Do you want to work in a law firm or company?
Do you want to build an independent practice? Do you want to target the SME sector?
Do you want to become an extraordinary corporate lawyer?
Do you want to have abundant wealth as a litigator, even in the early stages of your career?
Business law skills were once considered to be highly specialized and were the domain of a select few who had fully dedicated themselves to an advisory practice. Only the most respected law firms were in existence for many decades and had high-paying clients.
However, today’s reality is very different – many more people are doing business (60,000 new companies register annually with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs), many disputes are being settled out of court, or being avoided through structuring commercial arrangements more carefully. Large law firms are breaking up, lawyers are starting out as independent practitioners or building their own law firms as businesses are unwilling to pay top-dollar for legal advice.
Despite the career option you choose, we have noticed that practical business law skills have proven to be highly valuable for various categories of lawyers, even if they do not work in a corporate law firm.
How can any lawyer make use of practical transactional skills, strategic legal and business insights and intricate corporate law understanding? Let’s take a look at the different career goals of a young lawyer and explore how these skills can be useful for them:
1. Lawyers who want to work in commercial law firms or as in-house consultants
Practical business law skills are extremely useful for understanding your work and client expectations better. Ask anyone who has started working in a law firm – it takes at least a few years to just begin to understand and appreciate your client’s interests, whether you are in an M&A team, capital markets team, banking and finance team, an IP law firm or a tax firm. This is largely due to the fact that the legal education system does not focus on these issues. For this reason, even various practising litigators do not have enough opportunities to grasp a variety of commercial skillsets. Systematically developing practical skillsets can significantly stabilize your learning curve and give you an edge over your peers.
2. Those who aspire to become independent legal consultants or start their own law firms
Did you know that there are over 4 crore Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in India? These SMEs employ 80% of India’s population and are responsible for 40% of India’s GDP – moving forward, India’s growth will to a large extent be shaped by the expansion of these SME businesses in future. Startups and SMEs are not able to afford the services of big law firms which primarily serve foreign investors and large industrial houses, and India’s complex legal and regulatory framework with voluminous and sometimes overlapping rules and regulations poses a significant challenge to their growth. For independent practitioners this represents a huge opportunity – as we already pointed out, over 60,000 new companies register annually with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, and this number is increasing every year (this is greater than the number of lucrative corporate law firm jobs available every year).
Working knowledge of a broad spectrum of issues such as raising capital, investment and contract negotiation, how to protect intellectual property or how to enable a business to bid for government tenders can even give you an edge over peers working in corporate law firms whose knowledge may be limited to the areas of their specialization – although an SME cannot usually hire a specialist on each of these areas, but a person who can help with all or many of these will be indispensible to a growing SME. You can build a thriving practice with SME clients if you learn these skills.
3. Lawyers who plan to pursue (or are currently pursuing) an LLM or move into teaching and policy
LLM with specialization in commercial subjects has become a popular choice for lawyers and law graduates. Business law specializations in an LLM can help those who intend to work in various teaching positions (full-time or part-time), while working with organizations on economic or financial policy-related issues (National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, Competition Commission are some examples) or to improve their career prospects as business lawyers once they obtain their degree.
Want to powerfully leverage your LLM degree to get a law firm job? Having a sense of the strategic and day-to-day legal issues faced by businesses can be a great complement to the sharpened research and analytical abilities you develop while pursuing an LLM.
Want to get into teaching? Teachers with industry experience and practical knowledge are being increasingly valued by law universities across the country – some private universities have started offering salaries comparable to those offered to top law-firm associates to their faculty.
Also, LLM courses are the best places to meet a variety of new people, and your understanding of Indian business law can help you in building a stronger network at foreign Universities while you are studying there, particularly since India is considered to be a high growth market and specific business law skills are highly in demand.
If you intend to leverage your degree and acquired commercial law skillsets to improve your career prospects in a law firm, it is a great idea to supplement with some practical skillsets that you can implement right away while working in a law firm.
It takes at least 5-10 years to establish a thriving litigation practice – and young lawyers face financial crunch during this period. However, clients often approach litigators for commercial consultancy work. You will notice that many successful lawyers with a flourishing litigation practice also do some corporate consultancy work (in fact, some of them specifically establish large teams for the consultancy work). Even young litigators have started taking up corporate retainerships, which bring with them a heavy component of transactional and advisory work, to have a useful source of supplementary income. Sometimes, the retainer amount under these arrangements may even exceed top corporate law firm job salaries!
The importance of persuasiveness has been hugely undermined by young lawyers in court – when you are representing a business or arguing on a commercial issue, a nuanced understanding of commercial interests of the parties involved can significantly alter the course of the hearing.
Domestic and international commercial arbitration (and domestic arbitration of commercial disputes) is becoming increasingly popular with time – note that by its very nature, such arbitration requires a lawyer to have detailed understanding of elaborate contracts in the relevant industry sector (which could run into hundreds of pages), apart from the case law and statutes.
Regulatory litigation at tribunals and authorities such as income tax appellate tribunal (ITAT), SEBI, TDSAT and Competition Commission presents a great opportunity for young litigators – those who are interested in building a practice in regulatory litigation must understand the entire sectoral legal framework, technical contracts and keep abreast with how updates affect the interests of their clients.
Corporate retainerships are the bread and butter of litigators in the early stages of their career. A corporate retainership entitles you to earn a fixed amount every month for working on a fixed set of matters faced by the company every month. It really stabilizes the monetary flow for litigators – who cannot otherwise predict their income on a monthly basis. Think about it – would a company be comfortable giving you a retainership if you weren’t comfortable with business laws? Would you be able to even convince the client about your ability to handle its matter?
If learning business laws excites you, we invite you to check out India’s most comprehensive and cutting edge business law course, conducted online, by the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata:
It has been taken by young law corporate lawyers, litigators and in-house counsels from multiple continents. Want to get a taste of what it is like? Sign up for the free course on the link above.
Don’t believe that you can achieve stellar results? I bet you really want to see what our students have achieved (this will blow you away):
In case of any queries, write to [email protected] or call Rithi at 8010189157 to speak to an NUJS representative.