The Noble Legal Profession: Preserving the Noble

By | April 18, 2022
Noble Legal Profession

Last Updated on by Admin LB

The article ‘The Noble Legal Profession: Preserving the Noble’ by AOR Jasmeet Singh tries to explain how in today’s time the main motive in every profession has become to earn more without being committed to one’s own duty. The author further even says that he belongs to a legal field and still he can see the drifting of the legal profession in terms of both grace and dignity. There are ample problems faced by the legal profession and the author has also elucidated the solutions to overcome those problems.

The author urges all professionals to work honestly in their respective fields and should strive towards the welfare of society instead of being self-centered.

The Noble Legal Profession: Preserving the Noble

A candid definition of “a superstar” in Bollywood would be that of “someone who doesn’t need a good script/director to score a 100 crore grosser”, and with a good script, the superstar will surely hit the jackpot. Yet, there are instances aplenty of these superstars taking such success for granted and succumbing to an exponential decline in their stardom.

The above is true for the “superstar” of other professions as well. The ‘reputation’, ‘brand’, ‘image’, ‘goodwill’ or for that matter, the ‘stature’, if taken for granted for a tad bit too long, could lead to an instantaneous decline in a person’s professional success. A reputed chartered accountant ideally should not blindly sign the audit reports prepared by its staff and claim high audit fees for it because surely there will come a day when his client (or he himself) may have to pay a hefty price for such reckless oversights.

A senior doctor should ideally put his brains behind the patients’ medical reports, rather than merely glancing through the reports and focussing on ‘additional tests’, ‘more patients’, ‘more revenue’, and ‘more commissions’. Put any profession (media, engineering, sports, human resources et al.) on these yardsticks, and one will find that this theory is almost fool-proof.

However, with the passage of time, we have surely become smarter. We have learned how to counter this theory in a selfish and counter-quality manner. A movie starring a superstar may be a ‘flop’ at per box office, but superstars will barely have a financial dent in their pockets as they would have recovered their profits before the release of the movie, say by selling the movie’s music rights, telecast rights, OTT rights and sometimes even by indulging in embedded marketing (product placements in movies).

A chartered accountant or a doctor will put a nicely drafted and (of course) fine printed caveat on their memos to shield them from any liability for professional misconduct. There is no end to these innovative solutions to shield incompetence, greed to earn more, non-commitment to professional duties, and zero empathy towards clients.

This brings me to something closer to home – ‘the noble legal profession’. The legal profession too fits the bill and is slowly drifting away from its ‘grace’ and ‘dignity’. Recently, a rather unfortunate incident happened in the Hon’ble High Court of Jodhpur, where, apparently a young lawyer mentioned her matter before a bench, requesting for recusal and marking of the matter to another bench.

The reason cited by the young lawyer (hearsay from advocates who witnessed the mentioning) was that this particular bench does not come prepared with the court files, takes hours and hours on each item, and hence, her matter (although being at serial number 6 in the list) is unlikely to be taken up. This indeed is an appalling scheme of events that raises a lot of questions about the justice delivery system of our country.

This incident is just a ‘window’ to a hoard of other problems which have unfortunately but certainly gripped the noble legal profession (litigation). I must admit that I too am a part of this system, and have contributed my share to these problems. The purpose of this article is to share my thoughts on some of such problems which the ‘justice delivery system’ of our country faces today and to offer some possible solutions, as per my limited wisdom. The problems mainly are:-

1. Preference to ‘Face Value’ over ‘value to the brief’

This problem can be best explained by the following transcript of conversation each lawyer (practicing in High Courts, Supreme Court, or Appellate Tribunals) faces almost daily:

Advocate:

Gentleman, your appeal is listed next week for admission before the Hon’ble Court and considering the gravity of the matter, I suggest you engage a senior advocate to argue the matter.

Client: Ok, Sir. Thank you for the listing. Which senior do you suggest sir?
Advocate:

See, depending on your budget, I can suggest to you a few seniors and you can pick either of them. I will fix up the conference with them and if you want to attend, come over. Depending on the choice of senior advocate, the spectrum of fees could range between rupees 1.1 lakhs to 15 lakhs per appearance.

Client:

Oh, that’s steep. That too per appearance, irrespective of ineffective or effective hearing? But I can’t take any chances. I’ll go with the best (and hence, the most expensive). I hope they will give a detailed audience to me and read my file cover to cover.

Advocate:

No, no, no boss. That is true only for a few. Most of them will open the file during the conference and will mark it as we brief them.

Client:

Oh, ok. Then what’s the purpose of briefing them.

Advocate:

Boss, they are like superstars. When they speak, courts listen. Of course, they have 8 to 10 hearings on an admission day, and you can’t expect them to read all matters. The advantage though is ‘their vast experience’, ‘their face-value’, and ‘their court craft’.

Do you see the problem in the above conversation? It is not my contention that the senior advocates do not deserve the fees that they demand, or the logic of not-reading files thoroughly (as stated in the conversation above) is absolutely unacceptable, however, the point which I am trying to press here is that, unfortunately, the system is getting increasingly inclined towards ‘face-values’ and away ‘merit’, as it once used to be.

