Does it help lawyers to do CS if they want to be a corporate lawyer? Is CS a good and useful addition if they want to work as an in-house counsel?
So, this often pops up in our discussion boards, WhatsApp group and often through email. I also come across questions like these.
“I am a law student. Someone told me it would be very good if I did CS also. How will it help?”
“Many of my friends have signed up for CS, should I do it too?”
Frankly, these questions are too common, and often, you get very conflicting answers.
Ramanuj has expressed multiple times that it is not particularly helpful to do CS if what you want to become is a corporate lawyer or even a successful in-house counsel.
However, every time we said that we faced tremendous backlash from lawyers who did CS, who claimed that doing CS is very very important, at least for those who want to work in in-house counsel positions.
And we had enough of it. If we were wrong, we were going to find out. If we were right, we were going to put together a conclusive proof for the same.
Let’s put this debate to rest. Let’s find out what the industry really thinks, and how it acts (and not merely preaches) when it comes to this question.
So how could we resolve it once and for all?
Not by writing yet another article on it…or by holding a webinar, of course.
Instead, we went out and talked to real-world general counsels from the corporate world, and conducted a survey that was answered by 109 top Indian General Counsels who hire hundreds of in-house counsels amongst them.
Who were the people who participated in this survey?
We originally aimed to get responses from at least 100 General Counsels to make this survey reach a point of reliability. We had to reach out to over 400 General Counsels, VP Legals, Head of Legals in order to reach our response number, and we ended up getting a little more than what we wanted.
Please note that we left no scope for contamination of the data or false responses, because we reached out to these GCs or Legal Heads one by one, asking for their opinion, and sharing a link to the questionnaire. In most cases, we had to follow up 2 or 3 times before getting a response.
We made sure to reach out to GCs from all over the country, and from companies that are market leaders in their respective industries.
The participants mainly fall under the following three categories:
- Group General Counsel
- General Counsel
- Head of Legal
- VP – Legal
Following are the companies they work in:
- EXL Service
- The Indian Hotels Company Limited
- Purple Style Labs
- Tata Chemicals Limited
- Ambuja Cements
- Sol Group of Companies
- Girmiti Software
- Suzlon Energy Limited
- Power Grid Corporation of India Ltd
- Hyundai Rotem Company
- Mylan Labs
- Milaha (a multinational maritime conglomerate)
- Star India
- VFS Global
- OYO Hotels and Homes
- ETG Dubai
- Entero Healthcare
- Eisai Pharmaceuticals India Pvt Ltd
- Consumer VOICE
- PSA India
- Ingenico Group
- RPSG Group
- Parimala Healthcare Private Ltd
- Henkel Adhesives Technologies
- IL&FS Engineering
- Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd.
- Diversey India Pvt ltd
- Jharkhand High Court and Civil Courts
- Khosla Labs
- eClerx Services Limited
- KIMS Healthcare Management Limited
- Vinmar International Ltd
- Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd
- Brambles Ltd
- Boeing India Private Limited
- Zycus Inc
- Piramal Group
- Oriental Bank of Commerce
- Advise Bajaj Group and Others
- Jindal Polyfilms Ltd.
- ICICI Bank
- Societe Generale
- GoQuest Media Ventures Pvt Ltd
- Clarivate analytics
- SNG & Partners
- SAIF Partners
- Modi Group
- CleanMax Enviro Solutions Private Limited
- Genworks Health P.Ltd
- Wipro Limited
- Policy Bazaar Group
- Max Life Insurance
- Votorantim India (SHREE DIGVIJAY CEMENT)
- Anheuser Busch InBev
- Credit Suisse AG
- ABP News
- Ola cabs
- Snapdeal Private Ltd.
- Peritia Law Chambers
- Vibrant Energy
- Essar Group
- Quess Corp
- Religare Finvest Ltd
- Assurant India
- Assurant India
- Ramky Enviro Engineers
- John Deere
- Pocket Aces Pictures
It is to be noted that after the survey, we even reached out to a few of them and asked for specific clarifications in some cases.
Our main objective was to figure out whether getting a CS certification actually helps the in-house counsels of a reputed organization, either to get a job or to thrive in the same. If you see the questions we asked, you will know what exactly we were aiming at.
What are the questions we asked?
- How many lawyers have you hired in the last 1 year? (Both full-time and part-time)
- How many of them are qualified CS?
