Anyone who is considering a future as a legal practitioner should consider a recent report that appeared on the Birmingham Business Journal: the top law firms in Alabama aren’t necessarily looking for attorneys with Master of Law (LLM) degrees, unless they are looking for just one experienced lawyer to fill in a highly specialized position. The same goes for legal departments at major corporations. What they are looking for in their applicants, however, is a solid background or knowledge in business.
Legal staffing firm Robert Half Legal released a report with a similar sentiment earlier this year, as it surveyed the legal departments at American companies with workforce headcounts greater than 1,000 employees. Those corporate legal departments are also expected to increase their in-house counsel ranks in 2012. The job outlook for attorneys from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates average growth, but also warns that new attorneys going into the corporate law will earn considerably more than their counterparts in government and judicial clerkship practices.
An Affinity for Business
The practice of corporate law spans several fields of research and calls for attorneys who are highly resourceful. Seemingly innocuous business transactions such as initial company formations may implicate matters concerning accounting, intellectual property, securities, taxation, trade regulations, and more. In the past, it was not uncommon for corporate attorneys to enjoy the luxury of having subject matter experts assist them with specific matters. In today’s competitive business climate, corporate legal departments must often fend for themselves and conduct significant amounts of research on their own. Corporations are interested in staffing their legal departments with attorneys who exhibit a genuine affinity for business, who understand the intricacies of modern commercial enterprise, and who show an affinity for business.
The growing privatization of industries that were traditionally and exclusively controlled by sovereign entities, from correctional institutions to space exploration, is exposing corporation to new thresholds of increased liability. This trend is likely to continue, thus calling for corporate entities to strengthen their in-house legal departments and retain specialized outside counsel. As private businesses venture into these new activities, their exposure to risk and liability will increase accordingly. Greater oversight is also being placed on corporations, to the point that certain jurisdictions like Miami-Dade County in South Florida have judicial operations dedicated to Complex Business Litigation.
The decisions and actions taken by corporate entities these days are subject to greater scrutiny, as exemplified by the New York Attorney General Office during the last couple of decades. Big names such as Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo are synonymous with the investigation and prosecution of major corporations dedicated to finance, insurance, investment banking, and securities. This scrutiny is bound to continue, thus ensuring that business law practitioners remain busier than ever defending corporate interests.
Keeping Business Law Skills Sharp
All lawyers know that admission to the Bar does not stop their learning. Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (CLE) is a vital aspect of the legal profession. Online CLE courses and seminars on corporate law subjects are great for practicing attorneys who wish to fulfill their continuing education requirements and gain insight into the dynamic business world.
For legal practitioners who are looking to transition to the lucrative world of corporate law, online education is an ideal option since it allows attorneys to concentrate on their studies without interrupting their practice. A number of online universities offer Master of Business Administration (MBA) curricula especially designed for lawyers. The courses range from financial management to economic analysis, and they focus on preparing attorneys for the challenges of the corporate world.
Author Casey Sutherland is a careers counselor and suggests if you have a love for all things business, you may want to check out the Top Business Degrees. Choose careers from Accounting to Market Research Analyst, and see the latest top online business degree programs available.