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Prof Dr Uday Salunkhe on Management education for legal professionals

Published On: 14 Sep 2012 | Last Updated On: 14 Sep 2012

”Today’s lawyer will have to wear many hats – that of a Mentor, Teacher, Leader, Counselor, Negotiator/Arbitrator, Trustee, Environmentalist, investigator, Social Activist, Entrepreneur...” advices   Dr Uday Salunkhe ,Group Director-WeSchool  while talking about the emerging trends in the sector

Q1. What is your view of the emerging trends sweeping through the legal world that are rapidly changing its entire spectrum?

The rapid speed of Globalization has brought about a revolution in international trade making India the fastest growing economy and in its wake has changed not only the profile but the work culture of legal professionals across the board. The greatest impact is seen in the corporate legal areas like project financing, intellectual property protection, environmental protection, competition law, corporate taxation, infrastructure contract, corporate governance, international contracts and business and investment law.Today’s lawyer will have to wear many hats – that of a Mentor, Teacher, Leader, Counselor, Negotiator/Arbitrator, Trustee, Environmentalist, investigator, Social Activist, Entrepreneur; and many others. And these will have to combine with a sharp understanding of changing business and a shrewd commercial sense.

Despite the diversity of geography and culture, lawyers the world over are facing the same issues irrespective of whether they are in small cities or metros, in solo practice, in corporate jobs with multinationals or in major law firms .Clearly this is an era in the global corporate history when legal professionals must constantly reinvent themselves to stay ahead in a highly competitive scenario.

 Q 2 .It is often noted that the lawyers or even those opting for higher legal education do not feel the necessity to combine it with management principles. Your comments.

India has the world’s second largest number of legal professionals with more than 600,000 lawyers and more graduates joining in each year. And all of these are English speaking legal professionals who have been traditionally working in small or family owned firms. But in today’s demanding environment, legal professionals will have to develop themselves by first of all to break the silos by changing their own mindset to meet the challenging complexities of the business world. Thus, with the growing numbers and sizes of legal firms and the role of Corporate Counsel becoming more important and diverse, it is imperative to have management skills to fulfill the responsibilities for marketing, negotiations, serving clients, and managing the team. It will also help the legal professionals to understand the needs of the business and will help them advise as a legal-business manager.

To address this very need, WeSchool has taken the initiative to offer a 11 month, weekend course in Business Management for Legal Professionals; where the lawyers will be exposed to the entire gamut of management functions. Here the classroom lectures by the in-house faculty and experts will be combined with case studies, workshops and exposure to legal and financial practices. The legal professionals are expected to get a well rounded view of the Legal Business with this program.

Q 3: What according to you is more important for a young legal professional’s story of success? Hands-on experience in the courts or classroom Training?

Great Lawyers are not born; they evolve with experience and training. All commercial enterprises, whether professional or trade, have the same basic characteristics; they have to procure business, execute the deals and make a profit. A law firm cannot profit and grow unless it has a team of skilled visionaries; who take on the leadership and are rainmakers. At the same time it must be understood that each lawyer has a potential to excel in a certain area and needs guidance and support of others who may be working at different levels within the same organization or may be out of it working in a related or allied field of law, judiciary, industry or beauraucracy for that matter .You cannot grow and continue to increase profits unless you work as a team, share client information, legal expertise, and legal knowledge with all the other lawyers in the firm. It is therefore necessary to have a combination of both hands-on experience as well as classroom teaching to develop the personality of the legal professional.

Q 4.How will a course in management help a young lawyer in furthering his career interest?

 Somehow in the legal profession in India, professional education has traditionally been restricted to as a one-time affair, occurring at Graduate/post graduate levels i.e. the stage of pre-service education. Increasingly, changing professional needs have compelled some kind of reflection on the need for in-service or on-the-job professional development  .WeSchool realized it early enough that combining Legal education with management  strengthens professionalism, builds  confidence, and facilitates consensus and will eventually build momentum for further reforms. Continuing Education in this manner will also improve the performance of legal professionals, enhance service quality and stimulate public respect. There are areas in Management education which are needed for legal professionals along with their domain knowledge. Knowledge of these areas would enhance their understanding of other domains to take a 360 degrees view of a business and the legalities which are associated with them. This will also help them make informed decisions in their work.

Q 5. Please elaborate on the salient features of the Course –Program in Management for Legal Professionals: its content, pedagogy and faculty.

As some of our country’s most eminent Lawyers and Solicitors, Tax Professionals, Management Consultants and Corporate Counsel have come together as members of the Advisory and Academic Boards, The amalgamation of subjects brought together in the syllabus of this particular course is therefore unique in itself .Here, the principles of Management and Legal aspects are combined to give a realistic picture of the contemporary Legal business. Besides core Management and legal some of other subjects included are E-Commerce and the Legal trends in E- Commerce, Corporate Governance, Risk Management, Tax Management, Private Equity, Entertainment and Media Laws ,Securities Laws, M&A, corporate Finance etc Soft skills like Negotiation skills, Time Management, Stress management, Conflict Management, Emotional intelligence, and the much needed Communication skills are also included . This program will enable students to address many business related issues that they might be grappling with in corporate jobs, public sector, consulting firms, investment banking, auditing, corporate finance, entrepreneurial ventures and many others

Q 6. What are USPs of the course according to you?

This is a unique program which has not been offered before by any Institution. It is all comprehensive. This program is based on the changing market trends and needs. This program takes the student to the complex areas in the Legal Profession. Students learn while they are working and thus can put the knowledge into practice simultaneously. As WeSchool firmly believes that education should be dynamic rather than static,the convergence of contemporary legal issues with management thoughts is in itself a unique proposition. In order to keep lawyers abreast with the new laws and changing nature of the laws in the society there is a need to organize seminars, conferences and workshops etc both on variety of subjects. Courses must be designed and presented in such a manner that actively practicing lawyers are able to comfortably attend the same. The WeSchool course is thus spread over a period of 11 months with lectures on the weekends.

Q 7.What will be your message to the young legal professionals who dream of becoming great lawyers and achieve legendary status in legal profession?

The Indian system takes great pride in saying that we have trained them to think like lawyers. But are they thinking like modern day lawyers, that is the question!

Freshers and seasoned players from the legal fraternity, CA/CS/ICWA as well as Tax practioners can take advantage of this opportunity to create the perfect balance in their careers. Indian legal professionals are considered to be on par with their International counterparts but the legal professionals who move their career towards a management role will have a definite competitive edge over the peers as well as over those from the global fraternity. Designed to address lawyers’ unique organizational and time challenges, this solution-oriented program offers practical strategies for managing time, projects, documentation, and people without having to take the trouble of spending time, money and energy for studying at a foreign university.

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