Commercial Litigation Associate: Career Information and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a commercial litigation associate. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Commercial litigation associates are lawyers who focus on working with companies or businesses. They are required to have a law degree and pass the state bar exam in order to practice law.

Essential Information

Commercial litigation associates help companies solve disputes in court. The term associate is given to lawyers who have less than 10 years of experience and who have not made investments in the firm they are working for. Under the supervision of a partner, these litigation associates craft arguments to help their client win their case. All litigation associates must be licensed attorneys, which requires passing the bar exam. A general law degree is also required. In the last two years of their study, students can take electives in the type of law they are interested in practicing.

Education Requirements Law degree
Other Requirements Must be licensed
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for all lawyers
Median Salary (2015)** $69,737 for all associate attorneys

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **

Commercial Litigation Associate Career Information

Lawyers working in a firm are often given different titles depending on their level of experience and the amount of financial investment they have made with that firm. Lawyers with approximately ten years of experience, who have purchased shares in a firm to support its operation, are referred to as partners. On the other hand, lawyers without this amount of experience and who have not made investments in the firm are called associates. This term does not identify them as less able to perform legal work, but is instead a reflection of their experience level and investment in the firm's operation.

Commercial law refers to issues related to business transactions. These types of issues include unpaid or unfulfilled contracts, buying and selling products, payment processing and employment agreements. Commercial lawyers typically help a company or business with any legal concerns or needs they may have.

Litigation refers to any type of dispute in which the parties are contentious. It includes cases that are brought to trial before a judge or jury, are arbitrated or are settled in mediation. A commercial litigation associate, therefore, is a lower-level attorney at a law firm who practices commercial law when there is a problem or dispute.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, in 2014, there were about 778,700 lawyers working in the nation ( The BLS also predicted that, over the 2014 to 2024 decade, lawyers would see a 6% increase in job opportunities. On average, lawyers earn $136,260 per year as of May 2015.

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Job Duties

Most commercial litigation associates work under the supervision of a partner and alongside other associate attorneys. Together, the group researches the essential issues of a dispute to craft arguments about why their party should win. Typical tasks performed by litigation associates include taking depositions, drafting court documents to present to a judge, researching the law, finding evidence to support their client's arguments, negotiating a settlement and arguing the case during trial.

Requirements to Work as a Commercial Litigation Associate

All commercial litigation associates must be licensed attorneys. To become licensed, an individual must attend law school and pass multiple tests, including one focusing on professional responsibility. The main test required for licensure is a bar exam, the format and content of which differs in each state. Usually, a bar exam requires two or more days of testing and covers national laws as well as state-specific laws.

Law schools generally do not allow students to concentrate their studies on a specific field of law. Instead, all students receive a general law degree, or a Juris Doctor. During the final two years of law school, however, students are able to take elective courses in the fields of law in which they are interested. Courses related to commercial law include ones focused on the Uniform Commercial Code, contracts, financial law, securities and payment systems.

One of the best ways to obtain a job as a commercial litigation associate is to work as a summer intern or associate for a law firm. Sometimes, the firm at which the student worked will make an employment offer to the student during their fall semester of their third year in school.

Commercial litigation associates are highly trained professionals who have graduated from law school and passed the bar exam. They specialize in working in the legal matters of companies. Associates are lawyers that work for law firms but are not partners of that firm.

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