As of 2005, there were 67,000 corporate lawyers in the United States, working on average for 50 hours per week, with a mean starting salary of USD64,000, rising to USD93,700 after 5 years and USD139,000 after 10–15 years.
The role of a corporate lawyer is to ensure the legality of commercial transactions, advising corporations on their legal rights and duties, including the duties and responsibilities of corporate officers. In order to do this, they must have knowledge of aspects of contract law, tax law, accounting, securities law, bankruptcy, intellectual property rights, licensing, zoning laws, and the laws specific to the business of the corporations that they work for.
The practice of corporate law is less adversarial than that of trial law. Lawyers for both sides of a commercial transaction are less opponents than facilitators. One lawyer (quoted by Bernstein) characterizes them as "the handmaidens of the deal". Transactions take place amongst peers. There are rarely wronged parties, underdogs, or inequities in the financial means of the participants. Corporate lawyers structure those transactions, draft documents, review agreements, negotiate deals, and attend meetings.
What areas of corporate law a corporate lawyer experiences depend from where the firm that he/she works for is, geographically, and how large it is. A small-town corporate lawyer in a small firm may deal in many short-term jobs such as drafting wills, divorce settlements, and real estate transactions, whereas a corporate lawyer in a large city firm may spend many months devoted to negotiating a single business transaction. Similarly, different firms may organize their subdivisions in different ways. Not all will include mergers and acquisitions under the umbrella of a corporate law division, for example.
- Ralph Nader and Wesley J. Smith. No Contest: Corporate Lawyers and the Perversion of Justice in America. ISBN 0-375-75258-7.
- Alan B. Bernstein and Princeton Review Publishing Staff (2004). "Corporate Lawyer". Guide to Your Career. The Princeton Review. ISBN 0-375-76399-6.
- Vault Editors (2007). "Corporate Law Basics". The Vault College Career Bible. Vault Inc. pp. 289–290. ISBN 1-58131-419-1.