How to Be a Corporate Lawyer

Three Parts:Getting QualifiedDeveloping Your Career and SpecialismSecuring a Career

Working as a corporate lawyer can be a very rewarding and lucrative career path. You have to study for many years, so be prepared for hard work and sacrifice. You will need to get qualified, gain experience, and then continue your professional development and study for your specialism in corporate law.

Part 1
Getting Qualified

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    Understand what a corporate lawyer does. Corporate lawyers serve only one client - the corporation they work for. As a corporate lawyer, you will be called upon to handle a variety of legal tasks including corporate taxes, mergers and acquisitions, corporate structure issues, employment law, and government reporting. Corporate lawyers will generally need to be knowledgeable in a wide range of legal fields and will need to be able to handle a large number of issues. Some corporations will hire multiple lawyers and each will be a specialist in one or two areas of corporate law.[1]
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    Get an undergraduate degree. Becoming a lawyer is a long process involving many years of study and training. Before you go to law school you will need to complete an undergraduate degree. There is no fixed subject you are required to study, but you should consider the kinds of skills that lawyers need to possess when choosing your course.
    • You will need excellent writing and comprehension skills.
    • You will need to be able to critically analyse an issue and clearly articulate your position with adequate supporting evidence.
    • You will need to be able to read, research and process large amounts of information.[2]
    • Some courses to consider include history, economics, political science, philosophy and English.[3]
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    Gain some experience while you study. It’s a good idea to think about your time studying as an opportunity to gain some useful experience as well as qualifications. Think about the chances to develop your skills in practice working in student government, debating societies, or writing for the student newspaper.
    • Look for internship possibilities with local law firms.
    • Consider a part-time job at a local firm to help support you while you study, and give you experience of working in law.
    • A part-time job or internship can also enable you to develop some contacts in the industry.[4]
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    Take the law school admission test. Before you near the end of your undergraduate studies you need to be already thinking about the next step. In most instances you will need to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) well before you plan to actually go to law school.[5] At the beginning of your final year of undergraduate studies, look for LSAT dates and locations local to you.
    • The LSAT is a standardized test, which is administered four times a year at designated sites across the world.
    • It is half-day test which is an integral part of the law school admissions process in the US and Canada.
    • The test is designed to help admissions decisions by evaluating reading and verbal reasoning skills, which are particularly important for law school.[6]
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    Go to law school. Once you have passed the LSAT you can go and apply for law school. This can be a long and arduous process, so it’s important that you have some patience and are committed to your career choice. Apply to study for a Juris Doctor (JD) degree at American Bar Association approved law schools.[7]
    • The law school application process is very competitive, so don’t only apply for your first choice.
    • In most instances you will be required to apply through the Law School Admission Council’s online portal.
    • You can create an account there and manage all the necessary documents and information easily.[8]
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    Take the most relevant courses. In order to prepare of your specialism in corporation law, you should take plenty of classes on business and taxation law as part of your JD.[9] It’s helpful to tailor your studies to those areas most relevant for a future career in corporate law at an early stage.
    • As well as business and taxation courses, look for contract law, finance and corporate governance law.
    • Make contact with the teachers of those elements which most interest you, and ask them about focussing your studies for a career in corporate law.
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    Pass the bar exam. Once you have successfully completed your JD at law school, you still have to pass to pass your local bar exam before you earn a licence to practice law. The requirements vary from state-to-state, so contact your local bar association.
    • In California it is a three-day test, which consists of six essay questions, two performance tests, and the Multistate Bar Exam.
    • This is a 200-question multiple-choice test on law, constitutional law, criminal law, contracts, evidence, torts and real property.
    • Be aware that if intend to practice in numerous states, you may have to complete the exam more than once.[10]

