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How to Become a Corporate Finance Lawyer: Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a corporate finance lawyer. Learn about the job description and education requirements, and find out how to start a career in corporate finance law. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Become a…
  • 0:54 Career Requirements
  • 1:17 Steps to Become a…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Finance Lawyer?

Lawyers, also called attorneys, help clients resolve legal problems. Their job tasks may include researching laws, writing legal documents, representing their clients in court, and negotiating settlement terms. This particular specialty focuses on handling corporate financial issues.

Corporate finance lawyers, as their titles imply, work for private corporations. The job offers security and high pay, although some long hours may be required in preparation for particular cases. Generally, lawyers work in an office setting. Some travel may be required to meet with clients, do research, or otherwise prepare for a case. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), reported a median annual salary of $115,820 for lawyers in May 2015.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Juris Doctor (J.D.)
Degree Field Corporate law, finance law, or a related field
Licensure All states require lawyers to be licensed
Key Skills Critical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation, research, and writing skills; ability to use legal research engines such as LexisNexis or Westlaw, project management, and accounting software
Salary $115,820 (2015 median for lawyers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop

To become a lawyer, you need to have a Juris Doctor (J.D.). All states require lawyers to be licensed. You must also have critical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation skills, research and writing skills and the ability to use legal research engines (such as LexisNexis or Westlaw), project management software and accounting software.

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Steps to Become a Finance Lawyer

Let's look over the steps you'll need to take to become a finance lawyer.

Step 1: Graduate from an Undergraduate Degree Program

Nearly all law schools require applicants to have a bachelor's degree, according to the BLS. The BLS explained that no specific undergraduate field of study is required for admission to law school, but many law students possess degrees in government, history or economics. Aspiring corporate finance lawyers may consider earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree that focuses on studies in finance.

Prepare for the LSAT. Law school applicants must submit LSAT scores with their applications. An applicant's LSAT scores may determine whether they are admitted to the school of their choice. Private companies offer LSAT prep courses that provide test taking tips. Completing one of these courses may increase an individual's score on the exam.

Step 2: Take the LSAT

Most aspiring lawyers take the LSAT during their junior year of undergraduate study. The half-day test consists of multiple-choice questions designed to test an examinee's critical thinking, reading and analytical reasoning skills. Although the test can be retaken, law schools may take the average of the scores, or the applicant's original score could still be reported to the prospective school.

Step 3: Complete Law School

Law school typically requires three years of full-time study. First-year law students complete a curriculum comprised of courses in basic law subjects, such as property, torts, constitutional law and contracts. Second- and third-year students can usually choose their elective courses and participate in judicial internships and clinical experiences.

Law students may also have the option to concentrate their studies on business law and finance, corporate law or finance law. Courses in these concentrations cover topics like business bankruptcy, law and accounting, administrative law, employee benefit plans, tax accounting, venture capital law and banking law.

Take elective courses in business or finance law. Regardless of whether a student completes a dual degree program or a concentration, taking elective courses in business or finance law can provide them with advanced knowledge in a particular subject. Some of these elective courses may include business planning, international business transactions and corporate finance.

Step 4: Get Licensed

According to the BLS, every state requires lawyers to be licensed. The process of becoming licensed usually requires passing a professional responsibility exam, the actual bar exam and being admitted to a state's bar association. The format of each state's bar exam differs, but may include multiple-choice and essay questions.

Prepare for the bar exam. Many companies offer bar prep courses that provide instruction in the subjects commonly tested on an exam and give test taking tips. Completing one of these courses may make it more likely that an individual passes the exam on their first try.

Step 5: Gain Experience

The government and private law firms usually hire corporate finance attorneys. These employers typically require candidates to have three or four years of experience working in the field. Aspiring corporate finance lawyers can start gaining experience through summer internships at law firms, legal clinics offered at their school or an entry-level position at a small law firm.

Keep up with the latest legal developments in the field. According to the BLS, 45 states require attorneys to complete continuing education courses every couple of years. Law schools and state bar associations usually offer the necessary courses so lawyers can stay informed.

Step 6: Consider earning an LL.M.

Law schools may offer Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs in business and finance law. These programs provide instruction in topics directly related to corporate finance law, such as banking law, secured transactions, federal income taxation and corporate taxation. Completing one of these programs can provide corporate finance attorneys with advanced knowledge of the types of legal issues that may arise while practicing.

Consider a joint program. Some law schools offer combined J.D. and Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs in business or finance law. These programs, which usually require an additional semester of study beyond traditional J.D. law studies, provide in-depth instruction in the field of study upon which the LL.M. program focuses.

To become a finance lawyer, you need to complete an undergraduate degree and a J.D., along with passing your state's bar exam.

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