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The legal profession is an essential organ of the judicial machinery. The suits filed in the courts would remain untouched if there were no legal practitioners to argue and present the cases on behalf of the parties. Thus the legal profession can be called the backbone of the administration of justice in the country. This profession however is not a recent one. Its origin can be traced back to the Greco – Roman era.[1]The main contribution was from Rome during 200 BCE to 600 CE[2]. The orators of ancient Greece could be termed as the earliest lawyers. However it had not yet been developed as a distinct profession. Legal practice became a distinct and legalized profession during the rule of Emperor Claudius, in Rome.

Development in India

However, legal profession in India does not date back to the ancient times. Kautiliya’s Arthashashtra has no mention of legal practitioners[3]and thus it can be assumed that there was no existence of legal profession during that time. During the rule of the kings, justice was administered by the King, advised by his Counselor. During the Mughal period, Qazi played an important role in the judicial system. However, there was no role of legal practitioners in appearing and presenting the cases.[4]The history of legal profession in India can be traced back to the establishment of the First British Court in Bombay by Governor Aungier. Prior to the establishment of the Mayor’s Courts in 1726 in Madras and Calcutta, there was no existence of legal practitioners.[5]During the establishment of these courts, no guidelines regarding the qualifications for the people who would act as the legal practitioners were laid down. They had no formal training in this field and had opted for this profession in absence of anything better to do. Some of them were the dismissed servants of the English East India Company. [6]The Regulating Act of 1773 empowered the Calcutta Supreme Court to frame its own rules for functioning. The Clause 11 of the Charter permitted the Supreme Court to admit Advocates and Attorneys who could “appear, plead and act for the suitors of the Court.”[7]However only British Barristers Advocates and Attorneys were entitled to practice in this Court. No Indian legal practitioner could be admitted in its practice. With the passing of the Regulation Act VII of 1793, Vakils or native pleaders were allowed to be appointed in the civil courts in the Provinces of Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. Regulation XXVI was passed in the year 1814, it consolidated the law regarding the appointments of Vakils in the Civil courts. This regulation however weakened the position of the Vakils and reduced their status to that of court officers- “appointed, controlled, punished, paid and dismissed by the Court to which they were attached”.[8]Regulation V of 1831 stated that Vakils need not be Hindu or Muslim, but could be persons belonging to any religion.[9]The Legal Practitioners Act, 1846 is regarded as “the first charter of the legal profession” as it made several positive innovations concerning the pleaders in the mofussil. Previously non-licensed practitioners, known as Mukhtarsand Revenue Agents were given recognition and brought under the control of the courts through The Pleaders, Mukhtars and Revenue Agents Act XX of 1865.[10]After the founding of the High Courts, there were six grades of legal practitioners in India (i) Advocates, (ii) Attorneys (Solicitors), (iii) Vakils of High Courts, (iv)Pleaders, (v) Mukhtars, (v) Revenue Agents. The Legal Petitioners Act of 1879 brought all the six grades of the profession into one system under the jurisdiction of the High Courts.[11]The Legal Practitioners (women) Act, 1923 expressly stated that no woman would be disqualified from being enrolled as a practitioner by the reason only of her sex. [12]In order to amend the law relating to the legal practice and to provide for the State Bar Council and All India Bar Council, The Advocates Act was passed in 1961. This Act established an All India Bar Council for the first time. It created the Bar Council of India and the State bar council. It assigned certain functions to these Councils. Thus it brought the admission, ethics, privileges, regulation, discipline and improvement of the profession in the hands of the profession itself. In 2010, the Bar Council passed a resolution to conduct an All India Bar Examination, passing which is a mandatory eligibility to practice under the Advocates Act, 1961. This was done in order to maintain the standard of the bar.[13]

Over the years this profession has been evolving and undoubtedly flourishing. Globalization has positively affected this profession and brought the Indian legal professionals to an international level. Legal practitioners are no longer restricted to litigation only. Corporate law has flourished immensely and thus has led to the growth of several law firms. Lawyers now have varied sectors to work in. The legal profession is adapting itself to thesocietal changes. Immense stride made, there is still ample room for evolution and development of the profession.


[1]Mary Ann Glendon, Geoffrey Sawar, William P. Alfred, Legal profession,EncyclopædiaBritannica,inc.(August 29, 2019) [2]ibid [3]AkshayChikhale, Development of legal profession in India. [4]S.M Ikram, Muslim Civilization in India, 220(New York : Columbia University Press ,1964) [5]The Bar Council of India [6]M.P JAIN, OUTLINES OF INDIAN LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY, 766 (LEXIS NEXIS, 7thed, 2015) [7]ibid [8]M.P JAIN, OUTLINES OF INDIAN LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY, 769 (LEXIS NEXIS, 7THed, 2015) [9]ibid [10]Rudransh Sharma, Debayan Banerjee, and KripaliniMandal,History of Legal Profession in India,LawoctopusAcademike ( Nov 13, 2014) [11]supra note 5 [12] M.P JAIN, OUTLINES OF INDIAN LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY, 776 (LEXIS NEXIS, 7TH ed, 2015) [13]Id. at 790

Submitted by

Rishav Ray

1st Year,

School of Law, Christ University

(Images used for representative purpose only)


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