Law and Politics

What it's about

Have you ever wondered about the population of lawyers in the leadership? Or the number of lawyers who contributed to India’s struggle for freedom? Arun Jaitley, a prominent leader of the ruling party, once criticised the then ruling party (Congress) stating, “The problem with this government is that it has too many lawyers advising it”. The irony of this statement was that Arun Jaitley himself is a lawyer who has been plying his trade for nearly 40 years now.

Law and Politics have a deep connection. And, this relationship has existed since ancient times. The two subjects are closely related to each other, it is the training received to become a lawyer that hones one’s quality as a leader. The exact reason for the connection might be a bit difficult to determine. But this does not change the fact that the two has been closely related since ancient times- this is not a territorial phenomenon but a global one.

The Past and the Present

From Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi to Ram Jethmalani, politics has seen an abundance of lawyers in the past and the present. Looking back, the freedom movement and the constituent assembly were driven by lawyers. Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, BR Ambedkar, C Rajagopalachari were all lawyers. Our first president, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was a lawyer as well. Among “LAL, BAL, PAL” (Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal), the first two were lawyers. Almost 250 members of the 348-member strong constituent assembly were lawyers. The constitution was therefore drafted predominantly by lawyers themselves. According to a survey, there were around 75000 lawyers in the year 1958.

This isn’t simply a past trend; today’s politics is dominated by lawyers as compared to other professions. Approximately 30 out of the 545 members of Lok Sabha and 50 out of 245 members of the Rajya Sabha are lawyers. Some of the prominent politicians who are lawyers include Subramanium Swamy, Sushma Swaraj, Salman Khurshid, Arun Jaitley, K Parasaran, Palaniappan Chidambaran, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Prashant Bhushan, Kapil Sibal etc.

The predominance of lawyers in the ruling party was once a big issue raised by the opposition parties in 2011. A parliamentary debate on the subject started by Arun Jaitley lasted for a fortnight on this. The ironic truth however, is that, lawyers aren’t just limited to the dominating the political ground. In fact, the escalation of lawyers is equally high in the public life as well. Take for example the Anna Hazare movement of 2011- the major spokesperson like Prashant Bhushan, Kiran Bedi, Shanti Bhushan, Manish Tiwari (from the opposing side) were all law degree holders.

This does makes one wonder, what is it about the law degree that makes lawyers become politicians?

Anatomy of a Lawyer

Law schools are not the place where you just learn the “theories” and “acts” and “sections”. Your training in law school is not about mugging up precedents, but about learning to analyse a problem, taking it apart bit by bit from all sides. The case study approach followed by law schools helps the student to hone their problem-solving and analytical skills. A lawyer masters the skill to apply principles and doctrines with constant certainty to the ever-tangled coil of human affairs. As a result, it becomes fascinating to see the application of lawyerly analytical skills in Politics and administration. They learn these skills by constantly asking questions and predicting consequences.

Legal Education deepens a person’s reasoning skills, adapting themselves in respecting the perspective of other people by responding to arguments from competing points of view. They learn to examine the origin of a dispute, generate the solutions, and most importantly, learn to negotiate.

Negotiation invites the imagination to create new alternatives and allow competing sides to find shared solutions. Law students learn to expect disagreement and focus on what to do in real time. All these qualities enhance their leadership skills. Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality and Legal education provides insights into so many efforts to do just that, along with tools for working with groups to solve problems. Apart from this, good oratory skills for effective public speaking, persuasion skills and an enhanced understanding of the law are other attributes which help Lawyers become good politicians.

It can very well be said that the skills and experience one gains as a law student, benefits a lot if they wish to become the leaders of tomorrow. This is true not just in India- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama were both lawyers. Law is a noble profession and can be a gateway to Politics.

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