Simply put, corporate law attorneys facilitate the process of business within the law. They understand the inner workings of tax law, contract law, statutory law and securities law, as well as aspects of bankruptcy, accounting, licensing, zoning and other business regulations. Corporate lawyers essentially get the deals done, and are paid well for their efforts.
In 2012, lawyers earned an average of $130,880 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The top 10 percent made in excess of $187,199, while the bottom 10 percent earned less than $54,310 annually. But none of these figures account for specialty or experience -- two factors that affect earnings.
Lawyers specializing in corporate law often go on to serve as in-house counsel for corporations. A survey by Robert Half Legal, a national recruiter, found that salaries vary by experience, as in any career. First-year associates earned anywhere from $66,250 to $100,250, as of 2013. Those with one to three years of experience earned $77,500 to $124,500, while those with four to nine years of experience earned $102,500 to $187,750 annually. In-house lawyers with over 10 years of experience had the highest earnings, with an average of anywhere from $134,500 to $235,500 a year.
Like experience, location can affect earnings. In Little Rock, Arkansas, lawyers tend to earn about 5 percent less than the national average, so the salary of an in-house first-year corporate law associate would be $62,938 to $95,238 a year. In Fresno, California, lawyers earn about 10 percent less than average, bringing base pay for a first-year to $59,625 to $90,225. In Atlanta, Georgia, lawyers earn about five percent more than average, bringing base pay for the first year to $69,563 to $105,263. First-year associates in Boston can make upward of $133,333 a year.
The BLS expects employment for attorneys to grow by about 10 percent through 2020 – slower than the 14 percent average for all U.S. occupations. Recent hiring trends are constraining the growth of this occupation, as corporations are now turning to paralegals and even accountants to take on many of the duties once reserved for lawyers. Compounding the issue is budget cuts. As a way to reduce overhead, corporations are simply doing more with less.
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