Thursday, 23 July 2015

Is it better to become a Chartered Accountant or a Corporate Lawyer?

How can one compare apples and oranges! However, I'd like to offer some perspective on the basis of which you may take a decision.

The CA curriculum focuses on imparting an in-depth knowledge of subjects such as Direct Taxation, Indirect Taxation, Company Law, Financial Accounting, Management Accounting and Auditing. Needless to say, the course content is extremely exhaustive and tries to cover every subject in the most comprehensive manner.

A Chartered Accountant, however, after having studied all of these subjects, may choose to practice or specialize in just one or two of them. He may decide to take assignments that require him to give legal opinions or represent his clients before various government authorities in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs and otherwise. He may represent his clients before the Regional Director, Company Law Board and the National Company Law Tribunal (as and when it will be formed). He will thus be primarily practicing in Corporate Law.

Except, for a CA to further represent his clients before the High Courts and Supreme Court, he will have to get an additional LL.B. degree, take the membership of the Bar Council and give up on his Certificate of Practice as Chartered Accountant.

Now, to talk about those who wish to pursue Corporate Law without doing a CA - A person can practice in Corporate Law right after he completes his LL.B. and takes the membership of the Bar Council. This sounds like a much easier route as the curriculum for an LL.B. degree in India is not considered as vast or exhaustive as that of CA. Also, the pass percentage of LL.B. is much higher than that of CA.

So if a person had to practice Corporate Law, why would he choose to complete a CA degree first?

A number of students face the tough decision of having to choose a career path for themselves much earlier in their life than they believe they have the proper judgment to. The following factors could be considered by someone who is at such crossroads and thinks that he might want to pursue Corporate Law.

1. A CA Degree opens your horizons to areas of practice such as auditing and financial consultancy, fields on which an LL.B. degree does not focus. However, on the other hand, an LL.B. degree opens options such as practicing in Criminal Law, Civil Law, Property Laws, Intellectual Property Laws, Arbitration, etc. So, one should choose based on what kinds of allied career paths one might want to consider along with corporate law after having completed the degree.

2. Both lawyers and CA's study Taxation during their course. However, it would not be incorrect to mention that the specialization a CA degree offers in the field of taxation is not something that studying taxation in LL.B. can even come remotely close to. In case a person might also want to practice in tax laws along with corporate laws later, CA is definitely the better option of the two from the perspective of studying tax laws more exhaustively.

3. There are various educational institutes in the country that offer a degree in LL.B., but only one institute (ICAI) that administers and conducts the CA exams. Having one institute ensures better control over the quality of the students passing the exam. This in no way means that students of law are any less. It just shows that for education in law, the institute you do it from would matter a lot. There are a number of infamous colleges of law in the country obtaining a LL.B. degree from where is not considered to be a tough task.

4. To reiterate, a CA in practice cannot represent his clients before the High Courts and the Supreme Court. He will have to do an LL.B. and take the Bar Council membership for such representations.

I hope this offers some guidance on the factors to consider while taking the decision to pursue LL.B., or CA, or CA with LL.B.

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