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Most businesses employ lawyers, either as in-house attorneys or through outside law firms to consult and handle legal issues on behalf of the corporation. In addition, businesses also hire law graduates to perform both legal and non-legal functions within the business.
Where are the Corporate Jobs?
Many employers in business and industry hire law graduates for a variety of jobs. Investment banks, hospitals, insurance companies, accounting firms, public and private educational institutions, financial services providers, mortgage companies, human resources consulting firms, public relations firms and others post jobs that are “JD preferred” and may or may not require bar passage and a current license to practice law. These employers value the skills gained during law school including analytical thinking, efficient research skills, the ability to think on your feet, writing skills, oral advocacy experience, and the ability to deal well with a diverse population, both in the corporation and with outside constituencies. Naturally a pure in-house position will require the credentials to practice and to represent your client, the corporation, fully.
Corporate in-house legal departments vary greatly, but tend to be small, and prefer to hire attorneys with a few years of practice experience. In-house departments are led by the general counsel, who may serve as an executive of the company, and/or who may manage the legal department specifically. In-house lawyers handle all sorts of legal matters on behalf of the company. From contract disputes to employment discrimination allegations to bankruptcy matters, in-house attorneys are likely to run into a variety of legal issues in their practice. Most in-house lawyers will work, at some point, with outside counsel on matters for which they are not experts or on matters that will require more staffing than their legal department can handle effectively.
At Moritz, the post-graduate Corporate Fellowship program provides an early career opportunity to learn from and work alongside in-house counsel while making significant contributions to the legal team.
Many businesses appreciate the skill set acquired by law school graduates and seek to hire JDs, but not for the practice of law. These employers value the skills gained during law school including analytical thinking, efficient research skills, the ability to think on your feet, writing skills, oral advocacy experience, and the ability to deal well with a diverse population, both in the corporation and with outside constituencies. Corporations may hire JDs to handle compliance issues, risk-management, human resource consulting, auditing, securities and ERISA work, legal and non-legal recruiting, legal marketing, mediation or labor relations work. Many of these positions may be quite accessible for entry-level lawyers who want to get their feet in the door with a company, but have not had the chance to practice for three to five years. This is a common way to prove your value, show your excitement, and be in the hiring pool when your dream job does become available.
For those students who are interested in preparing for a corporate or in-house practice, consider a joint JD/MBA, JD/MHA (Master of Hospital Administration), JD/MLHR (Master of Labor and Human Resources) or Masters of Accounting. More information on joint degree programs.
It is becoming increasingly valuable to both outside counsel and in-house counsel lawyers to have both a legal and business background. The ability to understand the legal issues and business ramifications of decisions and counseling is an invaluable tool for your client and your firm or corporation.
There are many good sources of information, advice, and job listings in print and on the web for those interested in corporate opportunities. Also, consider joining relevant organizations while you are in law school and afterwards, even before you land a corporate position. Networking with people in the positions you hope to have someday is a wonderful way to obtain advice on interviewing skills, resume preparation and career building. The College has a relationship with the Central Ohio Chapter of the Association of Corporate Counsel (“CO-ACC”), which provides several opportunities each year for students to network and learn from its membership. Although this is not a complete list, it should provide a starting point for your research into corporate law from all aspects.
- Going In-House: A Guide for Law Students and Recent Graduates, Donna Gerson, 1999, available in Career Services.
- Association of Corporate Counsel Inhouse Jobline
- American Bar Association, Business Law Section
- Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel
- Corporate Legal Times
- Minority Corporate Counsel Association