confessions

A British Lawyer in India

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There were cultural differences to cope with. Back home, we start work 8 am, whereas on my first day here, I turned up at 8.45 and found the place locked.

It was at my farewell drinks that I broke the news to my former colleagues that I would be moving to India for work. One of them gave me an incredulous look, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “What the hell would you want to do that for?” Most people in Europe imagine India to be nothing but hot, dusty, smelly and full of cows and beggars. All this can at times be true, but I have also found that India has much more to offer.

Back in 2009, almost the entire world was suffering due to the global financial crisis. India, however, was quite insulated economically. What brought me here was the quality of work available combined with the advantage of knowing English.

There were cultural differences to cope with. Back home we start work by 8 am, whereas on my first day here I turned up at 8.45 am and found the office locked. Even the cleaners did not arrive till 9.15 am.

Things in India take time to get going in the morning, but once everyone has got a good lunch, it is definitely time to get down to serious work. There is also a very strict hierarchy in law firms. There is constant office politics.

India is not just about business. One of its greatest strengths (also one of its greatest weaknesses) is the importance people place on emotions and human relationships. I find people in India regularly extend their friendship beyond mere professional relationships.

India’s problem lies in its archaic ways of working. It can take a lifetime for cases to get some closure. In a recent Supreme Court decision, Wikipedia was cited as a reference, which shows how unprofessional things can get.

It is only a matter of time before foreign law firms gain entry to India. This will result in revolutionary changes for the legal profession, but will mean positive results for the Indian economy as a whole.

(He has been working in corporate law in India for over a year)

(as told to Meenakshi Iyer)