Excerpts Of Address As Chief Guest At A Law School

05 Nov 2014

Today, I can very well relate to what British Author & Professor Richard Susskind wrote or predicted way back in 1996, in his book `The Future of Law’ that changes in technology will fundamentally, irreversibly and comprehensively change legal practice, the administration of justice, and the way in which non-lawyers handle their legal and quasi-legal affairs. Unquote. However, I would add that apart from technology, the progression and changes in the corporate and business laws have also impacted legal profession in a huge way.

Law is today both a business and a profession, said Robert Joffe a world famous lawyer from US. He died in 2010. So right was he, so farsighted was he because he chose to put business before profession while defining law.

Private law practice is squarely in the midst of this change, as corporate laws, technology and numerous other factors are challenging the initiative and creativity of lawyers. The good news is that the legal profession is adapting quickly and innovatively, creating new patterns of practice, developing detours around regulatory rules that might stifle growth and competition, finding resourceful methods of handling the increasing costs of practice and overheads, and adopting new tools of management as competition from professional service firms increases.

To better understand the transformation of legal practice from a profession traditionally made up of small independent firms to a multi-billion dollar global business; Harvard Law School went on to establish the Center on Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry, the first program of its kind in the nation, with which I got associated in 2012.

"Law firms and other professional service providers are now a critical part of the global economy,” said Harvard Law School Professor David Wilkins, director of the above program. "At the same time, we depend upon lawyers to play a central role in regulating the global economy in a manner consistent with our fundamental democratic commitments. The academy and the profession must work together both to understand how lawyers are responding to the tremendous changes in the market for legal services and to help the next generation of professionals develop innovative and effective responses to these changing conditions while preserving the profession's core values."

As lawyers are drivers of economy and laws brings about new reforms or in some situations newfangled reforms trigger newer laws; the process of liberalization entails creation of new ambience where some of our old laws get rendered either redundant or incompatible; and many more laws needing to be re-written. But, if the legal fabrication and handling processes are not geared up to the economic change that is sought to be brought about by corporate and business laws, the pace of economic change will get stifled; and consequently failing to achieve the preferred results. In a society governed by the rule of law, it is the law, which must ensure the proper framework in which the economic change can be brought about smoothly and without any abrasion. The law cannot survive in vacuum, it has to change, re-interpret and recast itself so as to meet the changing norms and values of the society. Law charged with basic values of life does play a vital and driving role in contribution towards social wellbeing by bringing about social and economic change. All of us have to play an important role in bringing about socio-economic changes in our society by facilitating and creating new structures and institutions that help in the process of the said changes. Law has to move forward and keep pace with the changing times.

The search for static security - in the law and elsewhere - is misguided.  The fact is security can only be achieved through constant change, adapting old ideas that have outlived their usefulness to current facts. William O. Douglas (Judge, Supreme Court of United States in the 20th Century)

It’s fundamental to understand the notion and concept of economic, business and corporate laws. It’s important for us as lawyers to comprehend that corporate laws may not only comprise of parliamentary statutes but even subordinate legislation in the form of policies, rules and regulations. Economic Policies are subordinate laws. The notion and concept of `law and economic change’ ought to be understood in context of the coherent and cogent controls, the law applies on the fiscal/economic policies thereby steering its development. One need not forget that management of economy by law may be extensive or limited and passive but it has to have dual objectives and that is to attain certain economic development by also meeting the social needs through the instrumentality of law, conducive to the situation. In other words, economic change and liberalization are intended to serve the purpose of efficiency. Why did FDI regime or policy fail when it came to retail sector; it failed because there was a massive mismatch between the economic policy and social need on the ground.

While most basic principles and ethical values are common across societies and nations, yet attitudes and practices do show differences amongst the nations. They may also be different in the same country at different points of time. A nation aspiring to bring in rapid re-distribution of existing wealth and income would tend to emphasize laws that would restrict the individual's right to acquisition of property and hence, the individual initiatives. On the other hand, a nation aspiring for the rapid creation of wealth would tend to have fewer laws, so as to unleash individual and collective energies and remove any restrictive barrier that may arise in the process of growth.