A law is valuable not because it is law, but because there is right in it - Henry Ward Beecher
What does law mean? The word law is probably very intimidating for most of you. But it is nothing but a set of rules aimed to create a system of justice and one that is enforced through social or government institutions. The latter monitors the behavior of all that come under the purview of a particular law. The precise definition of law, however, is a matter of a longstanding debate. Some even describe it as a science or an art.
Laws of a country are either enforced by a legislature, either by a group or individual and result in what are commonly known as statutes. Executives of the judiciary may also enforce laws through decrees and regulations, while judges enforce laws through precedents. The act of creating a law maybe influenced by the constitution adopted by the country and is connected to the rights that are encoded therein. Irrespective of the origin or the type, the law of the nation is what shapes the history of politics and economics and the society, at large.
A lawyer is someone who practices law. A lawyer is known by different names depending on the type and the country such as attorney, barrister, notary, solicitor, legal executive, etc. The salaries also vary across the types, specialization and country. For example, a barrister in London makes five times the average salary of a lawyer in India.
What are the Four Main Types of Law?
If you want to understand what goes into deciding the salary of lawyer in India, you must first understand and choose which type of law you want to practice. In the end, it won't matter if you end up in the public or private sector if you choose your specialization carefully.
1. Corporate Law
As a corporate lawyer, your job is to make businesses abide by applicable laws. And you can earn very high salaries just by acting as corporate solicitors in big MNCs and firms. All you need to do is to be aware of the laws and help your clients run successful businesses within their legal limits. This includes taking care of patents, product legalities, and of course, financial transactions. The average starting salary of corporate lawyer in India is anything between INR 6 to 7 lakhs per annum.
2. Energy Law
This is a very lucrative and upcoming legal specialization. As an energy lawyer, you have to help giant companies manage the taxation of energy which is also known as extraction charges. In essence, you have to supply steady flow on information about company rights on energy-rich lands and the related licenses. This is important to maintain economic parity in any country. The average starting salary of lawyer in India in this field is anything between INR 7 to 8 lakhs per year.
3. Criminal Law
Criminal law is a passion, not a profession. Probably the toughest nut to crack, criminal lawyers are entrusted with the tough job of preventing their clients from committing a crime. This specialization will not fetch you as high an income as corporate law but it is highly rewarding nevertheless.
4. International Law
This type of law is applicable between countries and is established to ease trade and to promote the feeling of one world. Quite obviously, as an international lawyer you have to resolve conflicts between nations or companies across borders.
Depending on the area of interest and passion, there are different types of lawyers that are making a mark in the world.
Main Factors Influencing the Salary of A Lawyer
A lawyer's pay is dependent on a number of factors including the location (whether you're in London or Kolkata), years of experience, your position in the firm, the range of work you have, how many jobs you have switched, etc. Here is a look at the most important factors that influence the salary of a lawyer-
Type of Firm
First-year associates in some of the biggest law firms in India start at six-figure salaries while those who work for non-profit entities to gain work experience such as legal aid, may make much less. There are lawyers and solicitors who dedicate their lives to the justice system and offer most of their services pro bono.
Private vs. Public Sector
The salary of lawyer in India differs significantly between the private and the public sectors. If you are working for a private law firm, you are sure to make a significantly higher amount of money than someone who works as a litigation lawyer with a sessions or district court. To make public sector roles such as prosecutor more appealing, the central government of India has often tried to offer better packages in the form of incentives and perks to solicitors. But a public sector attorney still earns a lot less than their peers in the private sector.
Position in the Firm
Most law firms have a top-down hierarchical structure which is, more often than not, like this -
- Equity/Senior Partner
- Junior Partner
- Senior Associate
- Junior Associate
As per the hierarchy, because the senior partner holds equity of the firm, she is also entitled to a part of the revenue that flows into the firm. This is on top of the rate she may charge as salary and incentives. This calculation diminishes as you go down the hierarchy with the junior associate being the person who's fresh out of law school.
If you have cleared the bar exam India, your salary may or may not go up.
Average Lawyer Salary in India for Litigation
Litigation, let's face it, is slow and not very lucrative. But, at the same time, it is highly sough-after by lawyers in India. In terms of earnings, litigation lawyers do not earn as high an income as maybe a corporate lawyer. This is primarily due to the slow pace of progress both in terms of the case as well as the time taken for the lawyer to carve a niche for themselves.
The salary scenario is not very encouraging. For example, the Delhi High Court pays a paltry sum of INR 13K to 26K per month to its lawyers and advocates. Whereas the picture is even more dismal in Madras High Court with lawyers making an average monthly salary of only 7K to 14K.
It is to be noted that lawyers typically are self-employed, especially in the private sector and do not receive a formal salary. They, in fact, charge a litigation fee that depends on the nature of the case. The rate depends on the number of appearances you have to make in court . This can be as low as INR 300 per appearance or as high as INR 30L per appearance (as was reportedly charged by Ram Jethmalani).
Average Salary of Corporate Lawyer
If you think it is expensive to hire a professional, wait till you hire an amateur - Anonymous
This could not have been truer than for corporate lawyers. The average salary of corporate lawyer in India ranges anything between INR 30L to 2 Cr per year! Even for beginners, the minimum salaries offered by big law firms end up around the INR 15L mark. No wonder, corporate lawyers are slowly becoming the next big thing in the legal system. They are smart, well-read and the crème de la crème of law students from top institutes in the country.
You'd be amazed to know that in New Delhi alone, the earnings of corporate lawyers are 60% more than the national average. The compensations typically increase by around 20% each year by the time you have reached the 5th year with the firm. But here again, credibility is everything. You really have to prove your mettle and build strong client relations, who would want to retain you. Then only such projections will be applicable for you. Otherwise, just becoming a lawyer doesn't entitle you to anything.