Are you looking to become a corporate lawyer or in-house counsel? If so, you’ve come to the right article. Not everyone who attends law school has dreams of working for a big law firm. For many, corporate law is far more enticing. Whether it is for the average salary of $125,000 or the variety, General Counsel roles attract some brilliant legal minds.
If corporate law is where you want to go with your career, there are some things you should know first…
What do corporate lawyers do?
Corporate law is quickly becoming popular thanks to the wider range of prospects and roles available. No two days are the same for most in-house counsels. What you do largely depend on the sector, size, and aims of the business and your experience and seniority.
However, there are some general tasks you can expect as an in-house lawyer:
· Creating and proofreading legal documents
· Consulting on legal conflict and disputes
· Liaising and strategizing with the legal team
· Assessing merger and acquisition opportunities and business partnerships
· Verifying documents for regulatory compliance
· Designing policies, handbooks and procedures
· Representing corporation interests in legal proceedings
· Negotiating employee, business, sales and other contracts
· Preparing and filing government documents
· Protecting against legal risks and violations
How to get a job as a corporate lawyer?
Get Qualified and Licensed
The road to getting licensed is no less taxing for corporate lawyers.
The route starts with a bachelor’s degree. If you have decided early where you will specialize, it is worth taking courses related to your area of interest. This may involve taxation, psychology, political science, health or any other field but early decisions open doors later.
Following your undergraduate, you must pass the LSATs. Remember that to get the highest paying jobs, you will be expected to have shown exemplary talent. Yale is the top school in the country and had a 173 average for successful applicants. Success in the LSATs qualifies you for law school and the chance to complete your juris doctor. Don’t forget that you will need specialization in corporate law.
Once you graduate law school, you are eligible to sit the State bar. However, this is where it can be tricky. You can only practice law in a state where you have passed the bar. If you intend to move, consider sitting the bar in the prospective state. As soon as you pass the Uniform Bar, you are eligible to start as a corporate lawyer.
Become Technology Fluent
Every industry is undergoing a digital transformation and companies expect expert understanding. Analyze the tech trends of your industry and where your prospective company could be moving. Be able to talk the talk when it comes to technological developments.
In addition, don’t overlook new legal tech. Few industries are playing digital catch up like law right now and it is breeding a host of savvy new tools. Automation and AI technologies like Loio.com, Clio, ROSS Intelligence are paving the way forward for the legal industry. Being technologically fluent is a unique value proposition that many companies value more than anything. You can position yourself as a gateway to modernization for firms stuck in traditional processes.
Build a Profile of Experience
Experience is a challenging part of corporate law. Firms are looking for general counselors who arrive ready for their roles. Knowing this early on means you can do something about it.
Consider interning at a law firm, government agency, or notable business corporation during your studies. If not, participate in school-sponsored legal clinics, volunteer at the law library or attend summer programs. The more practical experience you can demonstrate the better.
Once you pass the bar, the landscape of opportunities changes drastically. Entry-level positions are a rarity so you are not always left with many options.
Junior associate role at a law firm. Every year counts toward the in-house career you are hoping for.
Part-time or short-term contracting roles. These may only extend to drafting company formation documents or handbooks but they add to your resume.
Set up your own practice. You may only take enough clients on to keep the lights on and build a healthy repertoire but the experience is crucial. Self-employment demonstrates commitment, initiative, leadership which is what start-ups and growing companies need.
Pro-bono work for a legal clinic. The cases at legal clinics are rarely in the corporate world but might just give your resume a boost.
Join a Professional Network
Networking in law is vital. Don’t worry, it’s not about relentless self-promotion and ego-stroking. It is about meeting who you need to and being visible in the legal community.
Knowing other legal professionals makes it much easier to find a job. Every lawyer has a network of non-lawyers asking for advice. The more connections you have, the more likely you are to be referred to businesses.
Start by creating a LinkedIn profile. You must exist digitally and LinkedIn is one of the first places people go to search for professional services. Once you are set up, find local and virtual networking and industry tradeshows. Know who is attending and have some topics lined up.
Brush Up on Commercial Awareness
Whether you are a general counsel for a corporation or a partner for a law firm, you must be up to speed on the industry locally, nationally and internationally.
You are expected to have your finger on the pulse. Your responsibilities extend to protecting the corporations’ legal interests. This includes potential M&A threats, new regulations, trading embargoes and beyond. You need to be two steps ahead of potential risks and threats to be able to provide worthwhile counsel.
Contact a Recruiter
Perhaps an obvious addition but recruiters are a huge part of who gets in-house counsel roles. Many firms hire different recruiters to fill technically specific roles rather than advertising themselves. For aspiring corporate lawyers, your job is to find out what recruiter hires for the companies you want to work for.
Doing your due diligence means casting the net wide but with intention. Search a variety of legal forums, LinkedIn and ask your networking groups who you need to speak to.
Corporate law is a dynamic and opportune option for emerging lawyers. It allows you to take control of your future and apply your talents in areas you are passionate about. If an in-house lawyer is your career of choice:
1. Get Licenced
2. Become Technology Fluent
3. Build a Portfolio of Experience
4. Join a Professional Network
5. Update Your Commercial Acumen
6. Contact a Recruiter
If you manage to carry out each of these tasks, you will undoubtedly see the general counsel doors opening soon.