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Law And Legal Profession In Globalizing World

The legal profession has had its own transformations. There was a dramatic change in the nature of disputes before the courts as society had moved on to a new mode of production which created and defined new social relations. there was also a broadening of public consciousness at various levels primarily because of the public concern that a global society which is the newer liberal society might overdo in pursuit of capital and it is a civil society's responsibility to exert control over global forces.

For example, the rise of environmental and constitutional consciousness and the increasing awareness and invocation of public rights are all sound examples. In the wake of these transformations, lawyers reorganize their knowledge and skills. There was a spirit of renewal and reorganization which enabled them to steer the legal profession through these challenges.

The globalization of the legal profession has changed not only its institutional framework but also its patterns of function. The profession today is highly dynamic, requiring up skilling and mastery over new areas of law. This has prompted law schools also to understand the needs of the profession and redefine their academic curriculum and pedagogy.

The legal profession's collective response to globalization has to be seen in its totality for a better understanding and appreciation of its role and functions. These changes were triggered by the liberalization of the Indian economy in response to global demands which was a political step.

Legal profession
If we step back to 1991 then we can see the initial response of the legal profession to these changes and how the professional reorganization started. It was essentially a time when we have the concept of litigating lawyers going to court every day and arguing matters. With the liberalization and the inward flow of funds a whole new branch of laws had opened up and that is when the real corporate practice in India started. So, some firms realized this opportunity for a whole new practice of laws not that it did not exist before but it was very restricted and very limited.

After globalization there was a whole vast scope of how do you structure investments in India, how do you navigate Indian laws, what are the regulatory issues, etc. So, that was the first change that a whole new perspective was going to be required. The acquisition of that knowledge became quite important at that stage and many firms worked together with the foreign law firms as a support role initially till they became competent in their own right to handle the deals or you got people who were working overseas decided to come back and work.

So, they brought that knowledge of how the global world runs and what these deals meant, and the needs of clients. That era started with chartered accountants solving corporate and legal issues and slowly they realized that they need lawyers rather than just chatted accountants for legal issues.

The second evolution happened when sole proprietorships became partnership firms or companies. the concept of the growth of a firm started in 1991. As the size of the firms increased, people realized that they needed to do different things with the aspirations of the people inside the firm. So, then the focus started happening on the governance of the firms and the challenges that firms met as they grew larger and it said that with every hundred people that you add to any organization you need a new set of rules or you need to review the existing rules.

That was a whole phase two when firms started specializations, started having a better depth of knowledge of privatization, more partners were brought into the firm. The third phase of growth happened when some mergers and amalgamations happened within the firms themselves and talent became more mobile than it was ever.

It is a well-established reality that India has the second biggest power on the planet accessible to it with regard to qualified legal professionals. The Advocates Act, 1961 specifies the lawful manner which should be followed by lawyers. They must follow the rules of the Bar Council of India as well. In more recent times one big phenomenon is that Indian law firms have started opening offices overseas and the second is the adoption of technology. For example, in the recent pandemic time, suddenly we were all working from home instead of going to offices which is a huge change. So, the law has started to go with technology hand to hand. In this way, the concept of growth of governance and management of the organization of the law firms has emerged.

Besides, social media has impacted the practice of law a lot. For instance, if you post on LinkedIn regularly about a specific area of law, a foreign law firm can hire you for a work-related to that field because they know that you are a lawyer in India in that field. So, that's the power of this whole digital media. This is a historical and contemporary evolution of the growth of the legal profession in India.

As we know there has been a reorganization of the legal profession which has happened at a macro level through the adoption of new values and goals whereas at the micro level there has been an emphasis on redesigning the patterns and styles of function. This obviously includes the adoption of a governance model by inculcating a larger sense of accountability both individual and collective professional ethics and teamwork.

Effect of globalization on the legal professionals
Globalization is the integration of different countries' economies. The effect of globalization on legal professionals is an ongoing debatable issue. India had signed a WTO treaty in the 1990s leading to LPG which is Liberalisation, Privatisation, and Globalisation. Mainly India had wide economic globalization at that time. Therefore, it was expected that the legal profession will also be globalized under GATS which is General Agreement on Trade and Services. The globalization of the legal profession means foreign law firms and foreign law graduates can come to India and practice.

Thus, it was assumed that there will be globalization in the legal profession along with economic globalization. But BCI which is the Bar Council of India passed many resolutions between the year of 2002 to 2007 opposing the opening of the Indian legal profession to foreign lawyers or law firms. Law commission of India in 1999, pointed out many issues and concerns while recommending amendments to the Advocates Act,1961 to prepare a level playing field for Indian lawyers.

For all professions, globalization had brought in various responsibilities as professions were called upon to become part of global governance and the legal profession was not an exception to this. The global society being post-modernist in character, a larger level of reconstruction of society was required which prompted legal professionals to extraordinarily reimagine the socio-political and legal order.

For the legal profession, this era was a post-professionalism that is a rediscovery of professional values, approaches, and indeed frameworks. It is important to know the story of the legal profession's self-transformation and its role in transforming the world, particularly in the context of the legal profession.

There was a large-scale segmentation of legal functions due to the exponential increase in the number of global deals and transactions at all levels which demanded regulation and control. This development coincided with the loss of exclusivity of legal professions over subject matters which were previously within the exclusive limit and competency of legal professions.

Such a loss has prompted legal professionals to remark on their disciplinary and functional perimeters which is in addition to a new inclusivity profession. At the proverbial surface, this has manifested in the form of the rise of limited liability partnership firms which have legal professionals with specialists and super-specialist knowledge and skills. They offer transnational services of global standards; their work is characterized by speed efficiency and optimal outcomes.

