Law Firm to Litigation Practice

In this blog post, Bhargav K.S, from KLE Law College and pursuing a Diploma in Entrepreneurship Administration and Business Laws from NUJS, Kolkata, describes the process of transitioning from a law firm practice to a litigation practice.

 What is Law?

Law is a system of rules which a particular country or communities recognize for regulating the actions of its members by imposing penalties and punishments.

The law an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind –Mahatma Gandhi.

An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so –Mahatma Gandhi.

Growth of Legal Profession in India

  • The legal profession is an important machinery in the administration of justice.
  • Without the profession of law, the whole world would not be in a position to administer justice.
  • Without the profession of law, the evidence for or against the parties can’t be brought before the court and facts of the case can’t be articulated.

Hence legal profession is very important for a country.

The Charter Act of 1726, which established the mayor courts in the three presidency towns, no specific provision was made laying down any particular qualification required for a person to act as a legal practitioner in the mayor’s court. In the initial days of the Act, those who practiced law were devoid of any legal knowledge.

The first real step taken for the establishment of a proper legal system was during the establishment of Supreme Court in India.

  • The Regulating Act of 1773 empowered the Supreme Court to make rules and regulations for the administration of justice.
  • Supreme Court was empowered to admit and enroll advocates and attorneys-at-law. The term Advocate at that time extended only to Barristers of England and Ireland.

The Bengal Regulation XII of 1833 provided that –

  1. The people of any nationality or religion are eligible to become pleaders in the courts.
  2. Barristers enrolled in her Majesty’s courts were eligible to practice in the company’s courts as well.

The Indian Bar Committee Act,1923

Since the days of the Supreme Court, the Barristers of England have a predominant position in the legal profession of India. In the Calcutta High Court, only the Barristers could practice even after the removal of distinctions between the Vakils and Barristers by other high courts. The Government of India appointed an Indian Bar Committee and appointed Edward Chamier, a retired Chief Justice of the Patna High Court, to look into the matter.

The Committee recommended that –

  1. A Bar Council be established in all the High courts having the power to enquire into the matters against lawyers.
  2. The High Court before taking action should refer the case to the Bar Council for enquiry and report.
  3. All the High Courts, a single grade of practitioners entitled to plead, be established.

The Advocates Act,1961

The parliament enacted the Advocate Act to amend and consolidate the law relating to the legal profession in India.

  • The Act established an All Indian Bar Council and a common role of Advocates.
  • An Advocate, in the common role, has the right to practice as a lawyer in any part of the country.
  • The Act also established a State Bar Council in each state and a Bar Council in the center as well.

The State Bar Council has the –

  1. Right to admit persons as advocates.
  2. Determine cases against the misconduct of lawyers.

By this, the legal profession in India was established.

Litigation Practice in India

Litigation practice is quite interesting and exciting. Litigation is one of the most important and popular careers in law. In a litigation practice, the litigator represents the clients, either the plaintiff who is filing the suit or the defendant who is being sued. Litigators are those who represent the advise and resolve their disputes in the court.

  • A large litigating firm with more than fifteen lawyers covers all the areas of law from commercial law to criminal law. The litigating lawyers also do consultation work in corporate companies. With the increasing high-value commercial disputes, large enterprises consult or seek the help of litigators to represent their cases in courts.
  • The new trends in litigation practice are that the litigators have started taking up corporate retainer ships which bring in supplementary income to the litigator. The litigator discusses the case with the clients, verifies the documents and also does the trial preparation.
  • The litigator will discuss the case with the opposing party for settlement negotiation. If they are unable to settle the disputes, the case goes to the court.
  • The litigator pleads the case before the judge. If the judgment of the judge is not satisfying, the litigant can appeal in the higher courts. The main goal of every litigator is to use his logical thinking and legal aptitude to win the case for his clients, within the budget of his clients.
  • Much of the work of the litigator has been done outside the courtrooms like investigating the facts, researching laws, etc.

Positive Sides of Being A Litigator

  1. Litigators are employed through the year in every type of economy, as the litigating cases take years to payout.
  2. Litigators can easily work for the government. Litigators can easily become a judge, prosecutor or another type of government attorney.
  3. Litigators can easily set up a law firm than a corporate attorney.
  4. Litigators make a lot of money dealing with big cases which is impossible for a corporate lawyer.

