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Is Corporate Law an optimal path in your career?
I’m going to give you a couple of thoughts to decide between being a corporate or transactional lawyer and a litigator. Now, there are all sorts of other types of lawyers you could become. There are intellectual property lawyers and there are bankruptcy lawyers and there are other niches.
But fundamentally, most law students are starting out at the top with “should I go to a corporate kind of transactional practice or litigation?” Especially, most law students have doubts once they have to complete any case study assignment in the field as it requires knowledge, time, and effort.
The niche practices tend to be discovered later on in time. So let’s just start with should you choose corporate transactional work or litigation?
I will give you a couple of things to think about to help you with that decision.
Litigators have more practice.
Number one, if you are having trouble making the decision, you have your first clue, because I think most people choose to be litigators, and most corporate transactional lawyers kind of slide into that practice. And what I mean by that is when I was two years ago, law school, before I even understood remotely what a corporate transaction lawyer does. Right. You’re studying the theory of law and your sort of contract law, and you’re not doing the type of work a transactional lawyer does. So have some sense that it’s around business and putting together businesses. But it’s like we don’t see it on TV. We know what Perry Mason does.
Litigators, you understand, they go to court, they make arguments, you get it. So if you haven’t already decided you want to do that, but you know it exists, you have a good feel for what it is. That’s probably a clue number one, that you’re not destined for a litigation path.
So that’s what I mean by most litigators arrive in law school. They know they want to do that. They choose that path. The rest of us sort of slid into transactional work because it was what was kind of left or in my case, I went to law school because I wanted an advanced degree and I wanted it from a very well-regarded school.
And I knew I was going to do that. And could it get into a business school with very little experience back then? So I went to law school. So it sounds a weak way to choose a career. But it makes sense because the corporate transactional path isn’t super legal in nature.
Yes, you’re a lawyer, but you’re not going to court. You’re not making arguments. So that’s tip number one. Have you already decided? And if you have it, you’re probably destined for a transactional path. We give you two other things to think about. One is litigators fight for a living. I mean, they negotiate and they battle. They argue in the process of litigation is viewed very much as a zero-sum game.
Someone is winning and someone is losing. Someone is giving ground. Someone is gaining it. And that’s tough. It’s a tough way, at least personally. Arguing all day long can be exhausting. But some people love it. They absolutely love it. There’s definitely, I think, a more clear record of wins and losses. You know, it’s really much more battle-intensive transactional work.
You’re negotiating. If you’re better at what you do than the other lawyer, you’re going to get your client an advantage. I mean, there’s some degree of, you know, win-lose zero-sum stuff.
But for the most part, you are both you and the other side are both rowing in the same direction. Deals should be win-wins. Everyone should be happy at the closing table. There’s a lot less heavy fighting.
So are battling and some people really love it. That’s why they went to law school. They love to argue about everything. Personally, I don’t like to argue for the search for truth. I like to find out like, hey, what’s the right thing? What should happen here? That’s not always so great for the client, right? I mean, you’ve got to be an absolute no-holds-barred advocate for just winning a point in litigation. It takes a certain special person. I’ll only ever do it if I’ve got a client that I just think has been really railroaded. But your regular client like it, I think takes a special type of person. So that’s point one.
The corporate transactional path gives more option in the future
And the second point I want to make is that if this kind of goes back to the first one, if you’re not entirely sure what you want to do far and away, you keep more options open if you go a corporate transactional path because well, back when I was going to law school, there were more I don’t know if this is still true, but there were more Harvard lawyer graduates who are Fortune 500 CEOs that Harvard Business graduates, which is fascinating to me because the business school is a bigger school.
Why aren’t the business students running the corporations? But it’s because in transactional work, you really get your hands dirty and figuring out how businesses operate and how to manage your business, what’s going on and the legal language and being able to take a deal from the ether, from the clients talking about it and committing it to a contract requires you to be able to speak a special language, to intimately understand the deal, to understand and quantify the risks and all these things that are really, really helpful for running a company.
So that’s what corporate transactions work, really. Here are you to be in business, in litigation, does it really do that you will learn about businesses, but you often tend to be on these long cases where you learn really granular Nichi stuff, let’s say, about a business, whereas transactions are much much broader perspective.
When we buy a company with my client’s buying a company, you’re getting in, you’re doing due diligence, you’re figuring out how do they make money, where are the risks, what’s going on? It’s much, much more strategic and business-oriented when it comes to jumping from a law firm to an in-house job.
A transactional background is stronger.
Definitely, a transactional background is stronger. It’s broader. It’s what most in-house lawyers are doing. So massive companies, they have in-house litigation departments for sure, but smaller.
You want people who think business, who can make small business risk assessments and that tends to be associated. These people think it’s associated more with a transactional attorney. So and then in terms of jumping from law to a totally different profession, also transactional backgrounds can expose you, I think, to the widest array of options.
So I think fundamentally could come back around you if you’re in your second or third-year law school and you don’t know which lawyer you want to be, I think you’re pretty destined for the corporate transactional path. Your questions about that, you want to know more about it.