Corporate Lawyer: Job Duties & Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a corporate lawyer. 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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Corporate lawyers protect businesses by making sure they follow the law. Like all lawyers, those that specialize in corporate law must attend law school and pass the bar exam.

Essential Information

Corporate lawyers ensure the legality of business practices and transactions. Working for all sizes of corporations, these professionals must understand laws and regulations to help their clients and companies work within legal boundaries. Like other lawyers, corporate lawyers must obtain a Juris Doctor from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association and pass the bar exam in order to practice.

Required Education Juris Doctor from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association
Other Requirements All lawyers must obtain licensure to practice by passing the bar exam
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 6% for all lawyers
Mean Salary (2015)* $175,930 for lawyers working in the management of companies and enterprises

Job Duties of a Corporate Lawyer

Corporate lawyers provide legal guidance for employers and clients. Lawyers typically begin a new case by meeting with clients and trying to understand the details of the legal issue. This may include reading corporate filings and consulting with other attorneys. After assessing the issue, corporate lawyers typically research prior cases and look for established precedents.

Some corporate lawyers work in courtrooms and represent their clients in front of a judge and jury. During a trial, they make opening and closing arguments in addition to examining and cross-examining witnesses. Although corporate lawyers typically work for large companies, they may also be self-employed and contract themselves out to many different firms.

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Requirements for Becoming a Corporate Lawyer

Juris Doctor

Corporate lawyers must hold a 3-year Juris Doctor (J.D.) from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. Admission into law school usually entails completing a bachelor's degree program and achieving a qualifying score on the Law School Admission Test. Once admitted, law students spend most of the first few semesters covering concepts like torts and property rights. During the last year-and-a-half, students begin to take business law and tax law classes. Topics typically range from corporate accounting to taxation.

Master of Laws

Law school graduates who wish to expand on their knowledge of corporate and business law may consider enrolling in a 1-year Master of Laws (LL.M.) program. These programs tend to focus on legal writing and theory, though students may choose to customize their path of study according to a specialty. Students interested in corporate law, for example, may focus on corporate governance, commercial law or business finance.

Licensure

After completing their studies, law school graduates must take the bar exam in order to practice. Each state has its own bar exam. Most states also require lawyers to complete a written ethics exam. Some states practice reciprocity, allowing lawyers who have passed the bar of another state to practice in their own; however, corporate lawyers who wish to work for companies that do business in multiple states may need to take more than one bar exam.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted 6% employment growth for lawyers through 2024. Strong competition was projected, and experienced lawyers who were willing to relocate could expect the best prospects. The BLS reported an average annual salary of $136,260 for lawyers in general in 2015, with those working within the management of companies and enterprises earning an average of $175,930.

Research skills, along with interpersonal communication are crucial for corporate lawyers. Attention to detail is also important, given that most corporate lawyers draft or read contracts regularly. Licensure is required for this profession, which entails completion of a Juris Doctor program and the bar exam.

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