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Working As A Corporate Counsel

  • Getting Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Resolving Conflicts and Negotiating with Others
  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Communicating with Persons Outside Organization
  • Mostly Sitting

  • Make Decisions

  • Stressful

  • $90,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Corporate Counsel Do

Lawyers advise and represent individuals, businesses, and government agencies on legal issues and disputes. 

Duties

Lawyers typically do the following:

  • Advise and represent clients in courts, before government agencies, and in private legal matters
  • Communicate with their clients, colleagues, judges and others involved in the case
  • Conduct research and analysis of legal problems
  • Interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individuals and businesses
  • Present facts in writing and verbally to their clients or others and argue on behalf of their clients
  • Prepare and file legal documents, such as lawsuits, appeals, wills, contracts, and deeds

Lawyers, also called attorneys, act as both advocates and advisors.

As advocates, they represent one of the parties in criminal or civil trials by presenting evidence and arguing in support of their client.

As advisors, lawyers counsel their clients about their legal rights and obligations and suggest courses of action in business and personal matters. All attorneys research the intent of laws and judicial decisions and apply the laws to the specific circumstances that their clients face. 

Lawyers often oversee the work of support staff, such as paralegals and legal assistants. 

Lawyers may have different titles and different duties, depending on where they work.

While working in a law firm, lawyers, sometimes called associates, perform legal work for individuals or businesses. Some attorneys who work at law firms, such as criminal law attorneys or defense attorneys, represent and defend the accused.

Attorneys also work for federal, state, and local governments. Prosecutors typically work for the government to file a lawsuit, or charge, against an individual or corporation accused of violating the law. Some may also work as public defense attorneys and represent individuals who could not afford to hire their own private attorney.

Others may work as government counsels for administrative bodies of government and executive or legislative branches. They write and interpret laws and regulations and set up procedures to enforce them. Government counsels also write legal reviews on agencies' decisions. They argue civil and criminal cases on behalf of the government.

Corporate counsels, also called in-house counsels, are lawyers who work for corporations. They advise a corporation's executives about legal issues related to the corporation's business activities. These issues may involve patents, government regulations, contracts with other companies, property interests, taxes, or collective-bargaining agreements with unions.

Legal aid lawyers work for private, nonprofit organizations that work to help disadvantaged people. They generally handle civil cases, such as those about leases, job discrimination, and wage disputes, rather than criminal cases.

In addition to working in different industries, lawyers often specialize in a particular area. The following are just some examples of the different types of lawyers that specialize in specific legal areas:

Environmental lawyers deal with issues and regulations that are related to the environment. They may represent advocacy groups, waste disposal companies, and government agencies to make sure they comply with the relevant laws.

Tax lawyers handle a variety of tax-related issues for individuals and corporations. Tax lawyers may help clients navigate complex tax regulations, so that they pay the appropriate tax on items such as income, profits, or property. For example, they may advise a corporation on how much tax it needs to pay from profits made in different states to comply with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules.

Intellectual property lawyers deal with the laws related to inventions, patents, trademarks, and creative works, such as music, books, and movies. An intellectual property lawyer may advise a client about whether it is okay to use published material in the client’s forthcoming book.

Family lawyers handle a variety of legal issues that pertain to the family. They may advise clients regarding divorce, child custody, and adoption proceedings.

Securities lawyers work on legal issues arising from the buying and selling of stocks, ensuring that all disclosure requirements are met. They may advise corporations that are interested in listing in the stock exchange through an initial public offering (IPO) or in buying shares in another corporation.

Litigation lawyers handle all lawsuits and disputes between parties. These could be disputes over contracts, personal injuries, or real estate and property. Litigation lawyers may specialize in a certain area, such as personal injury law, or may be a general lawyer for all types of disputes and lawsuits.

Some attorneys become teachers in law schools. For more information on law school professors, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

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How To Become A Corporate Counsel

All lawyers must have a law degree and must also typically pass a state’s written bar examination.

Education

Becoming a lawyer usually takes 7 years of full-time study after high school—4 years of undergraduate study, followed by 3 years of law school. Most states and jurisdictions require lawyers to complete a juris doctor (J.D.) degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). ABA accreditation signifies that the law school—particularly its curricula and faculty—meets certain standards.

A bachelor’s degree is required for entry into most law schools, and courses in English, public speaking, government, history, economics, and mathematics are useful.

