This article has been written by Oishika Banerji, from Amity Law School, Amity University Kolkata. This article deals with the way the independent legal practice can be started and sustained.
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Law is a dynamic subject. Every year several students opt for this course and profess and practice law as a profession. Due to the law being a divergent subject, there are several ways to profess the same. The most traditional approach of professing law is litigation. For ages lawyers have been practising in the courts representing their clients, discussing, arguing with the aim of remedying injustice. Over the ages, litigation has evolved and is evolving with the change in society and laws. It is also to be noted that being a lawyer is such a profession that the person can be his own master as well as his own servant. This is the reason several lawyers prefer independent practices over any other ways of carrying out litigation. Independent legal practice enables flexibility within a lawyer to practice and carry out his or her profession on his or her own terms.
Further, nowadays lawyers go for specialisation in a particular field in order to converge their practising field and provide the best service in the same. This contributes to self-development as well. Independent legal practice supports the same and the lawyer can indeed get hold of clients in the fields he or she wants to handle and is expert in. The option of practising independently is restricted in the case of law firms and corporate entities. But as young lawyers are also going for start-ups, the scope of practising independently has been widened. An independent legal practice comes with a lot of opportunities for a lawyer. It allows the lawyer to control his or her own decision on any matter or case and find his or her own legal theory to solve a case. Independency eliminates dependency in the profession which is indeed a welcoming step for any lawyer. But all new starts come with problems so is the independent legal profession. It is only by correct strategies and insights a lawyer can outgrow the hurdles and be successful in the profession.
How to start an independent legal practice
Independent legal practice involves sole decision-making, self-assessment and self-sufficiency. It is solely upon the lawyer to decide the way to approach and work out to be efficient in his or her profession. Keeping it aside and thinking in the mainstream, there come certain essentials that need to be kept into observation while starting an independent legal practice which acts as a shield to safeguard the lawyer from any kind of detrimental effects. The essentials have been provided below:
1) Understanding the benefits of solo practise: Determination of working independently for financial security and increase in self-esteem is necessary to start an independent practice. The benefits associated with independent legal practice should be acknowledged by the lawyer who indeed wants to go for the same. This helps in developing motivation and urgency within oneself to carry out the independent legal practice in his or her own terms.
2) Acknowledging the presence of technology: Technology in this 21st century has immensely contributed to the growth of several professional fields. Similarly in the legal field, technology is making the work easier for lawyers if they are well versed with the usage of the same. When a lawyer is about to start with an independent legal practice, he or she must take the help of technology in order to carry out the practice efficiently. Management of the case in hand, carrying out case hearings, framing of documentation, drafting are some of the activities that can be carried out easily by means of technology. Further, the coming of Artificial Intelligence has uplifted the technology level in all countries and has indeed helped in the mechanisation of the work. Technology is relevant so far as it elevates transparency, efficiency and objectivity in public governance for marinating public governance is a way of establishing the principles of rule of law in the nation.
3) Expansion of the market of litigation: In today’s world, arbitration, mediation and conciliation are preferred over long drawn processes adopted by courts. People also search for the simplest and the easiest way for the speedy recovery of justice. When a lawyer goes for independent legal practice, these are some factors which are necessary to keep in mind which will prove to be helpful in expansion of the market for the lawyer which is required to reach out to more and more clients. Further technology also is in friendly terms with market expansion as online means can be preferred to communicate with the clients in a much more efficient way. Also, a lawyer should have relevant contacts with him or her in order to make his or her existence in the litigation field strong and existing.
4) Self-experience and experience of staff working along with: Experience adds as a benefit for any lawyer who starts an independent legal practice. Experience in terms of work the lawyer is dealing with, experience about the environment the lawyer has been working in, experience as to what other lawyers are dealing with, the experience of dealing with clients, communicating with clients are some of the essential elements that are required while setting up an independent legal practice. Generally, if a lawyer is working under a senior advocate then the work line bends the way the senior advocate desires, therefore, zero to no experience works in such a case. But if the lawyer starts his or her own practice without the guidance, experience helps in dealing with mistakes and loopholes. Further, the staff who works along with the lawyer in independent practice should be experienced on their part as well. Experience helps in dealing with the burden of work and client’s expectations also.
5) Having a well-built legal network: Every lawyer needs to have a legal network in order to maintain efficiency in his or her practice. The legal network is necessary in order to provide the lawyer with cases in hand as well as bringing variation in the independent working field. It is not always necessary for the lawyer to deal with cases in courts only, he or she can take up cases for companies as well. The main aim of any lawyer with independent legal practice is to develop a client network in order to reach out to them during their needs. Technology can be used here as well in order to develop such a network therefore those ways that appear to be friendly in building such a set-up should be acknowledged and adopted.
