Lawyers need to be equipped with the right skills if we are to reap the benefits of liberalization, writes Ojasvita Srivastava
Much has been said and written about the liberalization of the Indian legal services sector. However, there is little discussion about the systemic changes needed in legal education and training to cope with liberalization.
From an economic perspective, liberalization is the need of the hour. Agriculture contributes 18% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), industry contributes 29%, of which manufacturing contributes nearly 17% of GDP. Even with the government’s push towards increasing manufacturing with the Make in India campaign, it is likely to increase to about 22% by 2022. This leaves the services sector contributing more than 50% of the GDP.
As for the Indian legal services sector, it was valued at US$8.8 billion in 2015, with a total of 600,000 legal professionals. During the same year, the UK’s legal services sector was valued at US$49.5 billion and employed 314,000 legal professionals, and the sector in the US, the world leader in legal services, was valued at US$289 billion while employing 1.3 million legal professionals.
These figures do not reflect well on India given that India has the second largest number of legal professionals globally after the US. Domestic firms have been timid when it comes to expanding overseas even though a majority of corporate lawyers in India speak English. Instead, international law firms tend to hire Indian lawyers only to cater to the needs of Indian companies in other countries. To add to this, the lack of liberalization of the legal services sector has held back India’s score on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Services Trade Restrictiveness Index.
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OJASVITA SRIVASTAVA is an in-house counsel based in Delhi. She is the founder of Project Abhimanyu, an NGO working towards increasing access in the legal industry, and providing training programmes for law firms and law schools. For more information, please visit www.projectabhimanyu.in or write to email@example.com.