Opportunity for lawyers
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This article is written by Ramanuj Mukherjee, CEO, LawSikho.

Our career counselling experts speak with hundreds of lawyers, law students and professionals every day, and we are noticing a strange thing happening. 

Perhaps, it is what is expected of them in these dire times but most of those we talk to do not yet realize what COVID-19 might actually mean for their career. 

Negatively, yes. They are worried about lots of negative impacts. 

Positively, no. Mostly, they do not realise that there are immense opportunities in this chaos.

Yes, this whole crisis is drastically changing your life, I understand. You are stuck in your home. 

Courts are shut, chambers are shut. Office wants you to work from home and often there is not much work to do.

New clients are not coming in through the door.

Your university is closed for an indefinite time. Online classes and assignments are not a handful really. 

No hangouts, no masti, nothing. 

For those who still have work, video meetings are hard to get used to, your regular work routine has been hampered and you do not know what will come next. 

And there is a threat of a huge recession ahead, and it is almost certain that many people will lose their jobs, many job offers are being retracted, internships cancelled, pay cuts being issued by employers. 

Layoffs may start soon if lockdown is extended which looks like a major possibility given that there is no sign of covid infections slowing.

I would call a spade a spade … this looks like the time to withdraw, to worry about an impending disaster, to be scared of an uncertain future. 

It may even look like the end of the world, or that you have hit a wall. 

And this feeling you have is quite evident when we talk with some of you. 

It may look like the whole world is crumbling down and it is confusing for you to figure out where your career would end up in the future. 

But that is not what is happening. 

It’s just change and evolution being super accelerated.

The change that would have happened over the next decade, is on our doorstep now. 

Traditional ways of doing things are under siege. 

From the Supreme Court to local police stations or passport offices, everywhere new norms, systems and technology have to be adopted. 

And some lawyers and law students are still expecting that things will go back to what they used to be.

Those who refuse to adopt will not evolve. And those people will fall on the wayside.

It is time to be creative, it is time to upgrade and find opportunity in chaos. There is no other way. 

There is tremendous opportunity ahead.

Careers are being made right now by lawyers who are ready to seize the opportunity. 

Careers are going down the drain, of those who are too inflexible or too slow to learn the new ways, or too caught up with survival to notice opportunities and evolve. 

We are talking about perception versus reality.

If you perceive that there is no opportunity at all – you will miss the bus. 

If you acknowledge all the perils ahead and still look for opportunity, you will be surprised by the results you will produce. 

For lawyers, COVID-19 crisis is a boon in the guise of a bane. When clients have lots of problems, lawyers thrive. The crisis has created lots of problems for clients.

And therefore a lot of work – now, and for months to come, for lawyers.

Surely, most lawyers do not know how to go and get this work. 

But those who know the work and are also figuring how to get that work, they are getting rich as you read this.

Are you too deep in your rabbithole to believe what I am saying? 

Let someone from the top of the legal industry say it to you.

You will notice how top performers are thinking right now about opportunities arising out of the crisis.

What the industry is saying

Nishant Parikh, who has been recently made a managing partner at Trilegal along with Sridhar Gothri, when asked whether he has seen any effect on billings in the last month or about the status of the pipeline, said in an interview with Legally India:

We have seen no slowdown whatsoever in billings or average levels of busy-ness.

While courts have shut down and M&A deals may have slowed down slightly, number of instructions arising out of distress situations and contentious advice has gone up.

The firm’s performance over the last quarter was exceptional. Our pipeline remains robust and new instructions continue to flow in.”

When asked about recruitment plans in the Corona era, Sridhar Gothri says:

There are no changes to our recruitment plans. I should point out that in 2009 after the global financial crisis, we were one of the only firms that continued and even enhanced our campus recruitment. We strongly believe that difficult times can present opportunities to the well prepared.

And that should give you an idea about what top lawyers are thinking about the crisis and the impending recession.

But why only Trilegal? 

J Sagar Associates (JSA) recently promoted 10 to retained partners, seven to principal associates, one to of-counsel and 25 to senior associates, from April 1, 2020.

AZB & Partners promoted six to partners in Mumbai and Delhi just a few days back.

HSA Advocates has promoted five associate partners to partners and promoted two of its fee-earners to associate partner. It also promoted six to senior associates and one to principal associate.

These are only a few.

Top law firms know that there would be some areas of work that will be temporarily hit, while there will be other areas that will pick up.

Back in 2009, plenty of law firms were unidimensional, and had only a few practice areas where they had strength. Many of those firms learned to build diversity, keeping a situation like this in mind, to build diversity of practice areas.

And that is why they are less worried today, as they do not have the risk of the entire team having to put their pens down and wait for the market to improve.

In different phases of the recession, they will have different kinds of work to do. 

And they are still looking for new opportunities that may arise as things move ahead. 

When lay-offs and pay-cuts are being talked about, these law firms and organizations are hiring or promoting staff and investing in their businesses. 

It is not just big law firms, there are plenty of individual lawyers and smaller law firms who are doing stellar work with respect to covid crisis, innovating new services, helping clients with their current legal problems, and some have even set up dedicated desks for Covid related work.  

We know, because we are helping our own students to figure out their covid strategies. 

