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Young lawyers in crisis

This immortal and mesmerising verse from the legendary Pakistani intellectual and revolutionary poet, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, if purposely interpreted, primarily refers to a situation of utter despair and continuous struggle, in which a man finds himself when he leaves a place of comfort. It will not be an exaggeration to assert that the aforementioned verse, primarily its second limb, perfectly explains the current state of young lawyers in Pakistan as after completing their degree, they enter into a completely new and unpredictable world, full of unremitting challenges and insurmountable barriers.

It is an incontrovertible reality that almost all the great leaders were lawyers, for instance, Jinnah, Bhutto, Mandela, Lincoln, Jefferson, Gandhi, Ambedkar and Nehru. History is replete with examples where lawyers played a pivotal role in the nationalist and democratic struggles in different parts of the world. In Pakistan, the lawyers have traditionally and heroically defied autocratic regimes for democracy and the rule of law e.g. movement against Ayub Khan in 1968, MRD movement of 1983 and the Lawyers Movement of 2007 for independence and restoration of judiciary which resulted in ousting of Pervez Musharraf.

In the aftermath of lawyers’ movement of 2007, amidst high expectations, many young boys and girls opted for a degree in law whilst dreaming about, confidently roaming in the corridors of the courts and vehemently arguing cases before judges. Unfortunately, dreams of many young lawyers didn’t materialise into reality, after enrolment as an advocate, apart from few lucky ones picked up by prestigious law firms and prominent chambers, the majority of the young lawyers are coping with an outlandish world of uncertainty, apathy, wickedness, cruelty and deception. Young lawyers are sullenly discontented by every conceivable standard. The situation gets worse for those, who belong to family of modest means, possess a local law degree (not foreign) and are not related to or referred by a celebrated lawyer or a judge.

It is understandable that legal profession is not an easy job to bear with as it requires time, focus, patience, uphill struggle and determination to transform into a full-fledged advocate. However, at present the young lawyers are confronting myriad of preventable and unreasonable challenges, the most prominent among those are discussed as hereunder:

First, there is no mechanism for providing financial assistance to newly enrolled lawyers in Pakistan. In the field of medicine, newly enrolled medical graduates get sufficient remuneration in the form of monthly stipend during House Job period. The approach of different bodies of lawyers like Pakistan Bar Council, Provincial Bar Councils, District Bar and High Court Bars is also indifferent towards this particular issue. The Chairman of Pakistan Bar Council (Attorney General) and the Chairman of Provincial Bar Council (Advocate General) have seats in central and provincial legislatures for suggesting and introducing reforms (statutory amendments) in the legal profession, regrettably nothing with regard to monetary assistance has been proposed so far.

Second, apart from few genuine mentors, the uncaring attitude of senior lawyers is very problematic and dispiriting for young lawyers. Either consciously or due to their hectic schedule, they do not extend the required cooperation to young lawyers. Motivation and support of senior lawyers is indispensable for growth of young lawyers, a single word of appreciation can instill an unfathomable belief in a young lawyer that he can do wonders in the legal profession.

 

Third, unfortunately, most of the young lawyers are being misled and misused as tools for obstructing the administration of justice by seniors; nowadays, especially on the criminal side of legal practice, it has become a norm that seniors take at-least 15-20 juniors with them for arguing bail petitions before the district judiciary, the sole reason behind this reprehensible exercise is to pressurise the judges for favourable outcomes. Such abominable practices are encouraging insolence and violence among young lawyers. Law’s nobility as a profession lasts only so long as its members maintain their commitment to integrity, probity, morality and professional ethics. It seems like the seniors instead of mentoring young lawyers in esteemed traditions of legal profession are using them for protecting their vested interests. The members of legal fraternity are expected to uphold its noble traditions and serve the society earnestly with paramount deference for the courts. Any compromise with the law’s nobility as a profession is bound to adversely affect the confidence of the people in rule of law.

Fourth, due to apathy of seniors many young lawyers are left at the mercy of Munshis (Court Clerks). After spending 3-4 years with Munshis, all they learn is street smartness, shortcuts and how to get adjournments. Post Iftikhar Chaudhary era, the bridge between lawyers and books has widened, now lawyers more tempted by use of force than use of legal arguments. The libraries of High Courts and District Courts are being utilised by only those lawyers who are preparing for civil judge exams. Due to nominal or wrongful guidance of seniors, there is no one to educate young lawyers that knowledge is power and advocacy needs in-depth study of statute, judicial precedents, jurisprudence and literature. Litigation is not mere induction as local commission or evidence commission, it is sublime art of, conducting a trial (including examination in chief and cross examination) and getting the unlawful and unconstitutional actions of executive judicially reviewed on touch stone of Article 199 of the Constitution.

Fifth, the worst kind of exploitation takes place when young lawyers are engaged in what I would call “Office Boy Work” for instance, Parking cars of seniors, getting the cars washed from service stations, preparing tea for clients, paying utility bills and buying groceries for their kitchen.

Sixth, the behaviour of majority of judges with young lawyers is disappointing and mortifying; the same argument, if propounded by a senior lawyer is appreciated with a smile and if presented by a young lawyer is out-rightly rejected in a very belittling way. The young lawyers are often unjustifiably and needlessly insulted by judges; such attitude from judges brings hesitation, lowers the morale and kills the confidence of young lawyers eventually leading to their negative growth. In this regard, the present Chief Justice of Lahore High Court (the iconoclastic, revolutionary and visionary Mr Mansoor Ali Shah) deserves a standing ovation. Since last seven years, Justice Shah is expeditiously dispensing justice (with complete focus on merits of the case) irrespective of the fact whether a senior lawyer or a junior lawyers is arguing before him.

It needs to be remembered that the foundations that we will build today in legal profession will define the quality of our legal polity tomorrow. Time has come to rethink, how we want to prepare our young lawyers for the tomorrow and for keeping intact the nobility, grace, prestige and rich traditions of legal profession. No amount of oratory and pompous declarations can bring forth change until and unless positive, qualitative and corrective attitude is shown by the lawmakers to instantly consider the needs and concerns of the young lawyers. First two years of legal practice needs to be supported by monthly stipends to avoid exploitations. We need to bring our young lawyers back to libraries and inculcate in them the habit of reading books. Additionally, they need to be trained in court conduct, professional ethos, self-restraint, communication and research skills and the art of using legal thinking in the intricacy of practical world.

The whole responsibility lies on the shoulders of the lawmakers, Judiciary, Pakistan Bar Council and Provincial Bar Councils and Senior Lawyers to seriously evaluate the reasons behind the frustration, delinquency, discouragement and low morale of the young lawyers. And in light of their evaluations, propose and enforce reformatory and corrective policies to avoid the imminent doom of young lawyers in general and legal profession in particular.

Khan, Salman. Young lawyers in crisis. Pakistan Today, May 22, 2017.

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