It is often difficult to visualize what a corporate attorney does. Corporate attorneys are not generally featured in movies or on television, where the focus is most often on litigation and courtroom dramas. Instead, corporate attorneys work in the realm of deals, contracts and board room spectacles.
A general corporate practice involves advising business on a wide variety of legal issues, including financing arrangements, mergers, sales and acquisitions, compliance with laws and regulations, and corporate governance. A large portion of the practice also consists of negotiating, drafting, and reviewing contracts associated with the activities of the business. Although their clients are businesses, corporate attorneys often interact with the individuals running the businesses, whether they are owners, management or in-house counsel, and advise them on how to accomplish their business objectives within the confines of the law and with an acceptable level of risk.
Corporate attorneys most often work for a large or mid-size law firm that has a dedicated corporate law department. Some work in-house at corporations, and a few work with state or federal government agencies. Corporate attorneys may develop subspecialties, such as mergers and acquisitions work or advising start-up companies. Some will focus on a particular type of client, such as pharmaceutical companies or the oil and gas industry.
Skills needed by Corporate Lawyers include:
- Ability to convey information and advice to people at all levels of the organization
- Excellent negotiation skills
- Good listening skills in order to understand your client’s goals and the terms of agreements
- Ability to draft complex contractual provisions that reflect the ‘deal’ clearly and without ambiguity
- Creative thinking and problem-solving skills
- The capacity to see the whole picture and anticipate possible pitfalls
- An understanding of business and accounting principles
- Comfort working in a team-setting with professionals from other disciplines, including accountants, investment bankers and business managers
Alumni Mentors (in Symplicity under the mentor tab) who do corporate work:
- Tim Gorman at The Lowenbaum Partnership
- Scott Waller at Gilmore & Bell
- Anthony Martin at Walmart Corporation
Other Helpful Resources:
- “The Official Guide to Legal Specialties” by Lisa L. Abrams, J.D. – available in the Library of the Career Development Office
- The Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals – www.governanceprofessionals.org
- The Association of Corporate Counsel – www.acc.org
- The ABA Business Law Section – www.americanbar.org/groups/business_law.html