The legal profession has had its own transformations. There was a dramatic
change in the nature of disputes before the courts as society had moved on to a
new mode of production which created and defined new social relations. there was
also a broadening of public consciousness at various levels primarily because of
the public concern that a global society which is the newer liberal society
might overdo in pursuit of capital and it is a civil society's responsibility to
exert control over global forces.
For example, the rise of environmental and
constitutional consciousness and the increasing awareness and invocation of
public rights are all sound examples. In the wake of these transformations,
lawyers reorganize their knowledge and skills. There was a spirit of renewal and
reorganization which enabled them to steer the legal profession through these
The globalization of the legal profession has changed not only its
institutional framework but also its patterns of function. The profession today
is highly dynamic, requiring up skilling and mastery over new areas of law. This
has prompted law schools also to understand the needs of the profession and
redefine their academic curriculum and pedagogy.
The legal profession's
collective response to globalization has to be seen in its totality for a better
understanding and appreciation of its role and functions. These changes were
triggered by the liberalization of the Indian economy in response to global
demands which was a political step.
If we step back to 1991 then we can see the initial response of the legal
profession to these changes and how the professional reorganization started. It
was essentially a time when we have the concept of litigating lawyers going to
court every day and arguing matters. With the liberalization and the inward flow
of funds a whole new branch of laws had opened up and that is when the real
corporate practice in India started. So, some firms realized this opportunity
for a whole new practice of laws not that it did not exist before but it was
very restricted and very limited.
After globalization there was a whole vast
scope of how do you structure investments in India, how do you navigate Indian
laws, what are the regulatory issues, etc. So, that was the first change that a
whole new perspective was going to be required. The acquisition of that
knowledge became quite important at that stage and many firms worked together
with the foreign law firms as a support role initially till they became
competent in their own right to handle the deals or you got people who were
working overseas decided to come back and work.
So, they brought that knowledge
of how the global world runs and what these deals meant, and the needs of
clients. That era started with chartered accountants solving corporate and legal
issues and slowly they realized that they need lawyers rather than just chatted
accountants for legal issues.
The second evolution happened when sole proprietorships became partnership firms
or companies. the concept of the growth of a firm started in 1991. As the size
of the firms increased, people realized that they needed to do different things
with the aspirations of the people inside the firm. So, then the focus started
happening on the governance of the firms and the challenges that firms met as
they grew larger and it said that with every hundred people that you add to any
organization you need a new set of rules or you need to review the existing
That was a whole phase two when firms started specializations, started
having a better depth of knowledge of privatization, more partners were brought
into the firm. The third phase of growth happened when some mergers and
amalgamations happened within the firms themselves and talent became more mobile
than it was ever.
It is a well-established reality that India has the second biggest power on the
planet accessible to it with regard to qualified legal professionals. The
Advocates Act, 1961 specifies the lawful manner which should be followed by
lawyers. They must follow the rules of the Bar Council of India as well. In more
recent times one big phenomenon is that Indian law firms have started opening
offices overseas and the second is the adoption of technology. For example, in
the recent pandemic time, suddenly we were all working from home instead of
going to offices which is a huge change. So, the law has started to go with
technology hand to hand. In this way, the concept of growth of governance and
management of the organization of the law firms has emerged.
media has impacted the practice of law a lot. For instance, if you post on LinkedIn regularly about a specific area of law, a foreign law firm can hire you
for a work-related to that field because they know that you are a lawyer in
India in that field. So, that's the power of this whole digital media. This is a
historical and contemporary evolution of the growth of the legal profession in
As we know there has been a reorganization of the legal profession which
has happened at a macro level through the adoption of new values and goals
whereas at the micro level there has been an emphasis on redesigning the
patterns and styles of function. This obviously includes the adoption of a
governance model by inculcating a larger sense of accountability both individual
and collective professional ethics and teamwork.
