Business lawyers have multiple options when choosing a post-graduate career path; they can become a lawyer for a company or enterprise, a paralegal or a finance analyst. Each path has different educational requirements with an associate's degree at the lower end and a Juris Doctor degree at the higher end.
A business lawyer is an attorney who specializes in working on business law or transaction issues. These lawyers need Juris Doctor (JD) degrees and may have additional postgraduate degrees in business law. Like all lawyers, business lawyers must pass their state's bar exam to become licensed. They might also be referred to as corporate attorneys or corporate counsel.
|Required Education||J.D.; LL.M. programs in business law are also available (for business lawyers); associate's degree (for paralegals)|
|Licensure||Required in all states|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||6% (for all lawyers); 8% (for all paralegals); 12% (for all finance analysts)*|
|Median Annual Salary (2015)*||$115,820 (for all lawyers); $48,810 (for all paralegals); $80,310 (for all finance analysts)|
*Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
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Those interested in pursuing a law career within a business environment have a few options to choose from. Those who wish to earn a law degree could choose to become a business lawyer, while those without a J.D. or LL.M. degree might pursue positions as paralegals or finance analysts.
Business lawyers are attorneys who focus their practice on business law. These attorneys can work for small or large law firms, government agencies or corporations. Many own their own private practices. They can also work for accounting or investment firms.
A business lawyer's practice may include tax, intellectual property, contracts and employment law issues. They may serve as trial lawyers, who represent their clients in court, or they may be transaction lawyers, who work on day-to-day business transactions. Some lawyers work as both trial and transaction lawyers.
According to the BLS, lawyers employed in the management of companies and enterprises earned a mean annual wage of $175,930 as of May 2015. The projected job growth for lawyers in all areas is 6% between 2014-2024, says the BLS.
Paralegals are essentially legal assistants who work with lawyers to conduct research, draft documents and organize files. Paralegals are not required to obtain a law degree before embarking on their careers; typically, an associate's degree in paralegal studies is sufficient, though some schools offer bachelor's and even master's degrees in this field.
The BLS reported in May 2015 that the median annual wage for paralegals in all areas was $48,810, while those working in company management settings earned $63,930 as of May 2014. The job growth rate for paralegals in all professional settings is projected to be 8% between 2014-2024 as reported by the BLS.
An academic background in law could be beneficial for those interested in pursuing a career as a finance analyst in a business setting. These individuals must be knowledgeable about investing and risk management. A bachelor's degree is typically required for those seeking this type of career.
Finance analysts could see a 12% growth rate in all areas between 2014-2024, the BLS states. In May 2015, the BLS showed that finance analysts earned a median annual salary of $80,310, with those working in corporate settings earning $84,280 as of 2014.
The best career choice for those with an interest or background in law will depend on what level of education they are willing to complete. Those with a J.D. or LL.M. degree will likely be best suited to a career as a business lawyer. Those without a specialized degree might consider becoming a paralegal or financial analyst in a business setting where they will be able to put their law background to good use.