The education for a corporate lawyer includes both undergraduate and graduate studies. Because the field of corporate law combines both legal and business concepts, many students complete a bachelor's degree in business followed by a joint degree in law and business administration.
Bachelor's Degree in Business
Law schools do not require admissions applicants to have degrees in a specific major, and aspiring lawyers can generally major in any subject they wish; however, a student's undergrad major may provide a good background for the type of law they eventually practice. As such, those who wish to practice corporate law might benefit from a bachelor's degree in business. The business major may be offered as Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) programs or as Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science programs. In this major, students prepare for careers dealing with finance, accounting and business management issues. A high school diploma is required, and some accelerated programs may require applicants to have an associate's degree.
In a bachelor's program in business, students obtain knowledge of practical business concepts and regulations, which is required to apply the law to complicated corporate problems. Some programs allow students to focus their studies on an area of business, such as management, finance or marketing. Before taking electives specific to their concentrations, students may take core courses in topics like:
- Business law
- Business management
- Ethics in business
Joint Degree in Law and Graduate Business Administration
The joint degree in law and graduate business administration is the union of Juris Doctor and Master of Business Administration (JD/MBA) degree programs and takes 3-4 years to complete. Courses prepare students to take the bar examination, a requirement to practice law. These programs also teach students about the business principles and strategies necessary for careers in the private or public business sectors.
Graduate and professional degree programs require applicants to have a bachelor's degree. Students are generally required to apply to both the college's law school and graduate business school. Admission can be competitive, and MBA programs may prefer to admit applicants who have years of experience in business. Additionally, favorable scoring on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) is required for admission.
Joint degree programs require that students meet course requirements in both the school of business and school of law. Students learn concepts in professional responsibility and ethics, which supports the moral principles and values of the legal system and finance. Programs may include courses in:
- Contracts and torts
- Operations management
- Civil procedure
- Business strategy
- Organizational leadership
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
Corporate lawyers offer counsel to company executives regarding government regulations, patents or taxes. They can work directly for corporate firms as in-house advisors, or they might work for a law firm that contracts its services out to corporations. Those who work directly for corporations often concentrate their practices on one legal aspect, such as tax law or trial defense. The employment outlook for all lawyers, including corporate, was projected to be 6% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Payscale.com reported in January 2016 that most corporate lawyers earned a total pay between $57,347 and $173,581.
Law school graduates who want to practice law must pass the bar examination. The exam authorizes an attorney to practice law in a given jurisdiction. Many states use the Multistate Bar Exam, which is created by the National Conference of Bar Examiners and assesses a candidate's legal knowledge through multiple-choice testing. However, each state's requirements are different, and candidates may have to meet additional state requirements beyond having a law degree from a school accredited by the American Bar Association.
In total, aspiring corporate lawyers can expect to spend seven years getting the training they need. By earning a bachelor's degree and a JD/MBA, they gain the legal skills and business expertise they need for successful careers in this field.