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Play the Devil’s Advocate: Choose a Career in Corporate Law


Corporate Law relates to the study of various stakeholders in a company and how they interact with each other.  A corporate lawyer has a multi-faceted role encompassing various responsibilities with a blend of operational and supervisory roles. This blog talks about how you can successfully begin a career in corporate law.

The Devil’s dictionary defines Lawyer as someone who is adept in “circumvention of law”. Jim Carrey in the movie, Liar Liar, plays the role of a lawyer. In that character, initially, he would manipulate the law and situation to his favor instead of focussing on the truth. That’s how we in India used to perceive law as well. Though, in some societies, practicing Law is perceived to be a noble profession.

The legal profession in India has undergone a substantial change over the years. Nowadays, a student of law is not confined to the court, but, is a part of corporate offices, consulting & advisory firms, administrative services, and a lot more fields. Thus, a career in corporate law offers a number of job opportunities in this career field.

Educational Requirement

Students from any background can opt for a career in Law. In India, one may opt for any of the below options:

  • After 10+2, 5 years integrated B.A and L.L.B, or,
  • After graduation, 3 years bachelor of Law (L.L.B)

In India, one may need to appear for entrance examinations to get into the law colleges. Common-Law Aptitude Test (CLAT) is the entrance examination that one needs to clear to get into the coveted National Law Schools. There are other state-level entrance examinations for other government colleges. Hence to be qualified to enter the career in corporate law, you need to qualify CLAT.

One can pursue a career in corporate law by studying law abroad, but one needs to be aware of whether that qualification will be recognized in India. The legal systems of some countries are similar to those in India. As you are aware that India was under the English rule for many years, the Indian judicial system has been primarily adapted from English Law, or ‘common law’. English Law is the basis for many legal systems, including those in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, India, and Pakistan.

In the US, one can study a JD (Judicial Degree) to start with and then study LLM (Masters of Law) for graduation. In the UK, Australia and New Zealand, one can study an LLB (Bachelor of Law) as an undergraduate law degree, and the top it up with a post-graduation degree. But one has to pass bar exams to qualify as a professional lawyer.

Career Path

Course Details:

One definitely needs to be a Bachelor of Law and registered with the Bar Council of India to be a practicing lawyer. For, joining the corporate ranks, one need not register oneself with the Bar Council. The top law colleges in India and abroad are listed below:

Top India Institutes for a degree in Law

Law SchoolUniversityLocationExam & Cut-offTotal Course Fess (INR Lacs)
NLSIU, BangaloreNLSIU, BangaloreBangaloreCLAT: 1479.00
Nalsar University of LawNalsar University of LawHyderabadCLAT7.00
National Law Institute UniversityNational Law Institute UniversityBhopalCLAT6.45
West Bengal National University of Juridical SciencesWest Bengal National University of Juridical SciencesKolkataCLAT:1376.45
National Law University, JodhpurNational Law University, JodhpurJodhpurCLAT: 1315.60
Symbiosis Law SchoolSymbiosis International UniversityPuneSET11.80
Gujarat National Law UniversityGujarat National Law UniversityGandhinagarCLAT: 1289.50
Hidayatullah National Law UniversityHidayatullah National Law UniversityNew RaipurCLAT6.80
School of Law, Christ UniversityChrist UniversityBangalore6.50
Faculty of LawUniversity of CalcuttaKolkataWB-LET0.06

Top International Institutes for a degree in Law

Following are few top law colleges around the globe are:

RankName of InstitutionLocationWeb Site
1Harvard UniversityUnited
2University of CambridgeUnited
3University of OxfordUnited
4Yale UniversityUnited States
5New York University (NYU)United States
6Stanford UniversityUnited States
 7London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)United Kingdom
8The University of MelbourneAustralia
9University of California, BerkeleyUnited States
10Columbia UniversityUnited States

Source: Forbes, QS

One can opt for an L.L.M in Corporate Law or undertake several certification courses available both in India and abroad to provide one an edge in the corporate law. There are several online certifications available on corporate law from top universities around the globe.

Fee Structure

The fees of the top law colleges in India are summarized in the table above. The cost of a law degree from abroad would essentially range between INR 20.0 lacs to INR 90.0 lacs, including allied costs.

