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In-Depth Jobs

volume-32, 09-15 November 2019

Careers in Corporate Law

Vijay Prakash Srivastava

Recently there were two important reports relevant to the theme of this article, in a leading financial daily of the country. The first report had the caption-'Indian Companies are expanding their in-house legal  teams'. The other report  talked of legal and education sectors being the most dynamic in terms of hiring of professionals in the first half of 2018.This should cheer up those willing to enter the corporate world with a law degree.

Law means a system of rules, regulations and guidelines legally  enforceable. Corporate law refers to rules, regulations and guidelines applicable to companies. Subject to conditions a company is also a legal entity and there are a number of laws specifically made for such entities.

As a discipline of study law has been in existence for decades. However the kind of career opportunities this field is offering were not seen 20-25 years before. It was hardly a preferred subject of study for most of the students. Studying law meant later becoming an advocate and practicing in a court of law, mostly in lower courts. Majority of law graduates could get to practice at district and taluka level courts, with very few of them  being able to join the bar at high and supreme court even after putting in long number of years. Few legal luminaries enhanced the prestige of profession. Neverthe-less the subject rarely could be put  in the league of engineering, medical, management which used to attract large number of students from the career's point of view.

Today the situation has completely changed. In fact law is at the top among list of subjects study of which has seen a complete paradigm shift. Today many bright students are keen to study law and build a corporate career in it. This  paradigm shift has happened mainly because of following situations or reasons:

Professionalization of legal education: Earlier law courses used to be taught at universities and university affiliated colleges. There was dearth of institutes exclusively meant for legal education. Establishing bodies like National Law School University of India was on the patterns of IITs and IIMs  and created a new identity for study of the subject.

Expansion of markets and consumerism: Indian markets and businesses are expanding in a big way and consumerism is gaining strength on a continuous basis. There is a growing demand for products and services including financial services. This also influences requirement of manpower. The increase in demand of professionals in various disciplines, law included, is a testimony to this. 

Increase in regulations: Although this is the age of liberalization and governments are trying to  promote ease of business, there has to be certain regulations to ensure fair practices, corporate governance and tax compliance etc. These has legal connotations and in many cases companies want these to be handled by legal professionals with required specialization or expertise. 

Corporatization of legal jobs: The business culture  in the country has grown more sophisticated in recent years. There is more liking for professionally educated, competent people in all walks of business. Big companies decided to have their own legal team and smaller companies followed.

Increasing interest of foreign players in the Indian market: India is among the fastest growing economy in the world and a leader among emerging markets. After China it has the largest population. The sheer size of the market is enough to attract global players, foreign institutional investors (FIIs) etc. To enter a new market these need to know various legal provisions so that their entry can be smooth with no legal complications. Here corporate lawyers come to their help.

Study of Law

To have any kind of professional career in law, you need at least a bachelor degree in the subject. Perhaps it is the only subject which requires a degree to pursue a degree. The Bachelor of Law  usually known as LL.B qualification requires a study of three years and you may join it after completing  an education  cycle of 10+2+3. However now integrated courses offering a law degree are extensively available which can be joined after 10+2. The duration of such courses is five years. It saves you one year as doing both graduation and LL.B one after the other takes six years.

If you are going for a 3 years course in law you may join it after  B.A, B.Sc., B.Com., B.B.A etc. There are also people who pursue a law degree after their postgraduation. So you can find people who have set of qualifications  like M.A., LL.B; M.SC.; LL.B etc.

Five years courses are available in combination with B.A, B.Sc., B.Com., B.B.A etc. The availability may differ from institute to institute meaning that not all combinations are available at all the institutes. Although a LL.B degree is considered sufficient for a corporate career in law, few people prefer to add a postgraduate qualification (LL.M) as well. Entrance tests for law courses

Entrance tests

There are a number of entrance tests for admission to LL.B and LL.M courses. Foremost among these is Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) which is gateway to national law institutes established by government. The test is conducted at many centres and has multiple choice questions from the following:

English including Comprehen-sion Legal Aptitude (to check awareness about constitutional law, jurisprudence, law of contract etc.), Logical Reasoning, General Knowledge and Current Affairs, Elementary Mathematics and Numerical Ability.

Nearly 50 other institutes consider CLAT score for admission to their LL.B programmes.

Law School Admission Test India is a paper and pencil  test conducted by a private agency. The scores are accepted by  many private institutions for admission to their undergraduate and postgraduate law courses. Questions relate to analytical reasoning, logical reasoning(in two parts) and reading comprehension.

Few state governments have established testing bodies to conduct entrance examination for admissions to multiple courses (including courses in law)in universities within their state. For example Maharashtra has a MH CET whereas Kerala has KEAM. Another example is Telangana  State Common Law Entrance Test.

There are universities conducting their own tests. Banaras Hindu university, Rajasthan University, Panjab University, Aligarh Muslim University and many others can be included in this.