Effect of globalization on the legal professionals
Globalization is the integration of different countries' economies. The effect
of globalization on legal professionals is an ongoing debatable issue. India had
signed a WTO treaty in the 1990s leading to LPG which is Liberalisation,
Privatisation, and Globalisation. Mainly India had wide economic globalization
at that time. Therefore, it was expected that the legal profession will also be
globalized under GATS which is General Agreement on Trade and Services. The
globalization of the legal profession means foreign law firms and foreign law
graduates can come to India and practice.
Thus, it was assumed that there will
be globalization in the legal profession along with economic globalization. But BCI which is the Bar Council of India passed many resolutions between the year
of 2002 to 2007 opposing the opening of the Indian legal profession to foreign
lawyers or law firms. Law commission of India in 1999, pointed out many issues
and concerns while recommending amendments to the Advocates Act,1961 to prepare
a level playing field for Indian lawyers.
For all professions, globalization had brought in various responsibilities as
professions were called upon to become part of global governance and the legal
profession was not an exception to this. The global society being post-modernist
in character, a larger level of reconstruction of society was required which
prompted legal professionals to extraordinarily reimagine the socio-political
and legal order.
For the legal profession, this era was a post-professionalism
that is a rediscovery of professional values, approaches, and indeed frameworks.
It is important to know the story of the legal profession's self-transformation
and its role in transforming the world, particularly in the context of the legal
There was a large-scale segmentation of legal functions due to the
exponential increase in the number of global deals and transactions at all
levels which demanded regulation and control. This development coincided with
the loss of exclusivity of legal professions over subject matters which were
previously within the exclusive limit and competency of legal professions.
a loss has prompted legal professionals to remark on their disciplinary and
functional perimeters which is in addition to a new inclusivity profession. At
the proverbial surface, this has manifested in the form of the rise of limited
liability partnership firms which have legal professionals with specialists and
super-specialist knowledge and skills. They offer transnational services of
global standards; their work is characterized by speed efficiency and optimal
All of which are essential for the sustenance of global society. The
ecosystem of these firms has been able to create and attract a large number of
young law graduates to become part of their function. This primarily owes to the
sense of participation in the global process and opportunities to contribute to
that process that law firms have been able to create.
Entry of foreign law firms
There is a constant inherent contradiction playing in the Indian arena. At one
level there was a strong appetite to see that opening up happening from 1991 and
at another level, there were signs of protectionism at multiple levels including
the entry of law firms into India.
There are very radical changes that have occurred within the legal profession
since the significant liberalization of the economy and what hasn't happened of
course is that there hasn't been the liberalization of legal practice within
India. The way in which international firms have looked to play a role is in two
most obvious ways- one is in relation to inbound transactions into India and
another in an outbound transaction.
In an inbound transaction, it can be a
strategic acquisition by Facebook or google or it can be a private capital
transaction from a soft bank, and then on the outbound transaction the Indian
companies doing things around the world, for instance, Tata Motors buying jaguar
land rover for example.
In both of those sorts of deals, there is often an
umbrella transaction and that umbrella agreement may be subject to English law.
So, for both the inbound and the outbound there is a role for international law
firms to advise on English law where we cannot advise on Indian law. So, that's
the way in which foreign law firms can get involved. Indian clients doing things
outside of India and International clients doing things inside of India and then
in relation to both of those aspects, the work needs to be done alongside.
The question comes into mind that in the future is whether the future of
globalization of the legal profession is going to be where geography and the
original jurisdiction in which a person has earned his or her law degree are
going to matter less and the opportunities for one to work in different
jurisdiction is going to emerge particularly in the context of international law
There is a concept of internationalization of practitioners in this
question where opportunities in a sense are on the mobility across different
sort of jurisdictions and unfortunately, it's not easier to be locally qualified
foreign lawyers. The practitioner has to go through a lot of exams to clear
those exams. Law as a profession whether it's transactional law or particularly
litigation doesn't lend itself to ease of mobility when you compare it to some
clients like investment banks. There the practitioners just chased the
opportunity whereas local qualifications are still a challenge.
