates (JSA) and Trilegal pay in excess of rupees 10 lakh per annum. They have their offices in the plushest locations of the biggest metros and provide you with the most corporate, high-end life style you can imagine.
Private companies and banks; Wipro, Google, DLF, Jhonson and Jhonson, ICICI, Bajaj and all others too need lawyers for their in-house legal teams. The salaries they pay are comparable to what law firms pay.
Legal Process Outsourcing companies or LPOs too have emerged as a safe, well paying, though slightly low bracket, career option. However still, LPOs, in terms of the work they make you do and the salaries they pay, do way much better than their BPO counterparts.
Pangea3, one of the biggest LPOs with head-quarters in Mumbai and New York, gives as much as rupees 6 lakhs per annum. Other top LPOs pay around rupees 20-30 thousand per month.
Most of the lawyers working in law firms, companies and in LPOs never ever see the inside of a court room! Which means colourful clothes!
The Sweaty Fields
So who wears the black robes? And who argues before courts? A Litigator does. And they swear by the sheer thrill of this practice. They argue (well, they always argue) that this is the pure practice of law. Two litigators, arguing for their clients, before a judge, in a courtroom. This is litigation and this is what Sunny Deol and other people we see on TV do.
And in litigation, sky is not the limit, time is. Senior counsels in the Supreme Court, the likes of Harish Salve, Ram Jethamalani, Mukul Rohatgi and their ilk can charge as much as rupees 5 lakhs for one appearance. One appearance literally can mean showing up before a judge and speaking out a sentence.
Let’s discuss other options too. If you are socially conscientious, human rights lawyering will be your cup of tea.
Non-governmental organisations such as Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), Alternative Law Forum (ALF), Lawyers Collective, PUCL (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), RLEK (Rural Litigation Entitlement Kendra) have all done pioneering work in this field of law.
Consider a jail inmate who has been imprisoned since 2 years despite no fault of his. Think of him, his dreams and his family. Now think of liberating him, reigniting his dreams and re-uniting him with his family. These are pleasant goose-bumps and you’ll have a lot of these if you work for such organisations.
Thinkers and Writers
Research organisations and Think Tanks too need lawyers who excel in legal research, analysis and writing.
Let’s say that a new bill which curbs the rights of bloggers is to be introduced in the Parliament. Generally, the government calls for comments and suggestions from the civil society. This is one of the situations where a research organisation can play a significant role.
By pointing out flaws in the bill, suggestions for remedying those, a good research organisation can play a vital role in how a country is being governed. Center for Civil Society (CCS), PRS Legislative Research, Center for Internet and Society (CIS) are some the research organisations which recruit law graduates.
Legal Academia, or teaching law too can make for a great career option. The 14 NLUs (National Law Universities) all crave for good legal educators.
The emergence of good private law schools such as the Jindal Global Law School (JGLS), Symbiosis Law School in Pune and Noida and MATS Law School in Raipur has pushed the salary brackets higher too.
For those interested in writing, legal journalism has sprung up a whole new career path. Lawctopus, LegallyIndia and Bar and Bench are some of the websites dealing exclusively with online legal journalism. Most national newspapers too have a legal beat.
Only journalists from law background are allowed to report from the courts — so they have an edge over their peers from mass communication.
The Civil Services and the Judicial Services always remain a highly prestigious option for a law graduate.
International bodies like the UN and its functionaries too need men and women with legal acumen and there are people who have gone there from the top NLUs.
And finally, if you read about the stories of Sachin Malhan (NLSIU grad) and LST, Tanuj Kalia (NUJS grad) and Lawctopus, Ankur Singla (NLSIU grad) and Akosha, you will realise that entrepreneurship in the legal field too is on the rise.
So, the black robe donning litigator who argues before a court-room is just one type of a lawyer. Law as a career option has to offer that and much much more. It has something for everyone.
As a science enthusiast you may want to pursue patents law and help other scientists get a patent over their inventions. A tech-oriented youngster would love cyber law and those with a passion for environment related issues will find environmental law as their cup of tea.
If you like to settle disputes and not argue, mediation and arbitration will suit you to the hilt. Law and economics too has boundless scope and so does law and psychology.