79 per cent high court lawyers say junior advocates earn less than Rs 10,000: Survey
The survey also pointed out that a large chunk of lawyers at four high courts did not know any advocate who had received assistance from the state welfare fund meant for advocates.
More than 79 per cent of surveyed lawyers across seven high courts said that advocates with less than 2 years of legal practice at the Bar earn less than Rs. 10,000 a month, a survey by legal think-tank Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy (Vidhi) highlighted.
80 per cent of the surveyed advocates from the Delhi high court said the average monthly income in the first two years of practice for a lawyer could be between Rs. 5000-20,000.
The study, conducted as part of Justice, Access and Lowering of Delays Initiative (JALDI) at Vidhi, surveyed 2,800 advocates across eight high courts on their perception of aspects of judicial functioning and other professional conditions that affect their practice.
The eight high courts surveyed were Delhi, Allahabad, Bombay, Calcutta, Gujarat, Kerala, Madras and Patna.
46 per cent of the lawyers across five high courts at Allahabad, Bombay, Kerala, Madras and Patna felt that the monthly income of lawyers with less than two years of experience at the Bar would be less than Rs. 5,000.
67 and 56.6 per cent of the lawyers in Calcutta and Gujarat high courts respectively said that lawyers with less than 2 years of practice would earn between Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 10,000.
The survey also showed the disparity in incomes of senior advocates and the entrants to the profession.
As per the survey, more than 74 per cent of lawyers in five high courts – Allahabad, Bombay, Gujarat, Kerala and Madras - said that senior advocates in their high courts charge upwards of Rs. 80,000 per hearing.
As a measure of social security for practicing advocates, setting up of welfare funds by the central and state governments is mandatory under the Advocates Welfare Fund Act, 2001.
With regard to the effectiveness of such advocates’ welfare funds, a large number of lawyers at the high courts of Delhi (92 per cent), Madras (66 per cent) and Gujarat (75 per cent) were not aware of anyone having received financial assistance under the fund.
In stark contrast, more than 80 per cent lawyers from Allahabad (80.3 per cent), Bombay (86.3 per cent), Calcutta (86.5 per cent) and Patna (86 per cent) high courts said that they were aware of lawyers having received such financial assistance.
This survey comes at a time when reports have emerged about the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on young practicing advocates. Various petitions were also filed in the Supreme Court seeking assistance for lawyers who have been struggling due to lack of work during Covid-19.
The Supreme Court Bar Association in April set up a Covid-19 Helping Scheme for providing financial assistance to lawyers during the lockdown.
“The study does not surprise me. Early years at the bar have traditionally been years of strained circumstances. With the many high-priced law-schools churning out smart freshers, these small earnings look even smaller especially for those who come from no family background of law,” said senior advocate Sanjay Hegde.
The participants in the survey also expressed their lack of confidence in the court when it came to giving lawyers a fair hearing in cases.
66 per cent of surveyed lawyers across 8 high courts in the country said that their chance of getting a fair hearing from the court depends upon the composition of the bench.
Over 83 per cent of lawyers surveyed at the high courts of Calcutta (97 per cent), Delhi (83 per cent) and Patna (93 per cent) felt that their chance of getting a fair hearing depends on the bench.