What you will do

As a corporate lawyer one is required to keep abreast with legal happenings relating to corporate world. The job involves

  • Studying and keeping updated with laws and ordinances passed  by  different courts of law  and decisions of quasi-judicial bodies working  in corporate domain
  • Study constitutional provisions, statutes and previous court judgments with regard to companies and legal disputes between them
  • Ensuring and monitoring compliance with rules, laws etc.
  • Interpreting court judgements and implications thereof to top management of the company
  • Paperwork like preparation of plaints, listing of documents
  • Filing of court cases on behalf of their company and representing the company during court cases also defending the company in cases filed against it
  • Keeping top management informed of the developments in court cases relating to company
  • Drafting, vetting and negotiating contracts
  • Handling legal issues in special cases like merger and acquisition, takeover etc.

Where to study

Almost every university and their affiliated colleges offer courses in law. Here we give the list of 19 national law universities spread across the country-

National Academy of Legal Study and Research (NALSAR) University of Law, Hyderabad

National Law School of India University NLSIU,Bengaluru

National Law Institute University (NLIU), Bhopal

Gujarat National Law University (GNLU), Gandhinagar

Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University (DSNLU), Visakhapatnam

Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU), Raipur

Tamilnadu National Law School (TNNLS), Tiruchirapalli

National Law University and Judicial Academy (NLUJAA), Assam

The National University of Advanced Legal Studies (NUALS), Kochi

National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL), Ranchi

National Law University (NLU), Jodhpur

National Law University Odisha (NLUO), Cuttack

Maharashtra National Law University (MNLU) at Mumbai, Nagpur and Aurangabad

Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Punjab

Chanakya National Law University (CNLU), Patna

Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University(RMLNLU), Lucknow

The West Bengal  National University of Judicial Sciences (WBNUJS), Kolkata

Campus selection

Now more and more companies prefer to source their legal manpower requirements  through campus placement  by visiting reputed law colleges/ universities. Such companies include insurance  service providers like Tata AIG, legal consultancies like  Amar Chand Mangaldas  among others. Undergraduates and post-graduates passing out from national law universities are much sought afterin such placement processes.

As soon as you complete your law degree you should get yourself registered with Bar Council to make you eligible for pursuing legal practice (as advocate) in a court of law. This is considered a requirement in many selection processes.

Course combinations

A qualification in Human Resources HR or industrial relations or company secretary ship combined with a degree in law is much valued in the corporate world. However you should be clear about your career preferences and also factor the time requirement before you opt for an additional qualification.

Where to look for Careers

Companies often  have to come across legal issues relating to compliance, suits filed against them or seeking clarification. In many cases these have to take legal recourse to protect their interest. For this companies prefer to have in house expertise thus creating opportunities for qualified  legal professionals. Opportunities may be available with

Banks: All categories of banks (public/ private sector banks, cooperative banks regional rural banks, foreign banks, payment banks have requirement of legal personnel. In public sector banks law graduates are recruited after through a defined selection process.

Insurance companies: Many legal issues crop up before insurance companies dealing with life and general insurance. Life Insurance Corporation of India, General Insurance Corporation, National Insurance Corporation, United India Insurance, Orient Fire and General Insurance are government companies. There is a long list of private insurance companies many of which have a foreign partner.

Financial companies: This includes non -banking financial companies (NBFC), merchant and investment bankers, foreign institutional investors(FII), peer to peer lending companies among others. Financial startups may also have requirements for legal experts.

Regulators Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI), Association of Mutual Funds (AMFI), Insurance Regulatory Development Authority (IRDA), Pension Fund Regulatory Development Authority (PFRDA), Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) and other such agencies also offer corporate careers in law.

Public sector undertakings: All public sector undertakings has a legal section which is managed by qualified personnel in law. Examples include National Thermal Power Corporation, Gas Authority Of India Limited, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, Steel Authority of India etc. In some cases these undertakings conduct their own selection process (consisting of written exam, group discussion, interview etc.). Another set of companies shortlist candidates on the basis of their CLAT score. Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited is one such company.

Media groups: Opportunities in media groups are of two types.In newspapers and channels there are legal reporters/ correspondents etc .In the administrative set of media houses there are positions for legal personnel.

Private sector: Big corporates like Hindustan Unilever, ITC, Godrej Industries, Tata Steel, Proctor Gamble have their own legal team. Big real estate companies,food and beverages companies  etc. also appoint legal personnel.

Consulting firms: These can be divided into two categories. In  the first category there are consultancies operating in different areas including legal consultancy. The other category of firms exclusively operate in legal matters. These firms employ fresh and experienced legal professionals who work on the cases referred to them by firms' clients. Internship with reputed firms of this kind also carries immense value .

Legal Process Outsourcing: Similar to knowledge Process Outsourcing, Legal Process Outsourcing too has a growing market. Some companies avail the services of external experts  for compliance, research etc. relating to legal issues. There are firms who appoint such experts to offer Legal Process Outsourcing.

Skills that will help

For a corporate career in law you should be very good at oral and written communication which includes general and legal drafting. In addition you should be socially aware, responsible and dependable, You should be an analytical thinker with aptitude for research as in many cases you'll be required to go deep down in past court cases and judgements to prepare for a particular case being handled by you. Your professionalism and integrity will help you to meet the challenges coming your way.

This article talks of only corporate careers in law .There are various  other careers and job opportunities for law graduates which interested people can explore.

(The author is a career counsellor based in Mumbai. Email: v2j25@ yahoo.in)

Views expressed are personal.

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