By Abhishek Chakravarty
As the lockdown in the backdrop of COVID 19 continues, many professionals in India have started to work from home. However, lawyers today face a massive challenge: many legal professionals are left with very little or no work until courts reopen.
This surely is evidence to the fact that India’s Judicial System has not advanced itself to belong in the digital age. This lack of sophistication has influenced lawyering as well, and we have hardly seen any skill enhancement to cope with these changing times.
As the legal fraternity worldwide today talk of competency models for the new age lawyer – from “I-shaped” to “T-shaped” and finally to “Delta-shaped” – most Indian lawyers are still stuck with the primordial skill-sets of 19th Century lawyering.
To enhance skill-sets, Indian lawyers need to understand and adapt to the times, keeping in mind the local scenario of our legal system. For a better understanding, let us closely examine these models.
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The “I-shaped model” is the most primordial of all and only requires lawyers to possess the basic legal knowledge and legal skills. Although it went obsolete before the 2000s, most Indian lawyers still follow this model.
The “T-model” incorporates data and technology into lawyering besides existing primary legal knowledge and skills and has equipped lawyers to leap into the digital age.
Over time, it was also evident that building interpersonal relationships, empathy, communication and critical thinking were crucial for lawyering. This led to the inception of the “Delta-model” which consists of three competency areas required for the success of today’s legal professional: Law, Business & Operations, and Personal Effectiveness Skills. This model recognizes that 21st-century lawyers must start with a base of deep legal knowledge and skills.
Building off this notion, lawyers also must understand the impact of technology on their client’s business as well as on their delivery of legal services—appreciating the power of data, technology, and process improvement. But with increasing reliance and utilization of machine learning, lawyers also need emotional intelligence and communication skills to effectively work with clients .
The Delta model captures the requirements for the well-roundedness of a successful 21st-century lawyer – from a law firm context, it is the rainmaker; and from the in-house perspective, it is the general counsel who makes key buying decisions for legal services.
In India, this model can be adopted through a reform in the legal education system to cope with ever-changing times.
This has also been reiterated by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case of State of Maharashtra vs Manubhai Pragaji Vashi & Ors , wherein the Hon’ble Court has stated that – “The need for convincing and well organized legal education is essential in reckoning the new trend in the world order, to meet the ever-growing challenges. Legal education should be able to meet the ever-growing demands of society and should be thoroughly equipped to cater to the complexities of different situations.”
Similarly, there have been genuine efforts by the University Grants Commission and Bar Council of India to bring in much-needed changes to India’s legal education system.
Some of these reforms have yielded positive results but the effects of these changes are only a smidgen. There still lies a significant gap especially in acquiring skill-sets to smoothly cope with and build a legal career in the emerging techno-digital world.
This reform can be brought in by introducing certain skill-based teaching in the undergraduate law course or by starting an entire intermediate course between the undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the form of a fellowship.
Keeping this need for 21st-century skills among Indian lawyers and the need for reform in mind, new initiatives in the field of legal education like the Daksha Fellowship have emerged.
The Fellowship will follow the “Delta-model” of lawyering, encompassing several other facets to help lawyers build skillsets for the 21st century. With more such initiatives, lawyers can be trained to adapt and belong in the future world of work.
(1) Alyson, Carrel, “What is the Delta Model?”
(2) 1995 SCC (5) 730
Abhishek Chakravarty teaches at the Daksha Fellowship in Chennai. His area of expertise is Environmental Law.