What After Law ?

A graduate of a good law school takes away skills that are applicable in almost any walk of life. Skills such as good communication, problem solving, risk identification, and dispute resolution are priceless in the world of business. If you dig business management then there is a road ahead! There are three broad routes you could think of - one is gunning for a business management job immediately after law school; the second is making the shift from a legal job to a business management job; and the third is to go do an MBA. There are pros and cons with each choice. Let me list them out for your reading convenience:

a) Applying for a business management job straight after law school

This is an accepted route to take at the finer law schools in the developed countries. However, in countries such as ours, the process is not so straightforward. Corporates looking for managers in non-legal positions tend to steer clear of law schools on the mistaken basis that law schools can only produce lawyers. They bleep over the fact that first and foremost, law schools produce smart people! The fact that these smart people are equipped with legal skills and knowledge is an additional value-add. Also at fault are law schools and law students themselves - students are usually hesitant to confront a dominant interest in business. 'What's wrong with me? I'm at law school! How can I think business management?' - is probably an accurate guess at the pattern of thinking. The result of this type of thinking is that student or college recruitment committees end up applying only to 'law organizations', thereby ignoring other organizations that may have been interested, had they understood the profiles of students.
The answer lies in facing up to your interests and positioning yourself as a smart, dynamic, creative guy with the added benefit of legal skills and knowledge. Your resume must reflect this approach. Look around for the same kind of recruiters who visit the top B-schools, and show them how you can add value.

b) The shift - from a law job to a business management job

The second option is the SHIFT. Typically, you are in a law firm or the legal department of a company when it hits you that enjoy the 'business side' of business more than the 'law side' or that you want to be more 'involved' in the business. Making this shift is hugely challenging, because firstly, it's likely that you will be perceived as being wired (oriented) to think like a lawyer, and not a business manager, and secondly, you will be leaving a position of tremendous security for a relatively alien situation. You must think through this decision very carefully - follow your passion, but plan the departure carefully with a largish safety net or fallback option. Talk to loads of people before you do it while trusting your passion and instinct. Remember, only fools rush in.
To sum up - to choose the right opportunity and take a sensible decision you must look at the following:
(i) What part of business do you like?
(ii) Is there any industry that you are particularly fond of?
(iii) How will you position yourself to the company - how will you convince them that you can add value?

(iv)Are you willing to take salary cuts? It's advisable to then go through a recruitment firm or manager.

c) The MBA

You have the option to do an MBA immediately after law school or after putting in a few years of work-ex. The decision really turns on how convinced you are. It's advisable to put in a couple of years of work to add value to your resume. You can then leverage your experience in the corporate world as an asset. A foreign MBA, especially a US MBA will require 3-4 years of work experience and you will have to give the GMAT. An Indian MBA can be taken without work-ex and you will have to give CAT and the other management entrance tests. The foreign MBAs are usually more flexible so you can even work around your discomfort in certain areas like Math. An Indian MBA, however, would put you to the test in those areas. Lawyers often find it challenging to come back to the quantitative approach, but challenging does not mean impossible. The law - MBA combination is excellent and recognised the world over as one of the best combinations for any form of business and management.

A law firm is usually a partnership between lawyers who have come together to offer their expertise to clients under one name. These partners share the profits of the firm as well as the risks (liabilities), and engage other lawyers to work with them as associates. These associates can work at the firm for a period of time, and, provided they establish their competence at work, can even become partners at the firm and share in the profits and management of the firm. Law firms cater to the interests of companies and private individuals alike, though most of the large law firms deal exclusively with corporate houses, i.e. companies. Work at a law firm involves dealing with a wide variety of problems that may or may not be restricted to a particular area of the law (depending on the specialisation and culture of the firm).

Major law firms have separate litigation and corporate departments. The litigation department deals with the disputes which the firm's clients are involved in. Working in the litigation department of a law firm or in a firm that does mainly litigation entails interaction with leading lawyers and a feel of the world of court practice. The corporate departments of law firms advise companies on the corporate deals which they are involved in, such as acquisitions of companies, important inter-company agreements, investment in India by foreign clients, financing of massive projects undertaken by clients and so on.

Major law firms, both Indian and foreign, recruit from the top Indian law schools. Among the major recruiters from the domestic legal schools are top law firms such as Amarchand Mangaldas Suresh A. Shroff & Co, AZB Partners, J.Sagar & Associates, and Luthra & Luthra Law Offices. Foreign law firms that recruit from Indian law schools include the UK-based Linklaters Alliance, the Singapore-based Khattar & Wong, and others. Recruits join as junior associates and are promoted based on performance.

The top Indian law firms offer salaries that can go as high as 6 lacs a year (with the occasional offer reaching as much as 10 lacs). Foreign law firms (with foreign postings) offer salaries that can go as high as 16 lacs. Some of these numbers include bonuses, which can be quite generous in most instances. You may wonder why the salaries are lower as compared to those offered by corporates - what you must remember is that most law firms keep the recruit on a 'retainer', allowing for more flexible tax management. Furthermore, salaries in law firms rise faster than in companies. An associate with 2-3 years of experience at a law firm is likely to overtake his classmate at a company. At law firms you interact with senior officers of client companies and handle tremendous responsibility at a young age. The corporate culture with its jet-setting lifestyle is an attraction of its own. Competition, and consequently stress, at these law firms is tremendous since a large number of associates compete for very few partner positions. The larger the law firm, the tougher you can expect the competition to be. There is also the possibility of being pigeon-holed in a practice area i.e. being a specialist in one area and losing the flexibility of doing different things.

Law schools often include several courses designed to address relevant social issues in their course curriculum, including gender concerns, caste-based discrimination, employment, working conditions, environmental protection and the marginalisation of various peoples. Most law schools take this a step further: NLS, for example, deals with these matters in detail through the Centre for the Child and the Law (CCL), the Centre for Women and the Law (CWL), the Centre for Law and Economic Analysis and Research (CLEAR) and the Centre for Environmental Law Education Research and Advocacy (CEERA). These centres address such issues through various research projects and action plans. Students work with professors on the same projects and the Government often takes the assistance of these centres. The effect of such exposure is reflected in the fact that a sizeable number of law school students join Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) that work with these issues. Graduates from law school are also offered opportunities to work with international organisations such as the United Nations and with international war and crime tribunals.

Tremendous job satisfaction awaits you if you are passionate about working with socio-legal issues. You can achieve a tremendous sense of worth, and can contribute to changing people's lives for the better. Since your contribution directly impacts people, it's relatively easier to find happiness. This career path offers travel prospects and promises interaction with a variety of people. A person adopting this career path will most likely get respect and recognition in peer groups. If you work with an established NGO, you would also be financially comfortable. However, the job entails a degree of financial insecurity because all NGOs are not well funded, and the pay may be meagre. This could be a serious issue if you need to support a family at some point. Further, the experience may be one of disillusionment and frustration if you cannot realise the fruits of your effort because of hierarchies within the organisation and mismanagement of funds. A person wanting to quit this line might find it difficult to get mainstream jobs (firms or companies). For someone really interested in making a difference vis-a-vis a social issue, no other career option can match up to this one. It must also be remembered that one can contribute to social efforts while pursuing a mainstream job.


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