What Does a Corporate Lawyer Do? (And How to Become One)
Updated 7 May 2023
A corporate lawyer is a legal professional who represents businesses rather than individuals. Understanding their role and the common duties corporate lawyers have can help you decide whether to pursue a career in corporate law. In this article, we explain what a corporate lawyer does and how to become one.
What does a corporate lawyer do day to day?
The tasks corporate lawyers perform each day depends on their clients' needs and area of expertise. Corporate lawyers may specialise in areas such as mergers and acquisitions, insolvency and corporate restructuring. As business clients have complex needs, corporate lawyers may perform tasks related to several specialty areas. Many corporate lawyers also perform commercial law services to meet all their client's needs. On a typical day, a corporate lawyer may perform the following tasks:
Meeting business customers to offer advice on legal matters including starting a company and merging with another business
Drafting, reviewing and negotiating corporate agreements and business documents, including partnership agreements, shareholders agreements and insolvency agreements
Overseeing legal business processes, such as mergers and acquisitions or listing companies on the stock exchange
Obtaining FIRB approvals and ASX and ASIC waivers for clients
Verifying accounts and finances for corporate financial transactions
Collaborating with corporate lawyers and the General Counsel on corporate agreements and strategic legal decisions
Mentoring clerks and junior lawyers.
What is the role of a corporate lawyer?
A corporate lawyer's role is to support business clients through periods of change. They often help new businesses with legal matters when they launch and assist them through their life cycle as they grow and mature. If the business ends, corporate lawyers help them manage their insolvency or acquisition. Corporate lawyers may work for legal firms and represent a range of clients. They may also provide in-house legal advice for their employer.
How to become a corporate lawyer
Corporate lawyers attend university and gain practical industry experience before securing their roles. Follow these steps to become a corporate lawyer:
1. Get a legal degree
Completing a bachelor's degree in law after graduating high school is the simplest path to becoming a corporate lawyer. Entry into law degrees is very competitive, so you must score a high Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). A Bachelor of Law degree takes three or four years of full-time study. Many aspiring corporate lawyers choose a dual degree, such as a Bachelor of Law/Bachelor of Business to learn more about the corporate world.
If your ATAR is too low for admission into a bachelor's degree in law, you could complete another degree before earning a Juris Doctor degree. This two-year full-time postgraduate degree helps people from non-legal backgrounds qualify to become lawyers. That makes it a good option for someone who decides to become a corporate lawyer after working in another field. Completing a Bachelor of Business or a Bachelor of Business Administration before the Juris Doctor degree provides relevant knowledge for aspiring corporate lawyers.
Related: How to Change Careers
2. Complete practical legal training
Practical legal training gives you experience in the legal field before you start practising. You may complete this training as part of your Juris Doctor course or after graduating as a separate program called a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. It usually involves online study and up to 80 days of work experience with a lawyer. Your state or territory's Legal Admissions Board can help you enrol in a practical legal training course.
3. Get approval from the Admissions Authority
After finishing your study and training, contact your local state or territory's Admissions Authority. Once they approve your qualifications, you are a lawyer of the Supreme Court in your state or territory. Complete this step within five years of graduating from university.
4. Get a Practising Certificate
Apply for a Practising Certificate from the Law Society in your state or territory to start practising corporate law. This certificate makes you a solicitor, which is the legal rank of most corporate lawyers. Note that your certificate is only valid in your state or territory. If you move, you must cancel your Practising Certificate and apply for a new one in your new location.
5. Complete supervised practise
You'll spend your first 18 to 24 months as a new corporate lawyer working under the supervision of a more experienced solicitor. During this time you'll get practical experience meeting corporate clients, creating legal documents and overseeing legal processes. Your supervisor can answer any questions you have, offer feedback and review your work so you can become more confident in your field.
6. Work independently as a corporate lawyer
After completing your supervised practise period, you work independently as a corporate lawyer. Many companies hire the new lawyers who practised with them, as they are familiar with their clients and processes. However, you may also decide to pursue an opportunity with another firm hiring corporate lawyers.
