28 Sep 2023 5:35 AM GMT
In a recent event, Supreme Court Judge Justice Hima Kohli lauded the entry of first-generation lawyers from diverse backgrounds and the increasing representation of women in the legal profession for their transformative impact. Speaking at the Forbes India-Legal Power List 2022 Finale, she emphasized that these changes have reshaped the very fabric of the legal profession.Justice...
In a recent event, Supreme Court Judge Justice Hima Kohli lauded the entry of first-generation lawyers from diverse backgrounds and the increasing representation of women in the legal profession for their transformative impact. Speaking at the Forbes India-Legal Power List 2022 Finale, she emphasized that these changes have reshaped the very fabric of the legal profession.
Justice Kohli highlighted the significance of these contributions, stating, “Their contributions are far from mere tokenism; they bring to the table a wealth of diverse perspectives that challenge established norms and infuse cliched discussions with fresh ideas rooted in social justice, fairness and equity,” she added.
The judge underscored that the Indian legal profession no longer operates in silos but has witnessed remarkable changes in its demographic composition over the past few decades. She described it as a vibrant and ever-evolving organism that grows richer with each new voice joining the chorus.
Justice Kohli remarked, “The entry of first-generation lawyers from different backgrounds and the increased representation of women in the legal profession are steps toward inclusivity. They send a powerful message across the country that the tide has truly turned and status quo is passe’,” she added.
Justice Kohli, herself a first-generation woman practitioner, sharing her inspiring journey, said that all rolled into one, and her journey as an independent lawyer had started in the early 90’s, when she had to partly operate from a makeshift office in the boot of her car, to where she is now, serving in the highest court of the land.
“It was not easy. But perhaps, easy was not what I was looking for,” she said.
The Supreme Court judge said that first first generation lawyers coming from diverse socio-economic backgrounds often enter the field with a sense of purpose and mission that transcends traditional boundaries.
She further said that unlike those who may have inherited a legal practice, these lawyers frequently bring with them an outsider's perspective that can challenge entrenched practices, and this is critical for stimulating an ethical discourse within the legal community.
Justice Kohli underscored that these new voices are more likely to question established paradigms in various aspects, such as the attorney-client relationship, billing practices, and advising corporate clients in the face of conflicting interests. She said that their inquiries and challenges force the legal profession to introspect and adapt.
“In their zeal to do so, they compel the entire profession to revisit and re-evaluate some of its most foundational principles. Their queries and challenges to status quo serve as a refreshing ethical audit of sorts, compelling the legal community to sit up, introspect, improvise and adapt,” she added.
Regarding the expanding role and growing presence of women in the legal profession, Justice Kohli emphasized that it is not merely a matter of statistical representation; it signifies a fundamental shift in the legal landscape. She also said that it marks a positive step forward, not just for gender diversity, but for the evolution of honest thinking in the practice of law.
“Women with their multitasking skills bring diverse experiences and perspectives to the workplace, often leading to a more nuanced understanding of moral considerations. Take for instance, the issue of work-life balance. Although frequently pigeonholed as a 'women’s issue,' it has broader and deeper implications. An overworked lawyer, regardless of gender, is more prone to commit errors in judgment, thereby compromising the quality of legal service and potentially impacting the course of justice,” Justice Kohli added.
Justice Kohli opined that the COVID-19 pandemic, a global disruptor, has unexpectedly accelerated shift in work-life balance by normalising remote working, and the law firms, being agile adaptors of this change, have created more balanced and flexible professional commitments.
“This has been incredibly beneficial for women and first-generation lawyers. It has allowed for a more inclusive work environment and expanded opportunities for those who may have previously faced barriers to enter due to absence of a full time office and lack of infrastructure or for those who thought of dropping out on account of personal compulsions,” she said.
Furthermore, she said that these groups introduce intersectional perspectives into legal practice.
Justice Kohli said that women lawyers, often consider not just the direct impact of legal decisions on their clients but also factor in the broader societal impact.
She stressed that they enrich fields not just in family law and child custody, but equally in corporate law and IPR with multi-dimensional considerations.
Justice Kohli further stressed that as women have increasingly found representation across varied fields of law, it is gratifying to see them assume the role of Senior partners in leading law Firms, designated as Senior Advocates, appointed as Additional Solicitor Generals to represent Central Government in Courts and invited to adorn the Bench in good numbers.
She reminded, “when women step into positions of power and authority, they influence critical decision making in all spheres of life and help in closing the gender gap. Their very presence in corridors of power and authority is an inspiration to others aspiring for those positions.”
“In essence, the increasing diversity in the legal profession is a palpable realization of the Constitutional goals. It has enriched our ethical conversations and had a positive impact on the legal framework. It's a momentous evolution, showcasing how law as an institution, is deeply rooted in the social fabric and can be shaped and enhanced by lending an ear to diverse voices and by visualising myriad viewpoints,” she said towards the end of her speech.