A Legal Counsel is a professionally trained, qualified, and licensed to practice law. Their work entails providing legal guidance, advice, and representing clients in civil and criminal cases. Their clients can be individuals, businesses, or government institutions.

Regardless of the client they represent, legal counsels have an obligation to uphold the law while protecting the client's rights. A legal counsel may decide to specialize in a particular area of law or to be a general practitioner that represents clients on different matters.

The common areas of specialization are family law, criminal law, company law, intellectual property law, immigration law, employment law, among others. The exact duties of a legal counsel depend on whether the case they are handling is a civil one or a criminal one but their general objective is to minimize the legal risk associated with their client's affairs.

A legal counsel works 40 hours a week, but sometimes extra hours are necessary when they need to meet with clients or prepare for trial.

What Does a Legal Counsel Do

There are certain skills that many legal counsels have in order to accomplish their responsibilities. By taking a look through resumes, we were able to narrow down the most common skills for a person in this position. We discovered that a lot of resumes listed analytical skills, interpersonal skills and problem-solving skills.

Learn more about what a Legal Counsel does

How To Become a Legal Counsel

If you're interested in becoming a legal counsel, one of the first things to consider is how much education you need. We've determined that 43.0% of legal counsels have a bachelor's degree. In terms of higher education levels, we found that 11.5% of legal counsels have master's degrees. Even though most legal counsels have a college degree, it's impossible to become one with only a high school degree or GED.

Learn More About How To Become a Legal Counsel

Legal Counsel Career Paths

Average Salary for a Legal Counsel

Legal Counsels in America make an average salary of $132,867 per year or $64 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $216,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $81,000 per year.
Average Legal Counsel Salary
$132,867 Yearly
$63.88 hourly

What Am I Worth?


Roles and Types of Legal Counsel

The role of a legal counsel includes a wide range of responsibilities. These responsibilities can vary based on an individual's specific job, company, or industry.Here are some general legal counsel responsibilities:

  • Working with ge business and legal leadership to address effective critical legal strategies to enable fulfillment of our mission on a global basis. Managing legal issues relating to the commercial operation of ge digital serve as a key legal partner as part of ge digital’s relationship with ge businesses
  • Provide contract review and legal support for regional counsel currently located in los angeles, san francisco, houston, chicago, new york
  • Analyze, manage and resolve diverse matters with government agencies or commercial customers. Investigate, manage

There are several types of legal counsel, including:

Legal Extern


Let's rip the Band-Aid off, shall we? As a legal extern, you're probably not going to get paid. But what you take away from these opportunities may prove more useful in the longterm. What you'll take away from a legal externship will be experience and academic credit. Which really is priceless, if you ask us.

You'll have experience right off the bat within a legal setting. This definitely will give you an edge against your other colleagues. A legal extern is very similar to an internship, but is usually much shorter. So while you're getting the experience, you don't have to commit to it for as long.

Since being a legal extern won't last very long, it's a good way to see if you even want to work in the legal industry. It'll give you a glimpse into everything you will be doing, like conducting client interviews, making a court appearance, and even some legal research and writing. Just think of it as a very in-depth glimpse into "a day in the life" of a legal profession.

  • Average Salary: $47,238
  • Degree: Bachelor's Degree



An attorney's job is to be there for people who are down on their luck, legally, of course. They provide legal advice to individuals, businesses and even government agencies (yes, the government can get into trouble too).

While a degree in law may not sound too bad, this profession also requires that you pass the bar exam. Which, if you haven't heard of before, it's pretty difficult to pass. If you're willing to put in the study hours, though, the average attorney makes $122,960 a year. So that's definitely a plus.

  • Average Salary: $109,476
  • Degree: Doctoral Degree

Contract Attorney


Whether you're a recent law graduate or a seasoned professional with years of experience, becoming a contract attorney might be the best way to generate money using your legal skills. Working as a contract attorney may help secure your dream position, or it may help you make a steady income while you search for that dream job. Not only will you learn valuable skills, but you can also build a valuable network of professional contacts.

In general, a contract attorney works on legal cases on an as-needed or temporary basis. Contracts can be for a few days, a few weeks, or even a few years. Generally, a contract lawyer's core responsibility is drawing up and reviewing legal contracts and documents. They may also perform contract research, prepare case strategies, offer legal advisory services to clients, and support the litigation team.

This position requires a bachelor's degree, a Juris Doctor (J.D.), a law degree, and a Bar certification. Contract lawyers must possess excellent research and multitasking skills, be detail-oriented, and have an ability to adapt to new situations regularly. They may work for an agency, serve as a part of an in-house legal department, or work for a law firm.

  • Average Salary: $97,474
  • Degree: Doctoral Degree

States With The Most Legal Counsel Jobs

Mouse over a state to see the number of active legal counsel jobs in each state. The darker areas on the map show where legal counsels earn the highest salaries across all 50 states.

