42 Years of Being a Lawyer in India Has Given This Veteran #3 Deep Insights

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42 years of practice is a figure only a rare industry gem can count on their fingers.

Entrepreneur India

An idol to thousands of aspiring professionals, a hero in the eyes of the world, an expert in corporate & intellectual property law, India’s veteran lawyer Jyoti Sagar often has an argument not many can counter.

Ranked among the top 10 best lawyers of the country, Sagar retired from the organization he joined only to start his own company as a solo practioner with an office boy and a driver.

A company that started from a hotel room in South Delhi to employing 300 corporate lawyers, Jyoti Sagar Associates is one of the leading law firms in India. Sagar is also the co-founder of K&S Partners, a boutique practice in Intellectual Property Laws that was started in 1994.

Speaking to Entrepreneur, Sagar outlined #3 key trends that have evolved in the four decades of India’s transition from receiving independence to becoming one of the fastest growing economies in the world. 

In-house Positions Have Clearly Become an Opportunity for Young Lawyers

In good old days, the concept of an in-house legal department hardly existed. You had a law manager who would report to the company secretary or sometime to the CFO of a company and his/her role was very limited.

They did not even have the concept of general counsel. We never heard of an Indian company have the concept of a general counsel forget about a full-fledged legal department. As bigger corporations have come in and the complexity of business and compliance issues has increased, the concept of an in-house legal department led by a general counsel has gained ground in India relatively recently. So we now have groups which have group general counsel, we have operating companies that have group general counsel and even within India, you have some of the larger companies that have an in-house legal department of 200 or more lawyers. That did not exist earlier.

This in-house opportunity where you have companies & banks going into law schools competing with law firms for campus placements and interviews is of recent origin.

Law Firms Seeing Competition from In-House Firms

In some cases, the in-house legal departments are some of the biggest competition to law firms because a lot of the work that would come to external law firms now gets handled by the in-house law firms. Companies are concerned about how much money is being spent on legal issues. When a big investigation like that of SEBI comes in is when external counsels are now being consulted as opposed to earlier. 

Specializations Vs Jack of all Trades

When I started the profession, lawyers basically did what came their way. In my early days of profession, I could be handling a matrimonial dispute in the morning and a technology transfer agreement in the afternoon. That was everybody did everybody because the opportunities were limited. That has very significantly changed. The big distinction is between contentious practice and non-contentious practice. You are either a litigator or you are in the advisory practice. That is very well established.

You will rarely find a lawyer who is exceedingly successful in both areas. There is so much of categorization of specialization – are you a banking lawyer, are you a securities lawyer, are you an M&A specialist. You have sub-sector specialization and that is reflective of top–notch companies.