IACCM Contract Management Forum

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General Electric
2019-02-11 10:18:29

Does a Contract/Commercial Manager require a Law Degree?

Hello All, I have been working as a Commercial Manager for 6.5 years, responsible preparation and negotiation commercial contracts for high value complex transactions(FIDIC etc). I have a bachelors degree in electrical/electronic engineering and a masters degree in power systems engineering. My concern arose when I looked for job opportunities for a commercial manager outside my organisation, almost all job posting required a law degree. I am unsure whether or not I should purse a law degree to give myself the best change for future job opportunities. Your thought/ideas are well appreciated.
 •  KMD  •   2019-02-12 05:39:08
Dear Daniel - In my view any legal training/education will help you going forward and demonstrate to a new employeer that you have legal competencies in place.

If I was hiring my interest in you being such a strong technical profile would increase if you had legal merits to show.

Hope this was of some help !

 •  Occidental Petroleum Corporation  •   2019-02-12 17:40:50
Daniel - I recommend you go for it. However, I have two perspectives on this based on experience; and one personal perspective that underlies my decision to take the same course of action you're contemplating. I worked as a US Federal Contracting Officer for almost ten years - the first seven before I attended/completed law school. Subsequently, I have worked in the private sector including large, global agreements in the IT industry.

Experience perspective 1: Some attorneys and paralegals felt threatened in some manner because I had a law degree. Their perspective is that they are "legal" and I should only be dealing with commercial matters, leaving the "legal" issues to them. I've actually heard some in legal oppose the hiring of Contract Management professionals who also possess a law degree. Finally, I also had at least one manager who apparently felt threatened that subordinates (I and five other Contract Managers) had law degrees from colleges and universities from around the world and had told me that he would not agree to hire an "attorney" for a role I had on my team.

Experience perspective 2: Other attorneys and paralegals I have worked with were more self-confident and not threatened by the fact I had a law degree and was licensed to practice law. Instead, we worked together to leverage my legal knowledge/skills to help manage their time. I would escalate issues and have regular touch-point meeting so that they were informed as to ongoing issues and permit us to collaborate and discuss difficult legal/contractual issues. It also gave me more flexibility to negotiate agreements that protected the legal and business interests of the party I worked for without having to go back to "mommy/daddy" each time an issue arose in the negotiations. At the same time, we also had a working knowledge of the limits of my authority and a good working relationship where I could quickly escalate and propose a solution for them to consider and ask questions about - something we called the "4Cs", ("Communicate, Collaborate, Consult and Crosscheck"). I had learned this from a wonderful attorney who had been the general counsel where I had once worked.

Personal perspective: I decided to go to law school because as a US Government Contracting Officer I had to regularly discuss issues with our attorneys. Not having a sound understanding of the broad areas of the law that applied (not just contracts) sometimes caused me confusion when the attorney would try to explain something - particularly when it ultimately impacted the contract or the enforceability of a provision in the contract. I decided to go to law school to gain a better understanding. It resulted in me have a much deeper understanding of contract principles that must be applied and of the concepts we all rely on (whether or not we realize it) when we draft, negotiate, operationalize and enforce our contracts. I recommend you go for it.
 •  Neptune Marine Service Ltd  •   2019-02-26 05:23:02
Hi Daniel,

If you can afford the time & cost for the legal degree (LLB or JD)- then will be worth considering that.

From my personal experience, some sort of Commercial/ Contracts/ Business law certifications or diploma will give the required knowledge and upper edge for the jobs.

Gaurav Seth
 •  AusNet Services  •   2019-02-28 18:24:20
Hi Daniel, I don't believe a law degree is necessary. It depends on the role.

I am legally qualified and I echo Mark's comments. I find that I am better able to articulate the risk I see with my legal friends.

The main thing is do you want to do it? A law degree will give you additional skill such a negotiation etc. It will also give you confidence in the law around contract law, construction, tort and tax.

But a law degree will also give you so much detail on those areas that you won't need all in your role.
 •  BAE Systems  •   2019-03-01 05:23:07
Hi Daniel,

I was also a Commercial Manager at GE for approx. 4 years and with the company 11 years. Since my redundancy just over a year ago, I have been trying to find a like-for-like Commercial Operations function like we had at GE but a number of Commercial Manager roles sit either in the Finance function or the Legal function, not as their own Commercial Operations function.

I'm contemplating doing a Juris Doctor to gain legal qualifications on top of my BBus and MBA Exec as I don't want to go down a CA/CPA path. Otherwise I am exploring the IACCM certification.

Hope it all goes well for you with the decision,
 •  Itron, Inc.  •   2019-05-01 21:42:38
Depends on how your organization is structured but typically no. In fact there is a good argument that they should not be lawyers as that role has different specialties.
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