Interview Dr. Lalit Bhasin, President of SILFA and The Bar Association of India
The Impact Lawyers publishes a series of interviews with deans of the world's leading bar associations. On this occasion, Dr. Lalit Bhasin, President of SILFA and The Bar Association of India answers the questions in this interview
1. You will surely remember that a few years ago, a law firm in Panama was the victim of a theft of its files. The thieves provided the stolen information to various authorities in different countries. Some of the authorities of those countries used the information obtained by means of a theft to investigate various people. Do you agree that the authorities of a country can use information stolen from a law firm to investigate natural or legal persons?
If the information relates to commission of an offence it would be open to the authorities of a country to use the said information whatever be the source to investigate natural or legal persons. The source is immaterial as also how the information was obtained.
2. In your opinion, is the lawyer’s right to professional secrecy sufficiently protected in your country?
It is not adequately protected particularly in view of some recent developments where offices of lawyers have been raided.
3. The current focus on agility, inclusion, innovation and sustainability is transforming the workplace. How do you envision the lawyer of the future in this scenario?
It is a sad scenario for over 1. million lawyers in India for the reason that most of these lawyers practice in the District and Lower Courts. They do not have access to latest technology and the are only accustomed to physical hearings. These days there is hardly any agility, inclusion or innovation in transforming the workplace. Actually there is no work.
4. Do you think it is better for lawyers to be free to charge whatever professional fees they consider appropriate, or do you think it is fairer for them to be subject to some form of regulation?
It should be left to the lawyers to charge whatever professional fees they consider appropriate. Professional fee would depend upon the caliber, competence and professional standing of the lawyer.
5. Do you think law firms should have the same freedom to advertise their services as other professionals and business people, or should they be subject to specific regulation?
Lawyers should not be seen as ambulance-chasers. Lawyers should be permitted to publicize their specialization, number of partners/associates contact details, etc. They should not be permitted to advertise their services as in the case of business and commercial organizations.
6. Are you in favour of lawyers having to retire compulsorily after a certain age or do you prefer that they have complete freedom to retire at any time they see fit?
A lawyer should not retire and we should drop dead while working. No retirement age should be fixed.
7. Does your organization or the courts in your country provide a free legal aid service to people without the financial means to hire a lawyer, or does free legal aid depend on the “Pro Bono” system offered by law firms?
The Courts as well as the Government have in place free legal aid service to the poor and the needy. There is also active pro-bono system offered by lawyers/law firms.
8. In order to do their job lawyers need to incur in numerous expenses such as computers, hiring auxiliary staff and renting offices. In addition to these easily identifiable costs, there are others that are not so easily identifiable, including taxis, restaurants and professional clothing. In your opinion, are the tax rules in your country regulating allowable expenses sufficiently clear? And can lawyers deduct these less easily identifiable costs?
Tax rules do permit allowable expenses as permissible deductions. If the expense is in connection with professional activities of the lawyer and the same is duly supported by proof of payment, the cost would be deductible.
9. In your country is it compulsory for all lawyers to take out professional liability insurance? If so, what is the minimum amount of cover that the policy must have?
No- it is not compulsory.
10. In your country, can a legal entity whose shareholders are not lawyers provide legal services? Or is it necessary that all or part of the company's shareholders are lawyers?
It is not permissible for non-lawyers to practice law in India and it is not permissible for lawyers to associate themselves with non-lawyers. It is necessary that all partners/associates should be duly recognized lawyers.
11. Are there more lawyers registered in your institution?
Only lawyers can function in our institution with the exception of support staff, clerical staff, accounts staff and general administration staff.
12. Do you think it is appropriate for lawyers to wear particularly formal attire, or do you not consider it relevant?
In order to make a lawyer identifiable, it is appropriate to have formal attire.