Corporate Legal Clerk Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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Learn about a corporate legal clerk's job description, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a corporate legal clerk career.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Corporate Legal Clerk

Legal clerks, also called paralegals, are essentially assistants to lawyers. The following pros and cons can help you decide if this career is something to pursue.

Pros of a Career as a Corporate Legal Clerk
Can prepare you for work in other industries (government, finance)*
Good job growth (17% projected from 2012-2022)*
With experience, advancement may lead to a supervisory position*
Demand for legal clerks is less vulnerable to recessions*

Cons of a Career as a Corporate Legal Clerk
Long hours and overtime common*
Little to no room for advancement beyond a clerk*
Increasing competition from other legal clerks hired*
You aren't entitled to any portion of a huge payout from a lawsuit**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **American Bar Association.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Although a law clerk's specific duties may vary depending on the type of law, most perform the same basic administrative, research and clerical functions. As a corporate legal clerk, you'll assist attorneys at independent law firms or attorneys employed by corporations with work related to legal fields such as contracts, intellectual property or business. You may also be required to assist with more general corporate matters, such as securing loans.

You could help attorneys draft contracts, create shareholder statements, evaluate stock options and assess employee benefit plans. You'll also need to have an understanding of a corporation's standard operating procedures and the government statutes by which its business is regulated. This knowledge will be critical for several tasks, such as drawing up tax forms, maintaining the company's minutes and preparing Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings. You'll also be expected to utilize several different forms of technology in your administrative and clerical work. You may need to navigate search software to retrieve past cases or regulations, use management software for organizing company records and minutes and operate word processing software for preparing shareholder statements.

Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 17% increase in paralegal and legal assistant jobs from 2012-2022. This growth is partially due to keeping legal counsel and its staff in-house rather than outsourcing work. Corporations and law firms hire the most workers in this field.

According to PayScale.com's 2015 data, the hourly rate for entry-level corporate paralegals ranged from roughly $15.00-$32.00. The rate for an experienced corporate paralegal ranged from $20-$34. Corporate legal clerks with more than 20 years of experience could command $20-$48 an hour.

Career Paths and Specializations

Although many corporate legal clerks work for independent law firms and in-house corporate legal departments, you aren't necessarily limited to this path. Some jobs in the paralegal field are held in other professional environments, such as law libraries, legal publications, lobbying firms and various government agencies. These institutions have the same need as companies and law firms for the analytical, research, reading and writing skills that legal clerks are ideally suited to provide.

Corporate law clerks may also enhance their career prospects by acquiring specialized expertise. You may gain exposure to several aspects of legal practice, such as conflict resolution and salary negotiations, that may lend themselves to specialization. A few specialty areas that may be particularly appealing to corporate law clerks include alternative dispute resolution, professional management and practice group leadership.

Career Skills and Requirements

Although there's no standard educational requirement to become a corporate legal clerk, the BLS states that most clerks have completed a formal degree program. Options include an associate's degree paralegal program, a bachelor's degree program in any field, a paralegal certificate program or a combination of these choices. Some employers may even require applicants to either have a law degree or be enrolled in law school.

Useful Skills

Formal training may equip you with the analytical, writing and critical reading skills that are essential to a career as a corporate legal clerk. Some skills you may even develop on your own. Some specific skills that the career website O*NET OnLine outlined that could prove highly beneficial to your clerking duties include:

  • Analyzing vast amounts of data
  • Communicating with coworkers and supervisors
  • Developing healthy professional relationships
  • Employing deductive reasoning to make decisions
  • Conducting cost-benefit analyses

Job Postings from Real Employers

The minimum qualifications for corporate legal clerks may vary considerably depending on the employer. A March 2012 job search for corporate legal clerks discovered a demand for individuals with at least a bachelor's degree and excellent computer and communication skills. Some employers even required that candidates be enrolled in law school. The following is a list of some of the actual job postings obtained from this search:

  • An insurance company advertised for a legal clerk to work in its Omaha offices assisting attorneys in preparing depositions, writing briefs, drafting memos and conducting legal research. The successful candidate was required to have completed at least one year of law school.
  • A San Francisco law firm advertised for a legal clerk to assist in its general counsel offices. The successful candidate would hold a bachelor's degree or its equivalent in addition to having at least two years of experience in legal conflicts. Knowledge of Microsoft Office and database programs was required.
  • A telecommunications company in Colorado looked for a legal clerk in his or her second year of law school. The position required the clerk to conduct legal research, coordinate projects and manage databases.

How to Stand Out

As the competition for corporate legal clerks heightens, those individuals with the most education and specialized expertise may have the advantage. Moreover, with legal clerks replacing lawyers in many respects, employers are beginning to expect aspiring clerks to have more than associate's degrees and certificates. Applicants with at least bachelor's degrees and certifications will have the edge over those with less training and credentials.

Get Certified

The BLS noted that certification, while voluntary, can help an individual secure a paralegal job. There are numerous paths to certification available to corporate legal clerks. Professional associations such as the National Association of Legal Assistants, the American Alliance of Paralegals, Inc. and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations offer various designations to individuals with the appropriate levels of education and experience. Once certified, professionals will be required to pass recertifying exams and/or complete a requisite number of continuing education hours.

Other Careers to Consider

Insurance Claims Adjuster

If you're attracted to the analytical excitement of corporate clerking, but want something more physically exciting and perhaps with a more frequent change of scenery during the day, you may want to consider a career as an insurance claims adjuster. Claims adjusters are responsible for processing insurance claims filed after accidents and disasters. They're required to investigate the merits of the claim, consult police and medical records and interview experts who can offer more insightful evaluations of the claim. In addition to this detective work, you may also need to handle the documentation required to process the claim, a task that mandates skills similar to those of law clerks. While the job growth for this career was expected to rise only three percent, the 2011 median salary was $59,000 according to the BLS.

Occupational Health and Safety Technician

You may also consider a career as an occupational health and safety technician if you're interested in investigating issues and compiling data. Technicians work to protect the people, property and the environment from harms related to the workplace. They assemble and analyze information, create safety programs and conduct measurements for potentially hazardous levels of noise and radiation pollution. Training for this career differs from that of a legal clerk because it can be on-the-job or through postsecondary education. A 13% rise in employment was estimated by the BLS between 2010 and 2020 and the median income was $46,000 annually as of 2011.

Popular Schools

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    1. Kaplan University

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    2. Regent University

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    3. American National University

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    7. Central Christian College of Kansas

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      • AA in Criminal Justice
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    8. Grand Canyon University

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      • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
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    10. Post University

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      • A.S. in Criminal Justice
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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

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

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Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Criminal Justice
  • Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice

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American National University

  • Paralegal
  • Paralegal Studies - Certificate

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South College

  • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice

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Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Virtual Assistant
  • Career Diploma - Legal Secretary

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Penn Foster High School

  • HS Diploma

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Central Christian College of Kansas

  • AA in Criminal Justice

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Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies

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