How Can I Become a Business Lawyer?

Explore the career requirements for business lawyers. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Business Lawyer?

Business lawyers are lawyers who specialize in law pertaining to businesses. They may focus on local businesses, national businesses or international business law. They need to be familiar with legal issues and requirements related to the businesses that they work with. They may represent a number of businesses, or work for one business. Business lawyers advise their clients on legal matters and may draft legal contracts or documents that need to be filed in court. They may also represent their client in court if necessary. Business lawyers are required to have a Juris Doctor degree, and they also need to pass the bar exam.

Degree Required Juris Doctor (J.D.)
Key Responsibilities Interpret the law and advise clients of legal options and ramifications; conduct legal research and apply law to client's circumstances; research facts and analyze best legal strategy; prepare legal arguments to present orally and in writing
Licensure and/or Certification All states require lawyers to pass the bar exam for licensure
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6% (all lawyers)*
Median Salary (2015) $115,820 (all lawyers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Types of Companies Hire Business Lawyers?

Before entering law school, you may want to consider which business sector appeals to you. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), lawyers may work in a variety of industries, including construction, intellectual property, insurance, mortgage and waste disposal (www.bls.gov).

You may also want to give some thought to the type of company you prefer to work for after graduation. Since there are a variety of potential choices, such as private practice, small firms and major conglomerates, this is something to consider. You may also want to explore local, national and international opportunities.

What Education and Training Do I Need?

The BLS states that there isn't a preferred or recommended pre-law degree; however, you may want to consider a multi-disciplinary program. Accounting, business administration and finance are just a few possibilities for relevant majors.

If you've completed your degree, then you need to take the Law School Admission Test, or LSAT, prior to applying to law school. In general, the BLS indicates that law school admissions offices will evaluate you based on aptitude, undergraduate grades, LSAT scores, work experience and personal interviews. Some law schools may also evaluate the university from which you graduated.

You may be interested to know that once you've submitted your transcripts to the Law School Data Assembly Service, they will forward your LSAT scores and other pertinent records to your desired list of law schools. This assists with streamlining the process.

Once you're enrolled in law school, it usually takes approximately three years to complete your Juris Doctor, or J.D., according to the BLS. During your final year of law school, or soon thereafter, you may want to consider applying for internships to gain relevant business law experience. Other activities that provide experience include school-based clinics, clerkships, legal journals and faculty or court-sponsored mock trials.

You may also be interested in pursuing a joint degree program in business administration. The BLS indicates that these programs usually require a minimum of 1-2 additional semesters. Other business-oriented academic specialties include entertainment and sports law, international investment and trade, intellectual property and jurisdiction. Other areas where you may want to investigate include domestic and international regulatory reforms as well as domestic and international market analysis.

What Happens After I Complete My Juris Doctor?

Once you've earned a J.D. from an American Bar Association-approved institution, you will need to take and pass the Bar exam. In general, you will take the Bar in the state where you plan to work. If you're interested in working for an international firm or in another country, you will need to determine the specific licensing requirements for that country.

The BLS states that you may also need to take the Multistate Bar Examination, or MBE. Another test that you may need to take is the Multistate Essay Examination, or MEE, which is included in the standard Bar exam within certain states.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Postsecondary teachers, judges, and mediators all have careers that involve some similarities to the work that business lawyers do. Postsecondary teachers need a master's or doctoral degree. They may instruct students in subjects such as law or business, and provide the educational foundation for future business attorneys. Judges need to be familiar with business law and may hear cases regarding matters of dispute between citizens and businesses, the government and businesses, employees and the business they work for, or two opposing businesses. They use laws and legal precedents as the basis for their rulings. They need a doctoral or professional degree, and usually have prior experience working as a lawyer. Mediators listen to opposing sides in a dispute and try to negotiate with both sides and help them reach a compromise to prevent them from going to court. They need a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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