It is said that the profession of law is most noble of all, this profession occupies a unique position in all the civilized societies, it is carried out in diverse forms, for instance, some opt for litigation in courtrooms, few lawyers join some law firms, some get placed in Public Sector Undertakings (“PSU”), and others prepare for judicial service examinations after graduation. Every year around 60,000 to 70,000 law students graduate in India join legal profession. The most unique of all these professions is the courtroom practice and the reason the authors say this is not because of any bias against other legal career options but, as young litigants and that too being first generation lawyers, we have observed and this might be the observation of our other fellow lawyers as well, that there are lot of hustles in setting up an independent courtroom practice for a first-generation lawyer. Plight of first-generation lawyers has been highlighted many times but it has never been discussed in detail.
Every independent practitioner aspires to excel in this field. With such aspirations many come from small towns / districts / villages / cities and dream to establish their work, set their foot tight in the legal field and with such aspirations they work in the High Courts of their respective states and some even travel to New Delhi with an aspiration to set up their practice in the highest court of the country i.e. the Supreme Court of India. However, setting up an independent practice demands perseverance, consistency and determination but practically financial assistance in the initial years is of utmost importance. Recently, this issue gained the attention of the entire nation when the Kerala Government announced financial assistance to the young members of the State’s Bar Council, this move of the government was welcomed by young Advocates. During lockdown imposed on account of Covid-19, courts were working, online this impacted the lives of most of the young Advocates since, most of them did not have sound practice and were deprived of the finances, due to which, many left the profession and many even went through the mental distress. Young members of the Bar are considered as the future of the Bar and henceforth, their well-being should be considered on the priority basis. Because, the standard of the bar will remain good only if steps are taken with regards to sustaining these young Advocates in the courtroom practice since, with the evolution of society good practitioners will be the need of the hour for both the Bar as well as the Bench.
In India, setting up independent practice is one of the difficult tasks and there are many reasons to derive at this observation.
Lack of Welfare Committee:-
There is absence of welfare committee to consider the problems faced by the young advocates in the initial years of practice. In UK, the General Bar Council has set up a committee especially for the ones whose years of experience in the bar is less than 7. The committee looks after the financial assistance and even supports in case of any mental health issue faced by the young members of the bar. In India, the absence of such committee makes it difficult for the young advocates to be consistent and go on for the long run in litigation.
Minimum Financial Assistance: Need of the hour:-
Recently, this initiative has been started by the government of Kerala. In the author’s view there should be minimum threshold for the financial assistance to the young advocates so that the bar can make the good quality young advocates stay and try to set up the independent practice. Many times the members of the Judiciary have also pointed out the need for providing financial assistance to the young members of the Bar, for instance, recently, Chief Justice of India, Dr. DY Chandrachud expressed the need for providing financial assistance to the young members of the Bar, however, no heed on this issue has been paid till date. Lack of any provision with regard to this by the Bar Council of India makes it difficult for the young advocates to stay in this profession. Every, state has its own Bar Council, which regulated by the Bar Council of India. Now, since, the bar council of India has never paid heed to this problem it is on that account that this issue has always remained to be optional by the state bar councils.
