Pursuing a career in law with a business background
It’s said that the law touches everything, and nowhere is that statement truer than in the realm of business. If you've been questioning the relevance of your business background to a career as a lawyer, then don’t. It will assist you greatly if you choose to take advantage of it, whether you end up as a solicitor or a barrister.
If you didn’t study law at the undergraduate level, you'll need to study another year (full-time) or two years (part-time) in order to put yourself on the same footing as those who studied law as undergraduates. You’ll be expected to take and pass eight courses:
- contract law;
- criminal law;
- equity and trusts;
- European Union (EU) law;
- land law;
- public law;
- tort law; and
- an elective.
Transactional work and business disputes
With a business background, you’ll be more qualified than your peers to undertake two types of activities – transactional work as a solicitor (one of the most lucrative areas of law) and commercial disputes as a barrister. Some of the most common areas of practice, both as a solicitor and as a barrister, include project finance, M&A, debt/equity, capital markets and securities work.
In-house counsel (corporate counsel)
With a business background, you’ll be particularly well-qualified to work in the legal department of a company (as opposed to a private law firm). You’ll better understand the significance of the “bottom line” than the average lawyer will, for example, and your approach to problem-solving is likely to favour a practical business solution rather than a theoretical “lawyer’s solution” that ignores commercial realities.
In-house counsel positions are highly sought-after. Some positions, unlike typical law-firm positions, allow standard 9-to-5 working weeks with weekends off, while others, such as certain positions in the legal department of Fortune 500 companies, are quire demanding and pay extremely well. Moreover, if you’re interested in working abroad, an in-house counsel position with the right company could serve as an effective springboard.
If you were in business for a long time before switching to law, you likely enjoy a network of local business contacts who represent important companies. If you interview for a position at a law firm, the partners will fully understand that your current business contacts could easily become tomorrow’s clients. That makes you a potential rainmaker, which is something that the average newly-qualified lawyer certainly isn’t.
Gone are the days when the best career path was to begin working for a company straight out of school, stay with that company until you retire and then live on a pension provided by the company. The economic environment has changed – nowadays, everyone is an entrepreneur of sorts, in the sense that in most cases you can depend only on yourself with no permanent business loyalties.
In this environment of constant flux, where old industries die and new ones are constantly being born, where computer programs are being developed that may take the place of paralegals and some day perhaps even certain types of lawyers, versatility is the primary survival trait. With a background in both law and business, you’ll be well-suited to weather the unpredictable economic storms that are no doubt already brewing.