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Friday, December 5, 2008

Career as Legal Professional



‘The demand for legal professionals has increased’


   With the opening up of the Indian market in the last seventeen years, the corporate legal industry has experienced a shift from solo legal practice to well-organised law firms. Today, these firms comprise several legal professionals specialising in different areas of law who work together as one entity, offering a full range of legal services. The trend shows that generally corporations feel more comfortable dealing with law firms rather than individual lawyers, as doing business becomes more complex and competitive. 


For those seeking a career in corporate law, one option is working as an in-house counsel. In-house counsel are responsible for all kinds of in-house legal work as well as for engaging outside lawyers to represent the company in courts and on matters on which the in-house legal department may not have experience. 
   The most recent and notable entry in the corporate legal industry is the entry of LPO or legal process outsourcing. Everything from patent application drafting, legal research, pre-litigation documentation, advising clients, analysing drafted documents, writing software licensing agreements to drafting distribution agreements is being outsourced to India. What Indian lawyers do is make pleadings ready and provide back-up support for litigation-related research. 


In light of the current socio-economic trends, the following areas of law will continue to be robust practice areas in the foreseeable future: intellectual property litigation and prosecution, international commercial dispute resolution, investment/securities law, mergers and acquisitions, international contracts, cyber law, taxation law, immigration law and property law among others. 
   The demand for professionals has also increased with legal work increasing by leaps and bounds in the past decade. Like other professional services in India, such as engineering and medicine, the legal profession too is witnessing a shortage of personnel. The competition for talent has become more acute in the last two years, with international law firms joining the recruitment drive. 


The minimum qualification required to get into the industry is a law degree from a reputed law school. Additional skills which are absolutely vital for a successful lawyer are good communication skills, cultivating the art of intelligent listening - sifting the grain from the chaff, counselling, negotiating and writing/drafting, good knowledge of computers and strong research skills, to name a few. 
   Further, demand for lawyers with experience in securities and transactions, intellectual property, contract law and banking laws is growing in proportion to changes in the global marketplace. 


Corporate law has become a lucrative career option for law graduates — both freshers and those with experience. Today, corporate lawyers work in an environment that was once meant only for IIT or IIM graduates. Moreover, with foreign law firms recruiting from India, salaries have begun to shoot upwards. 
   Taking a cue from their foreign counterparts, top corporate law firms in the country have also begun offering fresh law graduates 30-50% higher retainerships than last year. This could go up to as much as Rs12-14 lakh a year in 2009 for talented candidates. Corporate lawyers reckon that this increase in salaries for fresh graduates will lead to a revision of fees across the firms and as a ripple effect increase salaries of experienced lawyers as well. 


While considering the best career option or the area of expertise in the legal profession, aspirants must keep in mind that the decision should be based on a number of factors. Freshers often make mistakes in taking career decisions based on a single factor like remuneration, peer pressure, a luxurious lifestyle and so on, which is only short-term. 
   Also, the legal profession requires constant learning, hard work, passion and never ending determination. The initial years are only the sowing of seeds, which reap fruits in later years. And while these initial years of hard work may feel like a bumpy road, they are crucial for the success and status that is associated with this noble profession.


   Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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