New Delhi: It’s now the turn of law schools in India to be affected by the slowing economy with some being unable to find jobs for all students who will graduate in 2009.
Recruitment committees run by students in law schools such as Kolkata-based West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS) and Hyderabad-based National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (Nalsar), have kept their placement season “on-going” and “continuous”.
Normally, the so-called placement season, a period when recruiters visit campuses, ends within three or four days.
“There has been a drop in the number of recruiters during our placement drive this year because of the current economic situation,” said a student-member of the recruitment coordination committee at NUJS, who did not want to be identified. “This is possibly because the amount of work in the firms may have gone down. Also, attrition could be low as people will not jump jobs now. Not all of us have been recruited yet and the recruitment drive will continue to roll off-campus.”
Slowdown: A class in the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. Fewer recruiters are visiting law schools this year. Hemant Mishra / Mint
The recruitment drives, only conducted by some of the top law schools in the country, are managed mostly by students themselves who invite recruiters, including international and domestic law firms, companies and banks, every year.
Last year, the placement season at some of these schools saw law firms making record campus offers, with some graduates being offered salaries of up to Rs12 lakh a year—a 30-50% rise over the top offers in 2007.
A 2008 survey, conducted by Mint and the Centre for Forecasting and Research, or C fore, ranked Bangalore-based National Law School of India University (NLSIU) as the country’s top law school, followed by Nalsar and NUJS. In these three schools, the average strength of a graduating class is 80 and around 40 to 50 students participate in the placement season every year.
India has 700 law colleges, 400 universities, including those with deemed status, and 13 autonomous universities, such as NLSIU, NUJS and Nalsar, that produce approximately 250,000 lawyers every year.
“Most of the big firms have not come to campus but are recruiting over the phone,” said Aniket Prasoon, a final year law student and member of Nalsar’s recruitment coordination committee. “Firms are giving offers only to those who have interned earlier with them. They seem a bit cautious this time around.” Prasoon declined to name any of the firms involved.
NLSIU’s recruitment drive begins in April.
Some law firms, however, denied any slowing in recruitment, while others declined comment on this season’s hires.
Ruchi Chopra, group head for communications, at law firm Luthra and Luthra said: “We are probably hiring more than we did in the past; nevertheless the final decision regarding the number would be taken in May.” The current plan is to raise the salaries on offer, she added.
According to Hardeep Sachdeva, partner at AZB and Partners, “one segment that could have been (become) inactive in hiring law students, particularly corporate lawyers, is corporate houses, multinationals and banks.” This segment was quite active in campus recruitment in the past, he added.
There has been a clear drop in the “appetite” of law firms this year, said Anand Prasad, partner at Trilegal. But he said his firm was hiring “aggressively” this year.
Some students, however, said the recruitment policy of foreign law firms, mostly UK-based, has not changed. They named Clifford Chance Llp., Allen and Overy and Linklaters among the firms actively recruiting law graduates from India.
“We continue to recruit from top Indian law schools. These are long-term decisions and hopefully, the current market situation will not be long-term,” said Jonathan Brayne who heads the India practice group at Allen and Overy.
Brayne, however, admitted that law firms in Europe and the US were witnessing a slowdown in some work areas, such as capital markets and leveraged finance.