In this article, Saloni Sharma discusses kinds of work lawyers in general corporate practice do.
India has been ranked 11th in the Global FDI Confidence Index 2018, making it the 2nd highest ranked emerging market for Foreign Direct Investment. With the scope of corporate industries and businesses increasing with time in India, there is a growing demand for a wide array of professionals in this sector.
The Bar Council of India’s official website mentions that the Indian legal profession consists of approximately 12 lakh registered advocates and approximately 60,000–70,000 law graduates from over 900 law schools join the legal profession in India every year. The practice of law has, however, changed drastically in the past few decades, the primary reason for the same is the liberalisation and growth of the Indian economy. The scope of the corporate legal sector is rapidly growing and has started outsourcing the legal service sector in India.
What does a corporate lawyer do?
If a law student wishes to pursue a career in the corporate sector, the following posts are generally available depending on the skills and capabilities of an individual:
- Legal officer/manager
- Legal advisor
- Legal associate
A lawyer in a corporate setup mainly looks after the working of the corporation as per the governing rules and regulations of its authority supervising it. He is required to advise and take required action on a particular legal issue, within his authority.
A corporate company may either hire different in-house counsels, specialising in various legal departments for their work and they can look after all the legal matters of the company or, a company can hire a law firm in case of need for legal assistance for a specific issue. There is also a third procedure that is sometimes followed where an in-house counsel is authorised to hire or take the assistance of a law firm for a specific issue, i.e. the in-house counsel is given the responsibility to engage with a firm, he finds fit for the task and solves the issue accordingly.
Following are the various tasks a corporate lawyer has to undertake for the corporation:
Right from the formation or establishment of a company or a corporation, a need for a legal attorney arises for the creation of a contract of incorporation and employment for its workers. Corporate attorneys help with the basic legal work related to establishment, organisation, dissolution of the company and also advise on the duties and responsibilities of the employees. They draft and review articles which elaborate on the creation of the company and specify the management of internal affairs. They may also be given the responsibility of formation of documents containing-policies, organisational structures, rules, licenses etc. in case of any dealings, business collaboration and negotiating commercial agreements in case of a transaction with other companies or trusts.
Attorneys may even be asked to form employment contracts, confidentiality agreement, agreements for breach or non-compliance with the contract etc.
Assistance regarding Mergers and acquisitions
A corporate lawyer dealing in mergers and acquisitions has to mainly provide assistance and suggest the legal ways to raise funds for the company and/or make space for the company in the market. One of the most common ways to earn money or acquire capital for running a corporation is buying and selling of a business or its assets. The lawyer has to prepare the documents and negotiate deals with the clients (if he is authorised to do so) or advise about the capital benefits on mergers/demergers/joint ventures across a wide range of industry sectors to the higher authorities.
In case of an agreement involving international clients, the lawyer also has to take care of the foreign laws and ensure that the deal is being carried on in compliance with the applicable regulations.
Look after Intellectual properties
Intellectual property includes copyrights, patents and trademarks which deals with protecting an idea, business strategy or trade secrets which are not to be used or copied by others.
- Trademarks- generally include logos, brands, phrases etc.
- Copyrights- protect the creation of the artists like photographs, designs, paintings, music, and write-ups.
- Patents- include the invention or an essential feature of a product or process of manufacturing a product which is not obvious.
A company employs an intellectual property attorney to handle all such issues related to a company’s intellectual property. A lawyer has to ensure the protection of the company’s properties containing intellectual assets and file patents, copyrights and trademarks accordingly.
Tax lawyer helps a business run in accordance with the applicable laws by filing its tax returns. A tax lawyer gives suggestions on all tax-related issues of the company and ensures the legality of the commercial activities of the company. The lawyer may also suggest valid deductions, exemptions, and credits to relax the tax burden on a company by saving funds.
Many a time, a lawyer in an organisational setup also has to practice litigation in relation to any business dispute of the company. The suit may be for a breach or violation of the terms of a contract by a party, taxation laws, mergers and acquisitions, intellectual property, corporate and real estate issues etc.
The daily job of a business litigator may include dealing with external counsels and resolving litigations, appearing before the court and addressing legal matters, drafting notices, affidavits, statements, plaint and petitions in a court. Many companies do not hire business litigators separately but ask the lawyers in the respective legal departments to take up the case falling within their area of expertise.