The senior advocates have put in extremely hard work to reach the stage where they command the fees they quote. However, would that justify non-perusal of brief, and sometimes, arguing only on the basis of a briefing note, or, occasionally jeopardizing the matter due to lack of preparation? One of the solutions, which few of the senior advocates have strictly adopted is ‘accepting fewer briefs’, enabling them to thoroughly and equitably, if not equally, prepare all files, and avoid any clashes between their briefs on a given day.

The ‘superstars’ of the legal fraternity need to take a conscious, and much-needed call for the preservation of the noble-ness of the legal profession.

Another limb of this problem is that young advocates (mostly belonging to the millennial generation) are taking the wrong inspiration from the prevailing state of affairs. They prioritize ‘socializing’ over ‘academic strength’. They believe that in a high-profile case, their name in the vakalatnama is enough, as the senior advocates will take care of the “rest”.

For young advocates, it has become more important to ensure that the senior advocate attends the hearing than to be thoroughly prepared for the hearing themselves. These trends, which are cementing with each passing day, are trends that are surely prejudicial, not only to the legal profession but also to society.

2. Compromised quality

In an interview, one of the most eminent solicitors highlighted a growing problem in the ‘justice delivery system’ which cropped up mostly in the 1990s and has remained intact since. He highlighted that in the 1980s, the income (salary) of the judges of the higher judiciary was mostly at par with the well-earning practicing advocates.

In the 1990s, the disparity widened and now, the difference is colossal. This difference has discouraged most practicing lawyers from accepting ‘elevation’ and has caused many hindrances in strengthening the quality of the ‘Bench’. If the quality of a bench is below par, so will the preparation of advocates appearing before it (as ‘less’ will be enough in most cases) thereby resulting in a dip in the quality of arguments, research, and judgments.

The judgeship is not only about handsome salaries or earnings. It is also about the zeal to contribute to society, to leave a legacy through judgments, and to enjoy the eminent responsibility of deciding disputes. However, in the age of Kalyuga, remuneration cannot be written off as a factor in making the choice to opt for judgeship. The salaries of judges definitely need a revamp and the sooner the better.

3. The effervescent system of ‘Jugaad

There are three crowd-puller professions in Indiapolitics, acting, and cricket. Qua each one of them, the word ‘nepotism’ is mentioned on Indian television on a daily basis. During elections, it is one of the most powerful agendas/allegations in speeches. It is also a hot topic of discussion in most Bollywood controversies. Even in the cricketing world, the powerful fathers either pull their kids into professional cricket (even warming the bench in IPL is good enough) or into cricketing administration or commentating.

‘Nepotism’ has pervaded all businesses and professions alike – doctors, accountants, chefs, builders, or even a simple panvaadi. The logic behind nepotism is very comfortable. Every parent wants to pass their legacy on to the upcoming generations, and they work hard to do it. However, the problems emerge when they become so self-centered and selfish in doing so that they don’t allow their kids to realize their true and full potential and end up harming the public at large. I am sure readers would have enough examples in their heads to supplement my foregoing contention.

In the legal profession though, the ‘push’ or ‘jugaadis promoted without being affected by the shortcomings mentioned above. An influential person will either get young counsels’ briefs marked to his family or get him empanelled with corporate/state machinery or PSUs. If nothing works, a job in a law firm or a clerkship under a judge isn’t too difficult to arrange either. Of course, the system suffers and the system suffocates with the discouragement of meritorious and worthy candidates.

Thankfully though, it’s a long profession. Although, as a first-generation lawyer, your start line may be marked way behind that of a few of the blessed ones, the fanaticism inside you may drive you to (your own) finish line sooner.

There doesn’t seem to be a plausible solution to this problem as I don’t see panel advertisements claiming that ‘first-generation lawyers will be preferred’, and to be fair, that would be antithetical to my propositions and the fundamental right of equality (even if the beneficiaries of this problem would not give a dime about equality).

The afore-stated problems are only a handful of numerous other problems that the noble profession is facing today, aside from pendency, infrastructural lacunae, delays, appointment vacancies, and cost of justice to a common man. These problems though, are more subtle and require considerable and constant efforts from all practicing lawyers, young and senior alike, to preserve the ‘nobleness’ of the profession.


  1. Law Library: Notes and Study Material  for LLB, LLM, Judiciary and Entrance Exams
  2. Legal Bites Academy – Ultimate Test Prep Destination
Spread the love
Author: Jasmeet Singh

Advocate on Record, Supreme Court of India Managing Partner of Chambers of Joshi and Singh

2 thoughts on “The Noble Legal Profession: Preserving the Noble

  1. Dhaaranee Karunagaran

    The article concerns how the Nobel profession in current days is taking track of monetary benefit alone. The article also highlighted the nuances of the advocacy profession and also the struggles faced by the junior lawyers or 1st generation advocates compared to the senior advocates. The author has also stated very elaborately the difficulties a newbie faces when he enters into the judicial system and how effective is the approach of shortcuts. Hence this article gave me a real-time scenario of the working of the advocates also about the judiciary system

    Reply
    1. Vartika Kulshrestha

      Being able to help someone achieve justice is one of the most appreciable things about this profession.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.