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How To Become a Corporate Lawyer

August 22, 2023


Reviewed by:

David Merson

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 01/16/23

Are you planning on becoming a corporate lawyer? This guide covers how to become a corporate lawyer and the steps you need to take to become one. 

When the average person thinks about a corporate lawyer, they often think of a person dressed in a fancy suit carrying a briefcase and fighting for a massive corporation in court. However, there's much more to what a corporate lawyer does and how they conduct business. 

In this article, we'll be going over what a corporate lawyer does, how to become one, and their potential salary potential. If you're interested in a career as a corporate lawyer, keep on reading!

Steps To Becoming a Corporate Lawyer

Steps to becoming a corporate lawyer

Below are the steps to becoming a corporate lawyer. 

Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

The first step to becoming a corporate lawyer is obtaining a bachelor's degree. It's a requirement to apply to law school and get your law degree. There isn't a required major a person must take to get accepted to law school. However, it'd be highly beneficial if you major in something in the business field. 

Having a background in business can be a great advantage when you start practicing as a corporate lawyer in the future. Although there's no requirement in what you can take in college, you must keep your GPA up and meet a law school's GPA requirement

Take the LSAT

Once you've completed your bachelor's degree, you must take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) to apply to law school. The LSAT is divided into two parts. The first consists of multiple-choice questions. The second part includes a writing sample. The LSAT measures an applicant's analytical, reasoning, and comprehension skills. 

Upon completion of the LSAT, you can now apply to law schools. Individual law schools have a minimum LSAT score that they accept, so make sure you do well on the test. 

Take The GRE Test

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is a test required by most graduate programs for admission. In the last few years, many law schools have admitted applicants with their GRE scores rather than their LSAT.

If you're planning on applying with your GRE score, you must remember that law schools only accept a few students this way. 

Here is a list of some law schools that accept the GRE: 

  • Columbia Law School
  • Cornell Law School
  • Duke University School of Law
  • Harvard Law School
  • New York University School of Law
  • The University of California—Los Angeles School of Law
  • The University of Chicago Law School
  • The University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School
  • The University of Virginia School of Law
  • The University of Texas—Austin School of Law
  • Yale Law School

Although many law schools have started accepting GRE scores, it's always better to apply with your LSAT score because of how competitive it is. 

Complete Law School

Once you've been accepted to law school, you'll need to acquire your law degree. It typically takes three years to complete law school if you're taking a full-time course load. In law school, you'll take classes in legal procedures, communications, intellectual property, and taxation. 

In the final two years of law school, students have the opportunity to take elective classes that are specific to their concentration. For instance, an aspiring corporate lawyer would take elective classes in corporate transactions, contracts, and antitrust law. 

Pass The Bar Exam

After completing law school and acquiring your law degree, you must pass the bar exam. A practicing lawyer must pass the bar exam to be licensed by the American Bar Association (ABA). The bar exam is notorious for being very challenging, so you must study hard.

The bar exam covers these topics:

  • Contracts and sales
  • Criminal law
  • Constitutional law
  • Evidence
  • Torts

Because of the nature of the bar exam, you must pay attention and do well in law school because law school covers everything in the bar exam.

What Does a Corporate Lawyer Do?

Corporations hire corporate lawyers to represent the corporate entity. They advise businesses on their legal obligations, rights, and responsibilities. Corporate lawyers spend most of their time on the:

  • Contracts: Drafting, reviewing, and negotiating on behalf of the corporation.
  • Corporate governance: Creating frameworks for clients on how to conduct a business. For example, drafting articles of incorporation and creating bylaws.
  • Securities: Informing clients on securities law compliance, which involves regulations to prevent fraud, market manipulation, and insider training. 
  • Mergers and acquisitions: Provide legal advice about proposed transactions regarding business mergers. Corporate lawyers would review a company's assets and liabilities, such as real estate holdings, intellectual property holdings, and employment agreements. 
  • Venture capital: Helping corporations find capital to build or expand their business. 

Corporate lawyers rarely step into a courtroom and spend most of their days in the office conducting the legal areas of a business. Corporate lawyers often work in large or mid-size firms with corporate law departments. In these corporate law departments, corporate lawyers have a specialty and focus on areas such as venture capital or securities. 

What Skills Does a Corporate Lawyer Need?

Here are the skills a person needs to become a corporate lawyer:

  • Communication: As a lawyer, having excellent communication skills is crucial and essential. During their career, lawyers must communicate both verbally and through written communication. They draft legal documents and represent clients in court, so communication skills are crucial. 
  • Negotiating: Negotiation skills are a must when practicing as a lawyer. The skill will come in handy when resolving conflict and negotiating deals on behalf of their clients. 
  • Research: As a practicing lawyer, you'll be researching various case laws and legislation as a part of your work. Therefore, research skills are essential because you'll constantly be looking up things regarding the law.  

As a corporate lawyer, these skills are essential for becoming a successful corporate attorney. Corporate lawyers do many different things throughout their work week, and all of these skills (and more) are implemented in their work.

Corporate Lawyer Salary

In recent data, the average annual pay for a corporate lawyer in the U.S. is $149,875 yearly. Below is a chart of the average salary and the various percentiles for a corporate lawyer’s salary.

Corporate lawyer salary
Source: ZipRecruiter

A corporate lawyer's wage is determined by their years of experience and certification. Typically, a corporate lawyer will have a higher earning potential than those with less experience.

How To Become a Corporate Lawyer: FAQs

If you still have questions after reading this guide, check out these frequently asked questions. 

1. What Is The Best Major To Become a Corporate Lawyer?

Although law schools don't have requirements about what an applicant can pick for a major, it would be beneficial to major in something in the business field. The reason is that background and knowledge in business will help you when you start practicing as a corporate lawyer. 

2. What Education Is Required To Become a Corporate Lawyer?

To become a corporate lawyer, you must complete some educational requirements first. You must obtain a bachelor's degree and a law degree. Once you've obtained those, you must then pass the bar exam.

3. How Long Does It Take To Become a Corporate Lawyer?

It takes seven years to become a medical lawyer. It takes four years to complete an undergraduate degree and three years to complete law school. After completing these steps, you must take and pass the bar.

Final Thoughts

Now that you've read this guide, you better understand how to become a corporate lawyer. Corporate lawyers spend most of their time dealing with the affairs of a business, as opposed to going to court. 

As an overview, corporate lawyers must complete their undergraduate degree, obtain a law degree, and pass the bar exam. Once these steps are fulfilled, you can start practicing as a corporate lawyer.

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