Almost all law schools, particularly those approved by the ABA, require applicants to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). This test measures applicants’ aptitude for the study of law.

A J.D. degree program includes courses such as constitutional law, contracts, property law, civil procedure, and legal writing. Law students may choose specialized courses in areas such as tax, labor, and corporate law.

Licenses

Prospective lawyers take licensing exams called "bar exams." When a lawyer receives their license to practice law, they are "admitted to the bar."

To practice law in any state, a person must be admitted to the state’s bar under rules established by the jurisdiction’s highest court. The requirements vary by individual states and jurisdictions. For more details on individual state and jurisdiction requirements, visit the National Conference of Bar Examiners.

Most states require that applicants graduate from an ABA-accredited law school, pass one or more written bar exams, and be found by an admitting board to have the character to represent and advise others. Prior felony convictions, academic misconduct, or a history of substance abuse are just some factors that may disqualify an applicant from being admitted to the bar.

Lawyers who want to practice in more than one state often must take the bar exam in each state.

After graduation, lawyers must keep informed about legal developments that affect their practices. Almost all states require lawyers to participate in continuing legal education either every year or every 3 years. 

Many law schools and state and local bar associations provide continuing legal education courses that help lawyers stay current with recent developments. Courses vary by state and generally cover a subject within the practice of law, such as legal ethics, taxes and tax fraud, and healthcare. Some states allow lawyers to take their continuing education credits through online courses. 

Advancement

Newly hired attorneys usually start as associates and work with more experienced lawyers. After several years, some lawyers may be admitted to partnership of their firm, which means they become partial owners of the firm.

After gaining a few years of work experience, some lawyers go into practice for themselves or move to the legal department of a large corporation. Very few in-house attorneys are hired directly out of law school.

A small number of experienced lawyers are nominated or elected to judgeships. Other lawyers may become full-time law school faculty and administrators. For more information about judges and law school faculty, see the profile on judges and hearing officers and the profile on postsecondary teachers.

Other Experience

Law students often gain practical experience by participating in school-sponsored legal clinics, in a school’s moot court competitions, in practice trials under the supervision of experienced lawyers and judges, and through research and writing on legal issues for a school’s law journals.

Part-time jobs or summer internships in law firms, government agencies, and corporate legal departments also provide valuable experience. Some smaller firms, government agencies, and public interest organizations may hire students as summer associate interns after they have completed their first year at law school. Many larger firms’ summer internship programs are only eligible to law students who have completed their second year. These experiences can help law students decide what kind of legal work they want to focus on in their careers, and these internships may lead directly to a job after graduation.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Lawyers help their clients resolve problems and issues. As a result, they must be able to analyze large amounts of information, determine relevant facts, and propose viable solutions.

Interpersonal skills. Lawyers must win the respect and confidence of their clients by building a trusting relationship, so that clients feel comfortable enough to share personal information related to their case.

Problem-solving skills. Lawyers must separate their emotions and prejudice from their clients’ problems and objectively evaluate the matter. Therefore, good problem-solving skills are important for lawyers, to prepare the best defense and recommendation.

Research skills. Preparing legal advice or representation for a client commonly requires substantial research. All lawyers need to be able to find what applicable laws and regulations apply to a specific matter.

Speaking skills. Clients hire lawyers to speak on their behalf. Lawyers must be able to clearly present and explain their case to arbitrators, mediators, opposing parties, judges, or juries. 

Writing skills. Lawyers need to be precise and specific when preparing documents, such as wills, trusts, and powers of attorney.

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Corporate Counsel Career Paths

