Career Options in the Legal Profession
Business organizations and Corporations are emerging as the new big employers for the Lawyers and the potential is huge.
This is a significant departure as compared to the situation a decade ago when the business organizations had a small legal cell, mainly dealing with the employee issues and litigations.
With India’s significant economic growth post liberalization and the Indian growth story being lauded all over the world, despite the 2008 financial meltdown and the recent slowdown, Indian companies are exploiting new avenues for growth. The emerging economies of India, China, Brazil and Russia have become hot destinations for the global investors and the banks are keen to lend increasing amounts to the Indian companies for expansion/growth.
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Mergers and Acquisitions, both within the country and overseas have picked up pace in the last few years. Notable M&As have been the Tata’s acquisition of Corus Steel and Jaguar Land Rover Motors, Mittal Steel’s acquisition of Acelor, Bharti Group’s takeover of Zain Telecom and Vedanta’s acquisition of Cairn India, besides several others. This entails detailed due diligence, international bidding, understanding of the host country’s regulatory framework and compliance issues post takeover.
Even within the country there is a stronger focus on land acquisition and environmental issues, before a new project or the expansion is sanctioned. For the real estate, power generation and mining companies, these are of significant importance as clearances form various ministries are needed and strict norms have to be followed.
It is no more possible to manage with a small cell of legal work force and to outsource the talent from specialized law firms as that option is very expensive and time consuming. Companies have therefore started to build up huge internal legal teams, with specialized talent in various legal disciplines.
Companies like Reliance, Essar Group, Bharti Airtel, Tatas and the Aditya Birla Group have large teams running into 150 to 200 lawyers.
Recently the French company Natixis Global Asset Management has picked up 25 per cent stake in the Infrastructure Development Finance Company’s Mutual Fund operations. IDFC did not seek any outside legal expertise and its own team of 17 lawyers handled all the negotiations, regulatory filings and compliances.
As India incorporated goes international, the legal team is called on more frequently to handle complex employee issues dealing with sexual and racial discrimination and lawsuits from customers, besides of course for buying new assets.
Legal teams also handle the transparency issues and timely disclosures, which have gained prominence with an increasing emphasis on higher standards of corporate governance.
Legal brains are much in demand in sectors such as construction, infrastructure, telecom, pharmaceuticals, retail and media etc.
Today every film producer has to take care to include warnings (e.g. ‘smoking is dangerous to health’ in case the movie has a scene where the actor is puffing on a cigarette) and disclaimers. They have to buy all the copyrights to a song, story or an idea having material impact on the film’s revenue form the original owner, lest they land up with an expensive lawsuit. The environmental, civil rights, minorities and animal rights concerns have to be taken care of.
Product placements in the film are a major source of revenue (Emami Group has recently tied up with the Tamil film actor/producer Dhanush for product placement in his forthcoming film 3, after the big success of its song Kolavari Di). Both the parties need to protect their rights and have to put in place a detailed and clear legal mechanism to avoid any dispute.
Corporates typically hire students as trainees form the law schools and the career path is promising, with many top performers progressing to become general counsels or specialists in areas like M&A, Trademarks, Corporate law etc.The salary levels for the experienced direct recruits are also attractive and the life more regulated than working for a legal firm, which of course has several other advantages.
This is a classic case of liberalization leading to growth and greater career options.