Corporate Lawyer Salaries and Jobs

attorneys having a meeting

If you’re researching information pertaining to corporate lawyers, you’re probably considering becoming one yourself. Maybe you know someone who is a corporate lawyer, too, and you’re curious about what it entails.

Corporate lawyers work with the corporation they are employed with. Most smaller corporations only have one or maybe two attorneys on staff, while larger corporations often have a large number of lawyers are kept available.

What Education Do You Need to be a Corporate Lawyer?

To become a corporate lawyer, you need years of education, often up to at least 7 years of actual study time before you qualify to be called to the bar. It all starts with a four-year degree in something like Criminal Justice or Political Science.

From there, you would take the LSAT and pass in order to apply to law school. After being accepted to a law school, once you’ve completed another 3 years, you’ll need to sit for the state bar, pass, and then finally become licensed to practice corporate law.

For corporate lawyers, there is a requirement to attain your juris doctorate to practice. Generally speaking, corporations want their lawyers to receive their degree from an accredited institution. The accreditation must also be by the American Bar Association.

You’ll also find that continuing education among corporate lawyers is common and expected. This is because training programs are necessary to keep up with changes to the law and new practices that come out on a regular basis.

As a suggestion, you may want to take some courses involving business administration to improve your image on paper. It will also boost your experience, making you more attractive to a corporate law firm.

Be aware, too, that you’ll need to engage in networking because many corporate lawyer positions are found through other people and not necessarily on a job board.

What Do Corporate Lawyers Do?

To get into more details about corporate lawyers, let’s start by describing what you can expect as a corporate attorney. A corporate lawyer is someone who has chosen to specialize in all things related to corporate law.

He or she is responsible for ensuring that companies remain compliant with corporate law. Corporate lawyers are also supposed to negotiate contracts to keep all businesses in compliance with one another over the contract.

Your role as a corporate lawyer is to keep everything legal when it comes to business matters. It is also your responsibility as a corporate legal professional to offer legal advice on legal rights and expectations for the company and its employees.

Knowledge of corporate law that you need to know revolves around securities, contracts, taxes, accounting, intellectual property, zoning, and licensing. You also need to know the laws that are specific to the industry that the corporation is a part of.

To sum things up, here is a quick list of the duties that you may be responsible for as a corporate lawyer:

  • ​Contract negotiation with employees
  • ​Preparing government reports
  • ​Filing government reports
  • Drafting various legal documents
  • Regularly reviewing relationships between vendors
  • Reviewing relationships between subcontractors
  • Ensuring managers remain compliant
  • Attending and occasionally administering training workshops
  • Reviewing employee handbooks for legal compliance and liability
  • Representing corporations in court trials or in front of administrative boards
  • Supervising outsourced lawyers that are selected due to specialties
  • Creating and monitoring joint ventures for legal compliance
attorney having a phone call

Where Do You Find Corporate Lawyers?

Corporate lawyers are the ones you find in the big, shiny buildings, driving the sporty, expensive cars that can make someone jealous. Simply put, they are the lawyers that work in a stereotypical law firm. The larger law firms are the ones that attract the big corporations and their business.

As an example, you’ll find publicly traded companies retain corporate lawyers. Other companies that utilize corporate lawyers include investment banks, major non-profit organizations, and accounting firms.

Inside corporate law firms, you’ll find lawyers that have increased levels of specialties. As an example, these include things like working with mergers or acquisitions. Others will work specifically with contracts or corporate liability among other things.

What Can a Corporate Lawyer Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers make fantastic salaries. In 2017, the median pay for lawyers was just under $120,000 per year. That means that over half the lawyers in the country make more and half make less.

Although the Bureau doesn’t go into the individual break down for the various types of law that is practiced, corporate law tends to be on the higher side of the spectrum. As an example, education and hospitals pay less than $100,000 annually for lawyer salaries.

As per Chron, they created a quick generalization of what you can expect depending on how long you are continuously employed. From zero to five years, you can expect up to around $100,000 annually. From 5-10 years, you can expect your salary to increase to close to $150,000, and then from 10-20 years, it can go up to around $160,000 annually. Once you have been a lawyer for over 20 years, it is not unusual to see a salary of over $200,000 for corporate lawyers.

State to State Variations

You’ll need to get to know the variances that exist between states. As an example, if you’re licensed to practice law as a corporate lawyer in New Jersey, that does not mean you’re licensed to practice in Florida.

Most states require their own state license exams before you can be approved to practice law at all. This does make sense given that each state has its own laws that are different from their neighbors.

The same goes if you want to practice law internationally. This is not unusual in the world of corporate law because of the major corporations that have business branches set up around the world. You’ll need to check into other country’s laws to see if you’d even be allowed to practice as per their legalities.

Practicing Corporate Law in Another Country

Let’s say you’ve decided you want to practice corporate law. That’s an excellent choice of career path, no doubt about it. Now, let’s say you want to practice with a firm that has an international component. Where do you go from there?

It is not uncommon for a U.S. company to allow you to practice U.S. law on foreign soil if you keep your law practices in-house. If you choose to go this route, you’re going to be familiar with certain normal legal transactions like alliances or joint ventures.

You may also end up being the in-house counsel working with a local law firm wherever the corporation has decided to send you. Chances are that you’ll still work with more Americans than you will with foreign people due to language barriers and a potential clash of cultures. If you want to present yourself as legal support that works directly with the foreign client, you’ll need to jump through some hoops to make that happen.

Keep in mind that it is not easy to get a position overseas, either. In order to even be considered in most cases, you have to have an excellent academic background and a proven track record with an existing law firm. The law firm also needs to be highly respected in the corporate world. If you really want to make it happen, you’re going to have to put your time in.

There is something else to consider, too. You may go into this overseas corporate lawyer position expecting great things, and then you end up doing a lot of menial editing work. It happens, and it’s the unfortunate side effect of being fluent in both English and the law when you go to a different part of the world.

The Last Few Words on Corporate Law

Working as a corporate lawyer internationally has its perks, too. Beyond getting to go to a different place, you’ll also build a global network for yourself as you meet people wherever you are. You’ll also get on-the-job training in international business practice which can be an invaluable asset as you continue along your career path.

To get there, though, it all starts with a quality education. From there, you’ll need to focus on getting experience under your belt to build up to practicing corporate law with a larger law firm.

It can happen, though, but you’ll need to be ready to give it your all and have patience along the way.

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