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Why the Legal Sector needs Entrepreneurs The only way we can change this failing system is when we go corporate – through the development of legal firms.

By Sarosh Zaiwalla

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The Indian economy is currently flourishing.Its rapid growth rate of over 7% along with Britain's Brexit led pound downslide means that it has now surpassed the UK, in terms of size of economy, well before the projected 2020 year mark. This is truly historic in magnitude, as India has managed to achieve this feat after 150 years! The scale is still in India's favour as we go ahead into 2017, continuing our year-on-year consistent growth rate above 7%, while the UK manages only about 1-2% annually.

India is also benefiting largely from international investments owing to the current government's initiatives to boost Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) under schemes such as Make in India. With not just cheap labour, but also the world's leading educated and skilled workforce, India is an attractive destination for global trade and business.

But far too little has changed over the years in the legal space in India. The country is yet to catch up with the growth level it is experiencing. For global investors, ease of business is a premier criteria for venturing into any country, and in India the lack of speedy judiciary processes along with mounting pressure on the aging courts have been the red tapes.

The country possesses exceptional potential in the information technologies, manufacturing, shipping, finance and R&D industries; but to accelerate further interest and for ease of business, it has to upgrade its legal and public sector efficiency in the next phase of action. That way, we will be truly on course to take on other major countries that have set an example. It is time we have a reformation and the only forward is through entrepreneurship.

At the moment, the legal sector in India is a crowded and cluttered space, with about 1.2 million lawyers in the country; along with 400,000 to 500,000 studying law at this very minute, churning out approximately 60,000 to 70,000 graduates every year. While the figures seem dense, comparatively India has just 1 lawyer for every 1,000; as against 1 in every 260 in the US and 1 in every 500 in the UK.

To be brutally honest, the majority of lawyers in India are poorly educated often with questionable degree certificates from one of nearly 1000 law colleges. Most of these graduates end up on high streets working as affidavit hawkers or notaries outside of small courts. The well-educated ones end up either in the corporate sector or as legal assistants to existing lawyers scattered across the country.

India seems to have its fair share of legal entrepreneurs but from the wrong end of the scale. Recently, the Bar Council of India (BCI) after two years of rigorous investigation has uncovered that 45% of lawyers in the country have been improvising and operating under bogus degrees. The only way we can change this failing system is when we go corporate – through the development of legal firms. There is currently a gap in the market and innovators and dynamic individuals can fill the space to bring about a change in the way businesses operate. Boutique law firms with educated and forward legal experts and partners would give a stiff new angle for the way legal professions operate. This would also go on to help building a brand mileage and reputation, something which the Indian public largely look out for as they are often left unaware of the reputation of a legal counsel they deal with. If we develop such an ecosystem of fresh new business practices, these start-ups can also potentially partner with international firms to have a cross country knowledge sharing.

The second bit of entrepreneurial innovation we need in the legal space in India is for phasing in digitalisation – from case files to court proceedings. Although with the magnitude of India's legal network, cases, courts and proceedings, we cannot expect this to be accomplished immediately, but we definitely need to start the process of change making.

For introducing ICTs and digitalisation, it needs innovation – something where enterprisers can fill the void. Introducing such innovative business practices would mean that the rest of the industry would catch up and be forced to evolve their practices to survive. All these developments would help in unclogging the whole legal system in India and bringing about a dynamic atmosphere.

Sarosh Zaiwalla

Founder and Senior Partner of Zaiwalla & Co. Solicitors

Sarosh is the firm’s Founder and Senior Partner, overseeing all the firm’s activities. He began his career in shipping law and arbitration, and then branched out into non-shipping arbitration. Over the years, he has been involved in over 1,000 international litigations and arbitrations in the fields of Energy, Maritime and Construction either as solicitor, Counsel, Party-Appointed Arbitrator or Sole Arbitrator. Over his career, Sarosh has acted for clients ranging from the President of India, the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Iranian Government to the Bachchan and Gandhi families in India.

 

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