We all have been wooed at least once by the charming character of Harvey Specter. We all at some point wanted to become the best closer in our city and make it big in the profession. However, is it really the case in real life? Moreover, can such a character survive in the Indian courts?
Let’s break down the realities of this profession so that we can make an informed decision before pursuing corporate law only for the reason of our admirations.
in conversation with:
Lawyer with extensive experience in TMT, M&A, FDI, general corporate advisory and real estate matters.
Currently working as a Principal Associate with J.Sagar Associates.
Corporate Law! Whenever this career path comes into mind, the first thing everyone assumes is a big life with loads of money. However, such rewards never come easy. So, what kind of efforts would you be expected to put in if you continue with this career path? Let’s read further.
Being a fresh law graduate: What to expect
1. Your professional life and the evolution
For a fresh graduate, it is very important to understand that the workflow of every corporate law firm has its own peaks and valleys, to which its working hours are directly proportional. The concept of predictable working hours is alien to most law firms. There are days when one can pack-up early and there are days when all-nighters are required.
The commitment level required in a law firm can be demanding on one’s personal time. However, I do believe that with smart work and good time management techniques, one can strive for some kind of work-life balance.
As one progresses in a law firm, the level of responsibility increases therefore the concept of peaks and valleys remains consistently relevant. However, with time, one gains expertise over the work and that does help with managing the working hours.
2. Earning prospects
Expertise in any field increases one’s earning prospects. Having said that, in comparison to litigation, the corporate practice is generally more lucrative in the initial stages. However, as the experience increases, both corporate practice and litigation practice eventually become comparably rewarding.
For senior practitioners in litigation, the numbers can be truly mind boggling. However those numbers come only after many years of hard work and dedication.
Law is like an abyss. There is always something to learn. In my opinion, the consistent willingness to learn is the quality that a law student should imbibe in order to build a successful career.
Fiction vs. Reality: Can you be the Harvey Specter you admire?
1. Comparison with real life: Indian context
While Suits does provide a good watching experience, a corporate lawyer’s life in India is completely different from Harvey Specter’s life in Suits. A person who gets inspired to become a corporate lawyer from Harvey Specter, would be in for a rude shock upon joining and working in an Indian law firm.
Specifically, the gunslinger approach may not be the best option for dealing with situations in the Indian context. Moreover, the character and the series are set in the US and there is a vast difference between how things work in both countries. In my opinion, one should experience the reality by interning while they’re in college and avoid drawing parallels from TV series.
2. Upsides and downsides: A mixture of both
Just as every cloud has its silver lining, I believe the reverse of this adage is also true - every silver lining also has its cloud. Like any other profession, practicing corporate law comes with its advantages and drawbacks. Among the drawbacks, I reckon, the exhilaration and thrill of litigation is something which is sometimes missing in the practice of corporate law, because the emphasis is primarily on a conciliatory approach rather than an adversarial approach.
I have always stressed on the importance of a law student gaining experience in at least the basics of law before choosing any field of law as a career. During the formative years one should try to get into as many varied internships as possible and interact with the professionals in the field to gain perspective about the work and understand the nuances of the profession. Thereafter, taking into consideration one’s aptitude, strengths and learnings at these internships, one should try and determine what they’re cut out for.
Like any other profession, the legal profession has its own advantages and disadvantages. The commitment levels required are very high. The rewards however, are worthwhile.
Justice Joseph Story had once said “The law is a jealous mistress and requires a long and constant courtship. It is not to be won by trifling favors, but by lavish homage.” If one is willing to put in the consistent intellectual homage, then there are no limits to the rewards that the legal profession can provide.