Business Law Career Options and Education Requirements

A business lawyer is an attorney who specializes in working on business law or transaction issues. They are licensed attorneys who hold Juris Doctor (JD) degrees and may have additional postgraduate degrees in business law.

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Business Law Career Options

Business lawyers are attorneys who focuse 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.

Alternative Career Paths

Rather than pursue careers in business law, law-school graduates might apply their knowledge to other facets of business. They might, for example, become transactions analysts, legal fee auditors or finance consultants. In such positions, understanding of the legal process and regulations is essential, as are the analytical, research and critical-thinking skills that attorneys must have to practice law.

Salary and Job Prospects

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 728,200 lawyers working in the nation in 2010 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that these lawyers earned an average salary of $130,880 in 2012, and job opportunities for lawyers in general were projected to increase 10% from 2010 to 2020. Many of these opportunities will be in business and the federal government.

Business Lawyer Education Requirements

To become a lawyer, an individual must graduate from law school after earning an undergraduate degree. Law school entails three years of study, the first year of which covers topics such as contracts, criminal law, torts and property. The second and third years of study often consist of elective courses, such as corporate finance, taxation or international business. After completing law school, graduates must pass their state's bar exam to practice law.

Advanced Education

Many law schools offer Master of Laws (LL.M.) programs for lawyers who want to expand their knowledge. These 1-year programs are often available in specializations like business, international or media law. An LL.M. program with a specialization in business law includes coursework in international business transactions, antitrust law, property transactions, corporate tax and copyright law. These programs also require that students write a thesis or research paper, and some offer students externships with corporations.

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