India Business Law Journal’s 2016 billing rates survey finds legal fees increase across the board, according to our 10th annual survey.

Vandana Chatlani reports

A close look at India’s legal market reveals sharp contrasts: industry titans rule the roost, while new entrants find their feet; ambition and entrepreneurial drive rival age and experience; and specialists fight to win work away from generalist practices. Some embrace technology and flaunt marketing panache – others are media shy and comfortable with antiquated modes of management. The differences in quality, expertise and attitude are as stark as the places where lawyers spend many a sleepless night – some confined to four walls in the basement of their homes, while others pull all-nighters in sprawling offices with grand fixtures.

The diversity can’t be denied, but one goal unites them all: the fight for profit.

Yet courting clients is no easy task, especially at a time when competition is so fierce. With law firms mushrooming by the month, the only way to win work is through legal expertise, efficient delivery and innovative pricing. Clients are tightening their purse strings, demanding concise, consistent, creative and commercial legal advice at a very attractive cost.

According to The Future of Legal Services, a report published in January by the Law Society of England and Wales, in-house counsel and other buyers of corporate legal services “are wielding greater bargaining power” due in large part to “(i) greater access to information that enables clients to more effectively compare the cost of legal services; (ii) the ability and increased willingness to unbundle legal services and source them to the most cost-effective provider; and (iii) the expanding availability of alternatives to top law firms from which to source work”.

While the report analyses trends in England and Wales, its findings are consistent with changes observed in other jurisdictions, including India. And global developments become even more relevant with the long-awaited liberalization of India’s legal market now imminent. As in other countries, clients in India are insisting upon fees that are tailored to their specific needs, forcing law firms to move away from rigid billing practices and the conventional hourly billing model.

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