Corporate Counsel
General Counsel
Partner
6 Yearsyrs
Senior Counselor
Vice President
6 Yearsyrs
Contract Attorney
Principal
11 Yearsyrs
Senior Associate
Assistant Vice President
7 Yearsyrs
Partner
Managing Partner
9 Yearsyrs
Principal
Senior Vice President
13 Yearsyrs
Contracts Manager
Contracts Director
12 Yearsyrs
Contracts Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Owner
Co-Owner
6 Yearsyrs
Consultant
General Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Legal Counsel
Legal Department Manager
5 Yearsyrs
Manager
Operations Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Contracts Specialist
Purchasing Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Co-Founder
Founder And Chief Executive Officer
7 Yearsyrs
Managing Partner
Operations Director
9 Yearsyrs
Project Manager
Senior Project Manager
11 Yearsyrs
Compliance Officer
Compliance Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Corporate Secretary
Senior Paralegal
7 Yearsyrs
Managing Member
Chief Finance Officer
13 Yearsyrs
Vice President, Business Development
Business Development Director
11 Yearsyrs
Legal Compliance Officer
Senior Officer
5 Yearsyrs
Legal Consultant
Legal Specialist
5 Yearsyrs
Board Member
Board Of Directors Member
8 Yearsyrs
Senior Contract Specialist
Program Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Managing Member
8 Yearsyrs
Vice President, Business Development
13 Yearsyrs
Compliance Manager
Compliance Director
12 Yearsyrs
Business Development Manager
Marketing Director
7 Yearsyrs
Regional Manager
Business Development Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Management Consultant
Senior Manager
9 Yearsyrs
Solo Practitioner
Senior Partner
9 Yearsyrs
Lead Counselor
Service Director
9 Yearsyrs
Legal Adviser
Human Resources Manager
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Manager
Senior Director
13 Yearsyrs
Assistant Manager
Branch Manager
6 Yearsyrs
Chairperson
Chairperson, Board Of Directors
6 Yearsyrs
Regional Manager
8 Yearsyrs
Management Associate
Manager, Assistant Vice President
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Editor
Bureau Chief
7 Yearsyrs
Senior Consultant
Managing Director
11 Yearsyrs
Program Manager
Project Director
8 Yearsyrs
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Do you work as a Corporate Counsel?

Corporate Counsel Demographics

Gender

Male

53.7%

Female

37.4%

Unknown

8.9%
Ethnicity

White

61.5%

Hispanic or Latino

14.3%

Black or African American

11.0%

Asian

8.9%

Unknown

4.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

34.2%

French

16.4%

German

7.2%

Italian

5.9%

Russian

5.3%

Chinese

5.3%

Japanese

5.3%

Portuguese

4.6%

Korean

2.6%

Hindi

2.0%

Mandarin

2.0%

Greek

2.0%

Danish

1.3%

Bulgarian

1.3%

Czech

1.3%

Swedish

0.7%

Turkish

0.7%

Romanian

0.7%

Dutch

0.7%

Hungarian

0.7%
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Corporate Counsel Education

Schools

New York Law School

7.6%

Southwestern Law School

7.3%

Suffolk University

6.6%

Santa Clara University

6.3%

Georgetown University

6.0%

University of Denver

5.8%

George Washington University

5.6%

Boston University

5.0%

John Marshall Law School

4.8%

University of San Francisco

4.7%

Fordham University

4.5%

University of California Hastings College of Law

4.5%

Harvard University

4.3%

DePaul University

4.3%

University of Florida

4.0%

Southern Methodist University

4.0%

Brooklyn Law School

3.8%

Temple University

3.8%

Thomas M. Cooley Law School

3.5%

University of Texas at Austin

3.5%
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Majors

Law

73.7%

Legal Research And Advanced Professional Studies

8.4%

Business

4.9%

Political Science

2.1%

Journalism

1.3%

Taxation

1.3%

Finance

1.3%

Legal Support Services

1.0%

English

0.9%

Criminal Justice

0.6%

Management

0.6%

Writing

0.5%

Accounting

0.5%

Education

0.5%

Real Estate

0.5%

International Business

0.4%

Legal Studies

0.4%

Psychology

0.4%

Economics

0.4%

Human Resources Management

0.4%
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Degrees

Doctorate

76.5%

Masters

12.8%

Other

4.4%

Bachelors

4.2%

Certificate

1.7%

Associate

0.4%

Diploma

0.2%
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Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary
Average Yearly Salary
$90,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$45,000
Min 10%
$90,000
Median 50%
$90,000
Median 50%
$90,000
Median 50%
$90,000
Median 50%
$90,000
Median 50%
$90,000
Median 50%
$90,000
Median 50%
$178,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Lowe's
Highest Paying City
San Bruno, CA
Highest Paying State
Hawaii
Avg Experience Level
3.8 years
How much does a Corporate Counsel make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Corporate Counsel in the United States is $90,281 per year or $43 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $45,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $178,000.