For the well prepared, this is probably one of the biggest career opportunities of all time! You will look back at this time 5 years later, and say that this was the turning point of your life and career, provided you take the right steps today.

But know this, it’s only an opportunity if you recognize it as an opportunity. If you do not have the open mind to look for the opportunity, you will only see the uncertainty, volatility and crisis all around you. 

And that’s where a lot of lawyers are going wrong. 

Let me show you how you are reacting to this crisis (this is from the comments section of the same Trilegal related Legally India interview piece):

And then some were in a sarcastic mood…

I would agree to the first comment where the commenter calls this a financial crisis on par with the Great Recession. True it is, but who said that your law practice has to go down with the recession as well?

Plenty of people made a lot of money during the last recession, and also immediately after as things recovered. Why can’t you do the same in this recession?

Newer opportunities are cropping up every day. New legal fields are gaining prominence. Believe it or not, money is actually changing hands every day. 

(Read this article for more on this.)

Three questions to think about

For the commenters above and you as well, I have three questions to ask.

  • Do you think that no legal work is being created today, during the lockdown? What are the highest priority problems for your clients today that you can help with?

(Let me share an example from our side. There is a great demand for courses that can be completed in one month only. We are launching many of them. There is a great demand for courses that help people to crack govt jobs in light of covid, we are launching them too. What could you do?)

  • Have you considered if there are other things you can do for your clients that they need, but you do not offer as a service yet? 

(Many law firms and universities are asking us to help with lead generation, and we are seriously considering. We are good at it, we do it for ourselves, and why not monetize it?) 

  • Is there merit in changing your business model, or pricing strategy, the promise or value proposition, or make an offer that is hard to refuse?

(Can you offer people yearly contracts that are heavily discounted? You get more money upfront, but they overall less in the end. Cash rich companies with good balance sheets may lap up that offer. Or maybe you can charge people based on outcome or performance. We are offering our advertisement services for a performance guarantee. We charge 50% in advance, and the rest 50% is paid only if a certain level of performance is generated. This makes it easier for clients to commit to pay bigger amounts when they know they have lesser performance risk.)

I assure you that you are probably leaving a lot of the money on the table today because you are not thinking creatively.

Even if you are just a law student looking for an internship, you have great opportunities. We just helped a student get an online internship in a tier 2 law firm, while helped another to get an online internship at a news organization. Another student scored couple of startup gigs on his own. 

All employers are now looking at getting interns in a very different way, and had to set aside the traditional methods. Same for hiring employees. 

You need to adapt

There are profit making solid organizations looking for high quality lawyers. Will you qualify?

There will be a boom in legal work within a few months. Are you ready to capitalize on that?

The fact is that the legal system will survive forever, even in the post-COVID world. 

The world will grow and evolve under the guiding hand of the law. Once civilized, always civilized (I hope so.)

To run the legal system properly, judges and lawyers would be required. So, lawyers would probably exist forever too. 

As long as justice is needed to be done unto someone and someone needs to be saved from the shackles of injustice, lawyers will have to do their work, for the society, for themselves and for their clients.

There is a proverb, “when the going gets tough, the tough gets going”. This question wanted to test the strength of your character, your spirit and your ambition. 

It goes without saying that things are going to get tougher for you—for every lawyer out there, for that matter. 

Internships will get harder to get. 

Job openings will be fewer in numbers and only the well-trained and competent who would be able to prove their mettle in the “field” will be able to get ahead in their career. 

Old legal niches might dry up for the time being. Where law firms used to hire freshers they may now look for skilled lawyers. 

The competition will shoot up through the roof. The number of applicants for a single position will be much higher than it was before. 

For litigation professionals, acquiring new clients and billing them for a reasonable fee might become a herculean task in most practice areas for a while at least. 

And still, there are big rewards waiting for those who will play their cards right. 

Yet big opportunities for those who can spot opportunities and adapt accordingly

But for those who can rise up to the occasion, I can only say that good times are coming. Hold steady now, because hard times won’t last. Don’t stop working with a long term strategy. 

Even in these times of crisis, you can double your income if you play it right.

We are doing this. 

Our very own students are doing this. 

They are drafting WFH agreements. 

They are negotiating force majeure impacted contracts. 

They are helping businesses raise funds during this liquidity crunch. 

They are helping business owners figure out their future strategies.

They are building deep relationships with current and future clients by extending free advice and legal support. 

Just a little bit of creativity and a whole lot of effort! That’s all you need.

And yes, the right guidance on how to upskill yourself during this COVID-19 period.

What are these new legal opportunities?

How should you upskill yourself?

What would you gain if you succeed?

Our career counselling experts can help answer these questions for you. Interested to know how to sort your career in this crisis period? Give us a call at 011 4804 5203 or comment below to this article stating “I need help with my career.” We will get back to you urgently.

That’s it for today. Oh BTW, do write back to me with anything that you want to share. Share your story, or your feedback, or anything else you want.

I love hearing back from you. 

To your success.

P. S. LawSikho is running hour-long webinars every day. Want to learn how to improve your learning skills? Prepare an LLM application to a foreign university? Career opportunities in new, upcoming areas of law? Don’t miss these high-quality webinars with industry and academic experts. Join our WhatsApp group to get instant updates on your phone.

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