For those interested in working within the legal system but do not wish to become trial attorneys or barristers, business law may offer a pathway you’ve been looking for. Businesses across the country and the world operate within strict laws every day and must constantly navigate complex legal tenders, contracts and proposals.
Having a sound understanding of business law, how it works and how it affects different industries is necessary for graduates to emerge with the skills to manage legal risk, recognize potential issues and provide relevant solutions to commercial operations.
Through this guide, you’ll come to understand what’s required of professionals working within business law and why it might be the right career option. If this sounds interesting to you, read on.
What Business Law Graduates Do
Professionals working within this broad field are excellent negotiators and excel in formal settings. They service the needs of commercial enterprises, whether they’re small businesses or large corporations, and find employment in a range of roles. Typically, they:
- Advise clients before government agencies and in private legal matters
- Conduct research into legal precedents and analyze legal problems
- Interpret laws, regulations and rulings for businesses and corporations
- Present the facts to their clients or others and argue on their behalf
- Prepare and file legal documents including contracts, lawsuits and deeds
While these are some of the more common aspects of business law, professionals may also act as mediators regarding local, national and international commercial matters. They may opt to focus on a particular specialization.
Is Business Law Right for You?
A career in business law is not for the faint of heart, but it is as rewarding as it is flexible. The nature of business law is that it is a constantly changing legal landscape and those who continually seek to learn new things tend to gravitate towards the field as a potential career.
Those who choose to practice business law are usually naturally inquisitive, decisive, self-motivated and driven people. They have the capacity to lead and to follow when required and are analytically minded, detail-oriented and adept at dealing with people and managing expectations.
Questions You May Need to Ask Yourself
While these are the more common traits of business law graduates, there are some other, equally important characteristics. To decide whether or not this is a career worth pursing, you’ll need to ask yourself:
- Is a career that continually adapts to changing business relationships of interest to you?
- Do you genuinely enjoy coming to terms with and understanding complex legal issues?
- Are you willing to analyze a constant stream of statistical information and data?
- Most importantly, can you imagine doing anything else in the future?
If you can see yourself playing a key role within corporate meeting rooms and answered yes to any of these questions, you’re likely to enjoy working in the dynamic field of business law.
Salary Outlook for Business Law Professionals
The salaries of experienced business law professionals and attorneys vary according to the type, size and location of their employer. However, lawyers who own their own practice will usually earn less than those who make partner in established law firms.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers accounted for 759,800 jobs in 2012 and this figure is set to increase by 10 percent over the next seven years based on the growth of the industry. In the same year, the median pay was estimated at $113,530 per year, though this calculation oversimplifies things.
Breakdown of Earning Potential by Specialization
Generally, the more specialized a particular person is, the greater their earning potential will. There are other factors to be aware of as well, such as employment pool density, number of employers seeking staff, location and starting position within a company’s hierarchy.
That being said, those pursuing the more popular business law specialities in 2015 and beyond can reasonably expect to earn as follows:
Real Estate Lawyer:
Average salary: $50,289 – $152,528
Median pay: $89,102
Average salary: $55,027 – $158,463
Median pay: $97,275
Average salary: $57,259 – $185,038
Median pay: $99,946
Intellectual Property Lawyer:
Average salary: $72,553 – $200,348
Median pay: $140,635
In the case of these specializations – as with most other career paths – your earning potential will increase as you progress and gain more experience. Keep in mind that these are estimates and may be subject to change.
Business Law Opportunities and Potential Pathways
As previously mentioned, there is a lot of flexibility and scope offered to students of business law, as any regulation that affects the running of a commercial entity in the U.S. can be considered a part of business law. Although a few traditional areas dominate the coursework, a deeper understanding of the field is required.
Many work as law clerks, settlement agents, compliance officers or legal administrators, though graduates can pursue the following career pathways:
- Real estate law: Attorneys who specialize in real estate law work with and assist both buyers and sellers to prepare and navigate complex contracts in the matters of real estate and land use, and occasionally represent interested parties in dispute resolutions should they arise.
- Corporate/Securities law: Lawyers specializing in this area are employed by and work for corporations. They advise executives on high-stakes financial and corporate matters and legal issues surrounding business activities involving patents, contracts, government regulations and/or property interests.
- Labor and Employment law: In the past, labor and employment law were two separate fields but are now jointly concerned with serving the public interest and the relationships between employers, employees and unions.
- Intellectual property law: This is a growing field of interest for many, as technological advancements continually change the face of business on a global scale. Intellectual property attorneys deal with copyrights, patents and trademarks and are employed to protect rights of ownership.
- Taxation law: Lawyers in this field typically advise their corporate clients on state and federal tax rules and regulations. They may advise a business entity on how much tax is to be paid from profits in order to comply with the Internal Revenue Service.
- Contract law: Written and verbal agreements are what hold corporate dealings together and as such, companies are legally bound to keep their word or risk breach of contract. Attorneys practicing contract law may find themselves handling mergers and acquisitions, contractual disputes and subsequent mediation or arbitration.
Aside from pursuing these more traditional areas, business law graduates might apply their particular skillsets to other facets of business and pursue becoming transaction analysts, finance consultants or legal fee auditors.
In such positions, a sound understanding of legal procedure and regulation will be essential, as research, analytical and critical-thinking skills are key.
College Degrees and Popular Majors Specializing in Business Law
To become a recognized as a professional within business law, it is necessary for students to graduate from law school after successfully completing their undergraduate. This requires students to undergo extensive study culminating in the state’s bar exam.
Many undergraduates opt to study business law as part of a double major together with international relations or accounting to improve their career outlook, though most business-related colleges degree will suffice.
Fortunately, many law schools also offer a one-year Master of Laws (LLM) program to help graduates who wish to extend their knowledge. Here you’ll be free to specialize in business, international or media law, so don’t be too worried if your undergraduate options seem a little slim.
Something else to keep in mind is that such programs usually require students to complete a thesis or research paper, and some may even offer externships with corporations.
If you’ve managed to get this far, business law will likely be a suitable post-diploma study option for you and a career within this dynamic field could be what you’re looking for. Hopefully you’ll have come away with a few deeper insights into what you can expect and are ready to take the next step.
Exploring careers in business? Be sure to check out the entire series of career exploration posts!
A Career in Real Estate
A Career in Marketing
A Career in Business Law
A Career in Finance
A Career in Accounting
A Career in Insurance
A Career in Supply Chain
A Career in Human Resources
A Career in Management
A Career in Sales
A Career in Consulting