Part 2
Developing Your Career and Specialism

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    Talk with other professionals in your field. After many years of study, training and testing, you are finally ready to begin practicing law. Finding a job can be difficult in the extremely competitive world of law, so it’s important to develop contacts and present yourself in the best way possible. Talk to anybody who you interned for, or know through your college professors, to get some insight and recommendations.
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    Take a specialist course in corporate law. Once you have gained some experience and are ready to progress on the path to becoming a successful corporate lawyer, you should consider extending your education. There are more advanced qualifications that go beyond the basic requirements to practice law, but are very helpful in developing your specialism. If you have a position at a firm, they may support you to study for this extra qualification.
    • The Masters of Laws (LLM) degree is a qualification that you can complete after you have your JD.
    • It is an advanced law qualification that is recognised globally, and enables you to focus in more on specific areas on law.
    • It is generally a one year, full-time academic course.[11]
    • A corporation law LLM course will generally include work on corporate and securities law, contracts and commercial law, and other areas.[12]
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    Consider joining professional networks. As you are developing these skills and qualifications, you should also be trying to develop your professional profile. Having a combination of good contacts, and good qualifications will give you the best chance to secure a career in corporate law. For example, you can apply to become a member of the American Bar Association’s business law group.[13]
    • Here you will get access to news, information, and professional events and networks.
    • You will have opportunities to meet fellow professionals and be involved in debates and discussions about the law.[14]

Part 3
Securing a Career

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    Interview on campus while in school. Law schools will often bring employers in to interview their students for open positions. Ask the career services office at your law school about these opportunities. You will usually start interviewing during your second year of law school for summer internships and summer associate jobs. To prepare, ask career services about the employers coming in. Do some initial research on the employers and put together an application package. Often, your application package will include your resume, a cover letter, references, and your transcripts. One you have put together your application package, make sure you submit it to the employers on time. If you are chosen for an interview, the employer will usually set up a time to meet with you on campus.
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    Conduct informational interviews. Informational interviews provide a unique opportunity to talk with experienced lawyers in the corporate arena. During an informational interview, you will have a conversation with an attorney about their career experiences and about any advice they may have for you. To set up and complete an informational interview:
    • Research people to talk with. Call corporations and ask to speak with their legal department. Email people in your network and ask if they have any contacts you may be able to utilize.
    • Prepare to make contact. When you have found people to call or email, prepare a short overview of yourself and your reasons for calling. Explain that you are not looking for a job interview and that you are simply looking to discuss the corporate law field. Let the person know how you got their information and ask if they have time to meet.
    • Go to the informational interview. When the time comes to conduct your informational interview, dress as if it were a job interview and arrive early. Be ready to conduct the interview and have a series of questions ready to go.
      • You may want to ask about how they got their start in the corporate field, how they moved their way up, and how they would recommend you go about looking for a position.
    • Follow up. When your informational interview is over, be sure you follow up with the person you spoke with. Thank them for their time and let them know you are appreciative. Stay in contact with these people and give them updates every once and a while.[15]
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    Apply for jobs you find online. The internet is a great resource for finding jobs. However, unlike some of the other methods, the jobs you find online are often going to be incredibly competitive because of the volume of responses these employers receive. While you should apply for jobs online, do not stop trying other methods as well.
    • In order to apply for jobs online, look at employer websites and more general job sites. When you find an open position, submit an application in the form and manner requested. Some employers want a resume and cover letter. Other employers may want you to answer questionnaires about your experience and expertise. Be sure you read each job posting carefully so you know exactly what needs to be submitted.
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    Rent office space. If you are having trouble finding a job, offer to rent office space from someone doing work you would like to get into. When you do this, ask if they would be willing to pass you work when they become busy or when they have tasks they do not want to complete. You need to be willing to do any type of work, even if it is administrative menial. Over time, the person you are renting space from may choose to hire you or may give you a good reference for another job. This is a great way to get your foot in the door.
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    Offer your services for free. In a lot of circumstances, corporate lawyers will be happy to give you work and experience, but they will not be willing or able to pay you for it. While this may be frustrating, offering your services for free can be a great way to gain experience and to build your professional network.
    • If you find yourself not getting a lot of work offers, go back and offer your services for free. However, be sure you are giving yourself enough time to apply for paid positions as well.


  • Many businesses actively recruit legal staff at law schools, and positions are often detailed in law school journals, etc.


  • Carefully consider the credentials of both your undergraduate institution and your law school.

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Categories: Legal Careers