Tanuj Kalia is the founder of Lawctopus, and has recently authored a book titled ‘Law as a Career’. Published by LexisNexis, the book is a guide for students keen on pursuing a career in law.
Below is a section from the chapter on ‘Salary Packages: A Warning’. The content has been edited slightly to be suitable as a stand-alone piece.
Mainstream media regularly publishe stories about the 12 lakh plus per annum salaries at the big law firms and companies. These figures do not present the complete picture of salary figures applicable to most law graduates. This often misleads the gullible law aspirants and their parents into believing that these plum job offers are the sure-shot fruits of passing out from a top law school.
Unfortunately, even the CLAT coaching institutes, which both the parents and the law aspirants trust in, actually reinforce these ideas rather than being clear on what the true picture is. Let us do a reality check.
The 12 lakh plus per annum job offers are given by a handful of law firms in India. These are generally classified as the ‘Big 6’ of the Indian law firms: Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co. (AMSS, which is undergoing a split as I write), AZB & Partners, J Sagar Associates (JSA), Khaitan and Company, Luthra & Luthra Law Offices, and Trilegal.
Some of the other smaller law firms like S&R Associates, Pathak & Associates, Talwar Thakore & Associates (TTA) and companies like the ICCI Bank, etc. also pay this much.
There are not more than 300 such jobs on offer every year. A bulk of these jobs will be (unfortunately) gobbled up by graduates of the top NLUs. For many other law aspirants, they get sold on a false dream.
The starting salaries at most other places are alright, but not astronomical. Sadly, neither the media nor the CLAT mentors tell you about this.
Renowned firms like Kochhar & Co., Crawford Bayley & Co. have a salary package of 4-6 lakhs per annum. A Supreme Court judicial clerkship pays Rupees 30,000 a month.
If you are working as a junior in a High Court in Delhi, good senior lawyers will pay you Rupees 15,000- 20,000 per month. The figures are lower for other High Courts. At the Madras High Court for example, you can expect the seniors to pay you Rupees 8,000-12,000 a month.
Hence, the caveat: Please do not go by what the media shouts out. It is just an advertisement of the law firms and the law schools and, like all advertisements, it is not the complete picture..
An average law graduate from an average law school definitely does not earn more than an average engineering graduate from an average engineering college. If you graduate from a middle-low rung law school, your salary figure will be around Rupees 15000-20000 per month for starters.
Law is called a ‘jealous mistress’ because, to impress the jealous mistress, you need to work hard. If you are from the top law schools, you still need to work hard. If you are from a low-ranked school, you will need to work twice as hard than the ones from top-rated schools.
If you are excited by the worldly pursuits of living a rich life, rest assured that many lawyers do that really well. As far as earning money is concerned, the sky is the limit for a competent lawyer.
Postscript: The legal profession is also misrepresented in TV shows like Boston Legal, Law & Order, The Practice, etc. While they are fairly informative and stimulating, do not for once assume that that’s how the law is practiced in India.
You may be inspired by the characters in these shows but expecting to live their lives is as sane as expecting to live the life of ‘the Batman’.
Buy the book on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.in/Law-as-Career-Tanuj-Kalia/dp/9351434184/ or on LexisNexis here: http://lexisnexis.in/law-as-a-career.htm