Becoming a Business Law Consultant
Business law consultants help corporations to identify possible legal issues and implement solutions in areas such as government regulation, consumer protection, and fair employment. They often complete many of the same job duties that a lawyer does, save those that take place within a court room. Business law consultants may advise on potential legal issues, review legal documents prior to signing, and complete legal research as needed for a corporation.
Like attorneys, many business law consultants work on a full-time basis, with overtime possible as their workloads demand. They usually work in office settings, though local travel to take meetings is possible. Such consultants may be employed by a single corporation, work for a legal services firm, or even be self-employed. Income is generally excellent in the legal field, but consultants who are not additionally licensed as lawyers may earn less than those who have earned state certification as an attorney.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree; Juris Doctor or graduate degree may be required|
|Degree Field||Business law or a related legal major|
|Licensure||Consultants who want to practice as attorneys must pass the state bar exam|
|Experience||Several years of business experience in a legal or administrative role|
|Key Skills||Excellent written/oral communication, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills; proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite and online research; ability to identify prospective litigation issues|
|Salary||$115,820 (2015 median salary for lawyers)|
Sources: California State University - Northridge, Loyola University - Chicago, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2015)
Getting into this field typically requires an undergraduate degree in business law or another related legal field. Some employers require a Juris Doctor or a graduate degree. Consultants who want to practice as attorneys must pass the state bar exam and become licensed lawyers. Several years of business experience in a legal or administrative role is typically required.
Key skills for a business law consultant include:
- Excellent written and oral communication
- Strong critical-thinking skills
- Problem-solving skills
- Proficiency with Microsoft Office Suite and online research
- The ability to identify prospective litigation issues
In 2015, all lawyers earned a median annual salary of $115,820, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Now let's check out the career steps for business law consultants.
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Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Aspiring business law consultants can pursue a bachelor's degree in business law, legal studies, or a related field. Students may also choose programs in business administration or political science that include relevant legal training. Business law programs typically offer courses in ethics, international business, and a variety of legal topics, including marketing, intellectual property, real estate, finance, Internet privacy, employment, and the environment. These courses may also teach prospective consultants how to interpret complex legal documents and conduct negotiations.
To get the most out of your education, complete an internship. Students can gain practical experience by interning in a legal or business-oriented setting. Duties may include conducting research and compiling reports for appropriate management.
Step 2: Work in an Entry-Level Position
Business law consultants may work for consulting firms or as in-house consultants with corporations. They often work in industries with strong government oversight, such as banking and securities, and may be specialists in certain areas of business law. In entry-level jobs, consultants may research legal and ethical issues relevant to the company or industry in which they are employed. After gaining work experience, candidates can advance from analyst positions to higher-level consulting projects.
Step 3: Complete a Graduate-Level Legal Program
Although not mandatory, some employers prefer to hire business law consultants who hold graduate degrees. Students may enroll in a dual-degree program leading to a master's degree and a Juris Doctor. A Master of Jurisprudence in Corporate or Business Law program specifically addresses regulations for commercial transactions and is intended for students who do not want to become licensed attorneys. Coursework for this degree might cover legal communication, business regulation and corporate ethics.
You may want to consider taking the bar exam. Business consultants who wish to practice as licensed attorneys must pass the state bar exam after completing law school. Exam and eligibility requirements vary by state, but a multi-state bar exam developed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners may be given. The bar exam tests aspiring lawyers on their knowledge of the main principles of law and ability to identify legal issues. Once a candidate passes the exam, he or she may work as a licensed attorney specializing in business law.
To review, with an undergraduate degree and experience or a graduate degree and law license, business consultants make about $116,000 a year to help corporations to identify possible legal issues and implement solutions in areas such as government regulation, consumer protection, and fair employment.