How to become a corporate lawyer (with skills and salary)
Updated 23 July 2023
The field of corporate law is challenging, rewarding, highly complex and a crucial part of the business industry. A career in corporate law takes years of study, qualification, experience and then specialisation to continue your professional development. Understanding the process of becoming of a corporate lawyer may help you decide if it's a suitable career choice for you. In this article, we discover what corporate law is, explore how to become a corporate lawyer and detail the skills required for being successful at the role.
Corporate law defined
Also known as company law, corporate law is the area of law that handles the necessary activities that go into running, maintaining and managing a business. The main objective of all corporate lawyers is to provide legal counsel and serve the interests of the businesses and companies for which they work. As a corporate lawyer, you may also want to provide business advice concerning things like mergers and acquisitions, trademarks, tax law bankruptcy, employment, securities, real estate or international commercial law.
Depending on the business and their needs, your day may include everything from making complex transactions to advising businesses on the smooth running of their company and keeping them informed of changing industry standards. Common responsibilities for the role include:
issuing shares in publicly traded companies
setting up investment funds
advising on the privatisation of a state asset
creating legal documents, training workshops and employee handbooks
advising on the corporate aspects of pension fund arrangements
advising on mergers and acquisitions
drafting employee contracts
creating and filing government reports
representing the company before administrative boards
listing companies on the stock exchange
You may work alone or with one or two other lawyers within small organisations or you may work as part of a team of numerous lawyers within large corporations that require a team, each with their own speciality. These are larger and more complex organisations such as energy and communications companies, hospitals, banks, biotechnology companies, manufacturing sectors and insurance companies.
How to become a corporate lawyer
Becoming a corporate lawyer takes dedication and several years of study, training and specialising. You first need to complete an undergraduate degree, so achieving A Levels that can put you in good standing for undergraduate study is important. Your undergraduate can be a degree in law itself or a degree in another subject such as business, finance, political science, legal studies, government and economics, plus a conversion course. Whatever degree you choose, it's important to consider the skills that lawyers need to succeed in the role and choose something that compliments these. Qualification usually involves these steps:
1. Obtain a degree in law
If you decide to pursue a degree in law itself, it can be beneficial to study a qualifying law degree. And remember, your final grades can make a big difference to your future prospects. Achieving a 2:1 or Upper Second Class final award can put you in good standing for your vocational stage.
2. Complete your LPC
At this stage, you can move on to completing your one or two-year Legal Practice Course (LPC) or an equivalent. During your LPC, you can apply for a trainee to become an articling clerk within a law firm. Although every trainee contract can vary from firm to firm, this stage usually lasts for six months to one year.
3. Apply to The Law Society and begin practising
After your Articles, you can apply and gain admittance to The Law Society of England and Wales to start practising law. At this stage, you can apply to work for a law firm and begin the process of specialisation. For a future in corporate law, it's advisable to find work in firms that handle corporate law, finance or taxation. You can need a few years of post-qualification experience, or PQE, to fully specialise and become a corporate lawyer.
If you study something besides law for your undergraduate degree, you can take an SQE preparation course and then sit your exams. Then, you can complete two years of legal work experience through a training contract and obtain your character and suitability requirements through the Solicitors Regulation Authority or SRA. After this is complete, you can apply for admission to the roll of solicitors. If you don't attend university, you can apply for an apprenticeship scheme or become a chartered legal executive before specialising in corporate law.
Corporate lawyer salary
Corporate law is incredibly fast-paced, challenging and competitive. The average salary for established corporate lawyers reflects the years of training necessary for this role. The average salary for a corporate lawyer is £70,792 per year. But there are many factors that can either increase or decrease this figure, with location being one of the biggest. For example:
trainees in London earn more than those working outside the capital but the cost of living is also higher
you may earn less in smaller firms outside London but career progression may be quicker
trainee salaries in Scotland are typically lower than the rest of the UK
Related: Highest paying jobs in the UK
The skills required for corporate law
As a corporate lawyer, you may need to develop a wide-ranging skill set to handle the fast pace, the industry changes and challenges, the long work hours and the technicalities involved. You need well-developed communication and negotiation skills, an ability to think of innovative solutions, a strong academic background, great attention to detail and excellent analytical skills.
You may work as part of a large team and so teamwork skills, people management skills and interpersonal skills are all important. A good corporate lawyer is ambitious, thrives on challenges, and is thorough and chases their goals. Here are a few of the crucial skills needed to succeed as a corporate lawyer:
1. A can-do attitude
Staying positive when faced with long hours and meticulous tasks is crucial to succeeding in corporate law. You may need to put in a lot of work if you choose this career, and positivity can help you deal with these challenges. You may need to sacrifice your own time for a case or clients while remaining professional, dependable and willing to help where needed. Staying positive throughout can help you build a great reputation and sense of professional duty.
Related: 9 essential solicitor skills
2. Technical skills and knowledge of the law
As a corporate lawyer, you may require knowing and referencing minute details contained within certain laws. Your technical skills and abilities may be tested on a daily basis and conceptual clarity is necessary for navigating the complexity of the cases you may encounter.To be successful, all corporate lawyers need to demonstrate a high level of technical skill, particularly surrounding contract law, corporate laws and even governmental policy.
3. The ambition to learn and accept new challenges
As a successful corporate lawyer, it's important to learn continuously to keep your technical skills relevant. You may need to interpret and internalise new laws, legal structures and keep up to date with new products in the market. In such a fast-paced and competitive field, showing your ambition and your willingness to take on new challenges with excitement can be a good way to stand out.
4. A strong attention to detail
Strong attention to detail is one of the most important skills for corporate lawyers to have. Handling large business transactions and deals requires working with many details, and a small mistake within these details can have huge consequences. Small mistakes may cost your clients and your firm large amounts of money, so becoming proficient in paying attention to detail can make the difference in succeeding.
5. A strong commercial awareness
While learning the intricacies of law is crucial to success as a corporate lawyer, so is developing a strong commercial awareness. Commercial developments can change very quickly and can have huge consequences. The best way to stay informed is to develop your awareness of current trends and legislative developments that impact the sector. Being aware of the larger commercial atmosphere in which you practise can keep you ahead of your competitors.
6. An excellent ability to communicate
Whether written or spoken, corporate lawyers need to be able to clearly convey their thoughts and readily explain the intricacies of corporate law. A large part of your responsibilities may include communicating with others, such as partners, stakeholders, members of the court, or business executives. You may also draft legal documents or reports and present on your research.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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