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Life-changing rewards of cracking the Advocate on Record (AoR) exam

How many lawyers in India actually achieve the dream of a Supreme Court practice as an Advocate on Record (AoR)? The exact answer, according to the Supreme Court of India, is 2,777 as of September 2021.

That is the number of Advocates on Record registered with the SC currently. Remember, there are about 15 lakh practicing lawyers in India. And not even 3,000 of them are AoRs. Do you see what an exclusive club it is?

Meet Prashant Jain, one of the newer members of this club. Having joined the very first batch of LawSikho learners for the AoR test prep course in February 2021, this Meerut-based litigator is now developing a practice in Delhi as well, and ranked 10th in the AoR exam 2022.

Better late than never, they say. The proverb is certainly true of Mr Jain, who practised law for over 18 years, mainly in civil litigation specialising in banking and property law, before thinking of attempting the AoR exam. He enrolled in LawSikho for his preparation, and successfully balanced his practice with his studies to clear the exam in 2021. 

In August 2022, Mr Jain participated in one of our weekly offline events to address questions like: 

  • How will I benefit from cracking the AoR exam?
  • Can I become an AoR, how difficult is it to crack the exam?
  • What are some common struggles for aspiring AoRs and what can help them in their preparation?
  • At which stage of my career is it best to prepare for and attempt the AoR exam?

Why are AoRs special?

What makes AoRs so special? Let’s take a look at some of the privileges they enjoy:

  • No case can be filed in the Supreme Court without appointing an AoR 
  • Not even senior advocates can appear in the Supreme Court without an AoR 
  • Only an AoR can file a vakalatnama in the Supreme Court
  • Every notice, order and correspondence from the Supreme Court is sent to the AoR
  • It is necessary to get a certificate from an AoR in order to file a special leave petition under Article 136 of the Constitution 
  • No person can act on behalf of an AoR except another AOR
  • Often, AoRs may not even appear before an SC bench, but they are generally the ones whose name is associated with the case 
  • Even a law firm in which all partners are AoR can be registered as an AoR itself

In a way, it will be true to say that an AoR is not only a lawyer for a client but also an officer of the Supreme Court. In almost every proceeding of the Court, an AoR’s certification is necessary. 

There are obvious economic benefits of becoming an AoR. But most lawyers cannot make the cut.

Considering the rigorous selection process and test of skill, knowledge, and calibre that AoRs go through, it is understandable that they are qualified to appear before the nation’s highest court, and are among the most respected members of the legal community. 

Accreditation as an Advocate on Record not only opens up a world of opportunities for a lawyer, but also invests in him or her the power to shape the fate of cases that could affect the very future of the nation. 

What about earnings?

The Supreme Court Rules, 2013 prescribes a set of fees for filing cases in the Supreme Court. However, the reality may not be as set out in the rules. 

For instance, the fees prescribed under the rules range from INR 5,000-24,000 to draft and appear before the Supreme Court. 

In practice, many AoRs charge INR 15,000-20,000 per case, just to sign on the vakalatnama or to file a petition. If they have to perform substantial drafting work, the charges can be higher. 

Typically, an AoR charges a minimum of INR 20-25,000 to draft a single petition for the Supreme Court, though they can charge less if they are assisting another senior lawyer and not directly working for a client. 

After 3-4 years of experience as an AoR, this fees increases to about INR 75,000-1,00,000 and is more for complex cases – at least for Delhi-based AORs. For more complex petitions, charges can go up to INR 2 lakh per petition. 

Charges for effective hearings are separate – INR 30,000-50,000 is very common. With seniority, however, one can easily charge INR 50,000-100,000 per hearing.

Lawyers also charge for ‘conferences’, i.e. meeting senior/ other advocates, clients, etc.

In short, it is easily possible to earn an additional INR 12-20 lakh per year from Supreme Court work, even if you are not based in Delhi. 

To take an imaginary list of actions in the life of a typical new AoR (these numbers were shared by one of our former students who just started working as an AoR a few months back): 

  • File one case per month at an average of INR 20,000 for drafting and filing
  • Draft five-six petitions per month at an average of INR 5,000 per filing for other senior lawyers 
  • Attend about two hearings per month in the Supreme Court, charging INR 20,000 per hearing

We are being very conservative and assuming you get very few matters on your own. 

How much will you earn in a year in that case? Let’s do the maths. 

20,000 x 12 + 25,000 x 12 + 40,000 x 12 = INR 10,20,000

That’s an annual amount of a little over INR 10 lakh merely from Supreme Court work, which you will be doing part-time. 

Successful AoRs could be earning 5x or 10x more than that as they gain experience and their professional reputation and network grows over time.

How will this influence your local and state practice? 

If your clients have a choice between you and a less expensive lawyer who only performs trial court or High Court work, who will they prefer? 

Chances are that many of them will prefer you, because they know that you can help them right up to the Supreme Court should the need arise. 

Imagine establishing an AoR firm in Mumbai or Kolkata or wherever you are and managing your current practice in the High Court and trial courts, and yet being able to cater to clients who require cases to be filed in the Supreme Court. This is possible as long as you are able to fulfil the minimum criteria prescribed by the Supreme Court.

Do you fancy this? After all, an AoR tag adds tremendous credibility to your name in any part of the country. Why wouldn’t you wish to be among India’s most respected and sought after advocates, with the qualifications to appear alongside the country’s best legal minds?

Of course, you will have to crack the AoR exam. How difficult is it? How do you prepare for it? What do you need to do to qualify for the exam? How can you start building your Supreme Court practice?

You are invited to join our Certificate Course on Certificate Course in Qualifying as a Supreme Court Lawyer: Crack the Advocate on Record Examination

Important: Since this course is for AoR at the Supreme Court of India, it is open to Indian law students and/or lawyers only. The sessions will not be useful unless you are a legal professional practicing in India.

For more information and updates, do also join our Telegram channel. Note, you need to install the Telegram app on your mobile/ desktop if you haven’t already for the link to work.

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