Business Law Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
Get the truth about salaries in the field of business law. Read the job duties and learn about education requirements and career prospects to decide if a business law career is right for you.
View available schools

Careers in Business Law

Business law covers a variety of issues, such as intellectual property, contracts, employment law and environmental regulation. Use the chart below to learn about careers that focus on business law, such as business lawyers, law professors and judges.

Business Lawyer Law Professor Judge
Career Overview Advise and legally represent businesses Teach law school students how to become lawyers Resolve and decide legal issues in a court of law
Education/Training Requirements Law degree Law degree Law degree
Program Length Three years of law school after undergraduate Three years of law school after undergraduate Three years of law school after undergraduate
Additional/Other Training Law school clinical work Law school clinical work, possible graduate teaching experience Law school clinical work
Certification and Licensing Passing state bar examination Passing state bar examination Passing state bar examination
Experience Requirement Not applicable Legal research and law review work Several years as a practicing lawyer
Job Outlook for 2014-2014 As fast as average (6%) for all occupations (for all lawyers)* Faster than average (22%) for all occupations* Decline (-1%) *
Median Salary (2014) $114,970 (for all lawyers)* $109,980* $115,140*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Business Lawyer

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), lawyers represent and counsel clients on legal issues, such as patents, regulations, contracts, taxation, employee relations, securities and intellectual property. The BLS notes that all lawyers tend to work long hours because of the research and preparation needed for legal meetings. Business lawyers may work in-house for an organization, providing upper management with legal advice and counsel. Other business lawyers may work independent of a company and represent the business client in a court of law.

Requirements

All lawyers need to hold a law degree, commonly known as a Juris Doctor (J.D.). Prospective law school students must hold an undergraduate degree and submit Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores. Law schools accept students from various undergraduate backgrounds, including those with English, economics, history, philosophy or mathematics degrees. Law schools you apply to must be accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).

As a law student, you can take classes in specific areas of business, including mergers and acquisitions, contracts, real estate finance and employment. You'll also participate in mock trials and gain legal research experience. In addition, law schools promote internships, summer job positions or part-time work with law firms or legal research firms. After earning your J.D., you must pass your state's bar exam in order to work as a lawyer.

Based on December 2012 job ads, some employers looked for the following:

  • A Wisconsin distribution company needs a corporate attorney. Duties include reviewing lease contracts, reviewing the actions of the human resources department and advising the corporation on finances and investments. The candidate should have 6-10 years of legal experience and a good understanding of patent and intellectual property law.
  • A New Jersey medical care facility needs an in-house corporate attorney with at least two years of experience and strong computer skills. The attorney reviews contracts with vendors, counsels the corporation on medical record requests and advises the corporation on third-party actions, like subpoenas.
  • A Florida mobile technology company needs a corporate counselor to amend and review current and future contracts, identify potential legal issues and monitor vendor relations. The candidate should have 3-5 years of experience in commercial transaction law.

Standing Out

You may gain an edge on the competition by joining your law school's business law association. Members of these associations may attend networking events and speaking engagements; they can also interact with like-minded peers.

According to the BLS, 45 states require lawyers to earn continuing education credits every three years. Continuing education can also help you stay up-to-date with the latest trends in business law.

Law Professor

A law professor is a post-secondary teacher who lectures to law school students. According to the BLS, professors often have a particular specialty and conduct research for publication in peer-reviewed works. After teaching for a certain number of years at a college or university, professors may qualify for tenure. Teachers who are tenured can't be ousted without a good reason.

Requirements

Law professors need a J.D. in order to teach law school courses. Similar to lawyers, law professors usually need to pass their state's bar exam. At many schools, professors can either teach in the classroom or in hands-on legal clinics that allow students to gain experience with real clients.

If you primarily want to teach in the classroom, you should be keen on scholarly work; research and academic publication are central components of the job. If you're more interested in teaching law clinics, legal experience may be more important than scholarly work, though criteria varies from school to school.