Average Salary: Job Openings:

Number Of Legal Counsel Jobs By State

RankStateNumber of JobsAverage Salary
2New York395$132,575
9North Carolina147$106,778
11New Jersey138$127,077
27South Carolina32$93,013
33New Hampshire21$111,090
35West Virginia20$100,091
37Rhode Island16$109,575
39North Dakota15$125,726
45New Mexico8$121,984
50South Dakota7$95,647

Legal Counsel Education

Legal Counsel Degrees


43.0 %


41.8 %


11.5 %

Top Colleges for Legal Counsels

1. Stanford University

Stanford, CA • Private

In-State Tuition




2. Harvard University

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition




3. Duke University

Durham, NC • Private

In-State Tuition




4. University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA • Private

In-State Tuition




5. Yale University

New Haven, CT • Private

In-State Tuition




6. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY • Private

In-State Tuition




7. Georgetown University

Washington, DC • Private

In-State Tuition




8. University of Michigan - Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor, MI • Private

In-State Tuition




9. Northwestern University

Evanston, IL • Private

In-State Tuition




10. University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame, IN • Private

In-State Tuition




Top Skills For a Legal Counsel

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 11.1% of legal counsels listed legal advice on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and interpersonal skills are important as well.

  • Legal Advice, 11.1%
  • Legal Issues, 8.5%
  • Litigation, 8.3%
  • Legal Support, 7.2%
  • Intellectual Property, 5.3%
  • Other Skills, 59.6%

Choose From 10+ Customizable Legal Counsel Resume templates

Zippia allows you to choose from different easy-to-use Legal Counsel templates, and provides you with expert advice. Using the templates, you can rest assured that the structure and format of your Legal Counsel resume is top notch. Choose a template with the colors, fonts & text sizes that are appropriate for your industry.

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Legal Counsel diversity

Legal Counsel Gender Distribution


After extensive research and analysis, Zippia's data science team found that:

  • Among legal counsels, 45.8% of them are women, while 54.2% are men.

  • The most common race/ethnicity among legal counsels is White, which makes up 75.3% of all legal counsels.

  • The most common foreign language among legal counsels is Spanish at 40.2%.

Online Courses For Legal Counsel That You May Like

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1. Legal Contracts and Agreements for Entrepreneurs


This course focuses on how legal contracts may impact or impede the success of aspiring and active entrepreneurs. We explore a wide variety of legal considerations, including: * What types of legal contracts and agreements are appropriate for which entrepreneurial activities and actions? * What is the role of torts, liability, and negligence in creating and managing products and services? * How should contracts and sales agreements be created, evaluated, and negotiated? * What legal...

2. Legal Aspects of Entrepreneurship


By its nature, the law touches on many aspects of entrepreneurship, making it an applicable and versatile topic of study. For aspiring entrepreneurs, it's important to understand how to form the business, work with the initial customers, and hire. For active entrepreneurs, there are critical considerations on employment law, operating policies, and managing contracts. For everyone, the role that the law plays in managing the company, and its associated risks, must be properly understood to...

3. Effective Legal Office Administration


Effective Legal Office Administration...

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Best States For a Legal Counsel

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as a legal counsel. The best states for people in this position are California, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Legal counsels make the most in California with an average salary of $144,086. Whereas in New York and Connecticut, they would average $132,575 and $130,945, respectively. While legal counsels would only make an average of $127,077 in New Jersey, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. California

Total Legal Counsel Jobs: 797
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:

2. New York

Total Legal Counsel Jobs: 395
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:

3. North Dakota

Total Legal Counsel Jobs: 15
Highest 10% Earn:
Location Quotient:
Full List Of Best States For Legal Counsels

How Do Legal Counsels Rate Their Jobs?

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Overall Rating*
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Top Legal Counsel Employers

Most Common Employers For Legal Counsel

RankCompanyAverage SalaryHourly RateJob Openings
5Arrow Electronics$169,941$81.7012
9Hewlett Packard Enterprise$148,885$71.5810

Legal Counsel Videos

Becoming a Legal Counsel FAQs

How Long Does It Take To Become A Legal Counsel?

It takes seven years to become a legal counsel. Becoming a legal counsel usually takes seven years of full-time study after high school. This includes four years of undergraduate study, followed by three years of law school.

Is It Legal Counsel Or Council?

It is legal counsel, not council. Counsel means to advise and can be used as a noun or verb, while a council is a group of people convened for advice or consultation and as such only ever used as a noun.

What Is The Difference Between Counsel And A Lawyer?

The difference between counsel and a lawyer comes down to their role within the company. Legal counsel, for example, is employed by firms to handle all the legal matters and disputes that they may encounter and do not work independently. Unlike a lawyer who may have his/her own firm or may work independently as an advocate.

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