Related: How to Become a Lawyer in Australia
What skills do you need to be a corporate lawyer?
Corporate law firms and companies hiring in-house corporate lawyers look for applicants with these skills:
Technical knowledge and application
Corporate lawyers need a thorough understanding of corporate law and the industries their clients work in. A comprehensive understanding helps them apply built knowledge to help their corporate clients. Their expertise helps clients satisfy legal requirements and makes sure their transactions and agreements run smoothly. It also helps them identify potential legal issues.
Corporate lawyers use their problem-solving skills to find solutions to their clients' legal issues and challenges. They use knowledge of the law to develop solutions that benefit their clients while ensuring they operate legally. This process often requires analytical and critical thinking, good judgement and confident decision-making.
Strong written and verbal communication skills help corporate lawyers interact effectively. During client meetings, their verbal communication skills help them translate complex legal topics into plain language. They rely on written communication skills when preparing accurate legal documents.
Corporate lawyers often work independently on client cases, so they need good self-management skills. These skills help them stay motivated and productive. They also help them take responsibility for their work. If senior lawyers offer feedback, they accept it gratefully and can apply it to make their work better.
Time management skills help corporate lawyers manage work from various business clients at once. They understand which tasks are the most pressing and prioritise accordingly. They also understand how long certain tasks should take. This helps them manage their time and meet the expectations of their clients and employer.
Corporate lawyers also need good negotiation skills to effectively represent their clients and their interests. They may apply their negotiation skills to give a client more favourable conditions in a merger deal, for example. Good corporate lawyers know how to negotiate effectively to reduce delays in closing business deals.
Relationship management skills help corporate lawyers form and maintain positive relationships with their clients and coworkers. They act confidently around clients and ensure every one gets their full attention during meetings. They put their clients' needs first and can be flexible, when required, if their requests change.
The most successful corporate lawyers also engage with coworkers at all levels of the organisation. They make positive contributions to meetings and stay accountable to other members of their team. They offer to share their knowledge and help other employees where possible, including mentoring junior staff.
FAQs about corporate lawyers
Here are the answers to common questions people have about corporate lawyers:
What is the difference between a corporate lawyer and a commercial lawyer?
Corporate lawyers and commercial lawyers both have business clients but they have different focus areas. A corporate lawyer helps businesses during periods of change, including their launch, restructuring and closure. A commercial lawyer focuses on their client's commercial activities.
They may perform services like helping businesses protect their intellectual property or create employment contracts. While some people specialise in either corporate or commercial law, many people work as corporate and commercial lawyers who can meet all their business clients' needs.
Does a corporate lawyer go to court?
In most cases, corporate lawyers work outside courts. They can help a business form a merger agreement with another business, example. However, if the other business changes their mind and voids the contract, a litigation lawyer would take over the case. A corporate lawyer may go to court to give evidence about a case concerning one of their clients though.
What is a corporate lawyer salary?
According to Indeed Salaries, the average salary for a corporate lawyer is $120,318 per year. Salaries vary depending on a corporate lawyer's experience, location, employer and specialties.
Explore more articles
- What Does a Horse Groomer Do? (Key Skills and Duties)
- How to Become a Foot Model: A Step-By-Step Guide (Plus FAQs)
- What Does a Head Chef Do? (With Duties, Skills and Education)
- 24 Most Enjoyable Jobs in Australia (With Average Salaries)
- 15 Great Jobs for Teenagers (Including Duties and Salaries)
- How to Become a Medical Scientist
- What Does a Bank Customer Service Officer Do? (With Skills)
- How to Become a Payroll Officer (With Salary and Skills)
- 15 Best Careers in International Relations to Consider
- How to Become an Architect: Step-By-Step Guide
- How to Become a CNA in 3 Steps
- How To Become an Audiologist (With FAQs)