Career Paths: Corporations
About 20% of UA graduates find employment each year with in-house corporate legal departments. A majority of graduates who locate employment with in-house corporate legal departments have an extensive background in tax or accounting or an undergraduate degree in engineering or another technical field. Since corporations typically hire experienced lawyers who have been in practice for five years or more with private law firms, competition for permanent opportunities for new graduates is very stringent even for those who do possess the requisite background.
In-house attorneys may work on issues and projects inherent to the corporation's general operations, such as purchase/sale agreements and employee contract negotiations or in areas specific to a corporation's products or services, like patent applications and regulatory compliance. Depending on a company's structure, lawyers engaged in tax, personnel and risk management functions may also be included in the legal department.
Attorneys enter a corporation's legal department as staff attorneys or legal counsel. Top attorneys often have executive responsibilities and commonly hold such titles a secretary, treasurer or vice president.
While law firms and corporations share the same goal-generation of income at the lowest cost - and while the work of the attorneys is often substantively the same, the two groups are engaged at different points of the businesses' operations, making their experiences and roles quite different. When you are an in-house corporate attorney, the company is your sole client and your job is to work to prevent costly litigation, minimize taxes and liability and ensure that your corporation is in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations. Although in-house lawyers have to sell their ideas and recommendations to the corporate leaders, they don't need to engage in client development in quite the same manner as law firms and private practitioners do.