A GLOBAL talent shortage means international law firms and legal recruiters have their sights set on India, the largest untapped common law jurisdiction in the world.
Edward Andrew, managing director of Sydney-based recruitment firm EA International, said the pool of Australian and New Zealand lawyers who can staff international firms is drying up. As a result, EA International is in the process of opening an office in India to meet the demands of their client base.
“A lot of global firms are looking for hundreds of lawyers a year so we’ve been looking at how we can match clients’ needs with what we produce. We aren’t looking for them to practise Indian law. What we ask is, ‘Can this person potentially be a first-rate lawyer for one of our offices anywhere in the world?’,” he said.
According to Andrew, around 95 per cent of lawyers in India are litigators, but it’s the other five percent that his firm is interested in — those working in the emerging capital market of India.
Indian lawyers have been making their mark on the international stage for some time, but only now have recruiters begun to specifically target Indian lawyers. International law firms, in particular the big UK firms, have also begun to visit Indian law schools to do recruitment drives of their own — a strategy that will help them in setting up an Indian office should foreign law firms be permitted to practise in India. Firms such as Clifford Chance and Linklaters are looking to start large-scale recruitment.
Abhimanyu Jalan, a partner at Clyde & Co in Dubai, said the fact that Indian law students are trained in English is an advantage. Jalan studied in India then did his Masters degree in Canada, and is also qualified to practise in the UK.
Now based in the Middle East, Jalan is a renowned corporate lawyer enjoying the different culture.
“The historical and geographical connection and proximity to India was a reason for me to work in the Middle East. And the Middle East offered someone of my background the best of both worlds — which is the professionalism of the West and comfort of the East,” Jalan said.
Jayshree Gupta, managing partner at DLA Piper Dubai also trained in India and is qualified to practice in the UK. She said international firms prefer Indian lawyers who already have experience and training in another country.
“For example, it’s much easier for the law firms in Dubai to understand UK qualifications than Indian qualifications. So international experience is very valuable and they should take opportunities for secondment if they want their careers to go that way. It’s also very valuable when you are working with India,” she said.
Success stories such as those of Jalan and Gupta are evidence that high-quality candidates can be found in India — a market that is particularly competitive due to its sheer size.
“With the growth we are seeing in India today, and law firms looking at India as the next big market to position themselves to be in, it will be interesting to see where the Indian law market goes — also in terms of what the young Indian lawyers aspirations are. How much do they want to venture abroad?” Gupta said.