Inefficient legal system:
For the Advocates their source of bread and butter is their clientele, relationship of a lawyer and a client is that of agency nature. A lawyer is the officer of the court who represents his client and do the pleadings on his behalf as per the instructions received from the client. In practical sense, the most usual practice adopted by the clients is that they mostly, prefer senior advocates with years of experience which by the way is the general human tendency because we humans in case of any disease prefer doctors with years of experience. But, the point which needs to be highlighted is that many of the young lawyers with good qualifications and having good competency come from different parts of the country to establish their practice in big metropolitan cities and after many hustle some of them manage to secure the client and plead their case in the court of law. However, we young Advocates sometimes become the victims of the inefficient legal system of the nation. Over the years, the entire nation has witnessed that there is huge pendency of the cases in India. As per the data provided by the National Judicial Data Grid 2149022 Civil cases and 6106931 criminal cases are pending in the courts of India from the last 5 years. The most basic problem which is the root cause of the pendency of the case is the problem of dates. The authors do not intend to pass any adverse comments on the judges but, sometimes it has been witnessed that some members of the judicial fraternity become inconsiderate to the situation faced by the person who is the member of the bar. In India, the advocates are bound to abide by the standards of professional code of conduct and etiquettes laid down under Section 7(1)(b) of the Advocates Act, 1961. The Bar Council of India is also empowered to make rules for the standard of professional ethics under section 49(1)(c) that needs to be abided by the advocates practicing in India. Like advocates are bounded by the standards of the professional conduct laid down by the Bar Council of India, judges though the code of conduct is not expressly provided for the judges but there is some implied ethic which, not explicitly provided anywhere, but needs to be followed for the effective working of the legal system. Justice SH Kapadia, Former Chief Justice of India once said “When we talk of ethics, the judges normally comment upon ethic among politicians, students and professors & others. But I would say that for a judge too, ethics, not only constitutional morality but even ethical morality, should be the base.” Now, a judge is expected to hear the matter on time but most of the time it has been seen that most matters are not disposed timely on account of ineffective working of some members of the judicial fraternity. As discussed above, the basic source of income for any lawyer is his clientele and first generation lawyer after many hustles get success in securing the client but this situation is sometimes get neglected by the members of the judicial fraternity and the clients being the laymen do not understand why his case is not being heard timely. There is a constant pressure from the clients that a lawyer faces on a daily basis, to get the relief for their clients first, a lawyer prepares himself with all the necessary facts and the laws applied in the case of their clients and get themselves ready to argue the case. Now, since, there are huge number of cases listed every day in the courts, lawyers wait in the line of other fellow lawyers for their cases to be taken up for arguments between 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM (general timings of the court in India) so that the client’s case can be heard from his perspective through his counsel. However, sometimes the case does not get heard on the date of hearing on account of paucity of time or due to some other reasons because of which the hearing gets delayed and the clients being the layman and having no idea about the situation of the lawyer loses faith in the counsel and the young counsels suffer a lot from this problem since, after a lot of wait they get their clients and it is mostly because of this problem that they lose their clients and therefore, fail to establish their practice and hence, with shattered dreams they then step out of this profession.
Many a times the issue of increasing the standard of the All India Bar Examinations have been brought into highlights, but the main question is even if the standard is raised will it serve the purpose? If increase in the difficulty level of the exam will ensure the entrance of good quality young advocates, then what is the surety that these advocates will stay long in the litigation without the guarantee of fulfilling the minimum needs? Now, with the evolution of society the quality advocacy is the need of the hour. Competent and learned people are prioritizing litigation now, but some of them leave this profession because of the lack of fulfilment of minimum needs. So, increasing the difficulty level of the Bar exam won’t suffice. First and foremost, suggestion would be that, a committee should be established to look after the problems of the young members of the Bar. The concept can be adopted from United Kingdom, as discussed in the preceding paragraphs, The General Bar Council of United Kingdoms has set up a committee namely, Young Barristers’ Committee especially for the members of the bar whose years of practice is 7 years or less than 7 years. In India there is no such committee, therefore, establishing such committee would be a great step towards the welfare of the young litigants. Secondly, there should be minimum financial assistance provided to the young advocates, threshold can be fixed by the State Bar Councils considering the local conditions of the respective states or it can be fixed by the Bar Council of India.
In the present scenario it has been witnessed among the members of the legal fraternity that the tendency of courtroom practice is decreasing in the upcoming generation which is a issue of concern. The Young Advocates will define the standard of practice in India, therefore, it is of utmost importance that adequate steps are taken either by the Judiciary or by the Bar Council of India or by the Government.
Authors are currently practising in Allahabad High Court, Lucknow Bench