Corporate Law vis-a-vis litigation

The robe clad barrister is history. Today a corporate lawyer has to be a able to wear a business man's hat writes Vikrant Pachnanda .

  • Vikrant Pachnanda

After India became a signatory to the World Trade Organisation, this has ushered in an era of internationalisation which has resulted in a demand for professionals who are well-versed with international laws. Today, with India being one of the fastest growing economies, corporate and IP are the two fastest growing areas within the practice.

Ten years ago, the law practice was largely limited to court rooms, tribunals, forums and arbitrations. Today's young lawyers have multiple options. In addition to practicing in court rooms, they can chose to become part of corporate law firms or join a corporate entity as in-house counsel. There are also some regulators like SEBI which offer promising career paths to lawyers. With the regulatory liberalization and Indian corporate economy pacing ahead, the "corporate law" practice has become an essential part of Indian business.

Corporate law practice primarily involves two key requirements of corporate sectors-advise on compliance with various laws/corporate governance for their business functioning and transactions and advice on merger & acquisition, restructuring, joint ventures and business collaborations/tie-ups. A corporate lawyer plays role in both these functions as an advisor and friend to the corporate sector. In the near future, corporate law offers best prospects particularly considering that is a significant demand supply gap which is unlikely to be moderated. Other promising avenues are IPR laws, tax laws and competition laws, media laws, real estate laws among others.

Mr. Lalit Bhasin, President of SILF and managing partner, Bhasin & Co. in an interview to India Law Journal feels that however though a large number of students are now opting for white collar jobs after graduation, it will not lead to a decline in the number of people joining litigation as most of the students who join corporate law firms are from metropolitan cities which represents only a small fraction of the 800, 000 odd lawyers in our country. Graduates from the districts and tier two cities generally end up joining litigation whereby they practice in the district courts as the scope for corporate law in these cities is very limited.

A swot analysis of corporate jobs vis-à-vis litigation reveals a healthy set of imperatives for both these sectors depending on what the candidate’s aspirations and support system. Litigation is preferred by those who have some existing setup in the field which includes being in the form of parental practice. It is one area where practitioners get their brush with fame if they are lucky enough to get associated with a high-profile case or client. Though there is a lot of money attached to this area of practice and the saturation point is considered longer, it takes atleast five to six years to reach that level though there still exists some level of uncertainty.

On the other hand, in the corporate sector, one starts drawing a regular salary from the very outset. While litigation offers scope for exposure to a range of issues and cases depending on your clientele, as a part of the legal cell of a corporate entity, chances are that lawyers would tend to be streamlined into a particular area. A contract lawyer advises the firm on a range of issues and drafting the crucial papers and legal documents for these. Contract negotiation and drafting forms the bread and butter of corporate law. It also involves drafting a company's constitution, sponsorships, agreements, shareholder's agreements, joint ventures and partnership rules among other things.

According to Mr. Diljeet Titus, managing partner, Titus & Co., litigation is the last frontier when governmental, business or personal relationships are in need of resolutions and is perceived by many to be destructive. Corporate or transactional law is where relationships begin. It is, therefore, generally thought to be the constructive side of the practice of law. However, even on the transactional side, if contracts are not properly and fairly drafted, it would lead to situations resulting in litigation. Therefore, the work of a transactional lawyer is more onerous as he seeks to minimize or prevent litigation.

Thus the robe-clad barrister is history. In an all new avatar, a corporate lawyer is a business consultant, an arbitrator and a deal-maker, all rolled into one. For a multinational coming into India for the first time, lawyers are quite often the very first from of contact even before the head-hunter and accounting firm. Today, a corporate lawyer has to be able to wear a business man’s hat. Ten years ago, litigation accounted to nearly 80% of a firm’s work but today 70% of the work of a corporate law firm is transactional law i.e. framing water-tight contracts that ensure that clients do not need to be dragged to court.

VIKRANT PACHNANDA is an Advocate and the Founder & Managing Editor of India Law Journal. He may be reached at