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How do I Become a Corporate Lawyer?

By Vicki Hogue-Davies
Updated Feb 23, 2024
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To become a corporate lawyer, which is a lawyer who counsels businesses, at least seven years of post-high school study is normally required. An aspiring corporate lawyer — or corporate attorney, as someone in this practice of law is also called — usually must earn a four-year degree and then attend three years of law school. Following law school, you must successfully pass a licensing exam to be admitted to the bar to become a corporate lawyer. This licensing exam is called the bar exam.

Study to become a corporate lawyer can start even before you begin college. Being a lawyer requires an enormous amount of writing. If you are still in high school, it will be beneficial to take classes that will hone your persuasive, explanatory and other writing skills. Being a strong writer not only will help you in your future career as a lawyer but will help you successfully complete essay exams in college and law school. Coursework in areas that develop critical thinking, such as philosophy, political science, ethics and psychology, also can help you in your goal to become a corporate lawyer.

There is no specific four-year degree program required if you want to be admitted to law school. Many people seeking to attend law school major in English, political science, government or other areas. A well-rounded, multi-disciplinary program that develops communication, research, analytical and logical thinking skills is more important than the specific major. When you hear the term “pre-law,” that doesn't refer to a specific college major but to the courses you'll take within a four-year degree program that will help you develop the skills you will need to become a lawyer. A college guidance counselor can help you select the best courses and program for your particular goals.

Your grades in college, your performance on application exams and in personal interviews and your previous work experience are some of the factors that law schools might consider for admittance. How factors are weighted is different depending on the schools. When looking for law schools in your quest to become a corporate lawyer, consider schools that specialize in corporate law.

While in law school, you'll be expected to take certain core courses in the earlier years. In later years, you can focus your studies in corporate law. Working on the school's corporate legal journal and participating in legal clinics held by the school will be beneficial if you want to become a corporate lawyer. You also can seek out part-time or summer clerkships in corporate legal departments while you are in law school.

Following law school, you will need to pass the bar exam to become a corporate lawyer. The bar exam varies by locale. In the United States, passing the bar exam admits you to the bar for the state in which you take it. If you wish to practice in a different state, you usually will have to take its bar exam. Some states also require you to pass an ethics exam.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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