How Does the Pakistani Legal System Need to Evolve?

This month, we speak with Zia Ullah Ranjah, who voices his concern regarding the Pakistani legal sector.

 With the legal industry often being criticized for not adapting to evolving modern practices, Zia speaks about how Pakistan could easily be left behind, and how its younger, inspiring lawyers, are often at a disadvantage, due to solo practices and a lack of integration throughout the country.

What challenges did you overcome in order to specialize in the legal industry, on an international scale? Any nuggets of advice to inspiring lawyers?

The foremost challenge for lawyers in Pakistan is the lack of proper opportunity for legal education and professional training. New entrants in the profession are usually not adequately equipped to handle complexities and niceties of the law.  Solo practice is still a common mode of doing legal practice here. There are only a few law firms. They may not engage and train with all the lawyers. Many young lawyers lack the opportunity of refining their understanding of the law and legal skills. Thus, they fail to handle important legal matters. This deprives them in many ways in the profession.

However, I preferred working with a Lex Mundi Member law firm in the beginning years of my law practice. It helped me to learn from the experience of senior partners. With this background, I started appreciating the value of teamwork and the new trends of doing legal business. To supplement my law firm experience, I thought to improve my theoretical understanding of the law. In this regard, I conducted research on Constitutional Law at SOAS, University of London, and attended specialized courses at The Hague Academy of International Law. This blend of theory and practice, in fact, has helped me a lot. I have learned how to practice law at the international level. I have also learned to think and write in an appropriate manner enabling me to publish in newspapers and international law journals. My suggestion, particularly to young lawyers, is to remain open to new ways of learning, thinking and practising law. Professional honesty, constant improvement, and hardworking are key to success in the legal profession.

The Pakistani legal system has to respond to global trends in law, business, and dispute resolution. Otherwise, it would hit the country and the legal profession adversely.

Why did you choose to specialize in international law? What is it about this specialism that interests you the most?

Over the years, I have realised that legal practice and principles are not only local. In fact, they are universal. In an increasingly globalised world, domestic legal regimes frequently interact with and are influenced by international law conventions and instruments. For instance, international criminal law, international economic law, international human rights, and environmental law have a huge impact on local legal systems. In today’s world, no lawyer and judge can afford to ignore relevance and implications of international law while advising and deciding upon a pertinent legal matter. Personally, I find international arbitration quite interesting. This is relevant to my experience of handling court cases. Pakistan is facing difficulties in international arbitrations. I hope my work would help my country in handling international law disputes more effectively.

Moreover, are there any changes you are advocating for, regarding international law in Pakistan? What challenges are you expected to foresee here?

Yes. My law firm supports a non-governmental organisation named International Law Foundation. ILF aims to promote awareness and compliance of international law in Pakistan and beyond. It intends to help the publication of Pakistan Year Book of International Law. Unfortunately, local lawyers generally lack training and exposure to international law. In fact, they do not get enough opportunity to observe and learn from the proceedings of international law tribunals and courts, as these institutions are not based in Pakistan. Further, in the absence of high-ranking international law research institution, lawyers may not have access to the latest materials. Thus, ILF is looking for opportunities to help young lawyers in Pakistan, in the field of international law and practice.

Prominent Legal Issues in Pakistan:

To ensure justice is served fully, what changes do you think need to be made in Pakistan’s legal system?

I consider the following changes in our justice system are necessary for the effective delivery of justice: First, continuous legal education and training should be provided to lawyers. Only those should be allowed to continue law practice who meet specified standards. Second, the superior court judges should be appointed in an open and transparent manner. The Constitution may be amended to make this process competitive and inclusive. Judges should also be effectively accountable in the judicial hierarchy and also to the public through publication of performance of the judiciary. Anonymous data should be made available to researchers and judicial policy makers, to recommend changes in an informed and institutionalized manner. Third, legal services should be insured. At present, litigants do not have any effective remedy and compensation mechanism for professional negligence cases.  Lack of professional accountability of lawyers, has contributed in the deterioration of legal professional in Pakistan. Finally, laws and court procedures should be upgraded through revision of law and integration of technology. This would help to deliver inexpensive and expeditious justice to the people.

Moreover, how has the Pakistani legal sector evolved in regards to becoming more progressive, in terms of embracing technology and movements towards becoming a more modern space for those in law and business?

The legal profession in Pakistan, in fact, requires a massive transformation in this regard. The lawyers need to move beyond the traditional business model (i.e. solo practice) and build law firm collaborations to improve the quality, impact, reach and scope of their legal services. New technologies i.e., digital technology, artificial intelligence, legal analytics need to be used in the legal sector. The court procedures may be modified allowing on-line dispute resolution and e- filing of court documents etc. The Pakistani legal system has to respond to global trends in law, business, and dispute resolution. Otherwise, it would hit the country and the legal profession adversely.

It has been reported, and you have also previously spoken about how Pakistan is facing a legal education crisis; what do you think should be done to ensure the Pakistani legal system continues to flourish in generations to come?

The legal education system in Pakistan is facing many challenges. Recently, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has attempted to make some reforms in legal education. For example, SC has prescribed an admission test for law school admissions and regulations regarding the faculty and infrastructure of law schools. These recommendations are appreciated; however, they are not satisfactory by international legal education standards. There should be a high quality test for entry to law schools and the bar; teaching and examination should engage law students/lawyers in sound analysis and legal reasoning skills; continuous legal education and annual audit of lawyers/law firms should be mandatory; and, the regulatory regime for lawyers and judges should be refined and strictly implemented. The performance and proceedings of the Supreme Judicial Council (for the accountability of judges) and Bar Councils (for the accountability of lawyers) may be made public to strengthen our justice system.

Zia Ullah Ranjah
Managing Partner
Jurist Panel
Advocates & Legal Consultants

Zia Ullah Ranjah is Managing Partner of the Firm. He has more than fifteen years of experience in law practice and law teaching at prominent institutions in Pakistan. He has an interest in constitutional law, corporate law, and international law. He supervises litigious and non-litigious work of the Firm. He is also responsible for business development and professional collaborations.

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