While most people think of paralegals working in law firms or a court room, there are a wide range of industries that utilizes the skills and services paralegals provide. The corporate world is one such setting, and provides paralegals who work within it strong organizational, written, and oral communication skills, ingenuity and initiative that are needed to provide professional legal support in a variety of areas. Some of these areas include contract administration, mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance, and compliance.
Areas of Focus for Paralegals Working in Corporate Law
Paralegals in corporate law are supervised by attorneys and serve as part of in-house legal department. Within the corporate world, there are many areas of focus paralegals can choose, including:
- Intellectual property
- Corporate governance policies
- Licensing and regulatory compliance
- Corporate records maintenance
- New corporate entity formations
- Global subsidiary entity management
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Real estate closings and other contracts
Job Duties for Paralegals Working in Corporate Law
The job duties of a paralegal in a corporate setting can vary based on the institution. Within corporate law, paralegals focus on providing specialized support related to board, shareholder, and corporate matters. Working alongside corporate attorneys, paralegals are responsible for ensuring that the employing company operates within the legal requirements set forth by local, state, and federal law and regulation. In addition, the majority of a corporate law paralegal’s time will be spent preparing legal documents, like pleadings, affidavits, briefs, and appeals.
The basic job duties of paralegals in a corporate environment include:
- Maintaining and filing corporate records, such as resolutions, board of director changes, and annual reports
- Coordinating and receiving board and committee signatures
- Maintaining the intellectual property portfolio
- Producing documents related to the development and implementation of corporate policies and templates
- Providing contract support for standard corporate agreements, like non-disclosure, marketing, and independent contractor agreements
- Creating documents related to new corporate entity formations
- Providing administrative support for activities related to corporate restructurings, such as mergers, formations, and dissolutions
- Working with the legal team on special projects and initiatives
- Overseeing the contract process, such as planning, collaboration, negotiation, and execution
How to Become a Corporate Paralegal
No federal or state regulations have been set in place governing the requirement for becoming a paralegal. However, those who become corporate paralegals typically begin their career by completing a paralegal program that has been approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). A program like this will typically offer an associate or bachelor’s degree. By completing a degree in business management or administration, then follow it up with an ABA-approved paralegal program, you will appeal to corporations looking to hire skilled and experienced paralegals.
In addition to completing an education program, many successful corporate paralegals complete an internship. An internship will provide you with an opportunity to receive specialized training in a specific area of law, like corporate law. Many paralegal associations, including the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE) and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), recommend an internship as part of a comprehensive education in paralegal studies. Both NALA and the AAfPE recommend an internship of at least six months.
Professional Paralegal Certification
Paralegal certification is a voluntary within this profession, however many voluntarily chose to earn it. Certification serves as proof of advanced knowledge and/or experience in the legal profession.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations offers an Advanced Corporate Law Specialty Certificate. To earn this certification, candidates must complete a three-course sequence, with each course lasting four weeks:
- Advanced corporate law
- Intellectual property law
- Contract law
In the area of corporate law, NALA offers advanced certification in the following areas:
- Business Organizations: Incorporate Entities
- Business Organizations: Non-corporate Entities
- Contracts Management/Contracts Administration
Salaries and Job Outlook for Paralegals in Corporate Law
According to 2014 statistics from NALA, paralegals in corporate law tend to out-earn many of their colleagues in other areas of law. Data shows that corporate law paralegals consistently earn more than the national paralegal average salary of $58,410. The data reveals that paralegals in the area of mergers and acquisitions earned the highest salary at $67,044. This is a top earner among all paralegal specialties, followed closely by corporate law attorneys at $62,585.
As the economy continues to improve, companies will continue to grow and expand. This will result in more openings for staff paralegals. The demand for paralegals is also likely to grow due to their reduced salary costs when compared with attorneys. As a result, the job outlook for paralegals in considered good. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statics estimates that employment of paralegals is projected to grow 8 percent from 2014 to 2024, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations.