Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lawyers in Pakistan: Between a Rock and a Gun!

I work at what may be termed a mid-sized law firm, which specializes in Intellectual Property matters (Patent, Design, Trade Mark, and Copyright). It has an independent wing that handles litigation, with which I am associated; and we have ten lawyers and five non-lawyer support staff who work in this wing, so that is 12 people whose income depends on the courts.

For over a week we have not gone to the Court because we are protesting against the emergency, which means no new cases filed, and revenue being zilch; sooner or later something must give way, our livelihood depends on that. Being a lawyer in Pakistan can be economically rewarding but no where near rewarding enough for you to build millions in cash reserves over night. Our litigation wing is only 5 years old so it does not have reserves that will sustain it for months; in fact, persevering beyond a month will stretch us.

On top of this the High Court Judges (post-PCO) have started dismissing cases if lawyers fail to make an appearance at the Court. Dismissal of a case means the case being completely thrown out of the Court, any injunction, restraining order, recorded evidence, is wiped off the record; thus years of work could be undone in 20 seconds.

This is an unprecedented step and an alarming development; this is the first time in Pakistan’s legal history that ‘civilian’ Judges have failed to respect a strike call by the Bar (the lawyers union, if you like).

On the other hand the Bar Council has stated that it will take action against any lawyers who proceed with their cases at the High Court (one hour strike is to be observed in the lower Courts). The Bar Council contains the power to expel you from its ranks, and if the Bar Council kicks you out, you can not practice law in that jurisdiction.

So we are in a bit of a jiffy here. If we go to the Courts we’ll be chastised by our peers and if we don’t go, our client’s could face serious damages (Imagine the Court throwing out a case against the counterfeit of Tapal Tea, ten other manufacturers are going start counterfeiting Tapal Tea, by the time we take action Tapal would have lost millions).

Then there’s the fact that we really don’t want to appear in front of these opportunist PCO judges. The good legal minds have all disappeared and we are now left with judges whose legal aptitude is limited who became judges, in the first place, due to their political affiliation and through other social affiliations.

As of today all the lawyers have been informed that appearance in the High Court is entirely at their discretion.

As far as new cases are concerned we will be taking more of them in the lower Courts (District, Civil), which comes at huge risk because

a) Lower Court Judges deal primarily with criminal cases and have a hard time understanding corporate and commercial law, especially Intellectual Property matters;

b) They are highly corrupt.

Most lawyers in Karachi have some form of ‘setting’ with the administrative branch of the High Court and through this we are able to delay putting up our important cases (to meet the ends of justice of course!). The judges have however, taken notice of this and issued a strict directive against this practice, so yeah, we’re a bit screwed and really don’t know what to do.

So tell us what we should do? I’m serious, tell us what to do!!! Any and all suggestions are welcome. Meanwhile, I’m considering a career in the media or maybe in the sub-prime credit sector of the Banking Industry, wish me luck!


Ahsan said...

only in aks' donut addled brain does 10 + 5 = 12.

NB said...

hahaha well spotted!