If you’re thinking about going into corporate law, it’s important to be sure you want to do it. While plenty of aspects of this field can help you earn good money and feel accomplished, it’s also filled with long hours and tough situations that can cause serious stress in your personal life and damage your health if you’re not careful.
On the other hand, if you decide that corporate law is exactly what you want to do with your life, here are some ways to get started on your legal career as quickly as possible.
Think of the Best School for You
When deciding on a career, the first thing you need to think about is what kind of education will set you up for success. The problem with many careers in law is that you don’t have much control over your starting salary or position. So, as your first consideration, think about which environment would best allow you to pursue your goals and interests.
Just as you would when picking a college, you need to do some research before choosing a law school. Ensure that all of your selections are accredited institutions and find out what graduate programs they offer. These factors, among others, will help shape your decision of which law school is best for you.
Be careful, though; while a prestigious name can get you an interview and maybe even a job offer, it’s not always indicative of success. Look at each school with its own set of criteria in mind so that you choose one that fits your career goals perfectly. You can start by knowing your chosen college’s entrance requirements and preparing for them early.
Know the Skills You’ll Need
In corporate law, you’ll need patience and interpersonal skills. You’ll spend a lot of time interacting with people—clients, opposing counsel, and other partners. People may not be as forthcoming with information in legal work as they are in many other professions, so you’ll have to find ways to draw out what they’re thinking without asking them directly.
Becoming effective at negotiating business deals or doing courtroom litigation helps if you’ve played team sports or worked on a team at some point in your life. Being comfortable speaking in front of large groups will help if your practice includes oral arguments or public-speaking engagements.
Other important skills that you might need are analytical and communication. A large part of your job will be analyzing facts and presenting them in a way that best supports your client’s legal arguments. Excellent research and writing skills will make it easier for you to present your clients’ positions persuasively in written form as well.
Learn How Much Money You Can Earn
The reality is that you won’t be raking in money right out of law school. This can be difficult for many students because their parents may have gone through similar experiences and will not have a clear picture of how much money you’ll be making as a new lawyer. To ensure that your income expectations are realistic, do your research! Seek out classmates who are already practicing in corporate law and ask them about their salaries.
A factor to consider is how practical a career in law is. If you want to learn and be well-paid, you’ll probably have a much easier time finding that opportunity in big-name corporate firms and law schools than small firms and legal aid organizations. There are certainly some fantastic legal careers out there that aren’t in high demand, but they’re not as easy to find or land as those jobs at large corporate firms.
Explore Its Career Opportunities
To ensure you’re not just making a hasty decision, it can be helpful to research other corporate law careers that are out there. Many corporate lawyers work in specialized fields such as international or tax law or might decide at some point in their career that they want a change. Understanding these possibilities—and how your skills would transfer into one of them—can help shed light on what you may want from a legal career.
Additionally, if you have any existing contacts within any given practice area who could serve as mentors and advisors, reach out and get advice directly from them. They will have valuable insight and personal experience to help shape your thinking around entering a specific field.
Don’t get tricked into thinking that corporate law is a one-size-fits-all career. Think about what you’re good at, your interests, and where you see yourself 10 years from now. Can you imagine being happy doing a big firm practice? If so, then go for it!
But don’t rush — think it through carefully before making any commitments. No matter what type of work or life you pursue, make sure to focus on your professional development, and everything else will fall into place.