Paralegals involved in business law are deeply entrenched in corporations, limited liability companies, and partnerships.
Unlike many other types of paralegals, corporate paralegals work directly for corporations, not law firms. Depending on the size of the corporation, paralegals may work in a large legal department or alongside just one or two corporate lawyers.
Corporate law paralegals research, prepare, and draft documents and keep corporate minutes. Instead of dealing with the public, their job responsibilities are limited to corporate duties where they work with corporate lawyers, shareholders, and executives.
Job Duties and Responsibilities of Corporate Paralegals
Corporate paralegals work alongside corporate attorneys, preparing documents related to the workings and transactions of the business. They prepare audit letters, SEC filings, and other legal agreements. They also often work with the IRS to facilitate tax breaks and liabilities that relate to the business and their earnings.
Although their job duties and responsibilities are often administrative in nature, they are entrusted to prepare important documents associated with major corporate transactions, such as initial public offerings, mergers, and acquisitions.
During mergers and acquisitions, paralegals in corporate law often conduct due diligence investigations. They prepare audit letters for distribution to auditors and clients, gather litigation and billing information and prepare draft responses to auditor requests for information.
The goal of corporate paralegals is to ensure the corporation is protected in all business ventures and that all transactions comply with federal and state laws. Many of their job responsibilities deal with the business’ inner workings, including human resources, company policies, and employee benefits.
Paralegals in corporate law prepare documents related to:
- Partnerships, limited liability companies
- Amendments, withdrawals, mergers, and dissolutions of companies
- Stock certificates
- Franchise tax forms
- Closing and other corporate transactions
- Initial public offerings
- SEC filings
- Intellectual property
- Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) filings/searches
- IRS forms (SS-4, EINs)
How to Become a Paralegal in Corporate Law: Education and Certification Options
The standard educational route for paralegals involves completing an associate’s or bachelor’s program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA).
The American Bar Association (ABA) recognizes paralegals educated at every level, from two-year community colleges to four-year universities and colleges to business and proprietary schools. Therefore, ABA-approved programs may range from associate degrees to master’s degrees.
The American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE) recommends that students complete paralegal programs that include at least 18 semester credit hours of paralegal courses within a program of at least 60 semester credit hours—the equivalent of an associate’s degree. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) also recommends that students complete programs that include at least 60 semester hours of classroom study and complete in-house paralegal training (internship) lasting at least six months.
Internships allow new paralegal graduates to gain experience in their chosen area of law. Voluntary paralegal certification is also a valuable addition to a paralegal education. The following organizations offer nationally recognized paralegal certifications:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA)
- CORE Registered Paralegal (CRP) credential (CRP)
- PACE Registered Paralegal credential (RP)
- National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA)
- Certified Paralegal (CP) credential
- NALS – The Association for Legal Professionals
- Professional Paralegal (PP) credential
- American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI)
- American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential
A few states also offer state-specific competency examinations.
The National Federation of Paralegal Associations also offers an advanced specialty certification in corporate law. To receive this specialty certification, candidates must complete a three-course sequence, with each course lasting 4 weeks:
- Advanced corporate law
- Intellectual property law
- Contract law
Salary Expectations for Paralegals in Corporate Law
According to the Robert Half 2016 Salary Guide, paralegal jobs in general business/commercial law is expected to increase 26 percent—second only to litigation.
Robert Half also found that in-house paralegals earned more than their colleagues in law firms. Mid-level paralegals in large corporations earned between $60,000 and $77,500 in 2016; an increase from a range of $58,250 – $74,750 in 2015.
A 2014 survey conducted by the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) found that paralegals specializing in corporate law earned an average, annual salary of $63,285, beating out paralegal salaries in banking/finance, immigration, contract, and legislation, among others.