Corporate lawyers serve one client-the corporation in which they are employed. Small corporations may retain one or two lawyers on staff while larger corporations may have numerous lawyers, each with their own specialty. Typically, corporations like banks, insurance companies, hospitals, retail stores, oil firms, biotechnology companies and manufacturing, energy and communications companies require the full-time services corporate lawyers provide.
A corporate lawyer is also known as In-House Counsel, Staff Attorney, Deputy General Counsel, General Counsel and Chief Legal Officer. Their primary objective is to serve the interests of the corporation, not the owners of the business or the officers who run it. In addition to legal counsel, they may also be called upon to provide business advice. They may practice other areas of law concerning mergers and acquisitions, trademarks, tax law bankruptcy, employment, securities, real estate or international commercial law.
To be a corporate lawyer, a juris doctorate degree is required. Most corporations prefer their corporate lawyers receive one from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. They must also hold an attorney’s license in order to practice law in the state in which they are employed. In addition, to be permitted to represent their clients in a federal court, corporate lawyers must be admitted and approved to practice in each federal court.
Ongoing education is not uncommon amongst corporate lawyers. They frequently attend training programs and continuing education in order to enhance and strengthen their legal skills and knowledge.
The diversity of the job requires a strong background in a variety of areas. Corporate law experience is helpful along with knowledge and general experience in business and the corporation’s industry. Possession of administrative skills, managerial skills, and negotiating, writing, interpersonal skills is also of great benefit.
Corporate lawyers are employed in a quick-paced work environment. Meetings with board members and management occupy part of their time where they are called upon to strategize and offer legal as well as business advice.
Their other duties may include:
The typical salary for a corporate lawyer ranges from $66,000 to $170,000. The large discrepancy is due to variances in work experience, type of employer and geographical location. Recent law graduates are commonly paid the least while chief legal officers are at the top of the salary spectrum.
An interest in administration and management positions facilitates advancement in the corporate law field. With this type of emphasis, one can become a supervisory attorney, managing attorney, deputy chiefs (second in command), and further promotion to general counsels or chief legal officers. It is possible to progress from one corporation to the next seeking top positions.
A few courses in business administration can improve employability. Often, job opportunities arise through networking with legal peers and other professionals in the industry of choice. Simply contacting corporate law departments and inquiring about job openings is one way of acquiring a job. Even if there are no vacancies, it is still feasible to request an informational interview with the general counsel or another key supervisor. This type of interview is an opportunity to learn more about the corporation as well as to parade personal job skills before the corporation.
Lawyer Career Specialties