How this Chartered Accountant Started His Career at a Leading 'Law Firm'
- Are you a Chartered Accountant or Company Secretary or Cost Accountant who wants to start a career at a Leading Law Firm?
- Hi! I am Rahul Jain a qualified Chartered Accountant from India...and a successful consultant at a leading Law Firm in Chennai (India).
- Surprised, aren’t you? I know you are wondering what a CA is doing in a law firm.
- You will be even more surprised to know that I wanted to become a chef from a young age.
- Here is my story starting a successful career in a Law firm as a Chartered Accountant!
Changing Lanes: From a Chef to a Chartered Accountant
Growing up I was a regular student who was quick in understanding concepts.
I come from a very supportive family who always encouraged me to pursue my dreams...and my dream was to be a Chef!
Yes, my first love (and it continues to this day) was to be a successful Chef...however, after doing some research and making some inquiries, I decided not to become one!
Why? I am a vegetarian and I felt that this could be restrictive in being a chef. (Just my opinion, there are many successful chefs who are vegetarians!)
What Next? I decided to pursue Chartered Accountancy!
I was always attracted to numbers and furthermore, many of my classmates at school had also decided to pursue CA...thus making my decision easy!
Also, I observed the respect that people accorded to CAs at societal functions, as a 16-year old boy that was a big motivation!
So I enrolled for Chartered Accountancy from ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India)...and here started my CA journey.
My CA journey was not much of a struggle until I reached the CA final exams.
In my first attempt, I passed all 7 out of 8 papers with great marks and failed in just one paper (Costing) by 3 marks...can you imagine how painful it was?
To add to the injury, most of my friends had cleared the exams with an All India Rank and were now Chartered Accountants.
(I was really happy for them…but felt bad for my situation as well!)
Needless to say, it was a very difficult phase and it took a lot of courage and effort to start all over.
In the next attempt, I cleared the exams and qualified as a Chartered Accountant. Whew… I was at last able to sigh in relief.
Starting my career in a ‘law firm’…yes, not a CA firm at all!
I realised early on that Auditing is not something I wanted to have a career in...I wanted to establish a career in Indirect Taxation or Corporate laws!
So at that point in time (2010), to have a career in indirect taxation/ corporate laws the only firms that provided specialization in Chennai (India) were the Big 4 firms!
Also, all my friends had joined major accounting firms after qualifying as a Chartered Accountant...I too was contemplating something similar!
It was during this time that one of my contacts suggested that I apply to Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan, a full-service law firm. Why? They were market leaders in Indirect Taxes and they hired Chartered Accountants too!
But a Chartered Accountant working in a Law firm?
And fortunately, I got to know about a vacancy there and I applied for the same…and as destiny would have it, I got through the interview and got a job offer!
I should mention here that...many of my friends and relatives warned me against the idea of joining a Law firm.
They said - 'A Chartered Accountant would be a misfit in a law firm and suggested that my work would only entail visits to Departmental offices'.
I did some research on the Law firm and I felt certain that this was the right place for me and my career goals...I accepted the job offer!
It has been almost a decade at the same firm, I now lead the GST department and a part of the litigation practice in Chennai (India).
I manage a young and dynamic team of lawyers and Chartered Accountants. My team assists clients in litigation and also provide them advisory services on a day to day basis.
Today when I look back...I know that I had made the best decision of joining a Law Firm instead of a traditional accounting firm.
"What is my growth curve in the law firm?"
I work for a leading law firm with more than 500 + professionals which include lawyers, CAs and people from the Govt. Departments. The firm is the leader in Taxation and Litigation.
When I joined the firm in Chennai, the team size was around 15 and I was the junior-most associate.
The Firm has given me immense growth opportunities.
To add, it does not provide any differential treatment between a CA or a lawyer.
During the initial days, I did face a challenge with language skills and interpretational aspects of the law.
We CAs are used to interpreting things as we see them, we understand the principles and draft things in a simple manner...but not Lawyers!
Only after joining the law firm did I learn the art of drafting and realized the importance of language.
Now, I can boast that I have become a good lawyer as well!
“Can a Chartered Accountant work in a Law Firm?”
If you are interested in Litigation and if you have good interpretational skills, you can take up law as a career.
I know what you will ask next, “Do I need to be a lawyer?”
It is not necessary to qualify as a lawyer to practice litigation and appear before Tribunals. Only appearances before High Court and Supreme Court are exclusively reserved for lawyers.
Drafting also can be carried out by any person who possesses the necessary skillsets.
Any professional with an aptitude towards law can work with law firms and independent lawyers to learn the tricks of the trade. Of course, it may be difficult in the initial days...however, as you dive deeper into law, you would start enjoying the swim.
Patience and persistence is the key.
“What opportunities does a CA have in a Law firm?”
The work in CA firms and law firms may coincide at a point.
CAs specializing in direct tax do the entire computation and the filing aspects. However, when there is some litigation, usually lawyers step in to handle drafting and effecting appearances.
If a CA is good at interpreting the provisions and keeps himself/ herself up to date with the judicial pronouncements, he/she can assist the clients up to the Tribunal Stage by drafting and appearing (80% litigation concludes at this stage).
Yes, CAs cannot appear before the High Court and Supreme Court but here also, CAs can brief established lawyers and also undertake drafting and research.
Beyond taxation, any work which involves drafting, say, contractual drafting, drafting arbitration claims, advising for IBC, etc. can be done by CAs.
To conclude, CAs can do most work relating to civil laws. CAs, of course, do not venture into criminal laws (due to Zero exposure as such) but then again, criminal law is not my cup of tea!
Many law firms look out for CA and CS candidates to have a mixed team of professionals…so, CAs and CS's can consider applying to law firms who take in such candidates.
“What is your exact nature of work as a CA in a law firm?”
My profile includes drafting and vetting responses, doing the necessary research, arguing before authorities and Tribunals.
As a consultant, I meet clients, understand their queries and provide them with suitable inputs interpreting the law.
Next, the clients get a detailed legal opinion.
When it comes to litigation, we usually assist the clients right from facing the Department inquiries until his issue is won at the High Court or the Supreme Court if need be. In short, we provide wholesome service to our clients.
In addition, I write a lot of articles for various journals, especially tax journals. I also give lectures at many forums such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, Nungambakkam, Regional Training Institute (nominated faculty), Fertilizer Association of India, International Chamber of Indirect Tax Professionals and many other forums.
Starting my career in a Law firm has been the best decision.
Working in a leading Law firm is amazing but the working hours are of course, not fixed...there were times where I had to work for around 18 hours a day!
Things are more stable now and we work for around 10-12 hours on weekdays.
I would like to share my success with my wife (she is a CA too), my parents and siblings for being extremely supportive of my career.
It is because of them that I was always able to handle the pressure at work and not worry about things back home.
Extra Tip: Having a support system in family is so important.
I would conclude with a famous quote -
“The trick is to listen to your instinct, grab the opportunity when it presents itself and then give it your all. You will stumble and fall, you will experience both disaster and triumph, sometimes in the same day, but it’s really important to remember that like a hangover, neither triumphs nor disasters last forever. They both pass, and a new day arrives. Just try to make that new day count”.
Now It’s Your Turn…
So, do you think that a law firm is the right fit for you?
Do you want to try working at one? I am happy to help you, comment below with your questions. Connect with me at Rahul Jain.
(Article edited by CA Uma Krishna and image edited by Ankit Lodhi)