In India, in a prestigious profession like that of a lawyer, why a fresh law graduate or a young professional lawyer finds it difficult to sustain? In this blog, we shall know the reasons and understand the requirements of the firms and senior advocates from a lawyer and find out what the Chief Justice of India said about this issue.
KEYWORDS: Junior lawyers, salary, financial sustainability, lack of skills.
Being a young lawyer is a journey filled with many sacrifices, challenges and responsibilities. To become a successful lawyer, the legal profession demands exceptional legal knowledge and great skills. After their LLB degree, every lawyer wishes to help their family and become independent, and it gets quite overwhelming for young minds to survive this hurdle and gain financial stability. But why are they being paid less or not paid at all after graduating? Is it fair to not get at least the minimum salary? Why the senior lawyers or the firms are not considerate of them? What measures can be taken to tackle this problem? Let us find out now.
STRUGGLES OF YOUNG LAWYERS
Often lawyers are tagged as ‘overworked, but underpaid’ or ‘slave workers’ because they start their day early in the morning till night for a minimum salary. A survey conducted by the legal think-tank Vidhi Centre for legal policy highlighted the fact that more than 79 per cent of surveyed lawyers across seven high courts said that advocates with less than 2 years of legal practice or experience at the Bar earn less than Rs. 10000 a month, in an era where 10000 Rs per month values nothing when it comes to a basic standard of living The eight high courts surveyed were Delhi, Allahabad, Gujarat, Calcutta, Bombay, Kerala, Madras, and Patna.
In November 2022, Chief Justice of India Chandrachud made a statement at a function organised by the Bar Council of India. He asked the seniors members of the bar to remunerate their juniors fairly to enable them to live with dignity, “How many seniors pay their juniors decent salaries,” exclaimed Justice Chandrachud, “Some young Lawyers do not even have chambers where they’re paid money.” Further, he added, “If you are staying in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, or Kolkata, how much does it cost for a young lawyer to survive? They have rent to pay, transportation, and food. This must change, and the burden of doing this is on us, as senior members of the profession.” The CJI Chandrachud has urged the senior advocates not to treat their juniors as slaves and pay them decent salaries, saying this kind of practice must change.
Understanding the seriousness of this issue, Law as a profession is opposite in theory and practical field so to get an adequate salary after graduation, the first thing that can be done is, to change the curriculum in the college, along with the theory, practical knowledge should also be given. Internships should be made compulsory in LL.B. courses. Government should run internship batches and courses to teach young students practical skills that are required to get a good amount of salary. They are less paid because they lack the skills and talent. The legal job market is fiercely competitive. New lawyers often find themselves wrestling with limited job opportunities, particularly in prestigious law firms or government positions. The pressure to secure employment can be sometimes overwhelming and may lead to anxiety and failure.
On the contrary, Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO of Lawsikho, is an experienced professional in building companies. He added his opinion to this ongoing debate about less salary given to junior lawyers wherein, he made a great statement about how juniors lack skills, just merely, Research, Mooting and Drafting won’t give them enough salary. They need to upgrade themselves to fit in the role. Young lawyers are quite untrustworthy, they often tend to leave the internship in the middle of nowhere to get into a law firm. They have a mindset that only law firms can give them credibility, not other legal departments, which brings instability to their career.
As a law student, I believe in the prospects of both young lawyers as well as senior lawyers or law firms that are hiring young lawyers. In my opinion:
YOUNG LAWYERS- In India, the struggle for a young lawyer to sustain in the industry is real. The law being a profession is quite challenging and dynamic in nature. But as far as internships are concerned, a stipend must be allowed to every student, and a decent and fair salary must be given to every lawyer working- so that they can earn and bring security to their life because individuals invest their time and effort. And by doing so, they may not lose their attention, confidence and hope to survive, gain knowledge and work with more efficiency and productivity. Also, young lawyers should believe in the process, they cannot demand a higher salary when they cannot deliver the amount of work expected from such a salary.
LAW FIRMS OR SENIOR ADVOCATES- When I put myself in their shoes. I understand what it takes to trust young professionals with confidential work and the amount of hard work they put in young lawyers to make them better in every form is undeniable. Young lawyers are often very indecisive and lack skills, they may leave you when u require them the most or many times fail to bear the pressure or understand the work. It brings the log back to the company. In this, it is the responsibility of an individual to at least stay updated with the Technology, News, some basic skills and if possible advanced skills that will benefit them and to be able to win the trust of the employers by showing dedication towards the work and responsibility.
In any job, it is not about who is the most knowledgeable person in the room, but it is about who is eager to learn, adjust and grow together.
The most important role is played by the government, the theory of law is very much opposite to the practical field. It gets difficult for students to pass out with the skills and knowledge that are required by seniors. In this, the role of government is crucial. The curriculum of LL.B. must contain Practical Exams, Compulsory Internships and Free Courses for additional skills. Government can also provide Internships to students in their early years. By doing this, we can make sure, after graduation the lawyers will come up more knowledgeable and experienced. And it will not be a hurdle for them to get a good and fair salary.
The journey of young lawyers in the legal profession is riddled with various struggles that require resilience, determination, and adaptability. Overcoming financial pressure, job market competition, long working hours, and mental health challenges can uphill battle. However, by fostering mentorship programs, improving work-life balance, and addressing the issue around mental health, the legal profession can better support young lawyers in their struggle for survival. By acknowledging these challenges, the legal community can create a more inclusive and supportive environment ensuring and well-being of the next generation of lawyers. While it is also essential to acknowledge that fair salaries are subjective and influenced by various factors, considering the significant investment of time, education, expertise, responsibility, and the vital role lawyers play in society, it is reasonable to conclude that young lawyers deserve fair compensation for their services.
Murali Krishnan, 79 per cent high court lawyers say junior advocates earn less than Rs 10,000: Survey, HINDUSTAN TIMES (May 09, 2020, 08:16 PM)( https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/50-per-cent-high-court-lawyers-say-junior-advocates-earn-less-than-rs-10-000-survey/story-DV8iGsnOtuNI84KrFCXIlJ.html).
The Wire staff, CJI asks Senior Lawyers to Pay their junior Decent Salaries, not treat Them as ‘slaves’, THE WIRE, (Nov 20, 2022) (https://thewire.in/law/cji-chandrachud-salaries-junior-lawyers).
 Ramanuj Mukherjee, (Sept 20, 2019) (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-we-cant-afford-hire-freshers-very-junior-lawyers-mukherjee/).