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Becoming a corporate lawyer

If you are interested in business and finance, and would rather not face a jury on a regular basis, then corporate law may just be the path for you.

What does a corporate lawyer do?

Corporate lawyers offer businesses advice on a host of issues. Their role is to advise a corporation of its legal rights and duties, as well as deal with the corporation’s financial matters such as initial public offerings, mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures. Other issues that corporate lawyers handle may also include general commercial contracts and sometimes employment law related matters such as drafting employment contracts, or deal with unfair dismissal matters etc. According to Ricky Mui, Director for Robert Walters Legal & Compliance Division, the main responsibilities of corporate lawyers in some of Hong Kong’s biggest firms are taking care of mergers and acquisitions and initial public offerings, and lawyers often specialise in one area or the other.

Corporate law is non-contentious so most corporate lawyers spend the bulk of their time doing due diligence, facilitating deals and transactions, drafting corporate documents ie shareholders agreements, prospectuses, reviewing  commercial agreements, attending board meetings and negotiating deals. This makes a corporate law an attractive career option for new lawyers who are interested in corporate finance or mergers and acquisitions and who prefer not to work as a litigation lawyer which will involve contentious matters and trials in front of a judge.

Key skills for the job

“A corporate lawyer needs to be good at working with tight deadlines, function well under pressure and have good communication skills,” say Mui. A good knowledge of general corporate law but also contract law, tax law, insolvency and bankruptcy, as well as regulatory/securities law is useful. 

When preparing for initial public listings or mergers, a corporate lawyer can be expected to work late night and weekends depending on deadlines.

Mui says, “As one of Asia’s financial capitals Hong Kong is a very healthy hub for corporate lawyers due to the strong IPO and m&a market especially with PRC and Foreign investments into Asia,” and adds that corporate lawyers are much sought after for in-house legal roles within multinational corporations. “Career development and opportunities for corporate lawyers are also good in both law-firms and in corporations,” he says.

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