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Roles and responsibilities
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. In recent years, controversies involving well-known companies such as Walmart and General Motors have highlighted the complex role of corporate lawyers in internal investigations, in which attorney-client privilege could be considered to shelter potential wrongdoing by the company. If a corporate lawyer's internal company clients are not assured of confidentiality, they will be less likely to seek legal advice, but keeping confidences can shelter society's access to vital information.
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 law 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.
The salary of a corporate lawyer can vary widely: those employed by major international law firms ("BigLaw" firms) earn starting salaries of US$ 180,000 / year, which rise every year with experience (this amount excludes any additional bonus payments). Depending on the geographical location, the starting salary may be closer to US$ 160,000 / year if the market is secondary. Attorneys employed at smaller firms tend to earn smaller salaries.
- 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.
- Solomon, Steven Davidoff (26 August 2014). "Keeping Corporate Lawyers Silent Can Shelter Wrongdoing". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
- Bishop, Keith Paul (28 August 2014). "Why Keeping Corporate Lawyers Quiet Is Good For Us All". The National Law Review. Retrieved 30 August 2014.
- "Intensive Practical Skills Training Build a Foundation for a Legal Career". Retrieved 2017-07-27.
- "The Average Lawyer Salaries". Retrieved 2020-11-02.
- "Law Firm Salaries Jump for the First Time in Nearly a Decade".
- "Welcome to Your First Year as a Lawyer. Your Salary Is $160,000".