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imageimageLegally India editor Kian Ganz will now blog regularly in The Lawyer magazine’s new blogs section about the Indian legal landscape. Here is the first post.

By far the personal question that I get asked the most by lawyers in India and abroad is: “Why India?” You might want to ask A&O, CC, Links or Freshfields or the rest of the pack the same question.

But since first blog posts traditionally commence with an introduction of the blogger, I will answer that question and while doing so I will also introduce the Indian lawyer, who will be the protagonist in most future posts I expect.

Two-and-a-half years ago after several years in the magic circle and at The Lawyer I moved to Mumbai.

Infamously India is one of the world’s few remaining jurisdictions where international corporate lawyers dream of practising though they’re not allowed to.

Perhaps because of this forbidden-fruit aspect the UK legal market was buzzing about India in a big way back then: “They’ll let us open offices there in two years”, new best friends were made, more Indian firms were pushing into London and partner poachings created international “distrust”.

And as the world’s economy threatened to head into a post-Lehman stone age India’s growth rates continued apparently unperturbed, so heading out here to start the first news-driven legal industry trade mag seemed like a great idea. So far, it’s been great fun!

Now, please allow me to introduce India and all its lawyers.

The chorus

India has “approximately” 1.2 million enrolled lawyers. On top of that “approximately” 400,000 to 500,000 Indians are studying the law with “approximately” 60,000 to 70,000 of those graduating to join the legal profession every year.

So says the Bar Council of India (BCI) but you’re forgiven for wondering whether the three-time use of “approximately” on its website suggests that India’s legal regulator does not really know exactly how many lawyers it is supposed to be regulating. And to be fair it’s a near-impossible task; some say that many lawyers hold practising certificates just for kicks, to find a fellow lawyer spouse, or so that they can dodge traffic fines/bribes when stopped by cops.

Nevertheless, even if only ballpark, the number of lawyers is growing roughly twice as quickly as India’s population, which suggests that India will soon become the world’s largest home of lawyers, eclipsing even the US where 1,201,968 lawyers plied their profession in 2010, according to the American Bar Association.

Exciting, right? Well yes, sort of. The legal process outsourcing (LPO) outfits love it (yes, those same LPOs that are said to be taking away all those jobs from young US and UK lawyers).

The international law firms too say they love it (great “talent pools”/recruitment grounds, established common-law system, and feeling less alone when over on a visit).

And Indian lawyers love it too – in terms of sheer numbers as well as clout, they’re pretty big in India (seemingly every other big politician is a lawyer of some sort).

But at the same time this huge population of lawyers is one of the reasons why India has one of the slowest justice systems in the world: 4.24 million cases are pending in India’s court, of which more than 50,000 are before India’s Supreme Court. More on that can of worms in a future post.

It is also a reason why reform of any kind in the legal sector is terribly difficult to achieve: the 1961 Advocates Act that governs lawyers has been nearly untouched and regulation has barely been updated since then, although a few years ago lawyers were unofficially given the go-ahead to have very basic websites.

A side-effect is that foreign legal diplomats lobbying for legal market liberalisation have been banging their heads against walls in frustration for years now and may very well continue doing so.

Cream of crop

By contrast the number of corporate lawyers in India is tiny – so tiny in fact that the average Indian has never heard of such a thing as a corporate lawyer who works in a shiny office earning a big salary, rather than touting around outside of court in a black gown.

Rough estimates from market observers or back-of-envelope calculations would suggest that there are between 5,000 to 10,000 such transactional, corporate or in-house lawyers in India, and that is a very charitable guess.

There are five large national law firms of more than around 200 lawyers. Then, very roughly, there are around 30 to 50 mid-size law firms with more than 20 lawyers. Plus potentially hundreds of uncharted smaller sole proprietorships or self-styled law firms in the large cities or scattered around India’s second cities, although no one has a very good idea about those.

Oh, and every week there is at least one new start-up law firm, which is fun. Most often these are made up of associates or partners from a bunch of big firms who want to make it big or are tired of being treated as too small in their old firms. Or some just feel like having an adventure.

It’s a wrap

To exhume the old cliché, India is a land of contradictions. I hope to delve into some of the more interesting ones in future posts and try to give a no-nonsense on-the-ground perspective.

But for now, I would really, really love to hear your feedback, particularly on what you would like to read about in this space in future. Please find me at http://www.LegallyIndia.com or contact me here or send me a Tweet @legallyindia

Next post (most probably, barring unforeseen topics popping up): How India’s average lawyer gets by on only $1.4m

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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Canary wharf 2011-10-21 00:30
When can we expect the next post (barring force majeure)?
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 kianganz 2011-10-21 03:07
Hello Canary, next post almost done, expecting it to be up in a week or two...

