Business Law Career Options and Education Requirements

Nov 19, 2020

Business Careers

Are you considering career options? There are a host of careers available in the world of business. Examples of exciting business careers include:

  • Accounting, finance, and economics
  • Human resources, management, consulting, and public relations
  • Business development, marketing and advertising
  • Operations and project/program management
  • Real estate, event planning, and hospitality
  • Retail, sales, and supply chain management
  • Business lawyer

What Is Business Law?

Business law is a broad field with many specializations, but it generally deals with anything having to do with the legalities of running a business. Some specializations include intellectual property, real estate, and transactions.

A business lawyer is someone who has earned a law degree and passed the bar exam. Business lawyers can handle a company's legal concerns - both positive concerns, such as contracts and property or asset acquisition, and negative concerns, such as environmental issues and employee discrimination lawsuits. Some businesses might also hire business lawyers to deal with taxation, disputes over intellectual property, or compliance issues involving local, state, or federal laws. A business lawyer may work for a law firm and have multiple clients, or be hired by a single company as their in-house employee. Some business lawyers also focus on international business law.

Undergraduate Education

There is no specific pre-law major at the undergraduate level. However, universities offer pre-law programs that allow students to choose majors, minors, and courses that will prepare them for law school. An aspiring business lawyer may find these undergraduate programs helpful:

  • Business administration
  • Legal studies, with an optional concentration in Business Law
  • Economics
  • Philosophy
  • Political science

Graduate Education

To practice business law, an individual must earn a Juris Doctorate from a law school. While a general JD can qualify one to become a lawyer, those pursuing careers in business law may want to narrow their focus with a business law specialization. A few options available include:

  • Dual Master of Business Administration/Juris Doctorate
  • Juris Doctorate with Specializations in Business Law or Taxation
  • Juris Doctorate with Certificate in Business Law, Intellectual Property, Federal Tax Law, or Energy, Innovation, and Sustainability

Foundational business law courses include topics such as intellectual property law, business associations, income tax, employment law, and transactions. After completing a law program, one must pass the bar exam and then apply for a license to practice in their state. Requirements vary by state and jurisdiction, but most require lawyers to receive continuing legal education every year or every three years.

Jobs in Business Law

What business law jobs are available to those with a business law degree? There are several practicing and non-practicing career options for those with a business law degree. These business law job opportunities utilize the skills learned in a business law program as well as various undergraduate programs.

Business Lawyers

Practicing business lawyers are usually divided into 2 groups; trial lawyers (litigators) and transactional lawyers. Trial lawyers work for businesses that end up in court against another business. They litigate issues such as a breach of contract and act similar to civil trial attorneys. Transactional lawyers work with businesses out of court and can act as in-house attorneys to negotiate and draw up contracts, advise on licensing agreements, or prepare documents that are required by regulatory agencies, such as the IRS.

Business lawyers can work in many industries, such as real estate, entertainment, or environmental, with various specialties, from intellectual property to taxes and labor and employment law. They can open their own private practice, work for an organization, or work at large or small corporate firms.

Human Resources Managers

Human resources managers are in charge of the administrative operations of a business, company, or organization. They plan, direct, and coordinate several functions, that can include hiring and training new employees, oversee employee benefit programs, and act as a liaison or consultant between the managers and employees, among other duties.

Becoming a human resources manager starts with obtaining an undergraduate degree in business administration or a related field. A master's degree in business administration is often preferred or required. An individual with a business law JD can also succeed in this career with their knowledge of employee and labor law. Previous work experience as a human resources or labor relations specialist or in a related area is required. Certification is optional and may be obtained through online human resources classes.

Financial Analysts

Financial analysts guide businesses and individuals with investment decisions. They study past and current economic and business trends to give informed advice on either buying an investment or selling an investment, such as stocks and bonds. They can work with banks, hedge funds, insurance companies, and other businesses.

Financial analysts need a bachelor's degree in finance or a related field. A business law degree can help an individual succeed as a financial analyst since they can utilize their knowledge of taxation and transaction law. A license from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is required to sell financial products, but certification is usually only recommended for advancement. One option is a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) certification.

Compliance Officers

Compliance officers work for companies to advise them in staying within their legal limitations and upholding their licensing requirements. They assess and evaluate companies to make sure they are obeying all regulations, staying up to date on policies and licensing, and request any changes that need to be made. Healthcare and financial services are popular industries for this career, but there is a wide range of work environments.

Compliance officers need a bachelor's degree. Certification to work in a specific field, such as financial or healthcare services, is required. Financial compliance officer certification can be obtained through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority by passing an exam. A degree in business law can help an individual succeed in this career due to their knowledge of business laws, regulations, and policies, as well as taxation.

Administrative Law Judges

Administrative law judges are a type of judge that presides over court trials relating to labor and employment issues. They can work for local, state, and federal governments and agencies. It is their responsibility to impartially apply their knowledge of the law to conduct a fair trial and give appropriate sentencing. There are many types of cases an administrative law judge can preside over; a couple of examples would be an individual's qualification for employee benefits or if employee discrimination is occurring in a workplace.

Administrative law judges need to have a state license to practice law and at least 7 years of experience in litigation or administrative law. An individual with a business law degree can apply their knowledge of employee and labor laws in this career.

Salary and Outlook for Business Law Careers

Business law careers vary, and the expected salary attached to each job can vary as well. The majority of business law careers appear to be growing at an average rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The following chart outlines salary and job outlook for several common business law careers.

Job Type Education License or Certification Average Salary (2019)* Job Outlook (2019-2029)*
Business Lawyers Juris Doctorate State license to practice $122,960 (for all lawyers) 4% (for all lawyers)
Human Resources Managers Bachelor's degree Optional certification $116,720 6%
Financial Analysts Bachelor's degree FINRA license required to sell, CFA optional $81,590 5%
Compliance Officers Bachelor's degree Certification in specified field $71,550 (for accountants and auditors) 4% (for accountants and auditors)
Administrative Law Judges Juris Doctorate State law license $120,090 (for judges and hearing officers) 2% (for judges and hearing officers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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