Law forms one of the most important social institution of our life. The law is important for a society for it serves as a norm of conduct for citizens. In the absence of law, we would go from liberty to rugged individualism and there will be a complete state of anarchy. The basic pillars of a true democratic State finds its origin in the ‘rule of law’. Law and its practice is a professional responsibility. The legal profession may be described as vocation that is based on expertise in the law and in its applications. The profession has been in existence ever since law was instituted and accepted as a governing force for all sorts of human conduct. The legal profession contributes greatly in the administration of Justice and is also regarded as one of the noblest profession.
History of Legal Profession
The history of the legal profession in India can be traced back to the establishment of first British Court in Bombay in the year 1672 by the Governor Gerald Aungier. The function of admission of attorneys was entrusted to the Governor-in-Council and not with the Courts. The Legal Practitioner Act of 1846 was first significant Act governing the legal profession in pre-constitutional era under the British rule, this Act was also regarded as ‘first charter of the legal profession’.
The enactment of Legal Practitioners Act in the year 1879 brought all six grades of the profession, namely, Advocates, Attorneys (solicitors), Vakils of High Court, Pleaders, Mukhtars and Revenue Agents into one system under the jurisdiction of the High Court. The Act formed the chief legislative governance of Legal Practitioners in the subordinate Courts in the country until the Advocates Act, 1961 was enacted.
Legal Profession in India
Legal profession is regarded as one of the most challenging profession amongst others, Indian legal profession forms a major part of the legal fraternity across the globe. It is not only necessary for the Judges to be independent and impartial in order to better meet the ends of Justice but at the same time it is equally important to ensure that a legal profession is also free from all sorts of factors which may tend to bias the profession. Legal Profession in India is governed by Advocates Act, 1961 and the rules and regulations made by the Bar Council of India from time to time in this regard to govern the activities and conducts of those associated with the profession. Although it is difficult to generalize the structure of profession, in Indian context Legal Profession is occupied by individual lawyers, in-house-lawyers and law firms.
Changing face of Legal Profession
The practices of Legal Profession has changed drastically over couple of decades. The law being dynamic in nature has witnessed certain developments after the 90’s in the fields of Environment Laws, Competition Laws, Corporate Governance, Goods and Services Tax, Sports Laws etc. and so has changed the role of legal professionals. The legal profession today is dominated by practicing lawyers but one cannot overlook the growing role of law firms in providing legal services. The law firms which are more technologically advanced in comparison to lawyers claim to be more reliable, cost efficient and serves as a one stop centre to provide solutions to the problems of their clients. However, the foreseeable future of the practicing lawyers does not seem to eliminate their role in the coming future as nothing can or will replace human intellect and discretion in providing legal advice. The only challenge that awaits the fate of these lawyers is a gradual shift from traditional litigation to the adaptation of modes of Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR). As far as the in-house lawyers are concerned, their role is confined to give legal advice sitting within the legal department of large organisations. The organizations heavily rely on their legal department therefore, it is work of a prudent in-house lawyer to anticipate future and provide its organisation a strong footing in the near future.
Liberalization and Legal Profession
Indian economy had experienced major policy changes in the early 1990s where new economic reform, popularly known as LPG model (Liberalization, Privatisation and Globalization) was introduced. Subsequently, India became signatory of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in 1995. These rules govern the conduct of world trade in services and cover 12 core service sectors, including legal service sector within its scope. On the other hand, the regulatory body of the profession, Bar Council of India opposes the liberalisation of its domestic market to allow foreign firms to operate in India. The Advocate Act, 1961 itself contains restrictive provisions in its Section 29, which states that only “advocates” are entitled to practice law in India and to be an advocate, one must also be a citizen of Indian. Apart from this, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in its judgement has held that foreign law firms and lawyers cannot practise in the country, even as it allowed “casual visits” by foreign lawyers on a “fly in and fly out” basis for rendering legal advice to clients in India. One of the criticism to this that has developed is that this close community of profession is an unjustifiable monopoly with restrictive and anti-competitive practices. This closed community of profession not only deprives the clients of sufficient choices but also acts as a bar for the prospects of growth and development for the existing firms.
It seems as if there exist some social contract that empowers certain skilled and knowledgeable people to carry out some specific works of human life. These trusted advisers play an important role in the system by smoothing out difficulties and making possible the peaceful life of men in a peaceful society. The Law has a tendency to change with the changing needs of the society, but now it is the time that we may witness some serious reforms in the legal profession. The fate of Legal Profession lies in the hands of policy makers and regulatory bodies of the profession. Irrespective of whatever might the future behold for the Legal Profession in our country, the dominant objective of the profession shall continue to be to serve humanity and justice. I only portray mere possibilities of near future which may or may not take course but the future of Legal Services is waiting to unfold to forge new paths of our most important social institution.
- Susskind Richard, TOMORROW”S LAWYERS, Oxford University Press, 2013
Harshit Sharma, Student Editor at Legal Desire