Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=2348699
 


 



India's Grand Advocates: A Legal Elite Flourishing in the Era of Globalization


Marc Galanter


University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison

Nick Robinson


Harvard Law School, Program on the Legal Profession; Center for Policy Research (India)

November 1, 2013

HLS Program on the Legal Profession Research Paper No. 2013-5
Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1240

Abstract:     
An observer of the legal scene in contemporary India quickly becomes aware of the presence of a stratum of legal superstars — advocates based at the Supreme Court and some of the High Courts who are very much in demand and widely known. These 'Grand Advocates,' as we call them, are the most visible and renowned legal professionals in present day India. Stories abound of their strategic acumen, their preternatural articulateness (speaking for hours and days without notes), their esoteric quirks and outsized incomes, and their contributions to the 'rule of law.' This elite handful of lawyers is involved in almost every high-profile case in what is one of the most active and powerful higher judiciaries in the world. Their clients include India’s new uber-rich, major multinational corporations, and the country’s political class.

We argue that Grand Advocates (GAs) have not only survived, but flourished in the age of globalization — benefiting from, while resisting absorption by, the rising law firm sector. A series of structural features of litigation and the judiciary in India have played a dominating role in perpetuating this unique set of lawyers, and the culture they inhabit. Litigation in India tends to be less about money (as there are fewer deep pockets, judges rarely grant large monetary compensation, and it is difficult to collect an award), and more about control. Given the backlogged courts, cases may drag on for years and so it is necessary to secure beneficial interim orders as they relate to the ownership of property, command over an organization, or the validity of government regulation. To achieve these ends, Grand Advocates use the extensive human capital they have developed within the court system and their nuanced knowledge of both formal and informal judicial procedure. These assets are in many ways positional goods — particularly their reputational capital before certain judges–that are difficult to share with juniors or partners. They are also assets that can be used in a wide range of cases, thus lessening the pressure to specialize amongst this select group of lawyers, who are still largely generalists.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 31

Keywords: legal profession, senior advocates, India, globalization, supreme court, high courts, lawyers

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Date posted: November 2, 2013 ; Last revised: May 7, 2014

Suggested Citation

Galanter, Marc and Robinson, Nick, India's Grand Advocates: A Legal Elite Flourishing in the Era of Globalization (November 1, 2013). HLS Program on the Legal Profession Research Paper No. 2013-5; Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1240. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2348699 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2348699

Contact Information

Marc S. Galanter
University of Wisconsin Law School, Madison ( email )
975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
608-263-2244 (Phone)
608-262-5485 (Fax)
Nick Robinson (Contact Author)
Harvard Law School, Program on the Legal Profession ( email )
1563 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Center for Policy Research (India) ( email )
Dharma Marg
Chanakyapuri
New Delhi, 110022
India
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