Becoming a corporate lawyer is no easy task. When it comes to education, a corporate lawyer needs to have earned a bachelor's degree from an accredited educational institution as well as a juris doctor degree from an accredited law school that specializes in corporate law. Additionally, a corporate lawyer needs to have passed the bar exam to qualify for licensure and thus be able to practice. At the very least, a person will have spent seven years in school before becoming eligible to be a corporate lawyer.
In order to get accepted by a law school, you must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution of higher learning. Some schools offer pre-law programs, but any bachelor's degree qualifies someone to apply for law school. However, some undergraduate degrees are particularly suited for becoming a corporate lawyer, such as a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in business law. This curriculum exposes the student to business in general and to the legal intricacies of corporate law. Additionally, certain courses during the undergraduate phase are recommended, such as English, foreign languages, government, history, economics and accounting.
Getting into Law School
Before getting into law school, students must take and pass the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) has published a guide, "So You Want to Be a Lawyer: A Practical Guide to Law as a Career," which provides test preparation tips. Also, LSAC provides sample tests to help students prepare. There are also numerous LSAT prep courses available.
Furthermore, law school applicants need to provide their undergraduate transcripts and any prior work experience. Personal interviews also may be required.
Law School , First Year
It usually takes three years to get through law school. During the first year or year and a half, students familiarize themselves with all aspects of law, from constitutional law to property law and legal writing to tax, labor and corporate law. Along with classes, students gain experience through clinics, mock court trials, and research and writing on legal issues.
Law School , Final Years
Depending on how long it takes to get through core studies, the remaining time in law school provides students with the opportunity to specialize in a certain aspect of law. During this time, students take the courses and internships specific to corporate law. These elective courses cover, among others, corporate accountability under the securities law, corporate finance, corporate finance under U.S. law, corporate issues in health care, corporate taxation, and corporations and business organizations in the United States. They also work with law firms, government agencies and corporate legal departments to get a better handle on corporate law. Upon completion of all necessary classes, graduates receive the degree of juris doctor.
Advanced Law Degrees
Those interested in teaching or going into corporate law for academic purposes, such as writing for journals or conducting research pertinent to law, usually pursue an advanced law degree. This could require an additional semester or year of study. Some law schools offer joint degree programs in areas such as business administration for those interested in corporate law.
Before people with a juris doctor degree in corporate law can begin practicing, they must pass the bar exam given by the American Bar Association. All states require lawyers to pass the bar exam, and some states also require a lawyer to pass an ethics test before they can begin practicing. To prepare for the bar exam, new law school grads are advised to take bar review programs, which are designed to analyze the bar exam questions and also provide materials on the substantive law of the state where the test taker plans to sit the exam. Normally, lawyers sit only one state's bar exam at a time and therefore can practice only in the state where they pass the bar exam, though certain exemptions can be made that allow them to practice in another state without having to re-take the exam.
Practicing corporate lawyers must stay on top of legal and nonlegal developments regarding corporations. As such, many states and jurisdictions require practicing corporate lawyers to take continuing education courses that keep them informed about changes in corporate law and the business world in general.
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