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The unfairer sex / Issue 88

Legally India newsletter
Legally India newsletter

International Women’s Day is a nice occasion for the media to give itself a collective pat on the back and write how great things are but there is no other way to put this one: things are rotten at the Bar.

Legally India’s exclusive analysis of advocates promoted to senior counsel in Delhi and Bombay in two decades reveals that women made up only 3 per cent of senior counsel elevations. Yes, 3 per cent, or three new female senior advocates in each of the two courts in 20 years, although Delhi showed signs of improvement this year with a grand 20 per cent ratio.

That said the landscape is tough not just for women at the bar but any young lawyers hoping for the senior counsel tag. (Read more about the odds here)

It is no surprise many advocates escape to law firms or in-house where some seem to go out of their way to make female staff feel at home (or allow them to go home early in this case, although that probably only on Women’s Day).

For many this week was dominated by the long-awaited and postponed All India Bar Exam, which was a bigger success than many had expected. Sure, in Chennai it had to be postponed due to lawyers’ protests, and the exam was reportedly a cakewalk and cheating was rife. But overall, as the BCI had no doubt hoped, the most vocal resistance seems to have simmered down and a large part of the 2010 graduates now have an implicit vested interest in the exam – if they pass.

Ironically, this post-exam week also played host to the first AIBE court challenge that was successful after one advocate managed to persuade the BCI to promise a breakdown of examinees’ marks to increase transparency.

But overall the AIBE architect Gopal Subramanium was pleased with (and relieved by) the overall outcome. He also appears confident to get on with his other reforms now while also disclosing some of the long-kept AIBE secrets such as private contractor fees and state bar council politics.

Impressively, the BCI was faster out of the blocks than expected and published the new lawyers’ Draft Ethics rules yesterday, which proposed formal conflict of interest rules for Indian lawyers for the first time, reiterated the ban on advertising and more.

Another milestone: the Competition Commission of India (CCI) now has powers to block mergers & acquisitions. For law firms that have been doing their competition law homework this is very good news and specialist lawyers are likely to play an important part in mega-M&A pitches come 1 June.

Legal process outsourcer CPA Global looks set to want to learn from last year’s Thomson Reuters-Pangea3 deal and will target inorganic growth by buying smaller LPOs. If your ambition is to double in size in a year, that does seem like a reasonable option.

And finally the Mooting Premier League sponsored by Allen & Overy saw its first World Class Tier moot in Hong Kong, where HNLU Raipur defeated defeated a raft of international teams all the way to the finals to bump the college up the MPL table to a strong fifth place.

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