This is the question asked: “How to become a lawyer?” The questioner, after nearly a decade of trying as a junior with a lawyer in specialised practice, was having second thoughts. With a family to support, the reasons were obvious: lack of sufficient income. It was actual lack not the usual below expectation type of shortfall.
Lawyers profession in India especially in mufossil or small towns in India is grossly unorganised besides being as enigmatic as elsewhere. However being unobservant does not help. There are few facts which need to be noticed and few considerations to be kept in mind. These are:
Reality is projection of mind. If we do not feel and behave like a lawyer, we are no lawyer at all. A lawyer must have a mind set to rise and represent his client fearlessly. He should also have same mindset when client approaches. Remember nobody knew nothing at least once upon a time.
2. Read, read and read:
A person who is afraid of books or words must not enter the profession of law. It is all about reading. Thick glasses and sore knees (due to prolong sittings) are the professional hazards. There is a short cut. Find corrupt judges and work for them. But that is no practice of law.
3. Political and social theory:
Knowledge of laws and procedure is what makes a lawyer but it is the knowledge of social and political theories which went into making of a law, makes a great lawyer. Keep looking behind the laws to find the reasons for enactment.
4. Specialisation vs. General Practice:
This is more of a commercial question. In the beginning an exposure to all branches of law is necessary. Thereafter if there is a regular stream of work in a particular branch, specialisation can be opted. Specialists are more secured but sudden change in a branch of law can affect very much. Another down side of specialisation is that after few years it becomes monotonous and boring.
5. Civil vs. Criminal:
Both branches have different approach. In criminal law ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ is required but in civil law cases are decided on ‘preponderance of probabilities.’ Civil law requires arduous reading schedule but in Criminal law after initial few years, presence of mind, observation and wit carries the day and study often unnecessary. However the lawyers who started as Civil Lawyers and later took on Criminal Law practice, became far more successful than the other way around. Actually the rule is wherever struck, start reading. Discipline of reading in civil practice is helpful at all times.
This is the most crucial but purely commercial question. Earning is required but remains most hideous part of every profession. Law practice, especially in India, is a closed door profession, which means only the people personally known to a lawyer or referred by known people will approach a lawyer. That is because advertisements are not allowed. Therefore do not hesitate. Every person who approaches must be charged fee, irrespective of relationship. If inconvenient, ask the senior and he will tell how to do it conveniently. Do not turn away any person by saying that this work was not known. Take work, learn it and earn it. This is how it works. Never refuse work.
For a practising lawyer it is necessary to be seen and visible. Two decade back I accompanied a flourishing lawyer who was practising in customs duty laws, to market. We went to buy a Digital Diary from the market specialised in imported goods. He gave his business card to every shop we visited and told the shopkeeper what his practice area was. I could never imitate his marketing style but it is a good example. Larger the social network, larger is the potential clientage. A socially shy person has no room in practice. If any person who personally knows me, has any doubt, remember: ‘do as I say, do not do as I do.’
Another example is that I asked for the contact details of a lady lawyer in another city, from her relative, so that we may send some work but not only she refused to give even phone number she completely avoided a stranger. If she had any doubts, she could do a background check, atleast she should know how to do it. If that is the attitude or fear, legal profession is not right for you. It is the profession for fearless. Fearful can not face the court.
Price of socialising is paid in terms of health. There would be a time when steps would have to be retraced, eventually.
These are some of the suggestions, presently I can offer to any newcomer into law practice. I will add more as and when something else comes to mind.