All of which are essential for the sustenance of global society. The ecosystem of these firms has been able to create and attract a large number of young law graduates to become part of their function. This primarily owes to the sense of participation in the global process and opportunities to contribute to that process that law firms have been able to create.

Entry of foreign law firms
There is a constant inherent contradiction playing in the Indian arena. At one level there was a strong appetite to see that opening up happening from 1991 and at another level, there were signs of protectionism at multiple levels including the entry of law firms into India.

There are very radical changes that have occurred within the legal profession since the significant liberalization of the economy and what hasn't happened of course is that there hasn't been the liberalization of legal practice within India. The way in which international firms have looked to play a role is in two most obvious ways- one is in relation to inbound transactions into India and another in an outbound transaction.

In an inbound transaction, it can be a strategic acquisition by Facebook or google or it can be a private capital transaction from a soft bank, and then on the outbound transaction the Indian companies doing things around the world, for instance, Tata Motors buying jaguar land rover for example.

In both of those sorts of deals, there is often an umbrella transaction and that umbrella agreement may be subject to English law. So, for both the inbound and the outbound there is a role for international law firms to advise on English law where we cannot advise on Indian law. So, that's the way in which foreign law firms can get involved. Indian clients doing things outside of India and International clients doing things inside of India and then in relation to both of those aspects, the work needs to be done alongside.

The question comes into mind that in the future is whether the future of globalization of the legal profession is going to be where geography and the original jurisdiction in which a person has earned his or her law degree are going to matter less and the opportunities for one to work in different jurisdiction is going to emerge particularly in the context of international law firms.

There is a concept of internationalization of practitioners in this question where opportunities in a sense are on the mobility across different sort of jurisdictions and unfortunately, it's not easier to be locally qualified foreign lawyers. The practitioner has to go through a lot of exams to clear those exams. Law as a profession whether it's transactional law or particularly litigation doesn't lend itself to ease of mobility when you compare it to some clients like investment banks. There the practitioners just chased the opportunity whereas local qualifications are still a challenge.

One of the things that have motivated many people to enter into the law itself was the fact that the law is the means of social change. The classic notion of law being the pursuit of public interest is the larger focus. Corporate law firms generally particularly in the US and in other parts of the world have used the pro bono framework for promoting this particular aspect. Because of the globalization of the legal profession, lawyers tend to work in multiple jurisdictions. Here one question comes whether it has a role to diminish the public interest in the aspect of the role of a lawyer.

There are some observations in relation to this. The first observation is what we do day-to-day is not about social change and the budding lawyers must have dreams that the lawyers were about to be part of society and helping society to change in some way. That is true to some extent but what we do whether it's dispute resolution or banking and financing, these are about meeting client needs and so it's not really about social change in the classic sense.

The second observation is that the way in which we meet needs, which is a perfectly legitimate need that a major organization should play a responsible role in the world that they do that through various pro bono and sort of diversity initiatives within the law firm itself and increasingly international law firms allow the people that work within them to actually spend quite a lot of time on some projects that they may be passionate about.

India is fascinating in this respect because we have all seen that the Supreme Court is rather more creative in India than it is in a number of other jurisdictions. The judges have looked to step into what they've regarded as something of a lacuna in the governance of India and thought that if the government is not going to step in and provide guidance rules and regulations then the Supreme Court will do that. In 2011, in a judgment delivered by the Bombay High Court and it was held that foreign law firms could not be permitted to set offices in India.

Contrary to this Madras High Court, on PIL filed by A K Balaji, permitted foreign lawyers to practice in India. The law and policy element are something that Indian courts have grappled with a lot and many of which has a potential bearing on the public interest. Thus, India has an interesting melting point in that respect and probably more so than a number of other jurisdictions.

Global transformation demands newer skills and knowledge from legal professions due to the reason that transactions and functions have become global in nature which is a quite natural outcome of globalization and social integration. This has brought about a new approach towards skilling up, continuing legal education, and professional development of knowledge. The skilling methods of the new generation when it comes to continuing legal education that happens within a law firm should be up-to-date when it comes to creating the ecosystem for which knowledge and learning is a continuous process and one's experience helps them to move into the other in a seamless manner.

As far as continuing education is concerned, every single day we are having continuing education. But now we have to understand that the ecosystem is now moving to have roles of different other factors for example role of innovation in how do you make your people creative.

It starts with data, when you organize data it becomes information, when you interpret the information, it becomes knowledge and when you add experience to knowledge it is wisdom. In the legal profession, there is increased importance of innovation. We need to teach people how to think creatively and how to build innovations. But the pace has to accelerate and the whole ecosystem for creating this innovative mindset has to be inculcated.

The lawyers being thought leaders have to do visualization about what law is likely to be and merely advise based on the fact that today this is the law and advice; those days are not gone actually but they co-exist with the thought. Because of the role of Artificial Intelligence and technology, a lot of work that we are doing will become automated and in fact, one other thing that law firms have to imbibe now is to put in a lot of security systems as that is becoming a minimum standard. Thus, audit technology, client information, security system, etc. are taking a lot of importance.

As far as the firms are concerned more and more firms will become global and globalization is different from internationalization. Internationalization is having offices in different places but globalization is a matter of mindset where you'll be able to do a lot more for example, by using a simple website you can be still global and you can reach out to the world, unlike earlier days.

In the art of globalization, we will have to learn how to go to different countries, cultural assimilation, and different laws in those countries. Immigration restrictions are the worst form of human rights protectionism and human rights violation because we are human and we can go anywhere in the world. If other countries open up for different countries' lawyers it will be better at the end of the day.


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