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Program on Legal Profession hosts Delhi conference on the Indian Legal Profession

David Wilkins and Shri Salman Khurshid

HLS Professor David Wilkins with the Honorable Shri Salman Khurshid, Indian minister of law and justice

On October 10, the Harvard Law School Program on the Legal Profession (PLP) in collaboration with the Centre for Policy Research hosted a conference in New Delhi, India, entitled “The Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization.”

More than 150 top lawyers, judges and policy makers attended the conference, which aimed to explore the changing face of law in an increasingly globalized market for legal services. The conference focused on how India, like other key emerging economies, is becoming a central player in the global legal services sector and is shaping and being shaped by demand for new legal services.

In his introduction of the conference, Professor David Wilkins, faculty director of the Program on the Legal Profession and vice dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession, presented PLP’s latest marquee research initiative, “Globalization, Lawyers and Emerging Economies” (GLEE), which seeks to study the development of the Indian legal profession and draw parallels and distinctions to what is happening in Brazil and China and elsewhere on the global stage.

Justice J.S. Verma (pictured right), former chief justice of the Supreme Court of India and chairperson on the National Human Rights Commission from 1999 to 2003, gave a keynote address during the conference, and the Honorable Shri Salman Khurshid, Indian minister of law and justice, was the keynote speaker for a dinner event later that night.

The conference’s first panel, “The Transformation of Indian Legal Education,” explored the impact of globalization on thestructure and regulation of legal education. Panelists, who included N.R. Madhava Menon, founder of the National Law School of India University, M.P. Singh, vice chancellor of the National University of Judicial Sciences, and  C. Raj Kumar LL.M. ‘00, Dean of Jindal Global Law School, , reflected on the challenges of modernizing legal education in India. The second panel, “The Transformation of the Indian Legal Profession,” moderated by Professor Ashish Nanda, included Fali Nariman, senior advocate before the Supreme Court of India and president of the Bar Association of India, Lalit Bhasin, president of the Society of Indian Law Firms, and Cyril Shroff, managing partner of leading Indian law firm Amarchand & Mangaldas. Panelists focused on questions regarding professional regulation, coexistence between domestic and foreign legal service providers, legal process outsourcing and the role of law and legal institutions in Indian society.

The GLEE initiative aims to continue exploring many of the issues presented at the conference by engaging Indian lawyers and academics and their brethren in other emerging economies. GLEE researchers collaborate on the design and implementation of interdisciplinary empirical scholarship to assess the significance of the changing nature of the corporate sector for domestic legal orders, economic, social and political development, and global governance. The project will contribute robustly to theoretical debates in globalization, sociology of the legal profession and law and development literatures, and will produce knowledge that helps legal practitioners address globalization challenges they face in their day-to-day work.

In addition to the marquee conference event on October 10, approximately 30 legal scholars (including more than 20 from India) attended an invitation only academic conference two days prior. Some of the conference participants will be producing chapters for an unprecedented volume of empirical research on the Indian Legal Profession in the Age of Globalization, scheduled for publication in 2013.  Wilkins, who is researching a paper on the changing role of in-house lawyers, conducted more than 70 interviews with general counsel of Indian and multinational companies.  While in India, Wilkins also lectured at Jindal Global Law School in Delhi, which opened in 2009 under the directorship of C. Raj Kumar LLM ’00, [and gave a talk at the Harvard Club of India].

—Sophy Bishop

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