What is Corporate law?
Corporate law is the law in so far as it relates to corporate entities. In commercial terms, this often translates into advising companies limited by shares (both of a public and private nature), but it might also cover other forms of legal entities as well as unincorporated organisations such as partnerships.
As far as the services offered by law firms are concerned, it can then be broken down further to apply to specific areas of advice, such as:
- Mergers and acquisitions;
- Corporate finance;
- Corporate governance;
- Corporate reorganisations; and
- Joint ventures
The work of a Corporate lawyer can vary dramatically: from dealing with complex, multi-million pound, cross-border transactions to advising an owner-managed business on queries concerning the day-to-day running of their organisation. At Swinburne Maddison, we do it all, and, notwithstanding the range of work undertaken, we pride ourselves on making sure that all clients receive the same high-quality service and attention to detail.
What does a typical day look like for Swinburne Maddison’s Corporate team?
The first thing we would usually do is to catch up on emails and formulate a plan for the day ahead. However, given the nature of this work, any plan you make at the start of the day will inevitably change and evolve as the day goes on; one of the first lessons you learn as a Corporate lawyer is how to manage your time. Being flexible with your plans, and regularly reviewing your priorities for the day to make sure you are working as effectively as possible, is a huge part of that.
Corporate work is fast-paced and clients, understandably, have high expectations of their legal team. Much of the work will either be of high value or linked to projects with significant importance to the client’s business.
Working together closely as a team, and staying in regular communication with each other, helps enormously and is key to our success. Also, having the right skill set across the team and allocating work according to each individual’s strengths and experience ensures that every matter is undertaken in a timely manner but with the correct technical approach.
What are the highs and lows of being a Corporate lawyer?
I think some people could be put off a career in Corporate law because of the perception that it’s all long hours and tight deadlines. I can’t deny that with challenging and time-sensitive work, there comes a degree of pressure, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing if it’s handled in the right way.
For me, I would say that one of the things I love most about this area of law – in our firm, at least – is that it allows you to work as a team with just the right amount of pressure; the kind that helps to keep you motivated and makes you want to do a good job for your client and your team. As a Partner and Head of the Corporate team, part of my role is ensuring that members of the team don’t feel isolated or alone with the demands of their work, and that, even when the work gets tough, it can remain enjoyable as we can support each other and bounce ideas around to give one another assurance around a particular approach. Also, when things are particularly busy, it is usually a good indicator that we are working on some really exciting and significant deals, which is another big reason why I went into this area of law to begin with.
In terms of low-points or challenges with this area of work, I would say that it’s quite difficult to plan ahead as there is not a great deal of visibility around future work streams. You have to therefore be prepared to remain flexible and adaptive to whatever is thrown at you. If you’re someone who likes a routine, it’s probably not for you!
What personal skills and attributes do you need to be a good Corporate lawyer?
As already mentioned, an ability to prioritise your workload and manage your time effectively is critical, especially during those busy periods when we might be juggling several deadlines at once. Alongside this, it is important to be able to stay calm and focussed under pressure and to be able to communicate complex issues in a clear and understandably way.
As with all areas of law, attention to detail and a strong work ethic is key. In Corporate law, this needs to be combined with solid commercial judgement and an ability to always have one eye on the bigger picture, ensuring that nothing is missed along the way. A good understanding of finance and accounting is also incredibly valuable.
Above all else, a good Corporate lawyer needs to have confidence. This can be a very demanding area of law to work in and confidence is everything. Confidence in your ability to deliver the level of work which is expected by your client, confidence to get stuck in and help your team mates when things get busy, confidence to work collaboratively alongside other advisors and professional partners, and confidence to fight for that next big instruction.
A sense of humour goes a long way too!
What would be your advice to anyone considering a career in Corporate law?
With Corporate services you will inevitably be advising a lot of different types of business, operating in various sectors. If you really want to excel, a good commercial awareness and an understanding of finance and accounts – alongside a solid understanding of your preferred area of expertise – will give you the edge.
You are regularly working with other finance professionals – whether that’s accountants, bankers or financial directors – all of whom will be at the top of their field. Understanding the complexities associated with their role will give you an edge over other lawyers who, whilst strong on the legal side of things, aren’t able to deliver a holistic service.
We work hard on making sure our staff develop their skills to be able to do just that.
What opportunities and experiences do you think are unique to Swinburne Maddison’s Corporate team?
Wherever you are at in your career, you will be exposed to high-quality work and clients from Day 1 at Swinburne Maddison. Ultimately, we want our team to enjoy what they do and a big part of that is being able to take pride in your work and having the opportunity to be part of the successful delivery of projects.
We place great trust in the ability of our team, but also make sure each individual has the correct level of supervision so that they aren’t ever left exposed or vulnerable to criticism.
We also invest a lot of time in training and development to ensure that each individual member of the team remains technically strong in their area of expertise and has a solid all-round commercial awareness.
We truly believe we offer a different experience to many of the other Corporate teams in the region and are able to offer every member of our team a career which is exciting, challenging, technically-demanding and – hopefully – fun!
The Corporate team at Swinburne Maddison is the only team outside of Newcastle to have been consistently listed by Experian as a top 10 advisor by volume of deals concluded, with individual deal values reaching up to £30m.
We are always keen to talk to people we believe have the ability, experience and potential to enhance and strengthen our legal services. If you think you’ve got what it takes, we’d love to hear from you – just contact our Practice Manager, Carolyn Beal, at firstname.lastname@example.org.