Real Corporate Counsel Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Corporate Counsel Google Inc. Mountain View, CA May 19, 2015 $245,000
Corporate Counsel Google Inc. San Bruno, CA Feb 08, 2016 $240,000
Corporate Counsel Google Inc. Mountain View, CA Dec 23, 2016 $238,000
Associate Corporate Counsel Google Inc. Mountain View, CA Dec 23, 2016 $238,000
Corporate Counsel Google Inc. Mountain View, CA Sep 11, 2013 $225,000
Corporate Counsel Google Inc. Mountain View, CA Aug 13, 2015 $225,000
Corporate Counsel Google Inc. Mountain View, CA Jul 24, 2015 $224,536
Associate Corporate Counsel Verily Life Sciences, LLC South San Francisco, CA Apr 29, 2016 $220,000
Corporate Counsel Google Inc. Mountain View, CA Oct 14, 2013 $220,000
Senior Corporate Counsel Synnex Corporation Fremont, CA Oct 01, 2014 $204,000
Associate Corporate Counsel Google Inc. Palo Alto, CA Sep 06, 2014 $202,500
Associate Corporate Counsel Google, Inc. Mountain View, CA Apr 20, 2015 $200,000
Associate Corporate Counsel Google Life Sciences LLC Mountain View, CA Oct 02, 2015 $200,000
Corporate Counsel JP Energy Partners LP Irving, TX Jul 01, 2013 $175,000
Counsel, Corporate Transactions Viacom International Inc. New York, NY Sep 02, 2015 $170,156
Corporate Counsel Gopro Inc. San Francisco, CA Aug 25, 2015 $170,000
Corporate Counsel Gopro Inc. San Francisco, CA Nov 19, 2015 $170,000
Corporate Counsel Nintendo of America Inc. Redmond, WA Oct 09, 2016 $165,000
Corporate Counsel Renesas Electronics America Inc. Santa Clara, CA Aug 01, 2016 $160,000
Corporate Counsel Esurance Insurance Services, Inc. San Francisco, CA Apr 08, 2013 $160,000
Corporate Counsel Zendesk, Inc. San Francisco, CA Jun 09, 2016 $157,500
Corporate Counsel Snap Inc. CA Dec 19, 2016 $131,102 -
$200,000
Latam Corporate Counsel Phoenix Tower International, LLC Boca Raton, FL May 01, 2015 $130,562 -
$145,000
Counsel, Corporate Securities Bristol-Myers Squibb Company New York, NY Jan 30, 2015 $130,000 -
$190,000
Senior Corporate Counsel ADT LLC Boca Raton, FL Aug 15, 2013 $125,778 -
$155,000
Corporate Counsel Slalom, LLC Seattle, WA Sep 29, 2014 $125,000 -
$145,000
Senior Corporate Counsel, Sourcing Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. Jersey City, NJ Jan 09, 2016 $125,000 -
$180,000
Associate Corporate Counsel CBS Interactive, Inc. San Francisco, CA Nov 17, 2014 $125,000
Senior Corporate Counsel, Sourcing Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. Jersey City, NJ Aug 01, 2014 $125,000 -
$180,000

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Top Skills for A Corporate Counsel

  1. Legal Documents
  2. Ensure Compliance
  3. Intellectual Property
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Drafted legal documents including end user license agreements, employment contracts, and intellectual property applications and documentation.
  • Manage coordination between Compliance Department implementation and Quality Control/Internal Audit functions regarding loan administration and review audit findings to ensure compliance.
  • Implemented and maintained domestic and international corporate legal and capital structure; designed and documented intellectual property holding and service arrangements.
  • Partnered with the General Counsel and outside counsel to resolve real estate-related litigation.
  • Oversee Human Resources matters, including drafting employment offer letters/agreements, non-competition agreements and any necessary legal research.

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Top 10 Best States for Corporate Counsels

  1. California
  2. District of Columbia
  3. Massachusetts
  4. New York
  5. Connecticut
  6. Texas
  7. Illinois
  8. Colorado
  9. Virginia
  10. Washington
  • (452 jobs)
  • (61 jobs)
  • (100 jobs)
  • (209 jobs)
  • (33 jobs)
  • (163 jobs)
  • (150 jobs)
  • (70 jobs)
  • (90 jobs)
  • (121 jobs)

Top Corporate Counsel Employers

Jobs From Top Corporate Counsel Employers

Corporate Counsel Videos

NYIPLA Attorney Feud: Corporate Counsel Team vs Law Firm Team

The Forum: Ask the G.C.: Corporate Counsel Offer a View from the Top

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