These lawyers mean business

E. Kumar Sharma        Print Edition: September 4, 2011

Meet Kaushik Rajan, corporate lawyer. But not for long. A year from now, the 27-year-old, who graduated from ILS Law College, Pune, will be a lawyer-MBA. To realise his dream of becoming an investment banker with a focus on mergers and acquisitions, he has enrolled in a one-year management course at the Indian School of Business, or ISB, Hyderabad. "I want to graduate from being a business facilitator to being a business decision-maker," he says.

"To do that, a management course was the logical step." The combination of law and management qualifications is full of potential, he says . According to Rajan, more and more law students will take management courses, especially at top schools such as ISB, not only because this will improve their professional prospects, but also because they will benefit from exposure to a diverse classroom experience.

A law or MBA degree helps professionals build expertise in either field, for example, marketing in management, or litigation in law. But in a rapidly globalising economy, a combination could take one's career much further. And, given the demand for a combination of law and MBA qualifications, it is reasonable to expect that it would pay better than just a law or management degree.

"The legal function is now a strategic one," says Aditya Ghosh, President of the low-cost carrier IndiGo. "Today, those who run businesses need to have a deeper understanding of the regulatory environment, because many fields - telecom, insurance, and sunrise sectors such as aviation - are highly regulated," he says. He is a lawyer by training, but does not have a management degree. If there was a course in his time that offered both, he says, he would have taken it.

"There's certainly a need for people with a knowledge of both management and law, across sectors such as marketing, sales, supply chain, and those involved in the development of intellectual property," says T. Sreedhar, managing director, TMI Networks, a leading talent sourcing firm based in Hyderabad. However, he adds, there is a scarcity of talent with this kind of knowledge at present.

Zia Mody, managing partner, AZB & Partners, says she is happy to hire talent with a good mix of law and management qualifications. "This is a good combination, because lawyers today need at least some basic knowledge of the issues facing corporates, such as a good grasp of the law relating to securities, insider trading or the takeover code , " she says.

In response to the demand, Hyderabad-based NALSAR University of Law, one of the leading law schools in the country, will start a new course on October 15: the Masters Degree in Business Laws and Administration. According to K.V.S. Sarma, Professor of Law and Head, Centre for Corporate Governance at the university, as national economies are increasingly integrated into the world market within the framework of international trade rules, business has taken centre stage. As a result, corporate laws are moving towards universalisation, he says. "So all employees in the corporate world need some knowledge of the principles of management and business law, to do business within and outside the country," he says.

Sarma says the new course, a two-year programme that costs Rs 6 lakh, has been designed to bridge a crucial gap, and create synergies by bringing management and law together. "In any MBA course, management skills are taught," he says. "But without a thorough grasp of company, labour, industrial and commercial law, graduates feel handicapped even when they are part of the management of a corporate body."

Kaushik Rajan
I want to graduate from being a business facilitator to being a business decision-maker.Kaushik Rajan, a corporate lawyer studying at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, who plans to become an investment banker
The eligibility for the course is graduation in any discipline. The first batch of 30 students will be chosen on the basis of their academic qualifications and an interview. The course will cover a range of subjects spanning law and management, such as intellectual property law and management, corporate governance and business ethics, financial and management accounting, contract law, marketing management and brand building.

NALSAR is not the first law school to wake up to the potential of a combination of law and business qualifications. The National Law University, Jodhpur, offers an MBA (insurance), and says it is the first in the country to offer an honours degree in business law. It sees this as a core strength, citing its alumni who are now associated with international law firms such as Clifford Chance and Allen & Overy; Indian ones such as Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A. Shroff & Company, and AZB & Partners; and corporate giants such as the Tata and Reliance groups, and Larsen & Toubro.

Costs stack up in favour of NALSAR'S business laws programme for now. A pure law course at NALSAR would be five years, and would cost around Rs 9 lakh. A pure management course, such as the two-year postgraduate programme at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, would cost Rs 6.3 lakh a year. A one-year course at ISB costs around Rs 20 lakh. Citing his own experience, ISB student Rajan says: "When investment bankers and lawyers negotiate, one speaks Greek and the other Latin, because one is focused on the numbers, while the other cares only about risks and words." There is clearly a gap right now, he says, and it will be filled by those who understand both numbers and word of the law.

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