One of the things that have motivated many people to enter into the law itself
was the fact that the law is the means of social change. The classic notion of
law being the pursuit of public interest is the larger focus. Corporate law
firms generally particularly in the US and in other parts of the world have used
the pro bono framework for promoting this particular aspect. Because of the
globalization of the legal profession, lawyers tend to work in multiple
jurisdictions. Here one question comes whether it has a role to diminish the
public interest in the aspect of the role of a lawyer.
There are some
observations in relation to this. The first observation is what we do day-to-day
is not about social change and the budding lawyers must have dreams that the
lawyers were about to be part of society and helping society to change in some
way. That is true to some extent but what we do whether it's dispute resolution
or banking and financing, these are about meeting client needs and so it's not
really about social change in the classic sense.
The second observation is that
the way in which we meet needs, which is a perfectly legitimate need that a
major organization should play a responsible role in the world that they do that
through various pro bono and sort of diversity initiatives within the law firm
itself and increasingly international law firms allow the people that work
within them to actually spend quite a lot of time on some projects that they may
be passionate about.
India is fascinating in this respect because we have all seen that the Supreme
Court is rather more creative in India than it is in a number of other
jurisdictions. The judges have looked to step into what they've regarded as
something of a lacuna in the governance of India and thought that if the
government is not going to step in and provide guidance rules and regulations
then the Supreme Court will do that. In 2011, in a judgment delivered by the
Bombay High Court and it was held that foreign law firms could not be permitted
to set offices in India.
Contrary to this Madras High Court, on PIL filed by A K
Balaji, permitted foreign lawyers to practice in India. The law and policy
element are something that Indian courts have grappled with a lot and many of
which has a potential bearing on the public interest. Thus, India has an
interesting melting point in that respect and probably more so than a number of
Global transformation demands newer skills and knowledge from legal professions
due to the reason that transactions and functions have become global in nature
which is a quite natural outcome of globalization and social integration. This
has brought about a new approach towards skilling up, continuing legal
education, and professional development of knowledge. The skilling methods of
the new generation when it comes to continuing legal education that happens
within a law firm should be up-to-date when it comes to creating the ecosystem
for which knowledge and learning is a continuous process and one's experience
helps them to move into the other in a seamless manner.
As far as continuing education is concerned, every single day we are having
continuing education. But now we have to understand that the ecosystem is now
moving to have roles of different other factors for example role of innovation
in how do you make your people creative.
It starts with data, when you organize
data it becomes information, when you interpret the information, it becomes
knowledge and when you add experience to knowledge it is wisdom. In the legal
profession, there is increased importance of innovation. We need to teach people
how to think creatively and how to build innovations. But the pace has to
accelerate and the whole ecosystem for creating this innovative mindset has to
The lawyers being thought leaders have to do visualization about
what law is likely to be and merely advise based on the fact that today this is
the law and advice; those days are not gone actually but they co-exist with the
thought. Because of the role of Artificial Intelligence and technology, a lot of
work that we are doing will become automated and in fact, one other thing that
law firms have to imbibe now is to put in a lot of security systems as that is
becoming a minimum standard. Thus, audit technology, client information,
security system, etc. are taking a lot of importance.
As far as the firms are concerned more and more firms will become global and
globalization is different from internationalization. Internationalization is
having offices in different places but globalization is a matter of mindset
where you'll be able to do a lot more for example, by using a simple website you
can be still global and you can reach out to the world, unlike earlier days.
the art of globalization, we will have to learn how to go to different
countries, cultural assimilation, and different laws in those countries.
Immigration restrictions are the worst form of human rights protectionism and
human rights violation because we are human and we can go anywhere in the world.
If other countries open up for different countries' lawyers it will be better at
the end of the day.