Back to the Future, India, Law Schools, Outsourcing

Back to the Future: What the J.D. Class of 2011 Can Learn From Indian Law Students in 1930

This has all happened before, and this will all happen again. So say we all. At the beginning of the recession, just weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, we brought you a New York Times article from 1990 that illustrated the similarities between the tough legal job markets created by Bush 41 and Bush 43.

Today, we run the DeLorean even further back in time, and to an entirely different country. A loyal reader was cleaning out his office and came across an article from The Law College Magazine of Bombay, India, from 1930. The piece is entitled: “Is It Worthwhile? A Frank Talk With Budding Lawyers.” And it’s all about whether a person should pursue a two-year law degree in India in the 1930s.

Folks, let me tell you: some people worry that India will become the new market for American legal jobs, but that’s not the real fear. The real fear is that American law students will become like Indian law students in 1930.

And maybe that process is already well underway….

To open, the piece’s author, E.G. Nayar, reiterates a concern I now believe has been uttered by every prospective law student since the beginning of time:

No matter how many things change, they’re always too many lawyers.

But as Nayar gets to his point, it felt like I was listening to myself, if I were alive in 1930 and spoke like a Brit:

Holy doomed to repeat history you have not learned from, Batman. This Nayar guy seems pretty cool — anyone know if he’s still alive?

Really, an article like this is kind of the worst nightmare of everybody who opposes globalization (non-racist division). Globalization fans talk about greater productivity for everybody, but opponents of globalization worry about a “race to the bottom.” At least in the legal market, how far away are we from a world where the majority of our American lawyers “have to live on a starvation diet and would fare ill but for assistance from their relatives”? How many members of the legal profession’s Lost Generation have moved into their parents’ basements?

And it’s not like the lawyers in modern-day India who are eager to snap up entry-level legal work are able to live the “models and bottles” lifestyle of white-shoe, Wall Street lawyers from halcyon American days past. Both the American and Indian legal job markets of 2010 seem way more similar to the Indian legal job market of 1930 than the American legal job market of 2005. That’s not a good thing.

Oh well, at least one thing has changed since 1930:

Yeah, chances are that the lawyer whose “future is assured” is not the one attracting the attention of journalists. Sure, there are certainly opportunities for a  “beginner” to “obtain publicity.” But chances are, it’s not going to be the kind of publicity that enhances one’s job security.

That goes for you young Indian lawyers reading this post and laughing your asses off right now. We know people who are watching you. This race to the bottom business goes both ways.

Click here to read a .pdf of the full article.

Earlier: Back to the Future: Stealth Layoffs in 1990

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