This article is written by Aditya Shrivastava, marketing executive at iPleaders.
A lot of individuals enter law schools with very little idea of how their career is going to look like five years down the line. Their idea of a stable career in law develops by attending seminars, or by observing their relatives and neighbours who have turned out to be fabulous corporate lawyers or are earning amazing salaries. The truth, however, is that most of them are battling over law firm internships throughout our law school. They have superficial knowledge of how much salary they will earn with limited or next-to-no idea about what the work is going to be like.
This lack of idea is further aggravated when someone decides to join a multinational company’s compliance team. While most of you may think that you are going to work on various company laws, SEBI regulations, RBI guidelines, FEMA etc., the stark reality is that lawyers working in the compliance and contract management teams are constantly dealing with various client projects, some foreign laws and majorly working on excel sheets. Most of the laws that you have studied in law school prove to be of no help. At the outset, I would like to say that this does not hold true for in-house counsels working in the legal team of a company.
However, the same laws become extremely crucial when you are appearing for an interview. An interview at a law firm or an MNC is difficult to crack, and you need to be prepared for it irrespective of what the future may hold for you. Thankfully, I took up an online course which helped me crack every interview I appeared for. I was working at a technology giant as a Senior Process Executive which I quit within 5 months. Had I paid attention to my course mentor, I would have conveniently avoided that job and looked for a job in the creative space at the very first go. But, this is specific to me. I am writing this article to help you make an informed choice.
So is it worth joining the compliance team?
I will list out three reasons why you can consider joining the compliance team of a company over a law firm and leave it for you to judge whether you are willing to take it or not.
MNC’s and small to mid-sized law firms pay roughly the same
If you have come across an article which gives you specific data as to how much a law firm or a company on an average pays, I urge you to discard it as farce. In the legal industry, a pay package depends on a lot of factors. It can be the institutional pedagogy, grades, company policy, etc. There are firms which hire two freshers, one is paid INR 23,000 per annum and the other is paid INR 40,000 per annum.
In MNCs, the situation is slightly different. An article by Economic Times states, “Compliance jobs are the latest hot jobs in India, specifically in the lending sector!” An MNC’s compliance team, generally, has a slightly better pay package than the small or mid-sized law firms because they have the capacity to pay more. As per payscale, if you are a compliance officer, your salary can range anywhere from INR 1,87,503 in the worst case to INR 9,98,120 in the best case scenario. However, an MNC might not have regular bulk opening like law firms because their requirement for compliance executives is generally low.
Another factor that must be kept in mind while opting for working at a company (whether it is an Indian conglomerate or an MNC) is the tax liabilities. If you choose to work with a law firm, your tax liability is only 10% TDS, which you can claim if your salary is below the tax bracket. However, the moment you join a company, you are termed an employee and your tax liability can be anywhere between 10% to 30% depending on your salary.
Relaxed and international work standards
MNCs are generally compliant with international rules and guidelines. Thus, their working standards and conditions are in strict compliance with good working conditions for all. Unlike law firms, where work hours have no bar and you might be expected to work on a Sunday, if you’re working in compliance nobody expects you to stay back in an MNC post your work hours.
Most of the MNCs have a software like TruTime, which records your entering and exiting time along with attendance. If your work timings are 9 am to 6 pm, and if you have worked a day extra, you can actually opt to not work for an extra hour the next day. In addition to this, the number of casual and sick leaves, work-from-home facility, medical insurance, home rent allowance, traveling allowances are all a part of the package that you are offered, which can be quite comforting.
Companies generally have team building activities which result in wonderful lunch and dinners. This is combined with work assessment and appraisal. Of course, there are exceptions from your work too. You cannot take the company for a ride just because their policies are comforting. You are expected to deliver. I believe working conditions in an MNC are more relaxed than a law firm.
Experience and Brand Value
One of the many reasons you can consider working for an MNC is the brand value associated with it. If you have an MNC on your resume it will be recognized by everyone.
In terms of experience, an MNC tends to offer you a lot of work related to contract abstraction and document vetting. If you’re working with the compliance team, it will make you relatively better at handling people because you get accustomed to dealing with international clients because of a number of projects.
Though, don’t get your hopes too high. There are many lawyers who have not been able to land a job at a law firm after gaining work experience at an MNC. Working with a compliance team of an MNC might be a good option if you are willing to stay in the corporate set-up. However, it might not help you if you are looking for a company to law firm shift.
MNCs have few disadvantages to them too. I am listing them here so that you can get a better perspective.
You might not get a very “legal” experience
MNCs mostly work on formulas. After all, most of them are either dealing with technology, manufacturing or consulting. They allot a set of tasks to each executive and the executives are expected to follow the set of guidelines and procedures.
For example, if you working with the compliance team on anti-money laundering for a US-based project you will be required to check whether the clients of the company are compliant with specific provisions of the Patriot Act or not. This would either be done on a client tool or an excel sheet. Although, you might learn a lot about how to check various compliances and US laws, it might not help you in dealing with Indian laws.
You won’t get to visit a court
Unless you are working as the legal counsel or in litigation, you might not get a chance to visit the court. In all honesty, it was a huge plus for me because I thought it was something that I wanted to save myself from – the scorching sun and all the hard work. However, I have deliberately used past tense because I don’t think the same way anymore.
If you are someone like me who enjoys sitting in AC cabins and does not want to draft or appear for clients in the court, go for it. However, if you are keen on learning how the entire judicial system functions, learn the court procedures, argue and prove your case, it might not be the best thing for you to do.
Coming back to why I think it’s an advantage today is primarily because I came in contact with Mohona, my present manager. I realized litigation gives you an experience and knowledge which no amount of corporate or compliance work does.
Having said that, if you are okay with not going to a court, life in an MNC can be rewarding.
You might be frustrated or bored with monotonous work and lifestyle
A huge humdrum about working in the compliance team at an MNC is the kind of work and lifestyle it has to offer. You slowly start becoming everything that you never wanted to be. It is like growing up. You would be stuck at 9 am to 6 pm job, wearing a name tag and doing the same routine job.
It does have few merits to it. Life tends to become more systematic and you know exactly what to expect each day. However, the thrill of attending or arguing a case or researching about the new laws in India and how to implement it goes missing.
Having said this, life in an MNC can be quite fun, rewarding and smooth. It is certainly not a bad option at all. What is more challenging is to get a job in the first place. When I first appeared for an MNC interview in my fourth year, I could hardly answer any question. However, it was only after I took this course that I could manage to get a job in the company I wanted.
Be it a company or a law firm, you need to acquire skills or knowledge to crack any interview. How you plan to do it is in your hands.
All the luck.