- How many of them have cleared the executive level of CS but did not proceed further?
- Under what circumstances do you prefer a lawyer with a CS qualification over a lawyer without such qualification?
- In your opinion, do lawyers with CS qualification make better general counsels?
What were the answers?
How many people did they hire in the last 1 year?
Out of 109 responses, 21 respondents stated that they did not hire anyone in the last year. The remaining 88 participants hired at least one lawyer last year.
Here’s the breakdown of how many companies hired how many lawyers last year:
21 companies hired 1 lawyer last year.
17 companies hired 2 lawyers last year.
14 companies hired 3 lawyers last year.
9 companies hired 4 lawyers last year.
8 companies hired 5 lawyers last year.
2 companies hired 6 lawyers last year.
4 companies hired 7 lawyers last year.
1 company hired 10 lawyers last year.
12 companies hired more than 10 lawyers last year.
How many of the lawyers you hired were qualified CS?
71 participants (65.1 per cent of total survey takers) replied that they hired no lawyers who were qualified CS in last 1 year. Out of these 71, given that 21 hired no lawyers at all. If we leave them aside, we get that 50 companies who hired 1 or more lawyers, out of 88, hired no CS candidates at all. So about 57% of them didn’t hire any CS + LLB candidate.
Amongst the companies that hired a lot of lawyers, such as the 12 which hired 10 or more lawyers within the year, only 1 said that they hired anyone at all with a CS degree.
We noted that bigger the organization, lesser is the propensity to hire a CS within the legal team, perhaps because they have a separate secretarial team to start with.
It is one thing to have an opinion, but we would rather look at what people are doing to understand what truly matters. Most of these companies did not hire a single qualified CS in their legal teams in the last 1 year, while they hired a great many numbers of lawyers without any CS degree.
Some people did hire CS candidates though, and about 3 companies seem to have aggressively hired lawyers with CS background. However, as you would notice, this is an aberration more than a rule. Only 38 out of the 109 hired any CS candidate at all.
Here are the statistics of the number of companies hiring at least one CS professional:
27 participants hired 1 CS candidate.
8 participants hired 2 CS candidates.
1 participant hired 3 CS candidates.
1 participant hired 5 CS candidates.
1 participant hired 7 CS candidates.
How many of them have cleared the Executive level of CS course but have not qualified as a Company Secretary yet?
It should be noted here that 84 participants (77 percent of our survey takers) said that they do not have a non-qualified CS in their team. It can be said that when companies do look for company secretaries, they prefer to go for a qualified CS professional and not the ones who leave it midway.
Most companies do not want lawyers with CS qualification. A few of them do want, but in that case, they want a fully qualified CS with professional-level certification and not just executive-level knowledge.
This reflects that the companies who are hiring CS are valuing the qualification far more than the knowledge, because if knowledge was at a premium, they would have hired those who have cleared executive level as well, or would have at least given such candidates primacy over those lawyers who do not have any CS background at all.
That said, 17 companies out of 109 reported having hired at least one candidate with CS executive background.
14 respondents have 1 such non-qualified CS candidate in their team.
2 respondents have 2 such candidates in their team.
1 respondent has 3 such candidates in their team.
The remaining participants replied saying ‘NA’, ‘None’, ‘Nil’ or ‘Do not know’.
“Do not know” in this context may as well be interpreted as “do not care”.
Under what circumstances do you prefer a lawyer with a CS qualification over a lawyer without such qualification?
To this question, some of the answers were predictable while others were not.
Some of the group general counsels who voted for a lawyer with a CS qualification said along these lines:
“Maybe at a junior level, to help with compliances.”
“For listed companies.”
“Under M&A transactions or any private placement investments, it becomes a must to have compliance knowledge.”
“Understanding of commercial aspects in a transaction.”
“To oversee matters of board governance, public company requirements or GC roles inside the board.”
“For a lawyer who is a part of the Compliance Function within the Legal Department, it may have more utility. In-house lawyers are generally expected to have domain expertise and CS has a very limited application for regulatory compliance only. As leaders, GC’s are now sitting at C-Level and they manage Boards through strategic initiatives. This requires broader business & commercial acumen. Also, the ability to influence definitely helps. Even GC who dons the hat of CS relies more on their legal & business experiences than CS training. If I was a CEO and hiring a GC, it will not make much difference to me if a candidate has CS qualification.”
