Corporate Lawyer: Job Duties and Requirements for Becoming a Corporate Law Professional
Corporate lawyers ensure the legality of business practices and transactions. Working for all sizes of corporations, these professionals must understand laws and regulations to help their clients and companies work within legal boundaries.
Job Duties of a Corporate Lawyer
Corporate lawyers provide legal guidance for employers and clients. Lawyers typically begin a new case by meeting with clients and trying to understand the details of the legal issue. This may include reading corporate filings and consulting with other attorneys. After assessing the issue, corporate lawyers typically research prior cases and looking for established precedents.
Some corporate lawyers work in courtrooms and represent their clients in front of a judge and jury. During trial, they make opening and closing arguments in addition to examining and cross-examining witnesses. Although corporate lawyers typically work for large companies, they may also be self-employed and contract themselves out to many different firms.
Requirements for Becoming a Corporate Lawyer
Corporate lawyers must hold a 3-year Juris Doctor (J.D.) from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. Admission into law school usually entails completion of a bachelor's degree program and a qualifying score on the Law School Admission Test. Once admitted, law students spend most of the first few semesters covering concepts like torts and property rights. During the last year and a half, students begin to take business law and tax law classes. Topics typically range from corporate accounting to taxation.
Master of Laws
Law school graduates who wish to expand on their knowledge of corporate and business law may consider enrolling in a 1-year Master of Laws (LL.M.) program. These programs tend to focus on legal writing and theory, though students may choose to customize their path of study according to a specialty. Students interested in corporate law, for example, may focus on corporate governance, commercial law or business finance.
After completing their studies, law school graduates must take the bar exam in order to practice. Each state has its own bar exam. Most states also require lawyers to complete a written ethics exam. Some states practice reciprocity, allowing lawyers who have passed the bar of another state to practice in their own; however, corporate lawyers who wish to work for companies that do business in multiple states may need to take more than one bar exam.
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