The primary task of a legal service advisor is to research and assist with various legal issues. The advisors often consult with the lawyers in different departments of a company (if present) to provide accurate and precise advice for the company.
The role of a corporate lawyer is often drawn with the responsibility of managing the private equity of the firm/company. A private equity lawyer advises on the structure of funds and investments, negotiates deals with other companies, advises on exits, and assists in raising funds for the company. You can learn more about the work of a private equity lawyer by clicking on this link.
The main task of a corporate recovery lawyer is to advise the creditor on different aspects of administration, rescues and liquidations, enforcement of securities etc. They advise on the procedure for debt recovery and file a suit for the same as and when required.
Commercial lawyers within a corporation advise on various sale and trade-related issues. These lawyers generally advise on how to manage and grow the business of the company. They also advise on manufacturing, marketing and distribution in order to expand the market for the business of the company.
Pros and cons of working as a Corporate Lawyer in India
Though working in every field has its charm, but before choosing a career path, it is essential to understand the requirements and prospects of it thoroughly. Here are a few pros and cons that can help you to decide if you should opt for a career in Corporate Law:
- No need to establish yourself – Unlike litigation, working in a corporate setup does not involve setting up your own business and establishing yourself, instead, you get paid a stable and specific amount of salary every month.
- High paying job – A corporate lawyer is known to be among the highest paid employees of a company/firm.
- Job security – Corporate law offers a comparatively more secure job if you work hard and also a considerable amount of time is given to the employee to look for a new job in case one has to quit.
- Fixed working environment – A corporate set-up provides fixed working hours and place which doesn’t give space for an employee to explore more.
- Hectic Schedule – Corporate lawyers are one of the most overburdened employees of a company and often do not get time for their families at all.
- No say in decision making – Since a lawyer in a firm/company is asked to deal with or resolve certain legal matters he is not authorised to make decisions and has just an advisory role to play.
How to build a practice in corporate legal sector in India
Corporate legal practice in India is most sought for career among law students today. What it takes to build an excellent corporate legal practice in India? Hard work today, although an important part, but is not sufficient in itself. Hard work combined with efficient practical learning coupled with association with platforms which can provide you opportunities for honing your skills in the practical sphere of law is required today for building a strong practice in Indian corporate legal sector. Drafting, Vetting of Contracts, learning the basics of due diligence, understanding the first step of a Merger, these are the few important aspects of law, a law student needs to understand before even starting a practice as a transactional lawyer. Courses like these are helping law students a great deal. Law School syllabus in India rarely teaches a law student the actual ongoing issues in law.
What you need to learn as a law student for getting into corporate law?
- You need to learn how to structure a business and choose a form most suitable for your requirements.
- How to create an entity with that structure and deal with basic accounting, taxation and import export related requirements which any business would have to deal with.
- How to set up and implement corporate governance mechanisms within your entity.
- You need to learn about contracts useful for businesses, the different parts of a contract and how these are negotiated and drafted. Contracts are almost a daily phenomenon in any business and so, this is a high utility module.
How to learn these skills
Lawyers, if you are looking to speak the language of your clients and support them at each stage of their business journey, this course will not only guide you about the stages the business will go through, but also inform the applicability of law at each stage. It will take you through the required compliance with detailed procedures and ample ready to use templates. This course can also help young litigators identify and capitalise on business opportunities early on. It can be a great support to your practice.
For professionals employed in the legal department, this course can not only guide on the applicability and how to comply, it can help on setting up compliance mechanisms and standing out in the eyes of your employers.
For law students, this course will act as the perfect bridge between what you learnt at law school and what you are going to face when you work or get into practice. You will be the one fresher who knows stuff without actually having worked at it, right from the daily grind of industry experts. You will be coached and mentored by professionals who have been achievers in their own fields.
“Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
- Mark Twain
It is essential for a student to look for a suitable profession or a field that interests him/her in order to be successful and enjoy the work at hand.
Since a wide variety of opportunities and career options are available to a student passionate about the law, it is crucial that he/she takes his/her time to know exactly what to choose next. There are a number of subjects taught to a student in a law school every semester. One must explore the subjects they find appealing, and try to get a practical experience on that topic, which can help him/her further decide a career path for their professional life.
Law as a career in India has good scope and growth. Lawyers are needed in every organization and even in different aspects of life as well.