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Corporate Attorney: Career Information and Education Requirements

Corporate attorneys require a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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A corporate lawyer is typically part of a company's in-house counsel, managing legal needs involving commercial activities. Lawyers must graduate from college and then a law school, after they take the bar exam to become licensed. Business-related law classes are offered for those who want to be corporate attorneys.

Essential Information

Corporate attorneys help businesses with such things as contract preparation, mergers, risk management, investigations and labor issues. Those interested in practicing corporate law need to earn a bachelor's degree first and then continue their studies in an accredited law school program, which may include a specialization or elective coursework in corporate law. Law school graduates must seek licensure in their state, and this requires passing the bar examination.

Required Education Juris Doctor from an accredited law school
Other Requirements State licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for all lawyers
Average Annual Salary (2015)* $136,260 for all lawyers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Corporate Attorney Career Information

A corporate attorney's primary responsibility is to oversee commercial activities of businesses. This might include contract preparation, resolution of labor problems and merger arrangement. A corporate attorney works to protect a company against risk and could be responsible for defending corporations undergoing investigation. Although corporate attorneys spend much of their time occupied inside offices or law libraries, they also need polished people skills in order to gain the respect and confidence of their clients and colleagues.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported a projected 6% increase in employment for all lawyers during the period of 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). However, the BLS also predicted intense competition for available attorney positions. According to the BLS, lawyers in general earned an average annual salary of $136,260 as of May 2015.

Attorneys who have previously specialized in patent law, tax law or environmental law could qualify to work as corporate attorneys. Attorneys can find employment at both large and small corporations or at law firms. Joining the government sector as a corporate attorney is also a viable option.

Education Requirements for Corporate Attorneys

While a specific 4-year undergraduate course of study is not defined, a multidisciplinary foundation might serve a potential law school candidate well. A limited number of openings for accredited law programs are available each year, and students typically need a solid score on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to be considered for acceptance to law school. Upon successful completion of a 3-year law program, aspiring lawyers must take a written ethical exam and a state bar examination to obtain licensure.

Some schools offer specific programs for future corporate attorneys. Antitrust law, securities regulation, corporate finance and taxation generally are required courses for a concentration in corporate law. Students also might explore secured transactions, reorganization, acquisitions and international business transactions.

Like all lawyers, corporate lawyers must earn a college degree, law degree and licensure to practice in their state. While in law school, they have the option of completing coursework relevant to corporate law. While many corporate lawyers work in-house, corporate lawyers may also work outside a company in law firms or government services.

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