For a couple of decades, litigation was something that young lawyers did not favour. It was something that you were forced to do if you could not get through to a good law firm or legal team of a company. Even if you had to start with a litigation chamber or a senior, you wanted to jump ship as soon as you could, and get into in-house legal teams or get through to the disputes team of a decent law firm.
The biggest reason for this? In general is perception, it is very hard to make it as a litigation lawyer. It takes years, if not decades, to earn a decent living. Seniors do not even pay subsistence salary to junior lawyers, and it’s hard to make it into litigation in big cities where the market is thriving unless you have the patience and the financial back up to sustain in the game.
This is now changing, primarily for two fundamental factors.
One is that apart from the usual district courts, High Courts and the Supreme Court, we now have tons of new tribunals, adjudicating authorities and statutory bodies before which one can have a thriving practice. It is easier to build a practice in such specialised niches because the old established lawyers rarely come before these forums and newcomers have an opportunity to quickly make a name and get recognised for their work.
Good examples are RERA Tribunals, and NCLT. Visit these forums and you will see how young litigators are thriving here and are not playing second fiddle to a few senior advocates as is the case in High Courts and Supreme Courts.
It is not only specialised forums that have opened new doors of opportunities for younger lawyers and new entrants.
The same is happening with new and emerging areas of laws. There are new laws being introduced every year, making it difficult for older lawyers to specialize in each of those. While the established players stick to what they already know, younger lawyers are specializing and making a name in the new and emerging areas of law.
This happened in technology and cyber law space, and a lot of other areas such as electricity law, telecom law, advertising law etc. Old lawyers with widespread practice areas find it hard to compete with focussed young lawyers who specialise in a narrow area of law. There is only so much a senior can do on the strength of his brand without focussed business development, networking or actual specialised knowledge about emerging industries.
The other major factor is the changing nature of clients. For a long time, most lawyers dealt with unsophisticated clients who had no idea about law or processes that go into legal work. Today’s clients are increasingly sophisticated. They read up the law on their own and do proper due diligence before hiring a lawyer. They do not rely on brand name alone to decide which lawyer they must go with. They also want value for their money, and often have in-house lawyers managing their work.
This means they understand what a lawyer can deliver, test them out with small assignments and would rather hire a reasonably priced younger lawyer rather than a famous established lawyer and pay through the nose for the same when the occasion does not require that.
They can now take better call on such issues. And they do. This means more opportunities for younger lawyers to get matters they can cut their teeth on, provided they have the skills and abilities to deliver.
Also, the new age clients want better treatment from lawyers. They see lawyers as fee seeking service providers, who must provide high quality customer service. The older lawyers are often not used to this paradigm. They behave like demigods in their chamber and fail to understand the pulse of the new age clients.
Law firms were always good at extending good customer services to clients, and now litigators also need to extend the same and get better at it than their peers. This is a major factor in attracting and retaining good clients. Old litigators are learning this the hard way.
This is another aspect where new lawyers have a massive advantage, especially given that they are better at using technology to provide such customer services and generally can make the life of the client easier.
I will write more on this soon. In the meantime, if you are a young lawyer looking to make it into litigation, do check out our freshly launched Litigation Library program which helps lawyers to capitalise on emerging opportunities.
Do check it out and share your feedback on this with me.