Let's say you're just out of law school and looking to move into corporate work. What should you expect in a corporate legal department, and what can you take from law school?
First of all, law school doesn't really cover transactional work, which is what most corporate departments do. Even contracts courses simply cover the theory
of contracts, such as consideration and duress, mistake, etc., and rarely have much applicability to transactional work. No, the most important part is contract interpretation. Usually the formalities of a contract are fine — it's what the contract means that's important.
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Law school is about litigation — you study cases, right? Rarely do you read contracts that a corporate department has created. And if litigation occurs, something somewhere went horribly wrong to begin with.
Transactional work is great if you aren't into the whole "warrior" aspect of beating your opponent to a pulp and "hearing the lamentations of their women," as allegedly said by Genghis Kahn and popularized by Conan the Barbarian. Transactional work is for a more collegiate atmosphere. A good contract is good for both parties, not the adversarial winner-take-all attitude of the courtroom.
So it's much better to be in corporate law
if you actually want to be liked and you don't get ticked off by reading the other side's brief. That's not to say negotiations are milk and roses, of course — there's plenty of antagonism and negotiation to get your side a better deal.
The first years of your career will consist of learning the professional techniques and doing the grunt work. You can have a lot of fun attending negotiation meetings and learn a lot as well. Research can help you come up with inventive things as well, such as the so-called "poison pill" shareholder rights plans, for instance.
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But it still can be quite rewarding. Of course, there is the tedium, but getting a good mentor
is crucial. And knowing when to use "lawyer skills"
and when they are counterproductive is a great ability to get a handle on.
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Good luck, and remember that corporate departments still need creative lawyering!
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