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The Campus Law Centre Alumni Association (CLCAA) recently organized a virtual panel discussion titled 'Coping with Covid-19: Navigating the Challenges to the Legal Profession'.
The panel included former judges, senior advocates, corporate lawyers, and academicians, among others.
The two-session discussion mainly addressed questions of final year law students and young advocates pertaining to current and forthcoming challenges faced by the legal profession owing to the COVID-19 health pandemic.
The first session was moderated by Professor Dr Usha Tandon, Secretary of CLCAA. Siddharth Marwah, Treasurer of CLCAA, moderated the the second session.
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Speaking from the perspective of the Bench, Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Gita Mittal encouraged students to utilize this period to acquire more knowledge and be optimistic of the future. She further stated that post-COVID, though the nature of work in the legal profession may change, the quantum of work will still remain as it is. She also stressed on the importance of access to technology for all people.
Former Supreme Court judge, Justice AK Sikri opined that whenever a calamity strikes, there will be a rise in litigation and the advent of new kinds of cases. This period should be utilized to bring in judicial reforms on use of technology to smoothen the process of justice administration and to make justice more accessible, Justice Sikri stated.
Pertinently, on different line of thought, former Supreme Court judge, Justice Madan Lokur advised young lawyers to concentrate and focus more on the High Courts and the District Courts practice as that is where the changes are most required.
"The High Courts are far more powerful in a sense than the Supreme Court."
He further stated that the system in the district Court as well as High Court should improve.
Senior Advocate Mohan Parasaran focused on how technology can be used in justice delivery even in the post-lockdown period. He went on to explain how cases can be classified and decided via video-conferencing and cases which require a policy matter etc., will have to be taken up in the Courts, in the regular manner.
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand highlighted the difficulties in regard to the evidence and the principle of open courts in the context of virtual courts. She additionally stated that young graduates will have to understand and make new building blocks of lawyering in the post-Covid period.
Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra stated while the criminal work might reduce due to the decrease in the crime during the period of lockdown, litigation in other fields will substantially increase. He advised young students to be prepared and quickly adapt to the changing times which hopefully would be more blissful for everyone. He also added, "They [Young lawyers] will have to learn to make themselves relevant in the post COVID-19 scenario."
Offering a perspective from the corporate world, Khaitan & Co Partner Ajay Bhargava stated that law firms had already been using technology in their offices, and the usage has only increased during the period of lockdown.
"Most of the law firms had video conferencing and other technology in place over [the last] 15-20 years. It's just that the use of Zoom calls, Microsoft Teams calls has increase exponentially over the last one month...It has actually increased efficiency".
AZB Senior Partner Hardeep Sachdeva opined that restructuring, insolvency, and distress deals will only increase and that there shouldn’t be any adverse impact on corporate litigation.
He further advised students to relax, as the world cannot survive without lawyers. The need for corporate lawyers has only increased, he added.
Cisco India & SAARC General Counsel Joginder Yadav stated that it is important for corporate lawyers to know the business of the client. For a while, drafting or research can be outsourced, however, it is fundamentally important to know the business of the client, Yadav stated.
He also opined that the various directions issued by the state governments prohibiting companies from terminating their employees during the lockdown period was opposed to labour laws.
IndusLaw Partner Anu Monga urged the students to focus on their final semesters. Expounding on statistical data, she stated that the legal industry is always at ‘3 X’ (three times) of the economy.
"That being the case, there is nothing really to worry about", Monga said.
Ravi Kant, President of NGO Shakti Vahini, urged the students to do more social work and join NGOs considering the rising need for legal aid during the period of lockdown, especially with the rise in cases of domestic violence and child abuse. This will enable the students to have a better understanding of the ground situation, he said.
Speaking through the lens of academia, JGU Vice-Chancellor Professor (Dr) C Raj Kumar emphasized on “Stay in India and Study in India”. He said that students should defer pursuing Master's degrees from abroad, in case they were planning to do so.