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Legal Recruitment Scene in India

Posted by: Laurence Simons 20/06/12

India still remains at the fore when compared to other BRIC economies despite the continued global crisis hindering the economic growth of the country (according to the Union Budget for 2012 – 13, the GDP growth is now estimated at 6.9 %). Having said this, the India story is still looking attractive. Since 2009 – 10, India has been one of the world's most sought after economic destinations. With Foreign Direct Investments increasing by 55% in early 2009, it has been a roaring “never look back” journey for the Indian Economy.

We expect a lot of movement within the legal market in India and in particular within the emerging sectors such as Infrastructure, Power and Energy and Manufacturing. The other trends to be followed closely would be double digit pay hikes and retention issues.

In-house Legal space

The good news is that Indian in-house legal function has now moved from being a part of the support services team of an organisation to being an equal Business Partner. As such, legal teams are now expanding to support the growing businesses and increasing demands on the internal legal function itself. HR is now under a lot of pressure as it’s not just a search for a good lawyer but someone with a strong focus on business relevant and practical advice that is tailored to the success of the business whilst balancing the needs of protecting the company. So, with the General Counsel/Chief Legal Officer in India now taking their rightful seat at the top table, the development of the Indian legal department continues to move in the right direction.

Law Firm space

Since the amendment to the Limited Liability Partnership Act in 2009 which removed the 20 partner limit for Indian law firms, the private practice market has undergone dramatic growth and expansion. Prior to this, the majority of the established Indian law firms felt comfortable in their ability to access the very best legal talent in the market just by the virtue of who they were and the stability of their competitor landscape. How things have changed over the past 3 years or so….

All the major firms have seen partners move, often with teams in tow, to form their own small boutique firms or switch allegiance to a rival. In response, law firms have now started to realise the importance of talent acquisition and retention more than ever before. Most national law firms now think long term and concentrate more on strategical hiring that strengthens their market positioning for the future. Law firms have also realised that they need to have a better and more in-depth understanding of the talent market space which resulted in many establishing HR functions not just to take care of the existing staff but to also introduce more professional and streamlined internship processes, graduate level recruitment and junior level hiring.

Market in 2012 - 2013

Even though the market conditions have experienced something of a set back on the back of continued difficulties in Europe, the India story is still an attractive one. A steady stream of multinational manufacturers are exploring the tier two cities like Pune and Nashik to establish their corporate offices (as Mumbai and Delhi/Gurgaon become ever more cost prohibitive – and congested). Additionally, sectors such as Infrastructure, Power & Energy and Manufacturing (especially in the agriculture and healthcare space) continue to provide opportunities for high calibre lawyers. Compliance however is the notable growth area and lawyers with experience in this field are very much in demand. The Banking, Financial Services and Insurance sectors have always been highly regulated in India but, since 2007, we have seen the evolution of a Compliance lawyer in virtually every sector and this trend looks set to continue.