How to start company law practice?

You never start it from scratch

It is a rare sight to see any practicing professional who did not start their practice from what they already had ongoing – whether this was college, employment, training or another existing business.

Many people think that they can complete their studies and training and then start up, it does not work that way.

One needs to begin shining right from where he is, whether that is training or employment. The path to venturing out on your own starts right here.

Look for your circle of trust

Find a friend who works in the corporate sector which has a crazy number of working hours and now, he is fed up of the work and wants to leave.

Here’s where your practice starts. There isn’t a specific place where you go look for clients – they are right here, in your network, in the people who know and trust you.

Your information begins right at the moment the friend expresses that wish, not at the time when he has already come to know about what a company is and wants to set up one.

It should be you who guides him on whether it is advisable to go for incorporation or not. Even better if you turn out advising him that it is probably not the right time to incorporate. Then he will listen to you while you tell him that it is the right time now.

Clients whom you begin to advise long before incorporation hardly leave you. They come a long way, so its difficult to cut the cord.

Your aim, consequently, should be to get as many clients who are in very early business stages as possible. Proprietorships may not seem attractive currently, but these are tomorrow’s corporate clients.

Don’t let them go. Help an owner file an income tax return may be or complete that shops and establishments registration, and tomorrow when he is looking to incorporate a company, he will think of you.

Focus on the skills – the ‘how-tos’ long before you begin

Your brain should be a lab. Yes, you can make inventions and discoveries in law, but for that, you should be ‘trying out’ what you learn.

Except you actually get your hands dirty with doing the things, rather than reading about them, there is no great learning in it.

The trick, nevertheless, is to not miss focus on the learning and simply go on doing. If you want to actively advise the clients and providing real solutions to their problems, you must know the ins and outs of your assignment.

Hence, while you are studying, maybe offer to work for someone for free. Or enroll in courses which provide simulators such as the Diploma in Companies Act, Corporate Governance and SEBI regulations.

Do anything which would give you a taste of the real thing. When you actively engage in doing, the way you read your textbooks or your study materials changes completely.

You’re not perceiving them as an essay or knowledge gathering exercise anymore. You’re looking for real solutions to the problems – the ‘how-tos’. Chances are that you may not find the solutions in the textbooks and then you begin to look beyond them.

Develop a niche

If you are dedicated to starting a company law practice, you probably are already training with a corporate law firm or a practicing company secretary or anyone who knows to do this work.

If you are also a student, even better, since you have more time to study on what exactly it is that you see yourself doing.

There are some people who have built their homes and offices working in one niche area in company law. You don’t improve your chances of getting clients by having a practice with a wide ambit, but by narrowly training.

If you are looking to join in incorporation matters, you must be very well versed with business structuring and not just the MCA procedures. There are various things that you include in the constitutional documents of a closely held domestic private company, a section 8 company and a company which is the subsidiary of a foreign company.

Assume the different structures and provide for the ‘what ifs’ accordingly. Whatever documents you create must be done thinking not only of the current situation but also possible future scenarios.

If you are looking to advise listed companies, you need to be constructing a name for yourself long before you start – and as mentioned in the first point, you need to be seen with people who advise listed companies.

Large entities seldom trust beginners – they will most likely hire people with a proven track record.

Henceforth, it is necessary that they see you as being associated with someone who has that track record. Same for someone handling NCLT matters or an IPO – people rarely trust newbies in these areas.

Gain visibility

There is this resolute substance over form debate. People believe that if they have expertise over a particular area, they will get clients and that they do not need to engage in the show.

Well, it’s right that all that glitters is not gold, but gold definitely glitters. A little bit of self-publicity, some articles here and there, some sessions at some places, some competition judging – everything is required if you want to be and stay relevant to the people who will use your services. It isn’t an event that brand and image building is an industry in itself.

Even if you are a technical pro, how do you expect people to come to know about it without bumping into you somewhere? They must have had a chance encounter with you to know you exist – whether it’s on stands like LinkedIn or in professional journals or on some websites or in some seminar or conference.

Listen And then get the ability to predict the future

There can’t be more golden advice to any consultant or practicing professional than just ‘Listen’. Listen for what someone is saying, how they are saying it and what is not being said. Just leave everything and listen, and then, think like your client.

If one is able to foresee the difficulties his client is going to face or if everything is going smooth, how to expand their operations, one will become very valuable for your client. See where they are likely to encounter problems, try to predict and prevent or solve these.

When you get someone out from where they are stuck, you will seem responsible to them and they can then entrust you with what’s forthcoming.

Keep changing

There’s an old proverb that any business requires 1000 days to succeed. Though this has been destroyed on many counts and in many ways by quickly successful startups, what it means is that you ought not to give up till that period.

That’s the time you need to give to develop clients, employees, network and last but not the least, internal systems. If you endure the practice lean and dynamic enough to grab new areas as they appear, or better still, before they appear,  growth is a certainty.

As a lot of businesses in India are leaving from informal to the formal sector, this is an area whose demand is steadily increasing. Likewise, as more IPOs take place and more companies go public, the work related to SEBI regulations will dramatically increase.

Company law and SEBI regulations are very specialized subjects that are also often found boring because it is taught in a very horrible way in law schools and textbooks.

This is also a cause why most lawyers don’t go beyond the surface and are unable to develop significant expertise in company law. To get prepared on different kinds of real-life work associated with company law and SEBI regulations that are required to be performed by lawyers and other professionals enroll for the Diploma in Companies Act, Corporate Governance and SEBI regulations.

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