6) Promotion of the independent practice: Although this point need not require separate attention from what has been discussed under the broad heading of technology, one aspect that needs reference is the usage of social media. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Google websites, can be used to promote independent practise in order to reach out to the mass about the same. Social media has been successful in connecting people all across the globe. Hence the best way of promoting the independent legal practice by any lawyer will definitely be by social media.
These are some of the necessary aspects that need to be considered by a lawyer while he or she is about to start his or her independent legal practice. But for the young lawyers who are fresh graduates from universities and are new to the profession, starting an independent legal practice the aspects that need concern are more in number than what is provided above. Some of the parameters that are required to be followed for a young lawyer practising independently are hereunder:
1) Financial help: Although this factor does not apply for all young lawyers who are going to practice independently, for the majority it does. Some amount of economic support is necessary for a young lawyer to start an independent practice because without the same the lawyer might just be lost beating around in the bush. At the very beginning of the profession, financial security is necessary in order to help the practice extend further therefore economic safeguard stands ultimate.
2) Brand Value: A young lawyer new to the independent law practice, needs to pull up his or her socks to build the brand value of the service he or she provides. Brand value is necessary to be present in order to get in touch with a number of clients in future which can help in making the practice successful.
3) Focusing on specific areas: For a young lawyer freshly graduated from any university, it is necessary to be specific in their approach. This can be made accustomed by dealing with cases that are specific to some spheres of law only and not law as a whole. Although it is true that many senior advocates also observe that specialization restricts the lawyer to certain aspects only whereas a lawyer should be dealing with all sorts of cases to provide justice to the profession as well. But for young lawyers, some amount of security at initial levels are required for maintaining the long run in the profession.
All these conditions need to be looked after to start an independent legal practice. The clients should have the confidence upon the lawyer in terms that the lawyer can help in utilizing the resources available in form of legislation and statutes and come up with advice that will be free from any kind of prejudice and influence. This is the demand a lawyer receives while professing independent legal practice.
How to sustain an independent legal practice
Just as setting up an independent legal practice requires a lot of hard work and sweat, sustaining the same requires more effort from an individual. For any lawyer starting an independent legal practice, the aim should be to successfully carry out such practice for a prolonged period of time for a lawyer neither stops learning nor retires. Sustainability of the practice can be achieved by keeping in notice some concerns as provided below:
- Independent legal practice does not merely symbolise advising clients freely without restrictions but at large means self-independence as well. Therefore, the lawyer must not entertain any factors that infringe the independence that the lawyer executes.
- For sustaining the legal practice, another necessity is the avoidance of any kind of influence. The decisions that are taken by a lawyer while handling a client or a case in particular, should not be backed by advice of any other person or professional of the same or different field. This is detrimental for the solo practice of law.
- Gaining the confidence of his or her client is also beneficial for sustaining independent legal practice. The lawyer should be able to provide the client with things that the client’s demand and wants to be available to him or her for the profession is filled with competition and every lawyer tries to do the best to satisfy his or her client. Client’s confidence can also be gained by making the clients a part of the case the lawyer is dealing with. If the client is involved in the procedures the lawyer follows, then the client himself or herself starts trusting the lawyer.
Although these are just a few grounds that need to be looked after for sustaining the independent practice, it is upon the lawyer to frame his or her own rules and be aware as to what can prove to be helpful for the practice and what can be disadvantageous for the practice. Determining the same can also be a way of maintaining the sustainability of the practice in the competitive world.
Issues faced in independent legal practice
Independent legal practice is filled with ups and downs for every lawyer who supports and applies it. Issues that are oriented with financial, social, legal, political are faced by lawyers. Independent law practice welcomes liberalisation but also restricts lawyers to act the way they want and therefore although every lawyer is in one way independent in the practice of litigation specifically, interdependency on the system cannot be ignored. At times of crisis just like the present pandemic situation, lawyers are facing severe economic issues due to shut down of courts and lockdown in several nations across the globe. In such situations, the financial burden of the independently practising lawyers directly falls on the government of the country. Thus issues are severe when it comes to independent law practices.
Starting independent law practice is not as difficult as sustaining it. Therefore it is on the lawyer who wants to carry on an independent practice to think, realize and act accordingly to maintain the independence and respect the same.
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