Job Opportunities

Broadly, one has to work in either of the broad categories:

  • As an advocate, practicing law: Usually, it takes time to settle unless one has contacts and is working under a senior counsel.
  • As a Legal officer owning responsibilities depending on the type of firm one joins

The job roles usually offered are:

  • Legal Officer/Manager
  • Legal Advisor
  • Senior/Junior Associate (Legal)

The responsibilities of a corporate lawyer would typically include:

  • Drafting and negotiation of agreements:
    • Leave and License agreement, Confidentiality Agreement, Assignment agreement, etc
  • Advisory services – Corporate Law
    • Research and advice on various issues in corporate law
  • Compliance
    • Looking after the various compliances of the group/company depending on the type of firm
  • Handling litigations
    • Engaging with external counsels and resolving litigations
    • Appearing before the court and resolving the matter
    • Drafting notices, affidavits, written statements, plaints, petitions
  • Company secretarial
    • Drafting of Agenda, Minutes, Notices of Board
    • Dealing with various regulatory and compliance issues and with Registrar of Companies
    • Handling Secretarial Audit, etc.

Opportunities and Growth

India has slowly gained a stronghold as one of the brightest emerging economies. It is also one of the world’s fastest-growing economies and after Dr. Manmohan Singh’s landmark economic policy in 1991, it became an attractive destination for inbound investment and, increasingly, a source of deal-activity globally. Most of the global conglomerates have been willing to invest in India. Based on the recommendations of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB), the Government, in a meeting held on September 29, 2015, approved 18 proposals of FDI amounting to approximately US$ 770 million.

Thus we can see the rate at which investments are flowing in, the volume of capital markets transactions, the quantum of capital raising, the number of strategic joint ventures and investments and large-scale restructurings, or major cross-border mergers and acquisitions, that are taking place in India.

As per Economic Times, Opportunity beckons the corporate lawyers in India, as foreign firms are strengthening their India desks by adding experienced dealmakers in Singapore and London as Indian regulations prohibit foreign firms from having an office in India or advising on Indian law. They, however, can do this in cooperation with the Indian bar and work with Indian law firms. Indian lawyers with dual-qualifications – qualification to work in India and abroad are in great demand. With the volume of capital market deals, Mergers & acquisition deals, going around, it’s not difficult to gauge the future of corporate lawyers in India.

Industries to Explore

A corporate lawyer can be a good fit in any corporate house. Some of the industries where a corporate lawyer might excel are:

  • Banking and Financial Services Industry (BFSI):
    • Banks, like, SBI, Deutsche Bank
    • Insurance companies like Bharti Axa, LIC
  • Knowledge Process Outsourcing offices of global behemoths like Mckinsey, Ernst & Young
  • Consulting Firms like Ernst & Young (E&Y), Mckinsey, KPMG
    • Law advisory firms: Some of the top law advisory firms are:
    • Amarchand & Mangaldas
  • AZB & Associates
  • Amicus
  • Fox Mandal
  • Jehangir & Gullabbhai & Bilimoria & Daruwala
  • Khaitan & Co.
  • Luthra & Luthra

The CV of a corporate lawyer

The key skills that the recruiters look for in a corporate lawyer are:

  • Good drafting skills and good oratorical skills
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills
  • Knowledge of specific acts based on the industry, like, Banking Act, Income Tax Act, Company Law, etc or certain rules like IRDAI rules in the insurance industry
  • Ability to work under pressure and desire to be a part of a big team
  • Strong analytical and problem-solving skills and ability to comprehend different situations in a small time frame

Salary Structure

The edge that corporate lawyers have is that even at the start of their careers, their earning potential is quite high as compared to other professions. However, like all other professions, it is always the cream that rises to the top and hence with experience and time, very high and lucrative remuneration will be limited to a few.

The compensation for corporate lawyers is good. The increase in salary of entry-level corporate lawyers is linked to the gradual improvement in the quality of legal education in India. Typically, their packages would be around 10.0 lacs per annum if one graduates out of the top law schools. But, if one passes out from the low ranking colleges, one has to struggle in the initial years.

What Next?

  • Corporate lawyers can become general business managers and even aspire to become CEOs.
  • Corporate Lawyers can go on to start their own advisory firms.

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