The Case for Corporate Law: Is it Time for a Career Shift?
03 April 2023 by Stuart John
As someone who could be considered a ‘veteran’ recruiter, with 20 years notched-up, I have seen my fair share of career moves over the years and have witnessed many, many talented lawyers build successful careers across various areas of law. In fact, (and I’m sure other recruiters would join me in this), there is almost a little sense of ‘pride’ when you see on LinkedIn that a Solicitor you helped secure a job a few years ago has just been promoted to Partner – it also makes business development / account management a bit easier too!
Although there are a number of current legal hiring needs, one practice area that has remained in constant demand, (if I’m honest, probably since initial ‘post-recessionary’ times) is corporate law. I think it would be fair to say that the current demand outweighs the supply and in recent months, I have had a number of increasing conversations with solicitors keen to make a career shift from their current area of law, into corporate. These conversations often focus on what life as a corporate solicitor would look like. So, over a pot of coffee, I got chatting with a lawyer working in this area and thought I’d put pen to paper and share some of the insights into life in corporate law and what it could look like if someone was considering a move.
Q. Describe what working as a corporate solicitor looks like for you?
A. As a corporate solicitor, I’d work with a number of businesses and organisations on a range of legal matters generally related to their company operations; for example, mergers and acquisitions, financing transactions, and more recently corporate governance. A part of the role I also enjoy is advising clients on any legal risks and am generally part of a team of colleagues who can help structure the business, advise on transactions all with the end goal to achieve their business objectives, but of course reducing any potential liabilities.
Q. Is there such a thing as a ‘typical day’?
A. Given the nature of the work and size of transactions I’m involved in, you’ll generally have an idea of what lies ahead of you each day. Typically, the day to day work would involve drafting, reviewing, and negotiating contracts. I am also part of the team that is involved in conducting due diligence on a planned acquisition and also comment and advise on some regulatory and compliance matters.
Q. What key skills do you think you need for such a role?
A. I think there’s a blend of personal and practical skills needed to work as corporate solicitor. Naturally it may depend on who you are working for but the main, key skills as I see it are the ability to communicate clearly with colleagues, you should also have an excellent attention to detail – on a contract, omissions or minor mistakes can be costly and time consuming, sometimes with significant consequences.
Q. What are the pros/cons to working as a Corporate Solicitor?
A. Like most jobs, I think there are pros and cons to being a corporate solicitor and in some instances a solicitor in general! (this was said with a smirk on the face!). The ‘pros’ being you can often earn higher salaries in corporate law. Having come from a general practice background, I also find the work very intellectually stimulating, and although at times challenging it is very rewarding, something that motivates me in my career. Also, depending on where you are working, there are generally good opportunities for career progression. In my team there is scope to move up the ladder and across the firm a number of the current partners have been here for good few years.
The ‘cons’ – at times we can work longer hours than some of the other teams and times we are faced with higher-pressure, especially when working to tight deadlines – that said, I get a ‘buzz’ from this …. and the annual bonus helps too!
Some initial tips for anyone considering making a move into a role as a corporate solicitor, a few things you can do to help you along the way.
Firstly, make sure you understand ‘why’ you want to change your career path into corporate law, more importantly, be confident that you can articulate this to any potential hirer. In a challenging recruitment market, firms will place some value on attitude, desire and ‘will’ over previous experience.
Secondly, be prepared to potentially take a ‘step back’ in either level and/or salary – this will only be a short term consideration as once you get to grips with everything, you’ll really expediate your career and elevate your position within a team. You’ll have more transferable skills than you realise.
Finally, make sure you can demonstrate how excellent your communication and negotiation skills are, these will be essential in a client facing role, advising companies and closing deals.
The summary of it is – life as a corporate solicitor can be an exciting and rewarding career path for those with an interest in business and law. Like a lot of other roles, it requires hard work and dedication, but for those who a motivated by a busy, high profile and at times, a positive-pressure environment it can be an excellent career choice. If you are interested in exploring how a potential transition into Corporate law, contact the Abacus Careers Legal team for an overview of these and other legal hiring demands.
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