Corporate Lawyer Salary – How to Become a Corporate Lawyer

Being a lawyer isn’t a “jack of all trades” type of thing. You’re going to need to know what field you want to practice in. There are a bunch of areas where you can practice in such as corporate law, tax, criminal law, divorce & family law, etc. However, not everything can be compatible to one single lawyer. Right now, let’s focus on how to be a corporate lawyer and what the job entails.

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What is a Corporate Lawyer’s Job Description

If you are wondering what does a corporate lawyer do, then you got to the right place. Your main job is to represent a corporate or a business client and make sure that they don’t land in hot water when things don’t go as expected. You have to provide them with advise on how to operate their business while still maintaining the legality of things. It’s also your job to defend your clients when they get slapped with lawsuits that stemmed from their business.

You have two options as a corporate attorney: you can choose to have your own private practice and from there, represent corporations and businesses. The other one is to be employed by a law firm (like what Franklin Roosevelt did  on Wall Street prior to being president) or a company itself, where your services are exclusive to only them.

Some of your tasks will most likely include providing legal assistance, with the help of your own support staff and paralegals, to make sure that the business is operating within the law and its regulations, drafting employee contracts, sorting out issues with taxes, representing the company when civil suits are filed, patenting, etc.

Corporate Lawyer Salary

As for how much a corporate lawyer make in terms of salary, it all depends on how big your law firm is. According to the Associate Salary Survey conducted by the National Association for Law Placement in 2011, here are the average corporate lawyer salary when working for the best corporate law firms:

  • 101 to 250 lawyers employed – $105,000
  • 251 to 500 lawyers employed – $125,000
  • 501 to 700 lawyers employed – $120,000
  • 700 above lawyers employed – $160,000

However, these salaries are usually for those that are practicing in huge law firms in central business cities such as Los Angeles or New York. If you’re determined on starting up your own practice, you can expect an average of $115,000 during your first year of establishment.

Who are some famous business and corporate lawyers that I should know about?

Well, aside from knowing about how much corporate lawyers make per year, of course you deserve to know about the people who have made their marks in the world of representing large corporations. Some of these people include:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt – The former US president was an alumnus of Columbia University and worked as an associate for the prestigious Carter Ledyard and Milburn law firm on Wall Street. Ironically, some of the clients he handled were American Express and Standard Oil—the same type of companies run by people (read: extremely wealthy) that FDR wanted to take down during his presidency.
  • Rodgin Cohen – He is the current senior chairman of Sullivan and Cromwell, one of the biggest international law firms. He has been dubbed as “one of the biggest players of Wall Street” and one of the country’s leading banking lawyer.

There are many other prominent corporate lawyers out there who have advised the biggest corporations in the world with multi-million (sometimes billion) deals and partnerships. Who knows? Maybe in the future, you could be part of those top corporate attorneys.

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Becoming a Corporate Lawyer

Are there any corporate lawyer education requirements or law degrees that can be recommended?

  • Juris Doctor – All corporate attorneys are required to have finished a 3-year Juris Doctor program from a law school that has accreditation from the American Bar Association. Expect to take up business and tax law classes during the latter half of your education. Some law schools even provide classes for taxation and corporate accounting.
  • Master of Laws – Usually, people who have graduated from law school prefer to take an additional year of education to take up an LLM (Master of Laws) program. This is a great way of further expanding your chances of better employment once you’re done. These programs are mostly legal writing and theory, but students can pick their own classes depending on what they want to practice. Corporate law students usually choose classes that involves commercial law, business finance, and of course, the fundamentals of corporations.
  • License – Of course, you have to take up the bar exam in your state. However, keep in mind that if you want to be a lawyer for a big corporation with different branches in various states (sometimes even international!), you may have to take the bar exams more than once.

Corporate Law Schools

You can find corporate law programs in most high-ranking law schools in the United States. Here are some of the top schools in the country:

  • New York University (New York, NY) – NYU’s School of Law has a Masters of Law program that focuses on Corporation Law. The program’s main target is those who are interested to practice corporate law for both American and international businesses. Aside from learning about corporate law, you can also take up additional subjects concerning entertainment law, financial development, venture capitalism, and corporate bonds. This is highly recommended for those who are interested in working at Wall Street or the Stock Exchange
  • University of San Diego (San Diego, CA) – USD offers a Juris Doctor program that caters to business and corporate law. Your coursework will involve studying corporations, regulation of securities, and corporate taxation. The program also covers international business, corporate financing, bankruptcy, and antitrust issues. If you opt for their Masters of Law programs, they also offer similar coursework, with the additional requirement of either two research papers (or more) or a thesis covering corporate laws and businesses.
  • Stanford University (Stanford, CA) – Stanford University’s Law School has a Master of Law in Corporate Governance and Practice. The coursework was designed for those who are interested in pursuing international law and want to get their feet wet in topics such as securities, finance, and bankruptcy. Expect to learn about corporate acquisitions and finance, and taxation.
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These are just a few corporate law schools. There are many others located in Chicago, Houston, Minnesota, and Los Angeles.