Being a Corporate Lawyer: Why I Do What I Do

Lawyering

After years of demanding schedule and juggling simultaneous corporate exercises which take a toll on physical and mental health, it is not surprising that some corporate lawyers experience burnout.

Unlike some legal practice areas, the work of a corporate lawyer may not seem immediately impactful or “make a difference” to others. An overworked peer once lamented that she couldn’t find meaning in the due diligence reports produced for compliance purposes, which might not even be read by clients.

However, I could think of three instances when I feel that my work as a corporate lawyer makes a difference.

When conducting legal due diligence, I provide recommendations on how to resolve discovered issues. Some issues relate to non-compliance with laws, such as employees not getting their full entitlement to paid leave or non-payment of statutory contributions. There have also been occasions where amendments or termination to contracts were proposed to ensure compliance. Knowing that my recommendations may positively or negatively impact someone else makes me more mindful of my work.

I once worked on an acquisition of a well-known brand by another household name company. It was an exciting deal for me with negotiation and fast turnaround of draft agreements. During the signing of the share sale and purchase agreement, the founders of the target company shared how they found their family business and what it meant for them. I realised that M&A transactions are not all about business, they are also someone else’s lifetime work and dreams.

Among all the corporate exercises I have been involved in, I find IPOs to be the most demanding. The process may be protracted and the due diligence is extensive. Typically, companies that undertake an IPO have reached certain level of maturity and are seeking to take their growth to the next level. As part of the IPO process, these companies implement changes, such as adopting policies and practices aimed at ensuring legal compliance and good corporate governance. When I step back from the legal details and consider the bigger picture, it occurs to me that an IPO represents a significant milestone for these companies and their founders and employees. To be able to contribute to such a milestone is a humbling thought.

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This post first appeared on LinkedIn on 14 September 2023.

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