Corporate Counsel / Consultancy

What it's about?

Several law students opt to work with the in-house legal department of a corporate after graduating from law school. Legal managers play a critical role in the functioning of a company, and are responsible for drafting, vetting, and in several cases, negotiating contracts for the company, ensuring and monitoring compliance with laws, and handling legal disputes that the company may be involved in. Corporate counsel are required to interact with several different functions in a company, understand Business and Operations needs, and serve these needs in a manner that is both suitable and legal. Exposure to some of the best legal minds in the country is a given, as corporate counsel 'brief' leading lawyers who appear for the company in courts and tribunals. GE Capital, ICICI Bank, ITC, IBM, Infosys, Satyam, Wipro, Dr. Reddy's, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, KPMG and HLL are some corporate giants that frequent law school campus recruitment programmes.

What Does An In-House Attorney Do?

The work of an in-house counsel is more like that of a generalist involving a little bit of everything. They work in majority of areas such as transaction, mergers and acquisitions, contracts etc. Also, since corporations have a global presence, international law also comes into play. Although the profession does not demand specialization, the wide array of matters which are entrusted to the in-house team demands high efficiency and versatility.

In-house attorneys are also responsible for troubleshooting problems before they occur. The working is in stark contrast to the workings of a law firm where the advocates quickly learn to recognize the legal issues in, say, a business agreement, an in-house attorney will work more closely with the business people to establish business terms, identify legal issues and decide what type and level of risk is acceptable. Counsels at higher up the ladder is most likely to function as trusted business advisors and often report directly to the CEO. Therefore, an understanding of the business functions and management comes in handy for an in-house attorney.

Pros and Cons

Starting salaries are high, and are comparable with those offered to graduates from management institutes. Offers can go as high as sixteen lakhs a year. In addition, companies often offer various perks over and above the salary: accommodation, club-memberships, vehicles, coverage of medical expenses and soft loans, to name a few. While starting salaries are high, increases in salary are often fewer and far between than they can be in a law firm or in practice. A company job, however, does offer tremendous security and very good pay throughout your career. Hard work is recognised, and is rewarded through growth within the organisation, and you could reach the board of directors of the company (Aditya Ghosh is actually the CEO of OYO). Some corporate houses offer the opportunity to take on management and marketing functions to those that display an ability and competence to take on these functions. A degree in management is a great boost to your career if you decide to do so.

The Advocates Act prohibits an in-house counsel from appearing as advocates in courts. As a result, the profession will only be useful in the stages leading up to any court proceedings and businesses will still need to engage external counsels for court proceedings. Another con of the profession is meeting the job requirement of “jack of all trades”. An in-house counsel has to advise on a day to day basis along with troubleshooting the possible solutions. It is highly unlikely that a sole in-house counsel can come up with the breadth and range solutions that are required for the job.

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