Many lawyers convert to corporate lawyers; we gave them the floor not long ago. The reverse path, less frequent, also exists. It is mainly because he was “fed up with the wage labor” that Aurélien Martin left his position as a financial lawyer three years ago to set up his firm with a colleague. The quest for freedom is the reason that comes up the most among respondents. “If you are associated, you are free. In business, there is always someone above you,” explains Thierry Aballéa, who practiced seven years as a jurist before becoming a lawyer.
“I carried out a lot of cross-management actions. I missed the time to get to the bottom of the law”, says Marie-Aude Ziadé, former legal and litigation director of Areva who put on the dress in 2018. As for Pierrick Le Goff, he really liked the managerial dimension of his former work but left the legal department of Alstom after twenty-five years in the group, because he also wanted to do more legal analysis. “I missed the doctrinal approach to law,” explains the man who has always kept a foothold in the academic world.
When they take the plunge, some already hold the CAPA, passed at the end of their studies. Others must use the bridge provided for in Article 98 of Decree No. 91-1197 of November 27, 1991. In addition to meeting certain conditions, candidates pass an ethics examination. Thierry Aballéa, member of the council of the Order of the Paris Bar, and according to whom these criteria are “very strict”, explains to us that in his city, the prosecution, which can appeal, looks closely at all files.
Collab? Associated ? Individual ? “It is a thoughtful professional and family project that must be well prepared, with financial reserves,” says Aurélien Martin. For many, the former employer becomes a client. “Specializing even before leaving the company can help”, also analyzes Maria Lancri, former deputy legal director and compliance manager. Thierry Aballéa also notes that “you have to have a network and know how to use it. The objective is to monetize its know-how. You are not trained in it when you are in business”.
“I may be working more than before, but as I am developing my beaches, I am more available for my children”, sums up Aurélien Martin, who has worked in business for twelve years. Depending on the size of the company left, the position previously occupied, the material worked, the change is more or less radical. In the case of Aurélien Martin, for example: “I do exactly the same thing. It’s just that instead of having one client, I have many more”. He retains the same advisory role, whether for small businesses that outsource their legal services or larger companies with ad hoc needs.
“I am happy to put my dress in my bag”
For others, the drafting of the conclusions and the pleadings were lacking and are now appreciated. “I’m happy to put my dress in my bag and go into the courtroom,” says Arnaud-Gilbert Richard, who left his post as legal director of Boursorama in 2001, which joined ten years earlier when the company was still a startup.
“The biggest difference is the relationship with the customer. He needs to be reassured morning, noon and night. It’s not law, but it’s part of my job, ”says Thierry Aballéa, who already misses two calls from the same client during our short interview. In terms of decision-making power, opinions differ. On the one hand, the lawyer advises but it is the legal director who decides.
From another, “when you are a lawyer and your clients come to see you, it’s not nothing, it pays off. Your opinion counts, you have an impact”, observes Arnaud-Gilbert Richard. And to add: “You can afford to tell them what they don’t want to hear”.
None of the six questioned regrets their choice. And their time in business either. This experience is even sometimes to be valued, with clients who are reassured to have a lawyer accustomed to working with operational staff. Marie-Aude Ziadé, who “fights for greater porosity between the legal professions”, does not rule out going back to business one day. “It is obvious that people will not keep the same job for twenty years so it is necessary to make the bridges easier to allow them to go back and forth”, concludes Maria Lancri.