“The prevailing perception is that law firms are only for the service of rich men” says Chief Justice N V Ramana

The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India unveils Society of Indian Law Firms’ - Coffee Table Book on its 20th anniversary.

The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, Shri N.V. Ramana unveiled the Society of Indian Law Firm’s (SILF) - Coffee Table Book, today in the distinguished presence of the Attorney General of India Shri K.K. Venugopal and Mr. Fali S. Nariman, President Emeritus The Bar Association of India, among others.  

Published to commemorate the 20th anniversary of SILF, this coffee table book highlights the journey, contribution, and key-milestones of over 100 firms that have together contributed not only to India’s economic progress and legal policymaking but also played a significant role in ‘Nation Building’.  

Releasing the book, The Hon’ble Chief Justice of India, Shri N.V. Ramana said, “I would like to congratulate Dr Lalit Bhasin and the Society of Indian Law Firms for releasing this Coffee Table Book that truly reflects the growth of Indian law firms, and of Indian law, over the years. Today, Indian law Firms are on the same footing as their global counterparts. The advice and the strategies formulated by them have far ranging impacts on the issues of environment, employment and labour law and they enable entrepreneurs and business houses to make their ideas a reality. While there is no denying that the law firms have been in the forefront of India’s economy, a significant aspect that they need to consider is their community outreach. The prevailing perception is that law firms are only for the service of rich men.”  

He further added, “There is a misconception among the people, even among lawyers, who practice in the courts, that activities of the law firm do not relate to society. The need of the hour is to remove such perceptions. I urge you all to take up more pro-bono cases and reach out to those who are inhibited from reaching us. When it comes to fulfilling our constitutional aspirations, we all must do our bit. There are also issues about lack of diversity within law firms. As diverse teams can provide more equitable and holistic solutions, necessary institutional changes must be incorporated, to retain more women lawyers in the firm.”

The SILF and its member firms hope that this book will act as a valuable information and knowledge resource across multiple stakeholders including governments and policymakers, local and global institutions, Indian and International companies, consultants and researchers, members of the legal fraternity, as well as emerging and future entrepreneurs.  

In his introductory remarks Dr. Lalit Bhasin. President, SILF said, “SILF is India’s only association of law firms. The Society and its members through their consistent endeavor have upheld social commitment and promoted the cultural, legal and ethical values with a view to strengthen and foster the rule of law. I am both delighted and proud to share that today Indian law firms and lawyers have not only surmounted all the challenges anticipated by the founding members of SILF, but have also excelled in almost every area of professional and procedural endeavors which have brought them at par with leading global law firms.”

Perhaps a relatively lesser-known facts is that the SILF and its member firms have also made an extremely significant contribution to India’s business growth and its economic development. Besides facilitating hundreds of global businesses, institutions, and organisations in establishing their operations, joint ventures, subsidiaries, and a variety of other operations in India, they have also helped numerous Indian business entities and organisations to expand their footprint and markets globally.  

On the occasion, Mr. Fali S. Nariman, President Emeritus The Bar Association of India and Guest of Honor said, “As this book is released at the hand of the Indian judiciary it adds more fillip to it. In 1946 the great American lawyer John Davis, while addressing the New York City Bar Association, stressed on who lawyers were and what they did, which is equally relevant today. He said, “True, we build no bridges. We raise no towers. We construct no engines. We paint no pictures—unless as amateurs for our own amusement. There is little that we do that the eye of man can see. But we smooth out difficulties; we relieve stress; we correct mistakes; we take up other men’s burdens and by our efforts we make possible the peaceful lives of men in a peaceful state”. I submit that this is the image that each member of the SILF must strive to achieve.”

Making relevant observations on the formation of SILF, Mr. KK Venugopal, Attorney General of India, said, “Today SILF, has under it, more than 400 law firms and many more are outside SILF. In 1990, when India adopted a liberalised economy, law firms started emerging; vast opportunities arose in the fields of foreign investment, arbitration capital markets, mergers, and acquisition etc. Lalit Bhasin has played a pioneering role by unifying these over 400 law firms, into a single powerful entity, which has resulted into SILFs coming into existence.”  He pointed out how the immense potential of the legal field has come to be realised. In 2018, the Indian legal market was an estimated 1.3 billion USD, or approximately 8000 crores and according to the Bar Council of India there are as many as 1.3 million lawyers today.  

Speaking on today’s realities, Venugopal said, “Even in the celebratory moment, I must strike a sombre note. In a recent speech at the Harvard Law School, Justice DY Chandrachud said that the corporate legal sector must realise that national networks of legal service providers including NGOs are unable to meet the needs of India’s disadvantaged population and most organisations face significant resource constraints. The legal profession in that sense cannot be in ignorance of the reality of India, a burgeoning population and a society that is characterised by massive inequalities and injustice. These disparities were thrown open last year, when the world was gripped by a devastating pandemic, the likes and scale of which have not been seen in modern times. What is truly sad that Covid-19 has not spared even the legal profession, with many lawyers being flung into serious economic crisis. I am happy to see that many of the Bar Associations have announced ex-gratia payments to lawyers, who are facing financial difficulties due to the pandemic. The support given to them was made possible in part, due to the generous donations of many senior advocates, as well as from SILF the members.” 

On the lines of giving back to the profession, in this hour of need he suggested that we must go beyond financial assistance and augment access to technological resources such as computers, tablets and even Law books. “The mandate of our constitution is to work tirelessly and surpass our own expectations to make India a country where rights are cherished, and which sets an example for other countries to follow. The responsibility of ensuring that justice does not allude us all is one that I believe falls upon us to share equally as members of the legal profession,” said Venugopal.  


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