Lawyer salary

How to Become a Contract Lawyer: A Step-by-Step Guide

Contracts are woven into the fabrics of everyday life, governing the relationships between landlords and tenants, employers and employees, businesses and customers.

Almost all business relationships rely on contract law to ensure fairness and transparency. If this aspect of the law interests you, read this guide on how to become a lawyer specializing in contract law.

What is contract law?

Contract law is a branch of law that enforces legally binding agreements. It ensures that the signatories fulfill all the legal obligations stipulated in the contract. This area also governs the negotiation of fair trade agreements.

A contract reduces the likelihood of legal battles because it clearly outlines the terms and conditions of a transaction. If a party fails to live up to their end of the bargain, the contract attorney can penalize them under state law.

Many contract attorneys work at large law firms. However, some may prefer to work for corporations as in-house counsel. Others work independently, serving a variety of clients.

What do contract lawyers do?

Contract lawyers are licensed professionals who specialize in contract law. Their main task is to draft, review and modify legal contracts for the benefit of their clients.

A contract attorney is the one to call when embroiled in a legal dispute related to a breach of contract. However, most lawyers’ employment contracts are preventive. Consulting a lawyer before signing the dotted lines can reduce the likelihood of legal battles down the line.

Responsibilities

A contract attorney has two primary responsibilities: creating legal agreements and enforcing them. However, the daily tasks of these professionals may vary depending on the legal situation of their clients.

Below are some of the tasks that a contract attorney may perform as part of their job.

  • Review existing contracts and advise clients on their rights and limitations
  • Modification of contracts after negotiations and consultation with customers
  • Mediation between opposing parties in the event of breach of contract
  • Representation of clients in court
  • Tracking and executing contract renewals before the expiration date

Salary and job prospects

As of August 2022, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide earnings data specific to contract attorneys. However, the BLS provides statistics for all lawyers. For the purposes of this assignment, we will use BLS data for all attorneys.

The BLS reports that the median annual salary for attorneys in the United States was $127,990 as of May 2021. However, factors such as level of experience and location can impact a contract attorney’s earnings. .

The highest paying US states for lawyers are:

  • District of Colombia
  • New York
  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey

The job outlook for American lawyers is quite strong. According to the BLS, jobs for lawyers are expected to grow by 10% from 2021 to 2031. This growth rate is twice as fast as the projected average job growth for all occupations nationwide.

Skills to practice contract law

Along with formal legal training, contract attorneys need additional skills to adequately protect the interests of their clients. We describe some of these skills below.

Analytical skills

Contract lawyers must be able to deconstruct information through logical reasoning and draw appropriate conclusions from the terms of a contract.

Communication and speaking skills

Effective communication fosters trust between attorney and client and even extends to opposing parties. The lawyer must be able to explain the contract and other proposals to legal and non-legal audiences.

Personal skills

The lawyer must objectively assess contractual disputes and propose solutions to avoid a full-fledged legal battle.

Problem solving

The lawyer must objectively assess contractual disputes and propose solutions to avoid a full-fledged legal battle.

To research

State policies may change over time. When this happens, the contract attorney should find the up-to-date laws that apply to each contract and advise the client appropriately.

Writing

Lawyers must be precise when drafting or modifying documents to avoid misinterpretation of contract terms.

How to Become a Contract Lawyer

Building a career in law comes with stringent requirements. After graduating from high school, it takes about seven years to qualify as a lawyer, not to mention the high levels of discipline. Below are the steps you need to take to become a contract attorney.

Earn a bachelor’s degree

The first step to becoming a lawyer is to earn a bachelor’s degree through a four-year undergraduate program. Fortunately, the American Bar Association (ABA) does not require prospective law students to major in a specific subject during their undergraduate studies.

Aspiring lawyers can pursue a variety of pre-law majors, from political science to economics and even math. The most important factor is getting a good GPA during undergrad, as this can increase your chances of getting into your favorite law school.

Take the LSAT

After earning your bachelor’s degree, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)® comes next. This test, administered by the Law School Admission Council (LSAC)®, predicts student performance in law school. It tests students’ comprehension, reasoning and writing skills.

With 180 being the highest possible LSAT score and 120 being the lowest, the average score is around the low 150s. However, to enter prestigious law schools such as Yale, Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia, applicants must score at least 170 on the LSAT. Note that some law schools now accept GRE scores instead of LSAT.

Go to law school

Attending an ABA-accredited law school is standard procedure for all prospective attorneys. Although there are other types of law degrees, the juris doctor (JD) is the most common for aspiring lawyers.

The first year of law school is rigorous due to an extensive curriculum covering subjects such as civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, legal methods, and writing. During their second and third years, students can take electives and gain hands-on experience through internships. Learners earn a JD degree after completing law school, which typically lasts three years.

The American Bar Association (ABA) collects tuition data from law schools. According to this data, the average law school tuition costs $40,791 per year for in-state learners studying full-time. After three years, that’s $122,373, excluding tuition and living expenses. This tuition is much more expensive than most other types of higher education, which cost less than $20,000 per year on average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Learners who need financial assistance should consider applying for student loans and law scholarships.

pass the bar

The bar exam is the last and perhaps the most difficult step in becoming a contract attorney. It usually lasts two days and each state sets its own guidelines for the exam. In addition to passing the bar, law graduates must meet other criteria established by their state boards to be eligible for a state license.

To find a job

Getting a job after passing the bar is the surest way to recoup your investment in college and law school. Students can also apply to local law firms and businesses that hire in-house attorneys. Many contract lawyers move on to permanent positions at firms or companies where they have completed an internship. Some even start their own business, usually after gaining experience in other roles.

Law school graduates looking for a job can find many job postings on job sites. Popular options include:

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