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Corporate Counsel: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a corporate counselor. 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 right career for you.

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'Corporate counsel' refers to a lawyer who works solely for a single business or organization, where they provide legal advice and protection for their employer. In addition to earning a Juris Doctor, they must pass a state bar exam before practicing. Candidates who specialize in corporate law are preferred by the majority of employers.

Essential Information

Corporate counsel refers to the lawyers employed by businesses, corporations and organizations. Corporate counsels advise employees and businesses in and out of the courtroom on a variety of legal matters. This job requires a law degree, with employers preferring candidates who have specialized in corporate law. Additionally, candidates must pass the state bar exam in order to be licensed to practice law. This job might appeal to individuals with interests in law, corporate business and negotiation.

Required Education Juris Doctor
Other Requirements Emphasis/specialization in corporate law often preferred; state license upon passing bar exam
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 6% for all lawyers*
Median Salary (2018) $120,910 for all lawyers*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description

Corporate counsels are lawyers who work directly for a business or company. They may also be known as in-house counselors. Rather than working for a variety of clients, they devote all their talents and energy to their employer. They provide legal protection and services to a company as a whole in addition to its employees. Corporate counsels typically work in their employer's main office but also regularly travel to take part in meetings, trials, depositions and other legal proceedings.

Duties

Corporate counsels provide legal representation to a corporation or other business and its employees. A corporate counsel offers advice on legal matters and performs legal research for the benefit of an employee or their parent corporation. A corporate counsel may offer advise on issues like contracts, property interests, collective bargaining agreements, government regulations and patents. In addition, corporate counsels may represent their employers in court, in the case of a lawsuit or other legal proceedings. They may also take part in settlement negotiations or depose witnesses if needed.

Requirements

All aspiring lawyers must earn a bachelor's degree before applying to law school. Many students choose to major in history, philosophy, business or a related field. After completing an undergraduate degree program, law school applicants must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This exam tests students' logical reasoning and critical thinking skills.

The first half of a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree program consists of general classes in constitutional law, property law, civil procedure and legal writing. The second half of the program allows students to select a specialization. Aspiring corporate counsels should focus their studies on corporate law. In a corporate law specialization, students may take classes in taxation, mergers and acquisitions, contracts, antitrust law and corporate finance. Graduates of a 3-year law school program earn a Juris Doctor degree.

Law school graduates then have to be licensed and admitted to the American Bar Association before practicing law. Each state offers its own written examination along with an ethics test, as well as an exam covering federal and multi-state state law. Admission to the Bar also requires completion of a background check.

Job Outlook

Job opportunities for lawyers are expected to increase by 6% between 2018 and 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). September 2019 reports from PayScale.com indicate that the average salary for corporate counsels ranges between $75,000 to $176,000.

In addition to their in-office legal duties, a corporate counsel might also be required to appear in court on behalf of their employer. When necessary, these professionals may have to depose witnesses. Many corporate lawyers are responsible for participating in settlement negotiations as well.

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