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An estimated 3-minute read

Bombay lawyer on ‘starvation diet’: 1930s career advice. Has anything changed?

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US self-styled legal tabloid Above The Law has an interesting post with a purported letter from a 1930 law student in India (see snippet above). The article was published in The Law College Magazine of Bombay and is entitled “Is It Worthwhile? A Frank Talk with Budding Lawyers.”

Really, the document has barely aged and if I was feeling particularly lazy we could copy-paste it for a brilliant Legally India Careers Counsel column [copyright elapsed, right? – Where can we get all their back-issues? –Ed]

Anyway, a certain young Bombay advocate E.G. Nayar, who is on a two-year (!) law degree writes:

Is it worth spending two long years of our life in the Law Colleges when there is terrible over-crowding and soul-killing competition in the legal profession? This question must have cropped up in the minds of most law students, but the presence of an unusually large number of budding lawyers in different colleges is proof positive of this robust optimism with regard to their prospects in the profession. But I cannot help putting this question, even at the risk of provoking the just indignation of the would be lawyers.”

Nayar, who could easily pass for any modern-day disillusioned graduate from a law school dreaming of entering litigation, writes:

“The problem for the budding lawyer is not the hackneyed degree, which, by the way, is a trifle easy to secure, but life after he has got it. I do not wish to throw cold water on the profound optimism of those who dream of purchasing a Rolls Royce within a year after setting up in practice. But it is foolish to shut our eyes to the hard facts of everyday life. We know too well the trials and privations of many struggling practitioner, and in view of their plight, we have to think, not once or twice, but a hundred times before we decide to become members of the legal profession.

“Of course, to those who have got long purses to fall back upon, or to those who take the profession as a sort of recreation and hobby, I have nothing to say. But I do wish to address seriously those who take this profession for a living.

It is common knowledge that a majority of our lawyers have to live on starvation diet and would fare ill but for assistance from their relatives. The man who thinks of earning a decent income within several years of his beginning to practice is living in a fool’s paradise. I can admire such a man for his optimism and hopes, but I can give him little credit for his judgment.

The path of the future lawyers is certainly not strewn with roses, and it is highly desirable that he should be informed as to how best he should act under the circumstances.

I will try to give a few titbits of information on these points. I happen to know a lot about lawyers. I have seen much and heard more about them.”

Emphasis added – hands up who has heard a friend at the bar say the exact same thing 80 years later? (with a couple more swearwords littered here and there probably)

Sure, it is hard to feel pity for grads hitting the jackpot at top corporate law firms, but then again, how many of those are there? For every 10 lakh per year recruit, are there not hundreds of so-called law firm lawyers on Rs 10,000 a month?

Above The Law has the full article as a PDF on its site. Also read ATL’s interesting take on the parallels between a US lawyer in a recession and good-ol’ Nayar.

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