And then some like these…
“In all circumstances a CS degree is valuable.”
“I always prefer a combination of CS and law degree rather than only a lawyer.”
Majority of the people, however, expressed a negative opinion about CS in in-house legal roles. They opined along the following lines:
“CS qualification doesn’t add much value unless legal and compliance are clubbed together. CS qualification will be an advantage in companies where legal and compliance are managed by the same team.”
“I would not have any preference of a CS qualification.”
“I prefer a CS qualification over legal only if company secretarial compliance comes under general counsel, otherwise CS is of no use to the law department.”
“Doesn’t make a difference. We hire Legal skills and I believe CS is part of the same.”
“Only this being a statutory requirement for signing an annual statement by CS, which 99% don’t know, what they signed for. If the statute doesn’t enforce, I will prefer always a lawyer, THEY are more logical.”
In your opinion do lawyers with CS qualification make better general counsel or not?
The final question, and the litmus test in our opinion, is…
What if I don’t have a CS qualification? Will that make me worse off if my ambition is to become a general counsel someday? Do lawyers with CS qualifications make better general counsels?
A whopping 70.6 per cent said that they DO NOT think so at all!
That’s seventy-seven top General Counsels from some of the largest organizations in India. They did not feel that doing CS makes you a better candidate to become the top lawyer in a country.
Of course, almost 30% thinks that being a CS does help to be a superior general counsel.
But now we know what the popular opinion is.
We also know that there are some hardcore supporters for CS, although only a minority, who believe that CS candidates with LLB make better in-house lawyers.
Subhasree Sen, Deputy General Counsel at National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) says, “CS degree does not help and in fact eats into the time of legal work. Separation of CS/compliance officers and counsels are required.”
However, Sanket Kulkarni, a corporate lawyer and legal secretary at Serum Institute of India, believes “corporate lawyers are expected to know all legal facets governing and affecting a company, and CS + LLB is a way of ensuring that knowledge.”
He also claims that most corporate lawyers eventually pursue CS qualification for value addition to their career.
Pramod Rao, Group General Counsel at ICICI Bank, probably sums it up best:
“In my view, a professional qualification is of value to the individual for sure, both in terms of the content and testing. This is true for CS as well. For an organization such as MSME or startups, an individual who’s both a lawyer + CS, works well. Often in the older business houses, the CS becomes the legal head as he has already acquired the required legal qualification too. In bigger businesses, the distinction is maintained and the focus of a legal team is seen different than that of a secretarial team.”
To conclude, we humbly submit that according to the data collected, if we are to go by the majority opinion of 109 General Counsels, we can safely agree that CS is definitely not a necessary criterion to break into the corporate world as an in-house counsel, especially if your goal is to grow to the top of the in-house legal world.
If you have it, there are a few die-hard CS fans, especially in smaller teams, who will prefer you, though.
In our opinion, after talking to so many GCs, it appears that it would be far more profitable to acquire hardcore specialised legal skills if your goal is to practice as an in-house counsel. The effort and investment required to acquire a full-fledged CS degree is very high, and putting the same effort into learning legal skills rather than secretarial skills may put you in a much better place.
After all, if you are a good lawyer, you can always hire the services of a CS.
If, however, your ambition is to work as a CS, that is a very different thing.
If you can showcase the right skills and expertise to your prospective employer, and most importantly, show that you can get the “work” done, that’s good enough to not only get a job but thrive as a professional.
You don’t agree with the result of this survey? Write back to us. We will be waiting to hear from you.
- S. Till 31st March 2020, you can enrol in your favourite course at its current pricing. From 1st April, the fees of all LawSikho courses are due to increase by 20-50% without further delay. Do note that we have enrolment for ALL courses available on our portal for the next few days, so that anyone who wants to enrol at the current pricing may do so. Enrol in a course right now >>>
- P. S. Confused about where your career is heading? Want to talk to a career counselling expert who can answer your questions and guide you to take your career to the next level? Give us a call at +91 11 4084 5203 and we will get back to you ASAP.
P. P. P. S. All our premium courses are covered by a 30-days full money-back guarantee. Don’t hesitate and try our courses 100% risk-free!
EXECUTIVE CERTIFICATE COURSES