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Commercial Litigation Attorney: Job Description and Requirements

Becoming a commercial litigation attorney requires a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the specialized coursework, job duties and licensure to see if this is the right career for you.

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A commercial litigation attorney handles disputes between businesses or a business and an individual. Commercial litigation attorneys must have a bachelor's degree, graduate from law school and pass the bar exam.

Essential Information

Commercial litigation attorneys handle disputes between businesses or between a business and an individual. Like all lawyers, commercial litigation attorneys must graduate from law school and attain their licensure by passing the bar exam before practicing. Aspiring commercial litigation attorneys will want to look for specialized coursework in law school that concerns contracts, disputes, and liabilities, as well as the areas of commercial litigation in which they plan to specialize, such as intellectual property or corporate litigation.

Required Education Juris Doctor
Other Requirements Pass state bar exam
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% (all lawyers)
Median Salary (2015)* $115,820 (all lawyers)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description of a Commercial Litigation Attorney

Commercial litigation attorneys work with businesses involved in a variety of disputes, such as those concerning partnerships and shareholders, sales of merchandise, licensing, construction or real estate. Whether disputes are settled in or out of court, litigators spend much of the time on a case taking depositions, interviewing witnesses, reviewing documents, writing briefs and visiting dispute sites.

Some attorneys are employed by one large company or corporation as in-house counsel or as part of a team of attorneys to deal with all of the litigation issues that arise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 20% of all attorneys in the U.S. were self-employed in 2015.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Data from the BLS indicates employment opportunities for lawyers will increase by 6% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS projects 43,800 new opportunities will be added in this field over that decade. The median salary for lawyers, as reported by the BLS, was $115,820 in May of 2015.

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Educational Requirements

Educational requirements are generally uniform for all types of attorneys; those specializing in commercial litigation will benefit from additional law school coursework in contracts, disputes and liability. They'll also need to learn about the areas of commercial litigation in which they plan to specialize, such as intellectual property or corporate litigation.

Bachelor's Degree

A quality undergraduate education is an important factor in admission to most law schools. While there is no pre-law requirement, courses in U.S. history, psychology, English, philosophy and other subjects that emphasize reading, writing and critical thinking are helpful. Law schools also take into account college grade point average, Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores, prior work experience and a personal interview.

LSAT

All schools approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), which administers the bar exam, require law school applicants to pass the LSAT. The purpose behind the LSAT is to test students in the skills they will need for law school, which include reading comprehension of complex materials, logical and critical thinking and analytical reasoning. The half-day exam is administered four times a year.

Law School

Competition is keen for entrance into most law schools. Programs generally last three years; during the first year and a half, students take core subjects such as civil procedure, constitutional law, contracts, property law and legal writing. The remainder of the time is spent participating in school legal clinics, practice trials, research and writing for law school journals and taking specialized classes. Courses applicable to commercial litigation can include those in intellectual property litigation or mediation advocacy; some schools offer a litigation practicum.

Licensure

Licensure as an attorney involves passing the bar examination of the state in which an individual intends to practice; some states require a written ethics examination as well. In order to qualify to sit for the exam, the candidate must have a bachelor's degree and have graduated from an American Bar Association (ABA)-accredited law school.

Continuing Education Requirements

The BLS reports that most states and jurisdictions required continuing legal education for attorneys to retain licensure. Continuing education courses keep lawyers abreast of new laws and developments about business contracts that affect the mode of litigation and outcome of various types of disputes. Webcasts and in-person classes can be found through state and local bar associations, law schools and the ABA.

Litigation attorneys address issues between businesses or a business and an individual and try to resolve disputes on behalf of their clients. The job growth expected by the BLS for lawyers from 2014-2024 is as fast as average when compared to all occupations. A professional law degree and licensure are required for this profession. Continuing education is usually required in order to maintain a license to practice law.

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