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Description of a Corporate Attorney
- In order to become an attorney, one must first obtain an undergraduate (four year) degree. Law schools require this and they may prefer certain degrees over others, but generally a strong candidate may choose to major in anything for this degree. Once admitted into law school, the program usually lasts three years for a juris prudence degree. This is the minimum educational requirement for practicing law, though some students continue all the way to a doctorate in law. Additionally, the candidate must pass the bar examination before legally being able to practice law. The specific type of bar exam varies by state and one state may or may not recognize the bar exam passed in another state.
- As expected, the working conditions for a person with so much education are physically safe and comfortable, while sometimes irregular in schedule and intellectually demanding. Lawyers work indoors, courtrooms, offices, boardrooms, legal libraries, etc. They are well compensated and seldom have to attend to mundane tasks that can be more efficiently performed (for less pay) by support staff. However, while annual pay is generous, most lawyers who are not self-employed are salaried and many work in excess of the traditional 40-hour work week. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 33 percent of salaried attorneys worked 50 or more hours weekly.
- Corporate attorneys specialize in corporate law. The corporate structure distributes the ownership and control of a continuing interest among individuals called shareholders. The functional company is arranged as a hierarchy, labor controlled by management, management controlled by executive staff, executive staff elected and dismissed by the board of directors. However, the board of directors serves at the pleasure of the shareholders. They can vote out underperforming directors or reward competent directors with multiple terms. Corporations also enjoy status as "legal persons", able to own property, obtain credit, engage in legal actions and pay taxes. While this structure allows for very large scale and often quite successful endeavors, it is even more complex than it sounds and that means that the law surrounding it and regulating it requires expert council.
- Corporate attorneys plan, review and/or advise on the inception of corporations to ensure that all applicable laws and regulations are adhered to. They are also intrinsically involved with every step of a possible merger or hostile takeover. Expanded operations or new ventures of an existing company require financial, marketing and logistical planning, but issues such as permits, licenses, franchising and regulation require legal council. Council for multinational corporations may work closely with attorneys from other countries and may have to commit considerable study to their laws in order to coordinate.
- Compensation in the legal profession is as diverse as its practice and it varies both between and within sectors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers for May, 2008, the "Management of companies and enterprises" sector was the most highly compensated at $145,770 (median) per year. You should note, however, that this is a median figure and that it is influenced by both the relatively low compensation of small capitalization companies that may be struggling as well as mega-capitalized, multinational conglomerates that pay for the very best talent available.