Corporate Lawyers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are considering a law career, courses such as government, computer science, history, psychology, and social studies will provide a solid background for entering college-level courses. English and speech courses will help you to develop strong communication skills necessary for the profession. Those who are interested in becoming corporate attorneys should be sure to also take as many business, accounting, economics, and advanced mathematics classes as possible. Since many corporations do business on an international scale, learning a foreign language will also be extremely useful.

Postsecondary Education

To enroll in any law school that is approved by the American Bar Association, you must satisfactorily complete at least three, and usually four, years of college work. Most law schools do not specify any particular courses for prelaw education. Many law students pursue a liberal arts track, with courses in English, history, economics, social sciences, logic, and public speaking. Others earn a bachelor’s degree in prelaw or legal studies. If you plan to specialize in corporate law, it is a good idea to earn a degree in business, finance, or accounting, or at least minor or double major in one of these areas.

Most law schools require that applicants take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), on which prospective law students are tested on their critical thinking, writing, and reasoning abilities.

More than 200 law schools in the United States are approved by the American Bar Association; others, many of them night schools, are approved by state authorities only. Most of the approved law schools, however, do offer night sessions to accommodate part-time students. Part-time courses of study usually take four years.

Law school training consists of required courses such as legal writing and research, contracts, criminal law, constitutional law, torts, and property. The second and third years may be devoted to specialized courses of interest to the student, such as public-interest law. The study of cases and decisions is of basic importance to the law student, who will be required to read and study thousands of these cases. A degree of juris doctor (J.D.) or bachelor of laws (LL.B.) is usually granted upon graduation. Some law students considering specialization, research, or teaching may go on to complete further study.


Some lawyers choose to earn a master of laws (LL.M) degree, an advanced law certification that helps them advance professionally. LL.M programs, which typically last one year, are offered in many areas—such as business law, corporate law/corporate governance, intellectual property, international business and trade law, international taxation, litigation/trial advocacy, real estate/land development, and taxation. A first law degree is required for admission to LL.M programs. Visit for more information. Additionally, you can see a list of LL.M specialties and the law schools that offer them at

Other Education or Training

The Association of Corporate Counsel provides in-person and online continuing education. Topics include project management, compliance, technology, contract negotiation, ethics, litigation, and basic practice skills. Additionally, the American Bar Association, National Association for Law Placement, other national associations, and state and local bar associations offer a variety of continuing-education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information.

Most corporate legal departments provide employees with in-house continuing education opportunities. Some even offer mentorship programs that pair new lawyers with experienced attorneys to help newcomers learn the ropes.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Every state requires that lawyers be admitted to the bar of that state before they can practice. Applicants must graduate from an approved law school and pass a written examination in the state in which they intend to practice. In a few states, graduates of law schools within the state are excused from these written examinations. After lawyers have been admitted to the bar in one state, they can practice in another state without taking another written examination if the two states have reciprocity agreements; however, these lawyers will be required to meet certain state standards of good character and legal experience and to pay any applicable fees.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Experience as a law intern or clerk is highly recommended. Corporate lawyers need excellent communication and interpersonal skills since they frequently work closely with various corporate departments, legal colleagues, business executives, board members, and government regulators. They should be levelheaded and be able to work under pressure. Other important traits include financial and business acumen, organizational and problem-solving ability, research and information management skills, fairness, integrity, the ability to work both independently and as a member of a team, cultural competency, reasoning and analytical ability, good judgment, a professional demeanor, excellent negotiation skills, and a willingness to continue to learn throughout one’s career. Computer skills—including proficiency in using legal databases and legal and general software—are also important for corporate attorneys.