How to Become a Business Attorney: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a business attorney. Learn about the job description and duties, and explore the step-by-step process to start a career as a business attorney.

Should I Become a Business Attorney?

A business attorney is a lawyer who only handles legal disputes involving business issues. Their job tasks may involve researching laws, drafting legal documents to submit to court, arguing their clients' cases before a judge or jury, and/or negotiating settlement agreements.

Lawyers or attorneys work primarily in business settings. Local and limited travel may include meeting with clients or working a case within a courthouse. Business lawyers may have more potential than the average lawyer to earn very high incomes. They may be employed by a large corporation, a private practice firm, or a government agency that deals primarily with business. The job is typically full-time and often requires more than 40 hours a week, especially when attorneys are preparing for a court case. High-pressure cases, deadlines, and the need to keep clients happy can make working as a business attorney very stressful.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Juris Doctor (J.D.)
Degree Field Law
Licensure All states require that lawyers be licensed
Key Skills Critical thinking, analytical reasoning, negotiation, research and writing; Ability to use legal research engines, such as LexisNexis or Westlaw, project management software, and accounting software
Salary (2014) $133,470 per year (Mean annual salary for lawyers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop.

Step 1: Complete an Undergraduate Degree Program

The majority of law schools require that aspiring law students possess a bachelor's degree. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is no specific degree required to attend law school, and many law students have degrees in history, economics, or government.

Aspiring business lawyers might consider completing a bachelor's degree program in business administration. Sometimes, these programs allow students to concentrate their studies in business law. Completing a business-focused undergraduate degree program can provide students with the fundamentals of business operations and laws. This knowledge may prove helpful when studying during law school.

Success Tip:

  • Prepare for the LSAT. Law school applicants must submit Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores. The LSAT exam, which students normally take during their junior year of undergraduate study, can be a main factor in an applicant's admission to a particular school. Completing a prep course that provides test taking tips can help a student get the best score possible on the exam.

Step 2: Take the LSAT

The LSAT, which is normally a half-day exam, consists of multiple choice questions that test an examinee's critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and reading skills. LSAT test scores are often a very important factor in a student's admission to law school.

Step 3: Graduate from Law School

Generally, law school requires three years of full-time study. In their first year of study, students complete a curriculum consisting of classes in basic law subjects, including torts, property, contracts, and constitutional law. In their second and third years, students complete elective courses and clinical experiences or judicial internships.

Some law schools allow students to concentrate their studies on business law or business and corporate law. These concentrations often include additional coursework. Examples of course topics include securities regulation, corporate tax, contracts, agency, and bankruptcy.

Success Tips:

  • Take elective courses in business law. Regardless of whether a student completes a concentration in business law, completing elective courses in the field can prepare him or her to practice as a business lawyer in the future.
  • Complete a civil or consumer law clinical experience. Business law is a type of civil law that can include components of consumer law. Completing a clinical experience in one of these fields can introduce law students to some of the aspects of working as a business lawyer.

Step 4: Take a Bar Exam

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, all states require lawyers to be licensed to practice law within their borders. Usually, to become licensed, lawyers must take and pass a bar exam and a professional responsibility exam. The format of the bar exam differs in each state but may include both multiple choice and essay questions.

Success Tip:

  • Prepare for the bar. Several companies offer multi-week prep courses that prepare aspiring lawyers to take the bar exam in the state in which they intend to practice. Completing one of these prep courses can increase an individual's likelihood of passing the bar on his or her first try.

Step 5: Gain Work Experience

Large and small firms hire business attorneys, but corporations also hire attorneys to provide them with business law advice. This latter type of attorney is referred to as an 'in-house' attorney. Many times, employers of business attorneys prefer several years of experience or expertise in a specific area of business law, such as taxation.

Step 6: Consider Earning a LLM

Law schools offer Master of Law (LLM) degree programs in Business Law or in Business and Corporate Law to practicing, licensed attorneys. These programs include coursework in topics like finance and accounting for lawyers, securities regulation, and secured transactions. Obtaining more in-depth information about the field of business law may make individuals eligible for higher-level jobs. This additional credential might also make them attractive to more clients, which may enable them to grow their practice.


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