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The legal profession of India is one of the largest in the world. It has over 1.4 million advocates, enrolled, nationwide. In the year 2010, the estimated value of the Indian legal market was around USD 1.25 billion. Also, the legal profession in India has had a very interesting history which evolved to a great extent and is still evolving. The members of the bar continue to strive to achieve excellence in their practice through stiff competition. They deal regularly with newer challenges due to the frequent developments in law and technology.
Some main functions of the Bar Council of India are:
(1) To lay down standards of professional conduct and etiquettes for the advocates;
(2) To lay down the procedure to be followed by its disciplinary committee and the disciplinary committee of each State Bar Council;
(3) To promote and support law reforms;
(4) To promote legal education and to lay down standards of such education in consultation with the Universities in India imparting such education and the State Bar Councils;
(5) To organize legal aid to the poor in the prescribed manner;
(6) To recognize foreign qualifications in law obtained outside India for the purpose of admission as an advocate in India on a reciprocal basis.
There are some striking features of the Indian legal profession that are quite similar to those of the pre-independence era. These features are enumerated as follows:
(a) Individualistic Approach – Lawyers in India, mostly practice by themselves i.e. they have their own chamber/office assisted by clerks and a few juniors depending on their seniority. The lawyers who practice individually are more inclined towards the practice of litigation. While in the case of the law firms, most of them are not oriented towards litigation, and instead prefer the modern field of Corporate Law.
(b) Many lawyers are oriented towards the courts. So if an advocate practices at an Allahabad High Court, he will dedicate most of his time to that particular court. However, nowadays, the lawyers have started flocking to other courts too, but such cases are not that frequent.
(c) Courtroom advocacy continues to remain the pivotal point of the profession. In Indian Courts, it is often observed that oral arguments are given reference over the written submissions. It is a reflection of the dominance of the English barrister model in the Indian bar system and, with the kind of prevalent remuneration structure; it only reinforces its dominance.
The legal profession is considered to be one of the oldest professions in the world, hence its terminology is more diverse and unique than people perceive it to be! For many, the word ‘lawyer’ reminds of someone in a suit, high heels, and the Courtroom while the word ‘barrister’ reminds of someone in a white wig and black dress robe. However, this difference goes beyond legal attire! Not only this, the words the most common words, solicitors, advocated attorneys, advocates, are also quite distinct from one another. Further details on these are given below.
The term ‘lawyer’ is used to refer to a broad spectrum of legal professionals. A lawyer is anyone who has been trained in a law school, has a law degree and the skills that are required to practice this profession. A lawyer, however, cannot practice in a court in India unless he/she has gotten himself enrolled under any State Bar Council or the Bar Council of India. Till then, he/she can only advise the clients or practice this legal profession in any other manner, like being a law professor.
An advocate is a person who argues any case before a court of competent jurisdiction. Any law graduate enrolled with some State Bar Council or the Bar Council of India is called an Advocate. The BCI prevents the advocates from being under a full-time contractual employment agreement.
An attorney or, more correctly, an attorney-at-law, is a legal professional who represents a client in court when pleading or defending a case. The word attorney comes from the French meaning ‘one appointed or constituted’ and this word’s original meaning is of a person acting for another as an agent or deputy. It must be noted that there used to be a separate class of lawyers called attorneys in India who used to perform the functions of a solicitor.
In India, the Power of attorney for appearing on the client’s behalf in court for any case is called a Vakalatnama. It can be executed in favor of any advocate in India. No advocate is entitled to appear in a case without filing Vakalatnama in Court, or without the instruction of the advocate who has filed Vakalatnama on behalf of a party to the case.
Barrister and Solicitors
In the UK, the law practitioners are divided into barristers, who represent clients in open court and may appear at the bar, and solicitors, who are permitted to conduct litigation in court but not to plead cases in open court. The barrister does not deal directly with clients but does so through a solicitor.
A solicitor would be the UK equivalent of the US attorney-at-law, and India’s Advocate.
When sorting between these two legal professions there are few distinctions that make them vary and unique, such as, their role, educational background, duties, tasks, experiences, authority, leadership, and wages.
Education of lawyer :
The education of lawyers varies from state to state and their programs, courses and time are different. But, in general, it requires seven years of full-time study with four years of the undergraduate program ranging from English to History and Political Science to Business.
Education of solicitor :
A solicitor must possess a legally defined degree that takes six years of full-time education to become a solicitor, including a complete qualifying law degree followed by the Legal Practice Course (LPC) also known as the Postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice. Legal Practice Course (LPC) is the final course required for solicitors in the UK.
Who is a Solicitor?
The definition of a solicitor under the Legal Profession Uniform Law (NSW), is a legal practitioner who has completed a law degree and holds a practicing certificate.
A solicitor provides legal advice to clients. When an individual or an organization needs legal advice on an issue, or legal services such as drafting contracts, protecting intellectual property, or assisting with business sales and purchases, they contact these solicitors. They even manage the daily legal affairs of their clients.
For solicitors that deal with disputes, most of their time is spent out of court and dealing with preparatory matters for litigation such as preparation of the claims and collection of evidence or conduction of settlement negotiations. However, solicitors will not appear in court unless a barrister is required.
If a case needs to be represented before a jury, it is highly unlikely that a Solicitor will represent their client. The Solicitor will generally refer the work to a Barrister or specialist advocate for expert advice or would instruct them to appear in Court to represent the client.
Who is a Barrister?
Barristers are, in general, hired by the Solicitors to represent a case in Court and only become involved once advocacy before a Court is needed. The role of a Barrister is to "translate and structure their client's view of events into legal arguments and to make persuasive representations which obtain the best possible result for their client."
They advise their clients on the law and the strength of their case and provide them with a written ‘opinion’. Barristers will advocate on behalf of their clients and the client’s Solicitor in Court, presenting their case, examining and cross-examining witnesses and giving reasons why the Court should support the case. They will then negotiate settlements with the other side.
However, it must be remembered that in India, only the term ‘Lawyer’ and ‘advocate’ is recognized.
Without a doubt, the legal profession in India will always work closely with all its stakeholders concerned to improve access to justice for all and help realize our Constitutional ideals for people from all walks of life.