Negative Sides of Litigation Practice

  1. Difficult to go in-house as a litigator. In-house positions are for corporate lawyers and intellectual property lawyers, very few house positions are for litigators.
  2. It’s tough for litigators to move from place to place. A litigator with an established litigating practice and established clients in a particular place would find it difficult to move from one place to another, as it takes years for a litigator to build a successful network which is essential for a litigating practice.

Top Litigating Lawyers in India

  1. Harish Salve
  2. Ram Jethmalani
  3. Fali Sam Nariman

Law Firm

A law firm is a business entity formed by one or more lawyers. Its main purpose is to advise the clients about their legal rights and responsibilities etc.

  • In a law firm, business is strong only when the economy is very strong. A Corporate lawyer typically is directly involved with the clients and discusses the matters with the clients in various matters like real estate, tax, intellectual property etc.
  • A lawyer in a law firm is called a corporate lawyer who is employed by a law firm to ensure legality in commercial transactions, to advise companies on their legal rights and duties.
  • A corporate lawyer should have extensive knowledge regarding tax law, security law, contract law, intellectual property rights, etc.

An area of corporate lawyers specialization varies from the geographical position of a firm.

  • A small town corporate lawyer in a small law firm might deal with short term jobs like drafting, divorce settlements, etc.
  • A corporate lawyer in a bigger law firm in a city or a multi-national law firm deals with all the aspects of law from business negotiation to Mergers and acquisitions.
  • A corporate lawyer does not represent the clients in the court like the Litigators.

Top Law Firms in India

  1. Tri Legal
  2. Amarchand And Mangaldas
  3. AZB Partners

Transition from Law Firm to Litigation Practice in India

A corporate lawyer making a switch from corporate world to the world of litigation has to learn the basics of the courtroom. The world of litigation is more difficult than that of the corporate world of law.

Firstly there are three types of Judicial Courts in India –

  1. 1st tier court that is the District Court
  2. 2nd tier court that is the High Court
  3. 3rd tier court is the apex court which is the Supreme Court of India
  • Start Practicing in a District Court to Shift into Litigation Practice
  1. A corporate lawyer making the switch to litigation has to write an all Indian Bar examination successfully and then get enrolled into the bar and start practicing.
  2. The corporate lawyer has to start practicing with a senior advocate dealing with both the miscellaneous works of both the crime and civil and whose case dairy contains about ten to fifteen cases on a daily basis.
  3. A corporate lawyer can start litigation practice with a senior Advocate who deals mainly with a senior advocate mainly dealing with civil cases only.
  4. A litigator has to undergo a training of more than three to five years because in the district court the art of cross-examination has to be learned which is very essential, which is very rare in the High Court and almost absent in the Supreme Court of India.
  5. The litigator has to learn the art of cross-examination which is a very powerful weapon which a corporate lawyer does not have the knowledge of. The art of cross-examination is so powerful that the litigator can either hurt the opponent or either the party itself.

This is how a corporate lawyer should start litigation by starting a practice in the district courts.

  • Practice in the High Court

Corporate lawyers who have practiced at the lower courts will yield good results once they start practicing in the High courts. Because the Litigator will have enough knowledge in the fundamentals of law like how the documents are proved, how to address the arguments etc.

  1. The corporate lawyer making the shift to litigation has to do an apprentice in the High Court as well.
  2. The litigator should practice as an apprentice until he is confident to do the cases independently.
  3. As High Courts mainly deal with Writ jurisdiction and service matters the litigator should take up apprentice with a  senior litigator who deals with service law as well.
  • Practice in the Supreme Court

A corporate lawyer who has completed the apprentice in the district court and the High Court has to do a final apprentice with a senior supreme court lawyer to learn the working system of that court. And then, the litigator with the full knowledge and understanding of the law can start practicing as a litigator.

This is how to make a transition from law firm to litigating practice.

The above-mentioned points might not be enough to make you a Litigator but, they will surely put you on the path.

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