The corporate environment is the ideal setting for paralegals with exceptional organizational skills, strong written and oral communication skills, and the ingenuity and initiative needed to provide professional legal support in the areas of contract administration, mergers and acquisitions, corporate governance and compliance, and much more.
Areas of Focus for Paralegals Working in Corporate Law
The job duties and responsibilities of corporate paralegals, who generally work alongside attorneys as part of in-house legal departments, are as varied as the corporations that employ them.
Just a few of the areas of focus for corporate paralegals:
- Intellectual property
- Corporate records maintenance
- New corporate entity formations
- Corporate governance policies
- Licensing and regulatory compliance
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Real estate closings and other contracts
- Global subsidiary entity management
In some corporate settings, paralegals are focused on providing specialized support related to board, shareholder, and corporate matters, while in other settings they provide contract support. Alongside corporate attorneys, many paralegals are responsible for ensuring that the company operates within the legal requirements set forth by local, state, and federal regulations, while others spend the majority of their time preparing legal documents, such as pleadings, affidavits, briefs, and appeals.
Job Duties for Paralegals Working in Corporate Law
However, the basic job duties of these legal professionals in a corporate environment include:
- Maintaining and filing corporate records, including resolutions, board of director changes, annual reports, etc.
- Coordinating and receiving board and committee signatures for documents and materials
- Creating documents related to new corporate entity formations
- 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, such as non-disclosure, marketing, and independent contractor agreements
- Providing administrative support for documents and activities related to corporate restructurings, such as mergers, formations, and dissolutions
- Working with other members of the legal team on special projects and initiatives
- Overseeing the contract process, including planning, collaboration, negotiation, and execution
Becoming a Corporate Paralegal
The path to becoming a corporate paralegal generally begins with the completion of a paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), usually at the associate or bachelor degree level. Completing a degree in business management or administration, followed by an ABA-approved paralegal program, is also a common pursuit among individuals interested in this area of law.
An internship provides new graduates with an opportunity to receive specialized training in an area of law, such as corporate law. A number of 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—although widely pursued—activity in this profession, largely due to employer demand. Certification is indicative of an advanced level of knowledge and/or experience in the profession.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations offers an Advanced Corporate Law Specialty Certificate. Candidates must complete a three-course sequence (each course lasting 4 weeks) to earn this specialty certificate:
- Advanced corporate law
- Intellectual property law
- Contract law
NALA offers advanced certification in the following areas related to corporate law:
- Business Organizations: Incorporate Entities
- Business Organizations: Non-corporate Entities
- Contracts Management/Contracts Administration
NALA certification requires the completion of an online course, broken down into multiple modules.
Salaries for Paralegals in Corporate Law
According to 2014 statistics from NALA, paralegals in corporate law continue to out-earn many of their colleagues in other areas of law, and consistently earn more than the national paralegal average salary of $58,410.
In fact, NALA numbers show that paralegals in mergers and acquisitions earned the highest salary—$67,044—among all paralegal specialties, followed closely by corporate law attorneys, at $62,585.