Advice on ‘Corporate Law as a Career’ from a Veteran with 18 Years of Experience

By Madhavan Srivatsan

In the last couple of decades, the field of “corporate laws” as a practice area for lawyers has flourished quite a lot and in the present time, it seems to be increasing more and more. These days, a lawyer does not necessarily mean a professional in “black and white” attire carrying a bundle of files to courts and running back to the chamber in the evening.

The main reasons as to why, young lawyers and fresher law students are getting attracted towards “corporate laws” is because of high salaries at the start, high profile work, sophisticated work environment, frequent traveling, etc.

“Corporate Laws” as a practice area is indeed very interesting, high paying, gives exposure to the corporate world and an opportunity to interact with the big-wigs of the corporate world and with the recent boom in the start-up industry, the work in “corporate laws” is bound to increase much more in the future.

This also means that the practice of “corporate laws” is no longer restricted to Tier I and Tier II corporate law firms and much younger and smaller firms are also doing a decent amount of work in corporate laws.

Having worked in the corporate law field for more than 18 years and being involved in corporate litigation, corporate advisory in the fields of M&A, Private Equity, Capital Market, Project Financing etc. having worked in corporate law firm as well as in-house counsel and having own boutique corporate law office, I feel that, based upon my experience in working and interacting with young law graduates, one big challenge and question which remains is, whether young law graduates and freshers are ready to take on this big role and opportunity?

The reason why this question arises and is quite pertinent today is that, unlike a decade back, in the present times there are many law colleges which have opened in our country and each year hundreds (even thousands) of law students are graduating.

Students from top law colleges (without going into naming them!) in our country either go abroad or are able to get a decent start in Tier I and Tier II corporate law firms.

But what happens to the students of other law colleges who want to practice in the field of corporate laws but does not have a backing of a reputed law college or have a corporate connect in their social circle to give them a break in Tier I or Tier II corporate law firms, yet are bright and talented enough to work in the field of corporate laws?

This issue gets further complicated because none of the law colleges (or atleast majority of law colleges) provide any kind of counseling session to their law students on various aspects of “corporate laws”.

I have been interacting with students from many law colleges over last so many years of my practice in “Corporate Laws” and I have realized that these students do not even know some of the relevant aspects of “Corporate Laws” in order to take a correct and informed decision in their career.

Some of the basic concepts which these students should be completely aware of while taking an informed decision in the field of “Corporate Laws” are as follows:

  1. What are the various kinds of fields in “Corporate Laws” such as M&A and Private Equity, Project Financing, Banking, Capital Markets, Information and Technology etc.
  2. What kind of “corporate work” is practiced under each of the above-mentioned areas?
  3. What and how to study to gain knowledge in each or any of the above fields during their last couple of years in law college?
  4. What kinds of jobs are available in the corporate sector beyond “law firms”?
  5. How to prepare for an interview for a “corporate law” job?

All the above questions are quite pertinent for every aspiring student and young lawyer seeking entry into “corporate law” to be completely aware of and know the answer. Unfortunately, none of these questions are part of any law college curriculum or training.

In my 18 years of practice, I have seen many bright, young and talented minds taking wrong decision and spoiling their resume because they were just not aware of the above issues and being from a “Non-Top Tier” law college made the matter worse.

In order to make a career in “corporate laws”, it is not mandatory to have a law degree from top tier law colleges, though, it definitely helps if one is from a top tier law college.

The point here is that the students from other law colleges also have enough chances and opportunity in “corporate laws” if they do their homework on time and in proper manner because as mentioned above, there is an increase in “corporate law” work and many law firms (especially younger ones and smaller law firms) are looking to increase their corporate law practice.

If one is not able to get a break with any Tier I or Tier II law firm, then, one can always try to find a break in other smaller law firm practicing corporate law and then after few years of work in smaller law firm, one can try to move to bigger law firms with work experience.

However, as mentioned above, in order to get into a smaller firm and work there in a manner which increases the value of personal resume, one is required to understand and know the answers to the questions mentioned above.

In addition to above, there can be other questions as well which are subjective in nature such as which law firm to choose, whether in-house counsel role in better at the start or after few years, can one change from litigation to corporate laws, can one shift from in-house counsel to law firm, etc.

Answers to these questions would depend upon an individual`s experience and would vary from each individual to individual.

Coming back to our basic questions as mentioned above, it is advisable to consult someone who has worked in the corporate law industry for atleast for more than 15 years.

Any lawyer who has worked in “corporate laws” for more than 15 years will not only be able to advice on “what to do” but also on “what not to do” which is equally important to be understood to take a meaningful career decision in the field of “corporate laws”.

A law student who wants to join the “corporate law”, firstly should know the “field of interest” in corporate laws. In order to know the “field of interest” in corporate laws, he or she should know the practical work done in such field such as “project financing” or “capital market” or “M&A and Private Equity” or “Banking” etc.

In order to answer this question, one has to either talk to someone who has worked in the corporate law sector or do an internship in such area to know the interest in such field. Relying on the advice of friends who themselves are novice is not advisable.

corporate law career
Read, read, till the dying of the light! Image from here.

 

Once one is able to broadly identify his/her “field of interest” in corporate laws, then, start the homework part, i.e. “self-study” or “self-education”.

But then, an important point linked to this aspect is, what to study? There is so much information available on the internet today that it becomes difficult to select the topics and it is humanly impossible to read and study everything related to the said field.

The best way is to start reading and understanding the basic concepts of the said practice area. Make a note of basic concepts of the subject matter and ensure that substantial research is done on such basic concepts. The research material can be an article written by an experienced lawyer.

Try to get enough clarity on these basic concepts and also try to learn and understand other concepts which one may come across in their study. This helps in going from one concept to another and creates a link.

Once basic idea and concepts are clear about the said practice area, then it is very important to stay updated on the current happenings in the said field of law.

This can consist of two parts, legal updates, and industry updates. It is mandatory for any law student intending to practice in any particular field of corporate laws to be aware of the latest updates in law as well as latest industry news on the said given subject.

If the student has done his/her homework properly in understanding the basic concepts, then, it will be easier for such student to grasp the legal and industry updates.

It is not possible to mention all the answers to the questions above in one article, but hopefully, a law student intending to practice in “Corporate Law” is able to get some clarity.

The idea of this article is to make a law student realize the importance of self-study and self-knowledge and doing their homework properly in order to make a fruitful attempt in getting a decent break in the “corporate law” sector.

madhavan srivatsan's advice on corporate laws

Madhavan Srivatsan is a corporate lawyer based out of New Delhi, India practising Indian corporate laws.

Madhavan completed his LLB from Campus Law Centre, Delhi University in the year 2001 and since then, has gained considerable experience in corporate laws as well as in litigation.

Prior to starting his own practice in corporate law, Srivatsan was the Head, Corporate Litigation and Contracts at Educomp Solutions Ltd. Before that, he was a partner at Desai & Diwanji.

One Comment

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.