Continuing my series on law student mentoring sessions, here is the second part where I spoke to R, a student of the graduating batch of an NLU with an offer to join a tier 1 law firm.
But before we proceed, please read the part 1 of this series here.
Ever since I wrote about my initiative to mentor law students on Linkedin on my profile, I have been flooded with DMs asking me to get on a call with them to clear their doubts. To be honest, I was taken aback at the sense of entitlement of these students. I wish they would have read my post where I had mentioned clearly that I am choosing 5 students for this mentoring initiative for now, and also stated everywhere that I share a lot of information related to mentoring, career, contract drafting and litigation on my website. Please follow me on Linkedin and subscribe to this website and many of your doubts will get cleared.
I understand everyone is in search of a mentor. It needn’t always be a person with whom you speak. You can follow someone’s activities on Linkedin, read insightful articles being shared all over, do your own deep research, introspect, talk to elders of the family, discuss with peers and you will find your answers. It takes little effort to DM someone and shoot questions; and while I try and respond to every DM, I have found that the moment I ask probing questions to them, they aren’t clear about their goals. I hope you all realise that you are doing more harm than good in creating that sort of a first impression.
With that being said, let’s get into today’s article.
On foraying into business role as a lawyer
R was particularly interested in knowing how to shift to a business role from a legal role. It reminded me of the time when I was certain that I would graduate from law school, gather some work experience and straight away try for MBA. As you can see, that is not how my life panned out.
If you are interested in such a shift, I will tell you what I told R. Be very sure about why you want the shift. The roles of a sales, marketing or operations manager may seem enticing from outside, but you should be aware of their pain points and then make an informed decision.
Companies very rarely will hire a lawyer for filling up a business role. So, one should be open to the idea of doing an MBA, even if an one-year executive MBA after some years of work experience to make that shift. One should also be open to start from scratch as a fresher in his new role, since his lawyer experience might end up counting for none.
I know lawyers who have forayed into non-legal roles and they have done it primarily through entrepreneurship. I also know of a very rare case of an in-house counsel doing a secondment in the sales team of his company and juggling both his roles. So it is not entirely impossible but has to be a very well-thought out decision.
In case you aren’t keen to spend another fortune on an MBA, there are tons of options. Check out this online MBA called Bada Business, which is very inexpensive and is taught by industry veterans.
On choosing generalization or super-specialization at the beginning of career
Since R is set to join a law firm, he had questions about how to choose his practice area. While he has Competition Law and Litigation & Arbitration in mind, I advised him to broaden his horizon.
How many of you feel that the corporate practice areas like M&A, Capital Markets, General Corporate are the “in” practice areas?
Have you explored the IPR or the Tax teams? These two are specialised practice areas with a lot of scope. A good tax lawyer is in demand everywhere, including in-house roles. An IPR lawyer does very interesting work, including conducting investigation and raids as part of IP protection mandate of a client.
Insolvency has come up as a lucrative practice area in recent times post IBC and many landmark rulings are being passed. Restructuring a business is part of the Insolvency practice area and can be a very interesting experience. So, go beyond the usual and look at all options available to you.
It is true that a law firm makes you a specialised lawyer, since they need their lawyers to be expert in that area. Going forward, a specialised lawyer will be sought after in his niche area more than a lawyer with general work experience. On the other hand, a lawyer in a general practice area will end up doing a more variety of work and might get opportunities not open to the specialised lawyers. There are always two sides to a coin and it all depends on which side you flip.
On difference between a law firm lawyer and an in-house lawyer
The only fundamental difference between a law firm lawyer and an in-house lawyer is that of mindset. An in-house lawyer analyses every possible risk a company faces, even beyond the legal or financial ones. eg. an in-house lawyer might look at the reputation of your company, or long standing standard operating procedures, or a new initiative in the pipeline while advising the business team. This is possible only because he is an insider and has access to how the company functions, its mission and vision statement. In-house lawyers are expected to be generalists while the law firm lawyers are expected to be experts. That’s why in-house lawyers manage the day-t0-day issues while the law firm lawyers come in with their expert opinion when stakes have become too high.
On attrition rate at law firms
It seems to be a trend among law students to join a law firm, get all the benefits of the training that a law firm provides, collect comfortable salaries and then leave within a few years.
The question is why.
I feel that when you are a fresh law graduate, you don’t have clear vision as to what you want to do. Your decisions are usually based on what you have heard or seen. When you experience the same yourself, you might have a very different opinion. With time, you might discover your true passion. You might realise that you value something else entirely over your law firm career. You wisen up as to your own wishes and desires. That’s why people leave, not only law firm but any job within the first few years. So, my advice is don’t try to decide your career path while you are at law school. It’s OK if you get it wrong. Life has a funny way of creating its own journey and 10 or 20 or 30 years down the line, you will be able to connect all the dots.
Hope this article will help you if you are also faced with similar doubts as R. All the best!
If you have any questions, feel free to comment or send me an email at [email protected],
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