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What Is a Corporate Lawyer?

Corporate lawyers must earn a Juris Doctor degree from an accredited law school.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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A corporate lawyer is a lawyer who specializes in the area of the law which pertains to corporations. In addition to including laws which specifically deal with issues like incorporation, dissolution of a corporation, and mergers, corporate law also includes areas of the law which may be applied to corporations, such as tax law, intellectual property law, and so forth. These legal experts may be employees of a corporation who work in the company's legal department, or they can work independently and be consulted for individual issues as needed.

To become a corporate lawyer, it is necessary to attend law school and receive a law degree. While in the later years of law school, the student can focus on corporate law. It is common to seek out fellowships with corporations or law firms which specialize in corporate law both in law school and immediately after graduation in order to obtain experience.

With experience, a corporate lawyer can start practicing in this area of the law. These legal professionals typically start out working in larger law offices or legal departments, growing familiar with this area of the law and gradually becoming more independent. Over time, a corporate lawyer can rise to the top of the office or start an independent office. Rates of compensation for lawyers with 10 or more years of experience can be very high.

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One key aspect of a corporate lawyer's job is helping a corporation make and seal deals. The lawyer confirms that a deal is legal and works with lawyers from the other side to reach an agreement which will be amenable to all parties. These negotiations can be prolonged, especially if one or both parties has points deemed nonnegotiable. Corporate lawyers also help new corporations get established and assist with the other end of the corporate lifespan, when a corporation needs to dissolve or file for bankruptcy.

A corporate lawyer can also defend his or her employer. Many corporations are very aggressive about protecting their intellectual property rights, and this is done by their legal departments. If a corporation is accused of civil or criminal wrongdoing, the corporation's legal team is involved in the process from the start, working to either acquit the corporation or the officers involved, or to work out a deal if a crime is indisputable in nature.

This type of legal work requires tenacity, a willingness to be aggressive, and a wide area of skills in the law. On any given day, a corporate lawyer can do anything from confirming that taxes are filed properly to accompanying a representative of a corporation to court to testify in a class action suit.

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