Do let me know anytime if there is anything in particular you'd enjoy reading about.

Kian
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Mohit Singh 2011-10-21 03:33
Congratulations Kian!
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 ramanuj 2011-10-21 12:57
superb - one of the most enjoyable posts i have ever read here.
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Good read 2011-10-21 13:12
Really enjoyed reading this post Kian!! Way to go!!
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Recommend! +1 Objection! -0 kianganz 2011-10-21 13:27
Thanks for your feedback and glad you are enjoying. I hope that future posts will be interesting too!

Do let me have suggestions for blog topics in the comments or by email.

Cheers
Kian
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Vinay Dwarkadas 2011-10-21 14:47
Dear Kian

Very well written.

Vinay D. Dwarkadas
General Counsel
Gadhia Solar Energy Systems Pvt. Ltd, Mumbai
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Recommend! +1 Objection! -0 slaw 2011-10-21 17:20
Thanks for this, Kian. As an Indian lawyer, it was nothing I didnt already know but it was very well written and was interesting to read.
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Sudheer Reddy 2011-10-21 18:54
Kian thank you for nice post....
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Recommend! +2 Objection! -0 Kiran 2011-10-21 22:14
Great post, Kian. And, congratulations on the new blogging venture! I would personally be interested in reading a little bit more about you. For all those aspiring lawyers trained abroad and dream to come back to homeland and practice in India, your insights on the US/UK to India transition would be helpful. More interestingly, it would be nice to have a few blog posts on the culture of foreign-returned Indian lawyers in India, how they are accepted (or not) in the Indian legal sector (litigation/in house/corporate), how they leverage on their foreign experiences to make it in India etc.

What will also be helpful is a blog post or two about the recruitment process itself. How easy (or hard) is it for Indian lawyers going abroad and working for a few years in US/UK to come back to India? Where should they start their job searches? Do litigation lawyers have better luck returning, as compared to those who do croporate work, or is it vice versa? How are the salary structures for mid-level foreign-trained associates moving back to India? etc.

I asked for this in the past whenever there are posts on LI about starting salaries in Indian corporate firms, but it will also be helpful for those that are thinking about lateral-ing to other firms to get an idea of starting salaries for mid-level to senior-associates at law firms. What would be interesting is for LI to do some anectodal research on how these lateral transplants fare at their new firms.

So, there you go, you have enough material for the next couple of months, lol.. good luck though, you are an awesome writer and you provide a great service for all of us out here.
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Recommend! +1 Objection! -0 kianganz 2011-10-22 11:34
Thanks for everyone's feedback and kind words!

Kiran, your suggestions look great, will put those on the list.

In terms of starting salaries at the mid level we'll finally have a bit of a surprise for you in a bit - just waiting for one thing to fall into place and we can publish something useful on this.

Best wishes,
Kian
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Legal Dodo 2011-10-21 22:14
Great post, Kian. Congrats! I suggest you name your blog "Kian ka Gyan."

Forget the number of lawyers, the Bar Council of India perhaps does not even know how many law colleges are accredited to it!!

The title of your next post - "How India’s average lawyer gets by on only $1.4m" left me a little confused.

What does "$1.4m" mean? You certainly did not mean $1.4 million a year, did you?
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Recommend! +2 Objection! -0 abcd 2011-10-21 22:35
1. Current recessionary trends in the West and its impact in the Indian legal market
2-The Indian legal education system and its inadequacies
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -1 free trade 2011-10-22 12:55
SILF hai hai! Indian law firms hai hai!
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Recommend! +1 Objection! -0 Guest 2013-05-01 22:48
The blog is certainly not a gyan by Kian. U deserve a big appreciation..

U can think of a blog on the ways of improving legal education in law schools (non-top-tier schools) across India.
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Interesting 2013-05-06 16:44
Kian,

This is very interesting. Given the audience of Lawyer readers perhaps speaking about how corporate firms work in India, with family or big fee earner control, restricted equity, partnership being offered early potentially devaluing the partner tag, client fee sensitivity and less focus on quality from time to time would be interesting.

You already mention delays in cases before courts. Worth mentioning how that is being used by corporates as a tactic and how arbitration is slowing down as well?

Finally, while there are many lawyers in India some of whom are excellent quality, I agree with other comments suggesting discussions around the quality of education at law schools.

Well written blogs, as one would expect from Kian.
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