By Smita Priyadarshini, Counsel Director, Dell
The Indian legal industry is witnessing the most eventful phase of its evolution today. Driven by new business opportunities, proliferation of smaller law firms, growth of LPO alternatives, and impending entry of foreign law firms, the market is in transition. Needless to say, the change is presenting newer challenges, which in turn is setting off a sharp need to manage legal businesses more proficiently in India.
Today’s economy has unveiled a plethora of opportunities for professionals called as legal consultants. This past decade has been the decade of legal consultants in the world of lawyers. So what is it that a legal consultant does which is so different from the traditional lawyers which we had a decade ago. Law consultants market their legal expertise to clients in a manner that lies outside the realm of traditional legal representation. They offer legal expertise in matters such as employment, securities, governmental compliance and structural organization. They also perform in-house investigations which in legal parlance is called due diligence.
In simple words, just like prevention is better than cure, the legal consultant helps you manage and identify legal risk, be it personal, professional, corporate, HR, labor related. Today’s market for legal consultant means the growth in primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary sector. This technological growth and numerous other factors are challenging the initiative and creativity of lawyers. Today, the large global enterprise operating in India need legal consultants to advise them on ancillary services such as investment advice, consulting services, and venture capital etc. This has propelled the lawyers from the traditional practice of law into becoming professionals providing these core competency services. The law schools now are also providing academics based on similar lines. An example being that Harvard Law School has established the Center on Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry, a first of its kind program in India.
In today’s economy we are looking at both the factors - commerce and employee satisfaction & security. This is done by identification of risk and providing mitigation by the legal consultants. The employee wants to be protected in the professional environment. The awareness towards professional security has led the employer and the employee, head towards legal consultant who can brief them about the legal risk involving HR, harassment, labor law and policies etc.
So now as you understand, the legal profession has evolved away from the stereotypical old fashioned lawyer doing litigation only and is no longer confined to the court rooms. It has moved to the corporate world in a major way with advisory function in all aspects – professional and personal. Legal Consultants today must provide excellent client service as well as a market to new clients; manage their staff and their finances to be successful. To do so, they require not only excellent legal knowledge and legal skills, but also good interpersonal and management skills. With globalization, the corporate world has opened up the demand for in-house legal consultants as well as in the law firms to cater to the specific needs in Tax, intellectual property protection, environmental protection, competition law, corporate taxation, infrastructure contracts, corporate governance and investment law. This concept though existent was almost dormant prior to the last decade.
As a result Legal Consultant provides a wide variety of legal expertise ranging from improve organizations profitability and efficiency, advise solutions for client development strategies, marketing and productivity, consult on legal and program issues to actively manage risks, analyze problems and develop solutions for meeting company’s objectives, review, draft and negotiate legal documents, perform legal research , analysis on qualified retirement plans, insurance and securities, perform legal research and analysis of ERISA and tax laws on retirement plan design, operations and transactions, review process breakdowns impacting retirement clients, resolve operational issues and determine and suggest proposed action course, support clients to gather facts on resolving litigation, subpoenas and complaints, analyze individual disputes and conduct legal research to execute a course of action, draft regulatory filings with insurance regulators or SEC and review and file prospectuses, monitor staff to budget, record hold orders and retention policies, covenant certification processes, legal inventory, knowledge management and business continuation, monitor legal and regulatory developments and analyze legally with required execution. The legal consultant of today specialize in designing equity and loan instruments, writing infrastructural contracts, power contracts, drafting of project finance contracts, finalizing transnational investments, joint ventures and technology transfer contracts.
The organizations completely depend on its legal consultants to effectively bring about a safe business plan, finances, tax benefits and employee related policies by calling out the legal risks and providing mitigation.The competency of today’s legal consultant is not confined to Indian jurisdiction like in the old times and days , but the increased international boundaries of trade has made competency in fields of International law like Arbitration, Public law, Human rights, Civil liberties and bill of rights a must.
It is evident that in the last few years of the last century, the service sector has seen the exponential growth in the legal profession. Legal consultants have been not on a growth plan but a flight plan from career perspective.It is evident, that future of legal consulting is bright and full of promises. I am proud to be a part a part of this dynamic industry which throws new challenges every day like a math equation sending me on a quest for answers.