Careers in Corporate Law
Research what it takes to become a corporate lawyer. Learn about education requirements, job responsibilities, average salary and employment outlook to find out if this is the career for you.
What Do Corporate Lawyers Do?
Countries and economies overlap in more ways than one can count. Corporations make deals across state lines and across oceans. Lawyers are necessary to make sure all things are legal not only in their home country but in the countries they are doing business with.
Corporate lawyers advise corporations on business-related legal issues such as taxation, contracts and government compliance. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.
|Degree Required||Bachelor's degree and Juris Doctorate; joint degree in law (J.D.) and Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) recommended|
|Key Responsibilities||Argue for corporate client in court, negotiate contracts, draw up legal documents and interpret government policies|
|Licensure||Pass the bar examination in the state where you will practice|
|Job Outlook (2018-2028)||6% growth (for all lawyers)*|
|Average Salary (2018)||$144,230 (for all lawyers)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
What Does a Corporate Lawyer Do?
Corporate lawyers, also called corporate counsels or in-house counsels, work with businesses and corporations on the legal issues involved in running an organization. These issues may involve taxes, contracts with other businesses, patents, property ownership and any number of other issues related to corporate business activity. While representing your corporate client, you may be responsible for researching and interpreting government policies, appearing in court to argue for your client's case and drawing up contracts or other legal documents for your client's use.
What Level of Education Do I Need?
In order to begin a career in corporate law, you must obtain a bachelor's degree and a Juris Doctor (J.D.). Your bachelor's degree will likely take four years of undergraduate education. Some schools have pre-law program tracks that will prepare you for eventual enrollment in law school. Others may have accelerated education programs so you can obtain both your bachelor's and law degree at the same institution in less time.
Once you've obtained your bachelor's degree, you need to pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) in order to apply for law school. There are many law programs with joint degrees in law (J.D.) and business (MBA), which may be useful for a career in corporate law. To apply to these programs you may be required to complete additional admissions requirements, such as passing the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) in addition to the LSAT. Other law schools offer J.D. programs with a concentration in corporate and business law. In these more specific programs, you might take courses on corporate taxation, business planning and bankruptcy law.
Do I Need a License to Practice?
After completing the necessary education requirements, you'll need to pass the bar examination and be admitted to the bar within your jurisdiction. You can register for the bar exam through a national organization like the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBEX), or you can take the bar through your state's board. The specific type of bar exam(s) required will depend on your state. The bar exam is generally a two-day exam. Once you've passed the test, you should check with your state's bar admitting board for any further requirements necessary to practice law in your state.
How Much Could I Earn?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers' salaries vary widely depending on the area of practice and the state in which they practice (www.bls.gov). As of May 2018, the average annual salary for all lawyers was $144,230. While salary amounts specific to corporate lawyers weren't reported, lawyers managing companies and enterprises reported salaries toward the high end of the spectrum, making an average of $178,090 annually.
What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?
The field of law opens doors to a lot of alternative career professions. Alternatives can be as simple as an associate's degree and becoming a paralegal or legal assistant. There are positions as an arbitrator or mediator which requires a bachelor's degree. At the top of the scale may be judges or hearing officers and one would need a doctorate or professional degree.