Based on December 2012 job ads, some employers looked for the following:

  • A New Jersey university needs an adjunct law professor for the accounting department. The professor will teach business law for accounting students; a J.D. is required.
  • An Idaho university needs a law professor to teach students about paralegal work in the department of business. The professor will teach courses on paralegal work for business students interested in enrolling in paralegal internships or occupations. The candidate must have a J.D. and prior experience teaching students about paralegal work.
  • A Massachusetts law school needs a clinical law professor to teach legal workshops on entrepreneurial law. The workshops are focused on representing new businesses and training students on what to expect when representing new businesses. The professor needs a J.D. and at least three years of experience working on transactional law.

Standing Out

As a would-be law professor, you can stand out by maintaining high grades and joining your school's law review. You can also look for research opportunities with professors while in school; you may gain scholarly experience, as well as professional references. Published work or a paper that's ready for publication can give you an edge as well.

According to New York University's Law School, earning a Ph.D. in a field of interest, like business, may bolster your chances of employment. However, the school notes that this is a costly option, and a mentor should be consulted for advice.

Judges

Judges decide the results of legal cases in civil, criminal, appellate or general court hearings. These professionals mediate legal proceedings and either decide cases upon hearing the evidence or enforce a jury's decision. Additional time may be spent on legal research. Depending on the state or locality, judges can be either appointed or elected, and their responsibilities dictate if part- or full-time work is required.

Requirements

According to the BLS, judges follow the same requirements as lawyers. All judges need a J.D. and must be licensed. Most judges have substantial prior experience as lawyers. In addition, all states require incoming judges to complete an orientation or judicial training program.

Based on December 2012 job ads, some employers looked for the following:

  • A New Jersey city needs a judge for municipal court cases. The candidate should be knowledgeable in New Jersey law and municipal law for the state.
  • The state of California needs an immigration judge. The judge is to service the Executive Office for Immigration Review in a northern California city. The candidate must have at least seven years of legal experience related to immigration.
  • A state of Washington board needs a judge to rule over industrial insurance and labor violations. The candidate must be able to practice law in Washington and have some experience in industrial legal issues.

Standing Out

Similar to lawyers and law professors, aspiring judges can stand out by earning high grades, joining law school organizations and publishing legal research. If you're interested in an appointed position, like that of a federal judge, keep in mind that your personal character will be assessed based on interviews of your peers. For that reason, consider developing good relationships with lawyers and judges you work with; establishing ties with state and local bar associations may be helpful as well.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSCJ: Law
      • Master: Legal Studies
      • MSCJ: Global Issues in Criminal Justice
      • Master: Criminal Justice
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor: Tax Accountancy
      • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
      • Bachelor: Auditing-Forensic Accountancy
    Associate's
      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
    Certificate
      • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice - Intelligence & Crime Analysis Track
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Legal Studies
      • B.A. - Criminal Justice
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
      • Associate of Arts - Paralegal
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma: Paralegal
      • Career Diploma: Legal Secretary
      • Career Diploma - Legal Transcriptionist
      • Certificate - Advanced Paralegal Applications
      • Certificate - Real Estate, Wills and Estates for Paralegals
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
      • Doctorate: Management - Homeland Security
    Master's
      • M.S. - Criminal Justice
      • Master: Management - Homeland Security
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
      • Master of Public Administration - Government and Policy
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Public Administration - Criminal Justice
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Criminal Justice
      • B.S. General Studies - Criminal Justice
    Associate's
      • A.S. Criminal Justice
      • A.S. General Studies - Criminal Justice
    Certificate
      • Undergraduate Certificate - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    9. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Homeland Security and Crisis Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MSCJ: Law
  • Bachelor: Tax Accountancy
  • AAS in Legal Support and Services
  • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice - Intelligence & Crime Analysis Track

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Legal Studies
  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Paralegal

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma: Paralegal
  • Career Diploma: Legal Secretary
  • Career Diploma - Legal Transcriptionist

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
  • M.S. - Criminal Justice
  • BS - Criminal Justice

Are you a US citizen?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
  • Master of Public Administration - Government and Policy

What is your highest level of education?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • Master of Public Administration - Criminal Justice
  • B.S. Criminal Justice
  • A.S. Criminal Justice
  • Undergraduate Certificate - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?