Law students are often confused between joining litigation or corporate law after their graduation. In this post, we examine the pros and cons of both these options. The students, fully informed of the various perks and shortcomings that they may face in a certain career option would be better equipped to make a decision and reach successful heights in their careers.
Litigation as a career option: Pros
Autonomy and Functional Independence
One of the most important privileges that are served in the profession of litigation vis-a-vis that of a corporate law is autonomy and independence. In case one chooses to practice as an independent counsel, there is great control that he/she can exercise of the matters one wants to appear for, the number of cases to take up, the practice area that one wants to focus on etc.
The option of elevation to the apex courts
While working in litigation, there is a great opportunity of being elevated to the High Court, after 10 years of practice. In fact, the majority of High Court and Supreme Court judges at present in India, have been successful litigators in the past. Working with a firm does not leave that option open for future elevation to the bench.
Litigation can be financially a very bright career option. Though, for freshers with no legal background, it might take a lot of hustle and hard work to establish one’s reputation, but once that is done, that litigation can be extremely rewarding in monetary terms.
As litigation has a self-propelled, autonomous mechanism for functioning, it allows one to take up cases on a pro-bono basis. A lot of successful lawyers at the Supreme Court regularly engage in pro-bono work to voice the needs of the vulnerable.
In case of litigation, the clients vary from individuals to businesses. By interacting with clients from different backgrounds and engaging with them personally on a one-to-one basis, one develops a close connection with the social reality and the ground-level existence of life.
Immense scope for growth in small towns
As opposed to corporate law firms which are situated mostly only in big metro cities, litigation can be practiced in small towns. This is an added advantage and enables a person to smoothly manage his/her profession along with some important familial obligations. There is no strict need in case of litigation to move to Delhi or other metro cities. In fact, there are greater chances of gaining a reputation as an efficient lawyer in a short time, if one practice in small cities.
Mentally stimulating and adventurous
Working in the legal field can be mentally engaging as well. This is the type of career for you if you appreciate the problem-solving and critical analysis. Furthermore, you'll be engaging with people on a regular basis as you interact with clients – if you enjoy socialising and working in a group, this could be the career for you.
Litigation as a career option: Cons
Initial Struggle and Hard Work
In the initial phase as a litigation lawyer, it may be extremely challenging and difficult to establish one’s repute and goodwill. It requires a lot of hard work to understand the practical functioning of the courts in all its depth, to attract clients, etc.
There is a lot of physical energy and activity involved in litigation since one may be racing around courts and finding it frustrating to wait for hours for judges to hear your case. It's possible that you'll have to wait for the case to be heard, which may take the entire day.
No fixed salary
In case one chooses to get into independent practice, then the income you earn would vary from time to time, upon the clientele available. It is one profession where one cannot afford to work with a relaxed approach and have to constantly work hard, lest the overwhelming competition would overtake him in this highly crowded profession.
The profession of litigation is extremely competitive. There are very experienced lawyers in India, who have been practicing for several years and know the art of litigation. To compete with them might be a very challenging task.
Personal Accountability and Responsibility towards the client
In case of litigation, there is direct accountability of the lawyer towards the client. As opposed to this, in corporate the accountability of the associate is only towards the firm. The issue of personal accountability toward the client may sometimes lead to overwhelming stress for the lawyer.
In litigation, unlike corporate law firms, the professional is not always provided with the cushioning of several services which make dispensation of service easy, for eg. travel services, and a designated office place to work at. All these services are required to be self-arranged and provided for, which might be a financial burden in the beginning.
Corporate Law Firm Job: Pros
Highly rewarding financially
Because corporate law is the highest-paying field of law, one may expect to earn significantly more than litigation lawyers with comparable expertise, in the initial phase.
No physical hustle
As opposed to the profession of a litigation lawyer who has to run around courts to argue, wait for the proceedings, etc, one does not have to travel around much in corporate law practise, and one can get things done while sitting in the office.
High Growth Possibility
As a corporate lawyer, one can expect to have swift promotions in their journey, if they commit time, energy, and dedication to their work. Tier 1 and Tier 2 law firms in India have a very robust policy of bonus payments and have in the past promoted associates to the positions of partners in a span of fewer than 10 years.
Opportunity to interact with Experts
Top Corporate law firms in India, are the hub of legal expertise in our country. Lawyers with the best knowledge in niche areas of law serve as partners at higher positions in these firms. Getting an opportunity to interact with and work with these bright legal minds closely on legal issues, greatly assists the process of learning and professional development.
As opposed to litigation, where your income varies from phase to phase, here, a fixed salary is ensured and that brings a sense of financial stability, security, and balance to life.
Corporate Law Firm Job: Cons
Long Hours of Work
The job in a corporate law firm requires long hours of hard work. There are short deadlines, and the official working hours are often exceeded by the firms. In the initial phase, one may not find any time for socializing or any other personal obligation.
Lack of Independence and Autonomy
As opposed to the profession of a litigation lawyer, there is no independence to choose the work or the client that an associate in a corporate law firm wants to engage with. One is strictly bound by the work regimen of the firm and the requirements of the seniors in the firm.
The job of a corporate lawyer is a complete desk job, which may lead to a monotonous work style and a lack of a general sense of adventure, and challenge in work. The sense of professional thrill and adventure is observed to be rarely felt among young professionals in this field.
In the initial phase of joining a corporate law firm, freshers are often not always given core legal assignments i.e. to frame legal arguments, rather they might at times be asked to make spreadsheets, excel files, or do some due diligence work. This might be draining and uninteresting.
As opposed to a litigation lawyer, who works as his own boss, in the case of corporate law firms, there is a long hierarchy of professionals. For students who are averse to this sort of structure, it might be a huge problem.
Limited to metro cities
Big law firms in India have their branches only in metro cities, subject to some rare exceptions. This requires one to mandatorily move out of his/her hometown [if that is not a metro-city], and settle there. This may be quite problematic for students from non-metro cities, who might have certain routine familial obligations to take care of.
It can be seen that both career options have certain pros and cons. However, none of these are fully applicable to every law student, in their entirety. It is for the law students to meticulously examine and introspect about their core interests, their aptitude and then make the decision of choosing a career path that is suitable for them and their growth.
We sincerely hope that all the students reading this found this analysis helpful and are able to figure out what suits you the best.