A great lawyer will do anything to win a case. That involves speaking the truth as well at times. Charles Dickens had said once, “If there were no bad people, there would be no good lawyers.” This particular quote is perfect for lawyers. Humans are different from the animals because of their ability to reason out and think rationally. This explains why people slug it out in the courts today rather than engaging in direct combat to establish their right. This is one of the greatest benefits of civilisation.
People in India have their faith in the judiciary. Any civilised country should do so. Hence, you can find a large number of great lawyers in India. The beauty of the system is that people choose to become lawyers. One of the best qualities to have in a lawyer is to have the ability to fight until the last. In the process, they may charge heavily as well. It is a moot question whether the common person can afford to hire such great brains to fight their legitimate cases.
The hallmark of a great lawyer is that they can do anything to win a case. Hence, this famous quote about lawyers is also true to a great extent. “A good lawyer makes you believe the truth whereas a great lawyer makes you believe in the lie.” Checkout the list of top 13 highest paid lawyers in India in 2020.
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13. K T S Tulsi
One of the most decorated and senior advocates in the country, K T S Tulsi is at No. 13 in this list. A former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) of India, he has represented the Indian Government in many cases, the most notable being the constitutional validity of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, and the cases involving the assassination of the former Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi. Today, he is a Rajya Sabha member and a Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court of India, with Robert Vadra being his most important client. Charging about INR 5 lacs per appearance, he is a fit entrant at No. 13 on this list.
12. Aryama Sundaram
The No. 12 spot goes to an equally successful high-profile advocate, C Aryaman Sundaram. A Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court, he has represented the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on a regular basis. Some of his other important clients include Anil Ambani, etc. He was one of the lawyers involved in the S. Rangarajan case that resulted in a landmark judgment on the important aspect of freedom of speech and expression. Statistics say that he charges around INR 5 lacs per appearance in the Supreme Court.
11. P Chidambaram
One of the most articulate politicians in India, P Chidambaram is primarily a political leader representing his party, The Indian National Congress in the Rajya Sabha. A former Finance Minister and Home Minister of India, P Chidambaram is a successful attorney as well. One of the few people capable of putting across his views in the most articulate manner, P Chidambaram charges around INR 5 lacs per appearance in the Supreme Court, making him a fit entry at No. 11 on this exalted list.
10. Ashok Desai
A very senior advocate practicing in the Supreme Court of India, Ashok Desai is at No. 10 in the list of the highest paid / successful lawyers in India. Having held the position of the Attorney General as well as the Solicitor General of India in the past, Ashok Desai is the recipient of the Padma Bhushan Award as well. He has a great reputation of putting forth his views in a simple but effective manner. Known for being an ethical lawyer to the core, Ashok Desai charges a modest amount of INR 2 lacs per appearance.
9. Gopal Subramaniam
At No. 9 we have Gopal Subramaniam, an eminent Supreme Court advocate with a unique British accent. He uses his oratorical skills beautifully to defend cases in the Courts. A person with impeccable knowledge of the English language, he is a former ASG and Solicitor General as well. Some of his well known cases where he represented the Government of India include the 2G spectrum case and the case against Ajmal Kasab in the Mumbai Terror attack of 2008. His experience and expertise allows him to charge in the range of INR 5 to 15 lacs per appearance.
8. Mukul Rohatgi
The No. 8 spot belongs to the incumbent Attorney General of India, Mr. Mukul Rohatgi. Having represented the Gujarat Government in the high profile cases of the 2002 Gujarat riots and the fake encounter death cases, Mukul Rohatgi cannot take up any private assignment as long as he holds the Governmental post. Otherwise, he is one of the most successful lawyers the country has ever seen. He is known for defending the Gujarat Government in the Best Bakery and Zahira Sheikh cases as well.
7. K K Venugopal
At No. 7 we have K K Venugopal, a noted senior Supreme Court advocate from Kerala. The recipient of various Governmental honors like the Padma Bhushan and the Padma Vibhushan, K K Venugopal is one of the main advocates for bringing judicial reforms in India. He has always voiced his opinion very strongly on the creation of regional Supreme Court benches in India. A very senior advocate, he still represents high-profile cases even at the age of 86 years. Known to charge INR 5 to 7.5 lacs per appearance, he is a very successful lawyer in his own right.
