OPUS understands the dilemma faced by every candidate passing out of one of India’s best law colleges where he competed with thousands to seek entry into. Now he is assailed with worries relating to the choice he has to make in order to progress well in the field of law. Should he join a corporate law firm or cut his teeth in litigation practice? One involves the boardroom and another involves the courtroom. OPUS believes it is important to impart relevant knowledge about these preferred options so that a candidate can consider a host of factors before making his final choice. And live without regrets.
Litigation or Law firm – your pick Career in Law
Litigation practice is a lucrative option preferred by those who already have some experience, with lawyers in the family to offer support. Patience, diligence, communication skills and a faculty for critical analysis and articulation are also needed in candidates seeking to flourish in this field in the long run.
Corporate law practice involves two main requirements of corporate sectors: advice on compliance with various laws or corporate governance for the effective functioning of business and advice on business alliances in various forms.
The predicament of picking from the two practices exists for fresh law graduates and prospective law students taking the plunge in the increasingly competitive legal profession. OPUS urges candidates to identify their skills first. To be able to choose between litigation and transactional work, one needs to evaluate one’s excellent communication skills. Belief in the adversarial mode and vindication of rights surely indicates that litigation will be a better career option. On the other hand, if one believes in strategic alliances rather than conflict, if economic and financial data holds interest, then a corporate or transactional practice will be more suitable. This may also appear to be a viable option for those who are dissatisfied with the limits of litigation as a method of dispute resolution.
Nature of work is another determining factor. The content of the legal practice is an indicator which helps in overcoming the dilemma of making the choice. If you are dissatisfied with indiscriminate litigation and prefer advocating for a single cause, or if you are dealing with ‘litigation conflict’, the feeling that one is always on the wrong side of every issue, suggests litigation should not be preferred.
One may enjoy business practice and yet feel that not much is at stake in big deals, and would prefer to work with small businesses or start-up ventures. A comparative analysis of litigation practice vis-à-vis corporate practice reveals a healthy set of imperatives for both the areas, depending on the aspirations and the support system. Opus advises candidates to measure both the pros and cons of it. With leading faculty from the field of legal practice throwing light on this core issue, OPUS candidates are exposed to this internal conflict situation quite early so they are able to arrive at a wise decision with relative ease.
Corporate lawyers declare that the new-age generation lawyers are opting for boardroom battles over courtroom battles. With markets opening up, a spurt in capital market-related activities, and acquisition transactions, the future prospects look bright here.
Career decisions of young lawyers at the threshold of their career are influenced by the nature of legal work because of the uncontrollable urge to acquire and master new skills. The best interest and concerns of clients become important as lawyers acquire skills and decide to shift their focus to the areas in which those skills can be implemented. The first part of a career, whether in litigation or corporate, is a combination of doing the tedious work and learning professional techniques. The process of learning is vast whether one is taking a deposition in litigation or attending negotiations of an agreement in a corporate transaction. OPUS urges law candidates to bear this truth in mind before making the choice.
Law graduates have multiple options available. We spot a mixed trend in the legal market. Aside from the traditional and the more popular options like joining a law firm or a practicing lawyer or a corporate in-house legal department, other streams like research, publication, and academia have opened up. Within law firms, there is an emerging trend of specializing in Intellectual Property, Taxation, Competition Law, Sports Law and Arbitration.
Litigation on the rise
Are law firms expanding their litigation teams? Owing to recessionary trends in the economy, there is a slowdown of corporate work in law firms. On the other hand, there is a tremendous growth in the dispute resolution space where a lot of work is being generated on the corporate litigation and arbitration side. It is interesting to note that corporate law firms are expanding their dispute resolution practices in the market. As there are various options available in the legal market, it becomes easy for an experienced lawyer to transfer the respective skill sets and expertise from one domain to another. There is an increased trend of litigation lawyers doing better.
What law grads prefer
The abundance of black-robed people swarming the courts all across the country, from the lowest district court to the Apex Court, lends the impression that there is a profusion of lawyers engaged in litigation activity. But the reality is starkly different: the brightest candidates from premier law schools have preferred to stay away from litigation. OPUS finds that only ten out of 75 students from a National Law School want to pursue litigation. The rest are keen to study further or join corporate law firms or the legal departments of business houses where they will be engaged in drafting agreements for mergers for acquisitions, joint ventures or offering legal advice on labor or corporate law-related matters. They have no desire to spend time in court.
The reason is obvious: litigation, most of the time, does not pay well. Top lawyers may be charging exorbitant fees from clients for each court appearance, but it takes years for young, new entrants to climb those heights.
While junior lawyers choosing non-litigation work with corporate houses earn on par with their MBA counterparts, those who seek the drama of the courtroom get barely around Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 per month from second or third level law firms. This is one ground reality that cannot be brushed aside. And law graduates often take this into consideration.
Pros and Cons
The leading Indian law firms offer salaries as high as 6 lakhs per year (with some offers reaching 10 lakhs). Foreign law firms (with foreign postings) offer salaries that can reach as high as 16 lakhs. Some of these numbers include generous bonuses. At law firms, one gets to interact with senior officers of client companies and handle huge responsibility at a callow age. The corporate culture with its jet-setting lifestyle is another attraction. Competition and stress at these law firms are immense as a large number of associates joust for very few partner positions. There is also the possibility of being mired in a practice area – being a specialist in one zone and losing the flexibility of doing different things.
Junior lawyers seldom get a chance to display argumentative skills in court as the seniors do all the arguing. The situation seems to be changing fast. With the prolonged downturn leading to shrinking corporate margins, corporate houses are becoming more combative, ready to sue if they feel their interests threatened. Corporate litigation, challenging the government’s tax and tariff demands, for instance, or taking on fellow corporate houses over alleged breach of contract, is increasing. Litigation-related work opens new possibilities for fresh entrants. With litigation increasing, more youngsters are getting a chance to do significant work.
While traditionally many companies – like individuals – considered litigation a waste of time and money, they no longer do so. Companies use litigation to mitigate risks and also to protect revenues. For the first time this year, companies are scouting for talented litigators to use litigation proactively. As law firms are expanding their litigation divisions, specialization in litigation related to different sectors is also on the rise.
So the ultimate decision rests with the candidate who needs to scan and explore and then take the final call. There are advantages and flaws on both sides and OPUS reminds students to keep in mind their preference and strengths instead of blindly following a popular trend. Carving a niche becomes easier when you do what you like to do. Decide right.
All the best to law students!
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