Business Attorney Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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A business attorney's mean annual salary is around $133,000, but is it worth the education requirements and debt? Get the truth about the job description and career prospects to decide if it's the right career for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Business Attorney

Becoming a business attorney can be a satisfying career choice for individuals interested in both the legal and corporate fields. Learn more about the pros and cons of becoming a business attorney to decide if it's the right career path for you.

Pros of a Business Law Career
High salary ($133,000 mean annual salary, as of May 2014)*
Many advancement opportunities (join a large law firm, start own practice, become a judge, etc.)*
Opportunity to specialize in different areas (environmental law, tax law, litigation, etc.)*
Could perform a variety of duties (appear in court, consult, research, etc.)*

Cons of a Business Law Career
Lengthy education process (seven years of schooling beyond high school)*
May face strong competition for jobs*
High-stress position*
May work long hours*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

Business attorneys provide legal advice and representation to businesses. Some work directly for a particular corporation, while others work for a firm or private practice that represents multiple clients. As a business attorney, you may take on a variety of duties, depending on your clients' needs and your area of specialization. You could spend your time preparing and looking over documents, consulting with clients or appearing in court. Business attorneys typically spend much of their time working long hours in an office, but they may need to travel to consult with clients in various locations.

Salary Information and Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that lawyers, including business attorneys, earned a median hourly wage of around $55 an hour, as of May 2014, and the top 75 percentile earned more than $82 an hour. This translates into a median annual salary of approximately $114,000 per year, with the highest 75 percentile of earners making roughly $172,000 or more per year. The BLS predicted that employment for lawyers in all fields would grow 10% from 2012-2022. However, employment growth for attorneys could be negatively impacted by the increasing use of paralegals and accountants in place of lawyers, in addition to changes in the economy.

What Are the Requirements?

It typically takes at least seven years to become a business attorney. According to the BLS, most states require potential attorneys to complete a 4-year undergraduate program, followed by at least three years of law school at an American Bar Association (ABA) accredited institution. After receiving a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree, potential attorneys must also complete the licensing process. Licensing requirements vary by state, but they typically include a obtaining a J.D. degree from an accredited school, completing a background check and passing the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE). According to the ABA, most states also require that applicants either pass the Multistate Essay Examination (MEE) and the Multistate Performance Test (MPT) or complete a series of essays. The majority of states also require that licensed attorneys take continuing education courses each year or every three years.

Job Postings from Real Employers

The main requirements for business attorneys are licensure and legal experience. Knowledge in a specialized area of law may also be requested. The following examples of job ads for business attorneys posted on Monster.com in April 2012 provide a glimpse into the qualifications employers are seeking:

  • A Pennsylvania law firm placed an ad for a licensed business attorney with at least 4 years of experience in corporate transactions. The preferred candidate should have knowledge in both business and tax law.
  • A Cleveland law firm sought a business attorney with 7-10 years of experience in business transactions, including corporate entity selection and setup, corporate maintenance documents and business counseling, among other related areas.
  • A California law firm advertised for a licensed associate business attorney with 4-5 years of experience in corporate and commercial law. The preferred candidate should also possess some real estate experience.

How Can I Stand Out?

Participating in legal clinics, practice trials and legal research can assist you in gaining relevant knowledge and practical experience, according to the BLS. You could also consider working in a part-time position at a law firm or legal department that specializes in business law to gain relevant experience. Another option is to specialize in a specific area pertinent to business law, such as corporate setup and structure, tax law, securities law or government regulations.

Consider a Joint Degree Program

Some universities offer a joint J.D./Master of Business Administration (MBA), which combines graduate-level business and legal education into a 4-year program. This can provide the opportunity for students to develop advanced knowledge in both areas. According to Georgetown University, the degree can improve the effectiveness of legal advisors working in a business setting.

Alternative Career Options

If you want to work in the legal field but the lengthy education process and stringent licensing requirements are too much to handle, consider becoming a paralegal. As a paralegal, you're responsible for assisting attorneys with their duties, preparing and providing documents, organizing information and conducting research. According to the BLS, most positions require only an associate's degree in paralegal studies or a bachelor's degree in combination with a paralegal certificate. The median annual salary for paralegals and legal assistants was around $47,000, as of May 2011, and employment for these professionals was predicted to increase 18% from 2010-2020, according to the BLS.

Another alternative career to consider is the less demanding position of a mediator. In this occupation, you're responsible for assisting parties with reaching a settlement or agreement outside of court. According to the BLS, mediators are required to possess a degree, certificate or experience in a relevant field, such as law, dispute resolution or conflict management. Employment for arbitrators, mediators and conciliators was projected to grow 15% from 2010-2020, and the median annual salary for these professionals was around $60,000 in May 2011, according to the BLS.

Popular Schools

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Legal Studies
  • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
  • AAS in Legal Support and Services
  • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Criminal Justice
  • BA: Criminal Justice - Criminalistics
  • AA: Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education completed?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Government - Law and Public Policy
  • Master of Arts in Law - General Legal Studies
  • Bachelor of Science in Paralegal Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Government - Pre-Law

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Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Legal Secretary

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis

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Post University

  • A.S. in Legal Studies
  • A.S. in Criminal Justice

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Central Christian College of Kansas

  • AA in Criminal Justice

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