6. Abhishek Singhvi
We have the national spokesperson for the Indian National Congress, Abhishek Singhvi at No. 6 on the list. Presently, a member of the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan, Abhishek Singhvi is known for his thoughtful and forceful comments on various political issues. He has the distinction of becoming the youngest Additional Solicitor General of India at the age of 37 years. He demands a fee of INR 6 to 11 lacs per appearance depending on the profile of the case.
5. K Parasaran
A very senior advocate, K Parasaran is the holder of the No. 5 position in this list. A former Attorney General of India, he is the recipient of the Padma Bhushan as well as the Padma Vibhushan. He is a President of India nominee to the Rajya Sabha, a very notable honor. Due to his advanced age he does not make many appearances in the Supreme Court. Whenever he makes an appearance, he charges in the range of INR 8 to 12 lacs per appearance. However, he is always available for guidance. A very high-profile lawyer during his prime, he has a sharp with and a fantastic sense of satirical humor.
4. Soli J Sorabjee
At No. 4 on the list, we have another senior advocate, Soli J Sorabjee. A former Attorney General of India, he is the recipient of the second highest national recognition, the Padma Vibhushan. Known to fight cases concerning freedom of expression and protection of human rights, Soli Sorabjee is not much active on the legal scene because of his advanced age. However, as far as knowledge of the law is concerned, very few people can stand on the same pedestal with Soli Sorabjee. He charges INR 10 to 15 lacs per appearance.
3. Harish Salve
The No. 3 position goes to Harish Salve, an expert in constitutional and taxation laws. Known to charge INR 15 lacs per appearance, he makes a couple of appearances daily in the Supreme Court of India. A former Solicitor General of India, he is one of the few lawyers who represents in international courts as well. A qualified chartered accountant, he has the eminent jurist Nani Palkhivala as his inspiration. Some of his high profile clients include Mukesh Ambani, the Tata Group, and ITC Limited. Of course, a common person would never be able to afford his charges.
2. Fali S Nariman
The No. 2 position belongs to a very senior jurist, Fali Nariman. Internationally recognized as an eminent lawyer, he is the recipient of the Padma Bhushan as well as the Padma Vibhushan. He has been a Rajya Sabha member as well in the past. He held the post of the Additional Solicitor General of India from 1972 to 1975. One of his most infamous cases has been representing Dow Chemicals in the Union Carbide Bhopal Gas leak tragedy. Very recently, he has admitted his mistake in defending the Company. However, he had been instrumental in striking a compensation deal between the victims and the Company. Known to charge INR 8 to 15 lacs per appearance, he has the physical strength to practice even at the age of 88 years.
1. Ram Jethmalani
The No. 1 position goes to the man known for courting controversies, Ram Jethmalani. Naturally so, it is because he has the habit of calling a spade a spade. A politician of great repute, he has served the Government as the Union Law Minister. Belonging to the Sindh province (now in Pakistan), Ram Jethmalani is still active on the legal circuit at the ripe age of 93 years. He is a complete institution by himself. You can call him a maverick as well because of his unpredictable behavior. He served as the Union law Minister in the A B Vajpayee Government. Subsequently, he fought against him as well in the general elections of 2004 from the Lucknow constituency. Nevertheless, his prowess as a Supreme Court advocate has no parallels. He is the most highly paid lawyer in India known for charging INR 25 lacs per appearance.
The legal profession may be the only profession after the medical one where there is no age bar for retirement. In fact, it seems that the older you become, the more you charge per appearance. This explains the presence of many senior lawyers over the age of 75 in this list.
We have compiled this list carefully taking into account various factors. We could not include famous advocates such as Rohinton Nariman because of the fact that they have become judges today.
Finally, we end with a humorous quote. “A good lawyer knows the law. A great one knows the judge.”