There are a lot of whims and fancies attached to a career in Corporate Law. However, once you pursue this path, what are the challenges and expectations that can come your way?
Guiding your way:
Managing Partner, Corp Comm Legal
An International Corporate Lawyer with experience in M&A, Joint Ventures and Commercial Contracts above other things.
In simple terms, a law student with experience.
In this conversation, we will cover the following key points:
Expectations of students from this career and how to pursue the same
Corporate Law as a profession: Realities
Position of CAs in comparison to Corporate Lawyers
As a law student: The Outlook
1. Transition from a Student to a Corporate Lawyer
The transition from being a law student to a corporate lawyer can be smooth or drastic - depending on your particular situation (merits of the case, as we call it, in litigation)
If you have had the chance to intern with a good corporate law firm or lawyer or if you belong to a family of corporate lawyers (in the latter case, you may have been breathing corporate law for long), it's very easy for you to adjust.
For a first generation lawyer and particularly those who haven't had a chance to intern with corporate lawyers / firms, the transition is very drastic. Most of our law schools are still entrenched in old, litigation practice-centric mindset, imparting and emphasising on litigation knowledge.
Forget emphasis, there's hardly any discussion or exposure to corporate law practice. Students from such law colleges or without much practical exposure face a daunting task realising what is expected of them in corporate law practice and coming up to their own or the firms' expectations.
2. The expectation to work on big deals right from the start
Rome was not built in a day.
You can't reach the top by jumping. You have to go step by step - you may get an elevator, if you are lucky though. Each one's career trajectory, destiny and timing is different. Unless you are born with a silver spoon, nothing comes to you easy.
No client or employer is going to entrust big stake matter to you independently, unless they are trying to cut corners in terms of money and you sound desperately cheap (pricing wise). It may be a case of penny wise and pound foolish though. You too should be careful in accepting briefs beyond your capabilities in early years, rather concentrate on learning the subject. A big goof up early in your career can be counterproductive.
Most of the freshers complain that they are being given the primitive, rudimentary aspects of a transaction. But this is reality of life - your responsibilities and assignments are commensurate to the zeal, drive and potential you demonstrate. Nothing comes to you as a matter of right, you have to earn your stripes.
If you showcase your capabilities and strength in a proper manner in smallest of task assigned to you, there is no reason your employer wouldn't like to leverage them. Patience and persistence play a good role in shaping up your career.
The Professional Life Outlay
1. Balancing your work and personal life
There is no straightjacket formula to it and everyone has to curate her life, her way. Some people are workaholic and they don't like anything more than their work. Some people put more value to their family and personal life, even if it were to come at a cost to their career (e.g., many females take a backseat to cater to family needs).
Having said that, you do need a judicious mix of both - to make a decent living, satisfying career graph and a happy family life. So, you have to see where your priorities lie, what suits you the most and try to compartmentalize your life, if need be.
2. Big bucks & Career Progression: The Reality
The speed and trajectory may vary for different practice areas in initial few years but by and large, every legal practice vertical is lucrative now. All it needs is dedication, sincerity and hard work to excel and create a name for yourself in a particular practice area.
The best time in your professional career, Pinnacle of your career so to say, comes when people approach you for business (rather than you seeking work) - that's when you feel you have arrived. Wait for that time - name, fame, and money are incidental.
Chartered Accountants and Corporate Lawyers: The Comparison
Howsoever good a lawyer may be with his knowledge of accounting and auditing, the audit report has to be signed by a CA. Similarly, CAs representing their clients before tribunals have their limitations, even if they possess good legal knowledge.
A law degree helps you in representing clients in all the legal redressal forum. There has already been a cloud over CAs, CS and some other professionals trying to encroach upon lawyers' domain in advisory / representation capacity. Some CA firms have been trying to start legal practice in some mode or the other and many of them have been asked to shut down as well.
Therefore, a law degree is the most appropriate qualification for representing your clients in courts and tribunals
Hard work, sincerity, patience and persistence are key attributes to excel in any profession. Be passionate, be hungry, be foolish, think out of the box.