You are here: Rediff Home » India » Get Ahead » Careers » Jobs
Search: The Web
  Discuss this Article   |      Email this Article   |      Print this Article

Careers in Law: Opportunities abroad
Navin Kumar
Get news updates:What's this?
March 06, 2008

Part I: Are you cut out for a career in law?
Part II: Top law colleges and courses 
Part III:
Legal process outsourcing: The next big thing 

The year 1999 saw many Indian lawyers leave India to pursue career with foreign law firms and this trend has slowly snowballed into a situation where foreign law firms are now hiring the creme of Indian law school graduates straight out of college. This trend holds great promises for an aspiring lawyer.

For example, a week ago at the National Law School, Bangalore, 20 out of the 65 students who applied for campus placements joined foreign law firms. Half of the 2008 batch from NALSAR are joining foreign firms.

One of the reasons that foreign firms prefer to hire Indian law school graduates is that India has a Common Law system, under which the law is created and/ or refined by judges and a decision in the case currently pending depends on decisions in previous cases and affects the law to be applied in future cases.

This system is followed by a lot of countries that trace their legal heritage to Britain, including the United Kingdom and the United States.

Another reason is that Indian students are proficient in English and their legal skills are on par with their counterparts on the other side of the globe.

"The quality of the students we have spoken to so far is very high. The comprehensive five-year law degree together with the internship undertaken by the students during this period means that the students have very good technical ability and commercial awareness," says Jonathan Blake, a senior partner at UK firm SJ Berwin.

Also, growing international trade and WTO regulations will lead to the opening up of legal systems across the world and law firms are preparing for it.

Indian legal markets are expected to open up by 2010 and the general view is -- although the law firms themselves deny this -- that they are 'stocking up' on lawyers to deploy into India when the legal system is liberalised.

Lastly, Indians are considered an asset to law firms whose clients have business interests in India. An Indian lawyer is considered valuable on any team that is involved in a crossborder deal.

For an Indian to work as a solicitor in the UK, he/she must pass the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test (QLTT) which is conducted by the Law Society. In order to do so they must have two years of training/ experience.

Work done in India or any other Common Law jurisdiction counts. It is necessary to first obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the Law Society before sitting for the exam. The LS takes about eight weeks to issue a Certificate of Eligibility and the exam will either be sat in October or April, depending on when the certificate is received.

The percentage of students who train with a firm and go on to become solicitors with them varies between 85-100 per cent. The average compensation for a trainee solicitor is 35,000-40,000 pounds per year for two years and it can be hiked to as much as 60,000-65,000 pounds after the training period.

Money, however, isn't the only reason to work for a foreign firm. Srinivas Parthasarathy is one of Allen & Overy's prize recruits. He is a partner with its joint venture firm in Singapore, handling capital markets, banking and structured finance assignments across south-east Asia. After graduating from NALSAR in 1995, Parthasarathy became a partner at Jyoti Sagar Associates (JSA) within three years of joining. Why did he quit to join Allen & Overy? "For the experience of working in a truly high-grade international set-up," he says.

While the quality of their cases may not be too different from what they would handle in India -- indeed, at junior levels, they would probably be assigned fairly rudimentary work -- Indian lawyers feel there's a lot to be learnt from the internal structures in foreign firms.

"For instance, the knowledge management tools, the training and performance review systems are far more evolved at Allen & Overy than in any Indian firm," says Parthasarathy.

Of course, an aspiring lawyer must beware of several obstacles on the way. While getting a working permit isn't very hard, it isn't a cakewalk either. The trick is to find a law firm that will sponsor you. Another pitfall is racism: the Europeans are especially notorious for it and getting into a law firm can be difficult if you haven't already gotten an offer. Racism is a major topic and it twists any intelligent debate: while some people insist that racism inhibits a lawyer's growth in a European law firm, others insist that it makes no difference: many Indians have even made partner, which is true.

Also an LLM degree done in the UK or Europe, while much hyped, is said to be worth very little while actually hunting for a job. A career in academics is all that it is supposedly good for. Be careful.

Part I: Are you cut out for a career in law?
Part II: Top law colleges and courses 
Part III:
Legal process outsourcing: The next big thing 

 Email this Article      Print this Article
© 2008 India Limited. All Rights Reserved. Disclaimer | Feedback