How to Become a

Corporate Lawyer

The complete career guide to be a Corporate Lawyer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $136,260
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • 5.6%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Growing Demand
    Job Outlook
  • Deal Making
    Career Attribute

Corporate lawyers specialize in providing legal counsel and conducting legal activities for businesses both large and small. They may assist startups with completing paperwork to operate their businesses legally, or help large companies consider all potential legal complications of acquisitions or mergers.

Recommended Schools

What is a Corporate Lawyer?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in corporate lawyer roles:

  • Assist businesses with the creation of legal paperwork like contracts and other agreements
  • Advise on the legal implications of major business decisions like mergers and acquisitions
  • Conduct negotiations, mediations, and litigation proceedings for businesses
  • Inform business owners and company executives of legal requirements specific to their location, industry, or business activities
  • Advice publicly held companies on matters related to financial disclosure regulations, legal proceedings, and revenue shifts that could affect stock prices

A Day in the Life

Corporate lawyers work for businesses, and contrary to what the job title may imply, conduct legal work for businesses both large and small. Some work for law firms and conduct legal work for businesses who contract the firm for legal assistance. Others work directly for businesses as staff lawyers and usually report to a general counsel. Regardless of whether a corporate lawyer works for a firm or a business, the tasks they’re required to perform span a wide variety of day-to-day business and legal issues.

The most basic tasks a corporate lawyer performs are related to creating documents like contracts and agreements. Contracts may be needed for employees, vendor relationships, or nondisclosure agreements, among others. The corporate lawyer works to create contracts and documents that are legally binding and protective. As part of contract creation or as a result of suits filed by or against the business, the lawyer may also need to assist with negotiations, mediations, and legal proceedings.

Corporate lawyers also assist companies with major decisions and activities like acquisitions and mergers. Initially, the corporate lawyer may need to investigate any legal implications of the merger/acquisition and any potential legal hurdles that will need to be overcome. In addition, when working with or for publicly held businesses, the corporate lawyer advises the business on what disclosures must be made to stockholders, such as legal proceedings, revenue shifts, and product recalls.

Typical Work Schedule

Working as a corporate lawyer is usually stressful and highly demanding and it rarely sufficient to work for the regular working hours of about 40 hours per week. You will have many documents to review and check in order for a commercial transaction to legally take place. Accordingly, you will commonly need to work overtime every day as well as working on weekends especially if there were deadlines to meet. Corporate lawyers commonly have an actual working schedule that range between 60-70 hours which is quite demanding. This also depends on the size of the corporations, the annual billable hours requirement, work culture and the workload. Corporate lawyers may also need to travel to any location for some cases.

Projected Job Growth

According to the US bureau of labor statistics, the employment of lawyers including corporate lawyers is expected to increase by at least 4 % from 2019 to 2029 which is as fast as average expected growth for other jobs. Many corporations try to cut the costs of their legal work by employing in-house counsel or corporate lawyers to handle their work which may provide many work opportunities. However, each year many new lawyers graduate and the competition is increasing. Therefore, in order to secure the most prestigious position in any law firm, you are expected to put in more effort and gain whatever experience necessary to secure an advantage in the midst of this future competition.

Typical Employers

Corporate lawyers are sometimes called in-house counsel and are typically employed full-time by large corporations and private companies. That is why the largest employers of corporate lawyers are banks, insurance agencies as well as hospitals and biotechnology companies. Other employers include retail stores, manufacturing and large corporations like oil firms and other energy companies. The list of employers also includes modern communications and IT companies. The main objective of the corporate lawyer is to provide legal counsel and business advice to best benefit the corporation in the first place more than the owner himself. Therefore, a good corporate lawyer must have a decent background in related fields like Commercial law (international and national) as well as tax laws, trademarks and other related areas of the practice to distinguish himself and secure a prestigious position in any of these companies.

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How To Become a Corporate Lawyer

How to Become
The starting point for a career as a corporate lawyer is a bachelor’s degree. The major you study as an undergraduate is somewhat flexible. While pre-law majors are the most common, majoring in political science, English, business, or communications is also suitable. A major in business administration can be particularly helpful for aspiring corporate lawyers because it helps them learn about the specific issues businesses face in day-to-day operations. Before graduating, you’ll also need to take the LSAT exam.

The LSAT exam—as well as high grades in an undergraduate program and exceptional references—are prerequisites for being admitted into law school, which is the next step in the process of becoming a corporate lawyer. All aspiring lawyers must complete the three-year law school program that results in a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree. This is a requirement for becoming licensed to practice law in your state. You’ll also need to take and pass the bar exam in the state where you plan to practice law.

Taking coursework that’s focused on corporate law in school can help you succeed after graduation, as can taking internships or entry-level positions at law firms. Some aspiring lawyers may work in entry-level corporate law positions like paralegal before taking on clients, while others may move directly into practicing law after graduation. If you’re struggling to find work as a lawyer after graduation, networking in the field through internships or entry-level work can open more doors for your future career.

Corporate Lawyer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

Low Range




High Range


How do Corporate Lawyer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Corporate Lawyer's can make an average annual salary of $136,260, or $66 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $76,300 or $37 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #22 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Highest Education Among Corporate Lawyers

  • 91%   Doctorate
  • 4.1%   Masters
  • 3.5%   Bachelors
  • 0.5%   Associates
  • 0.4%   College
  • 0.4%   High School
  • 0.1%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Corporate Lawyer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of 43,800 jobs for a total of 822,500 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a 5.6% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #401 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Corporate Lawyers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Legal services 376,100 22,100 22%
Self-employed workers 165,500 -1,800 -2%
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 55,600 5,300 5%

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