Once a male-dominated profession, more women are taking up law as a career now. R Vaigai, a lawyer at the Madras High Court said, “During the 1980s, senior lawyers avoided women as juniors, but now with more women passing out successfully from law colleges, men have realised that women are serious and keen to work. Now, women are preferred.”
This appears to be a growing trend now, agrees Advocate P Kavitha Balakrishnan, “I worked eight years as a junior without getting a rupee from my senior. But now, juniors are paid `5,000 to `10,000 a month to do research and follow-up work right after they complete their studies. This is an encouraging trend.” And it’s quite a change over from the old days, when things were almost intimidating, relates former Judge T N Vallinayagam, “Earlier, women were afraid to join as juniors as they had to stay late and work more than 8 hours, but now in a secure environment, I see women in Lok Adalats working better than men,” said Vallinayagam.
This has helped women from across social strata come forth said the president of the Women Lawyers Association, Madras High Court, V Nalini, “During the last five years, more women from lower castes (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) from the southern districts of Madurai, Tirunelveli, Theni and Ramanathapuram have come to Chennai for training at Madras High Court because they’re serious about their careers.”
Senior advocates said that these women (mostly first-generation graduates) have realised the importance of knowing the law, practicing it well for some years and then moving back South. Another senior woman advocate, N S Revathi said, “I would rate a women lawyer’s work higher than men’s average as women work harder using fewer opportunities and they are judged much harder.”
“Harassment from peers and inadequate representation in selection panels are two issues which women advocates face today,” she added. Legal experts say many juniors start practicing in courts without proper training and awareness of the discipline, etiquette, rules and regulations needed in a legal practice. The revival of apprenticeships and training under seniors being a mandatory norm for five years could help them really grow as lawyers.
P Kavitha Balakrishnan
She is the daughter of leading HC lawyer K P Palaniappan. She is a 1996-97 graduate from Dr Ambedkar Law College. She practiced for eight years under several senior advocates without salary and managed with a travel expense of Rs 2,000 a month. After all the hard work, she was appointed as Commissioner of Oaths in 2007 and is also serving as a Court trained mediator for the past 7 yearsR Vaigai
She started practicing at the Supreme Court after her graduation from Delhi University in 1977. She was one of the two women who worked as juniors in a male-dominated SC. She said,“Most chambers of senior men lawyers said no to women interns. More than facing obstacles in the court, it was more difficult at the entry level.” In 1985, she shifted to Chennai and started practicing at the Madras High Court where things slowly changed