Fields of Law
The legal profession is widely mistaken for being limited to courtroom appearances and defending criminals. In reality, the legal profession encompasses a vast subject pool and areas of practice. Sometimes, lawyers begin their careers in one field, only to branch out to do something different in their later years. This can be because that field was the opportunity that was most readily available to them after law school, or due to a conscious decision to move away from a field of the law.
However, some lawyers know which area suits them from the very beginning of their legal careers. This article aims to describe the diverse fields of law that you will study in law school and can take up as a career path.
The Constitution is deemed to be the supreme law of the country. It governs the affairs of the country and involves rights and duties of the government as well as its citizens. The study of the Constitution is one of the most important subjects in law school. The practice of constitutional law is one of the most lucrative areas of the law in India. Most top lawyers in India will be constitutional experts due to years of practice and experience. Similar to the practice of human rights law, the constitution is a vast area of the law and can have many cases and jurisprudence to keep track of. These cases require you to access the High Courts and Supreme Court as some of these issues can be of great significance to the justice system. Most landmark judgments in India will have a constitutional law aspect built into them somewhere.
The field of corporate law deals with rules pertaining to the facilitation and management of business. A corporate lawyer can advise on an agreement, write up a contract, or negotiate clauses on behalf of a client. Corporate lawyers do not go to court, but rather advise clients from the comfort of their office. An understanding of the Companies Act, 2013, and the Indian Contract Act, 1872, is a must. This is one of the most lucrative areas of practice in recent years, with young graduates flocking to prestigious law firms to practice corporate law because of the attractive pay packages. Life as a corporate lawyer will involve very long hours. However, a strong understanding of corporate law can ensure you can work for many different types of clients such as companies, start-ups, banks, etc.
This is an area of the law that is often considered the most interesting and involves defending criminals or advocating for the innocent in cases of murder, rape, theft, etc. Criminal law requires an understanding of court procedures, police investigations, and the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Typically, lawyers who enjoy court - facing lawyers practice criminal law. Most law aspirants dream of practicing in the courtroom as criminal lawyers due to the field being intriguing and interesting. One will see that there is a tendency to avoid practicing criminal law in India due to safety issues and low pay, as compared to salaries in law firms at the start of your career. However, the number of criminal law cases is on the rise and practice in the field pays well as you move ahead in your career if you are first generation lawyer. The most successful and well-known lawyers in India are criminal lawyers.
Employment law concerns the rights & duties of employer and employee. Employment lawyers often fight cases to either defend compliance with the labour laws or absolve their clients of requirements prescribed by such legislation. Employment lawyers will also review employment agreements and assist with the termination of employees. They may also represent an individual employee, employee unions, and other interest groups. While employment law in other parts of the world is often a very specialized area of practice, in India it is not uncommon to see employment law being clubbed together with corporate law, with one legal team advising on both areas of the law. Employment law is one of the more exciting areas of the law, as it has to do with a lot of people-centric issues (hiring, firing, onboarding, health and safety of workers, etc.), and the Indian government has recently made it easier to practice employment law by harmonizing multiple legislations into singular codes of practice.
The practice of environmental law in India is a growing area of the law. It deals with laws pertaining to air, water, wildlife, biological preservation, and environmental protection. With the recent creation of the National Green Tribunal, there are more environmental law cases being litigated and companies are taking environmental compliance more seriously as well. Environmental issues affecting many people often have an underlying constitutional aspect. Being an environmental lawyer can also allow you to work more easily for international organizations such as the WWF-India or government departments. Thus, the practice of environmental law can allow you to work in a variety of settings that are different from the conventional law firm or lawyer's office.
Family law concernspersonal laws, which deal with personal relationships of citizens. Family lawyers are involved in divorce cases, cases involving custody of children, as well as property law. In India, family lawyers have to deal with a number of legislations, which can include even complex laws governed by one’s religion (Hindu laws, Muslim laws, etc.). Family lawyers often deal with cases that can be very emotionally difficult, as the issues in family law affect families and young children.
Human Rights Law
Human rights lawyers advocate on behalf of victims who have had their rights infringed. In India, the practice of human rights law can be long and arduous as one tries to get their day in court – however, this can also be one of the more satisfying areas of the law as often there is a vulnerable party at one end who needs legal advice, as well as the relief. To be a good human rights lawyer, one needs to be aware of basic rights that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution. . One may also see human rights principles as reflected in procedural laws in India, such as the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Intellectual Property Law
Intellectual Property law deals with securing and protecting legal rights relating to innovation, discoveries, and creations. The law seeks to protect the intellectual property rights of authors, inventors, artists, and businesses. An intellectual property lawyer will often advise on issues regarding the interpretation of statutes about patents, copyrights, or trademarks. Intellectual property law is one area that has grown significantly in recent years, with the rise of the media and entertainment industry. The work includes registering intellectual property, drafting legal notices, and actions related to enforcing a breach of agreements. Being an intellectual property lawyer can keep you closer to business than other areas of the law, with many lucrative opportunities in companies such as Netflix and Dharma Productions. Intellectual property law is considered by many to be one of the most exciting areas of practice for a lawyer today.
Property law concerns laws about the transfer and inheritance of property. The practice of property law is remunerative area of the law and can have some overlap with family law when families litigate disputed household properties. However, property lawyers can also be involved in real estate transactions, such as those that concern the major construction projects that are prevalent in a developing country such as India. The practice of property law can also include the review of tenancy contracts and rent agreements, which are straight-forward and routine in the Indian legal system.
Securities law is an area of the law that has greatly expanded in the last two decades. It focusses on the rules pertaining to investment and the financial sector. With the growth of fintech operators in India, and an expansion of the Indian financial system, legal issues concerning them are becoming increasingly common. Typically, one will find the big law firms in India with great securities law practice groups. One must be well-versed with the regulations issued by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
The law school journey is designed to give law students a flavour for all these areas of law so that a typical law graduate has minimal competence in all of them. A law student can then decide which area they want to focus on and pursue upon graduation.
Tax lawyers advise on the interpretation of provisions of the Income Tax Act 1961, and can be expected to fight cases on behalf of clients in special tax courts. Tax law requires an intricate understanding of complex laws and can be one of the most difficult areas of the law to master. However, each case is often very unique, unlike other practice areas that may involve a repetition of issues and use of templates. There is also an undersupply of lawyers in this domain, and the competition is not as great as it is in other practice areas. Much like other countries, in India, tax law is considered to be a niche area of practice.