Should I Become a Business Lawyer?
|Degree Level||Juris Doctor (JD)|
|Licensure/Certification||All states require bar exam and licensure|
|Key Skills||Critical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation, research, and writing skills|
|Salary||$115,820 (2015 average for all lawyers)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
A lawyer helps individuals resolve legal disputes. To do so, they may conduct research, write legal documents, argue a client's case before a court, or negotiate settlement terms. A business lawyer is an attorney who focuses his or her legal practice on issues that affect businesses, such as taxation, various types of business transactions, and intellectual property.
Almost all lawyers work primarily from offices on a full-time basis. Most lawyers will have to work longer hours at some point, often in preparation for a case. The education path to becoming a business lawyer is long, requiring passage of law school and the bar exam. But there is potential for high income. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers earned an average salary of $115,820 as of May 2015. Keep in mind that individuals working for private law firms, especially in the world of business, often make more money than some of their counterparts.
Now let's walk through the steps you need to take to become a business lawyer.
Step 1: Earn an Undergraduate Degree Program
The majority of law schools require applicants to have earned a bachelor's degree. There is no specific major that aspiring lawyers must study, but many earn their degrees in economics, government, history, or related fields. Aspiring business lawyers may consider completing a bachelor's degree program in business or business administration, so they are familiar with the basics of business operations.
Step 2: Take the LSAT Exam
Law school applicants must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and submit their scores with their applications. Most students take the LSAT during their junior year of undergraduate study. This exam tests an examinee's logical thinking and analytical reasoning skills.
Before sitting for the LSAT, be sure to prepare for the exam. Admission to law school is competitive and may depend largely on an applicant's GPA and LSAT score. Preparing for the LSAT exam by completing a prep course, which often includes practice exams, may increase an examinee's score.
Step 3: Graduate from Law School
Law school typically requires three years of full-time study. At the end of those three years, graduates are awarded a Juris Doctor degree. During the first year of study, law students complete classes in basic law subjects, such as property, contracts, torts, and civil law. In their second and third years of study, students complete elective classes and may also participate in judicial internships.
Some law schools offer students the ability to earn certificates or concentrate their studies on an area like business law. Earning certificates and completing a concentration requires additional courses in business law, such as securities regulation, business organizations, and corporate finance.
Some schools offer joint Juris Doctor and Master of Law programs in business law. These programs usually require an extra semester of study and award students both degrees upon graduation.
Complete elective classes in business law. Even if students decide not to complete a certificate or concentration or earn an extra degree in business law, completing elective classes in business law may increase their knowledge of the field. Elective business law classes may cover topics like commercial paper, insurance law, deals, mergers and acquisitions, contract drafting, and partnerships.
You might also volunteer at a business law clinic. Most law schools offer students the ability to participate in clinics during their studies. In these clinics, some of which may focus on business law, students are provided with hands-on experience managing business law disputes.
Step 4: Pass the Bar Exam
Every state requires lawyers to pass an exam and be admitted to its bar association to practice law. The format of each state's bar exam differs but may include multiple-choice and essay questions. Some exams are held over multiple days.
Before sitting for the bar exam, make sure you are fully prepared. Because failing the bar exam prevents an individual from practicing law, preparation is essential. Many companies offer multi-week prep classes designed to assist students in passing the bar exam in the state in which they intend to practice.
Step 5: Consider Earning a Master of Law
Lawyers who did not complete a joint Juris Doctor and Master of Law program while attending law school may consider earning a Master of Law in business law after practicing for a few years. Master of Law programs are designed for licensed attorneys and provide in-depth instruction in the field. Classes may cover topics like business tax problems, copyright law, business torts, and secured transactions. Advanced education can make an individual more marketable and increase job prospects.
To become a business lawyer, you'll need to earn a bachelor's degree, pass the LSAT, complete law school, and pass the bar exam.