Big cat territory...
Corporate lawyers are an elite group in legal practice. If you work in this area of law, no doors will be closed to you.
The practice of corporate law involves general corporate matters, such as the incorporation of companies, directors’ and shareholders’ rights, articles of association, board meetings, secretarial matters and the public listing or delisting of companies.
No two corporate transactions or deals are the same. The differences can depend upon several factors, such as the type of industry, whether it involves single or multimarket businesses, and the size of the companies involved.
Clients in this area range from multinational corporations, investment banks and privately-held companies, to small and medium scale businesses, regulatory bodies and governments.
What does corporate law involve?
As a corporate lawyer, your portfolio of work will usually involve: acting on mergers and acquisitions (M&A), the restructuring of corporate entities and the hiving-off of unprofitable sections.
You might help list clients on stock exchanges across the world, secure finance from private equity players and venture capitalists.
Your work on any deal or transaction will move through different stages. Firstly, you might negotiate and prepare draft documentation in association with your client’s various accountants, financial advisors and managerial representatives.
Helping to procure finance, either from banks or private investors, securing guarantees and other assets, might form part of the deal, as will completing due-diligence reports and checking on debts, employees, ownership details and existing liabilities.
To top it off, you might finalise the deal with all involved parties, getting necessary approvals through resolutions at board meetings, and completing registration and other formalities wherever necessary.
Amongst the different types of deals and transactions which constitute corporate law, a big portion of work involves dealing with private equity funds and listing clients’ companies on recognised stock exchanges.
A private equity player usually holds some kind of stock or ownership in unlisted companies.
A private equity lawyer’s job is to make relevant financial arrangements when it comes to floating a new business venture, further expansion of operations, a tie-up or takeover with another company, or MBO financing.
What makes a good corporate lawyer?
To thrive in corporate law, you will need to develop an exemplary knowledge of business law, current trends and legislative and regulatory developments.
Furthermore, you will need to build up a familiarity with corporate and business law in other jurisdictions where your clients have operations or are looking to invest.
A corporate lawyer needs to have strong communication and negotiation skills, an excellent academic background, the ability to think ‘out-of-the-box’, exceptional analytical skills and meticulous attention to detail.
Teamwork is an essential feature of most corporate transactions. You will work with groups of professionals who share a common objective and therefore your interpersonal and people management skills should be top-notch.
A good corporate lawyer is ambitious, thrives on challenges and relentlessly chases their goals.
If you want to make big money then corporate law is for you. However, before you do think about committing to this area law, you should know that it is very competitive, you will be working insane hours and often be under immense pressure.
A ‘Day in the Life’ of Katherine Munn, commercial solicitor, Irwin Mitchell
What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office?
I usually check my emails on my work phone before arriving at work in the morning. Once in the office, I make a cup of tea and write a list of matters to be dealt with urgently.
Could you give us a quick breakdown of how you spend an average day as a corporate law associate?
One of the things I enjoy most about my role is that my working days are never average. Frequent tasks include drafting agreements, reviewing information and liaising with clients, but every transaction is unique and these tasks will vary significantly depending on the client, industry and type of transaction. In addition to transactional work, I also advise on general company law matters and provide assistance to other practice areas with the company law elements of projects.
What sort of hours do you put in as a corporate law associate?
I have found the hours to be very variable. There is no culture of presenteeism and my usual pattern of work is 7.30am to 6pm. However, corporate law can involve long hours, especially around the time of a completion of a transaction, and occasionally I need to be in office until the early hours of the morning. Since the hours are dependent on current workload and corporate matters can become urgent very quickly, late nights are very unpredictable and I have found it crucial to be adaptable about hours.
How much do you correspond with trainees, senior colleagues, and clients on a daily basis?
I speak with my supervising partner regularly to ask for guidance on specific matters and to receive his comments on my drafting of major documents. I encourage trainees to assist where appropriate and supervise their work closely; I really enjoy seeing trainees develop throughout their seat and it is a pleasure to contribute to this process.
Mergers and acquisitions often involve input from other practice areas, especially banking, real estate and employment, and I work closely with those teams to coordinate responsibilities.
I also speak regularly with clients to advise them on particular issues and to receive instructions. In order to give advice that is commercially as well as legally sound, it is important to understand clients’ business models and operations and it is therefore important to maintain close relationships with clients.
What sort of responsibilities do you have as an associate in corporate law? How does it compare to the responsibility you had as a trainee?
As a solicitor, I manage the day-to-day processes of due diligence, drafting documents and preparing for completion. While I now have more responsibility on client matters than a trainee, the increase in responsibility is a gradual and ongoing process after qualification. As a junior solicitor, I still have a lot to learn and being qualified has not negated the need for further training. I personally found that my level of responsibility increased far more during my first year of qualification than it did over the whole of my training contract.
Interview with Sarah Moir-Porteous, trainee solicitor at Shearman & Sterling.
In just a few words, could you explain the sort of work you do in corporate law?
Contract review, negotiating and drafting ancillary documents, transaction management and overseeing physical and virtual signings.
What kind of projects have you been working on so far?
Acting for buyers and sellers in large (predominantly private) acquisitions. Usually the target will operate in a number of jurisdictions, so we have to work closely with our foreign offices and local counsel.
Do you tend to take on short-term tasks or work on longer-term projects?
A typical transaction probably lasts two to three months, but can be a lot longer or shorter depending on what the client wants. Public deals tend to take much longer than private deals due to the additional regulation.
How do you deal with the hours?
People are very reasonable and so long as you give them notice when you have plans you don’t want to miss it's fine. It is also acceptable to work from home if you can, meaning you don’t need to spend unnecessary evenings in the office.
Does your work put you in direct contact with clients?
Yes. I have attended a number of physical signings. The group is also very social and trainees are always invited to client events.
How does this seat compare with others you have completed?
A seat in corporate allows you to really get to know your client/the target business. It gives you a genuine insight into how they operate and allows you to focus on what matters to the client.