2 Million Indian Lawyers And No Retirement Plans – Choking New Entrants

Hemant K. Batra | Law & Policy Lawyer

I couldn’t stop myself from writing this small writeup or should I say sharing this thought. My line of thinking got stimulated or perhaps reached a level of brim this evening.

Each day my mailbox gets dominated by a sizeable bunch of emails from law students, young lawyers and law schools seeking internships, jobs and campus visits for recruitment, respectively. On top of it, on a weekly basis, I receive personal emails and phone calls from friends and acquaintances recommending law students and young lawyers for opportunities in my office or elsewhere. In the last two weeks, I received several phone calls, which shook me, to begin with, but eventually made me numb. They made me feel helpless and infructuous. I will not be sharing the identity of the callers or the contents of the conversation for the sake of confidentiality and these being private calls.

Out of these calls, one call was from a lawyer with almost twenty years of experience. It wasn’t his first approach to me; he was consistently chasing me with text messages before the call got finally materialised between us. Then there was another call from a young lawyer, after pursuing me persistently with emails and texts. All these calls being from my legal fraternity and seeking desperate help with employment options. I try my level best to communicate with the lawyers personally, who show commitment and perseverance. However, could I help these callers? Not exactly. You know why? Because I did help quite a few in the past, and this phenomenon doesn’t ever stop.

I do not know where this legal profession is heading. There has been a mushroom growth of law schools in India in the last two decades. More than 1000 law schools are operating in India. A mix of government, statutory and private law schools. Many of these law schools have floodgates, which hardly close. India has approximately 2 million lawyers – an astounding number (20 lakh lawyers). The population of lawyers in India is more than the population of at least 80 countries. In other words, there are 80 countries in the world whose population is below 2 million, which is the population of Indian lawyers. Every year, Indian law schools produce about 75000 law graduates or even more. If this trend continues, by 2050, we will have a half crore lawyers in India. Five million or 50 lakh lawyers. Can you imagine?

Now, the law as a career offers the following main options apart from self-employment – law firms, lawyers, government sector law offices or departments, private sector in-house legal, teaching, judiciary, civil services, armed forces legal wings, law-related journalism and a few more. Now, to my understanding, there are three kinds of legal jobs in the organised sector based on remuneration – (i) creamy high paying, (ii) medium compensation, and (iii) moderate or low paying. In my experience, category (i) has about 1000 vacancies each year, while groups (ii) and (iii) offer about 15000 jobs, which means thereby that each year there are about 60000 (sixty thousand) law graduates who are left out of the organised sector. Let us assume that out of 60000 (sixty thousand) fresh law graduates, 10000 (ten thousand) join an active private practice, and another 10000 (ten thousand) join family business other than law; we are still left with 40000 (forty thousand) unemployed law graduates or lawyers. And this figure is adding up each year.

There is a massive imbalance in the legal profession between demand and supply. I cannot comprehend the solution at this stage. I am sure the readers may have some ideas in mind or measures of correcting or meeting this challenge. However, one idea which strikes me is touched upon in the heading of this article. Let elderly lawyers engage in passive law practice and active law teaching. Let the younger lawyers get more opportunities under the mentorship of elders and seniors. Just a food for thought or an appetiser for insight.