Corporate Paralegal Career & Training
What is a Corporate Paralegal?
Whereas most paralegals are employed by law firms, corporate paralegals work in the legal departments of large companies. These can include real estate firms, manufacturers, financial institutions, insurance agencies, and many other types of businesses. Like those paralegals who work for law firms, corporate paralegals assist the company’s lawyers in performing a variety of legal tasks, and may have significant responsibilities that are performed with minimal supervision.
Despite the name commonly used by “in-house” paralegals, corporate paralegals don’t exclusively work for corporations – they can also work for other types of organizations such as limited liability companies and partnerships. According to the National Association of Legal Assistants & Paralegals (NALA,) approximately 32% of paralegals identify themselves as corporate paralegals.
Corporate Paralegal Job Duties
The duties of a corporate paralegal can vary, depending on the size and nature of their employer’s business. Common corporate paralegal duties include:
- Drafting contracts, such as employment, shareholders, option, and non-competition agreements
- Preparing and filing annual reports
- Drafting organizational documents, such as articles of incorporation, license applications, meeting notices, stock certificates, merger agreements, and articles of dissolutions
- Creating and maintaining corporate minute books
- Assisting with the preparation of SEC filings
- Tracking shareholders and stock holding percentages
- Performing legal research on state and federal laws
- Processes invoices from third party service providers
- Assisting at closings and preparing closing binders
- Drafting financial documents such as notes, mortgages, and financing statements
- Maintaining litigation databases and monitoring electronic discovery obligations
- Conducting due diligence investigations in mergers and acquisitions
- Preparing and filing Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) agreements and conducting UCC searches
- Assisting with litigation document production
- Completing IRS forms
- Attending board meetings, and recording and maintaining board meeting minutes
- Monitoring the company’s compliance with all federal and state laws
It’s amazing how individuals and business continually dream up with great new ideas or invent new technologies to improve our lives. Whenever a new company, idea or technology is born, an intellectual property or trademark attorney may be employed to protect its rights. As companies cut back in the struggling economy, a trademark paralegal may often be hired to fill a position formerly occupied by an attorney.
Trademark law is a rapidly growing sub-specialty of intellectual property law. It involves the filing and registration of new trademarks and the enforcement of trademark rights. Trademark law paralegals are involved in all processes related to trademark law, operating under the supervision of an attorney.
How To Become a Trademark Paralegal
The first thing you can expect if you wish to specialize as a trademark law paralegal is the need to complete an assortment of paralegal training courses. You may enroll in paralegal studies at many colleges, universities and law schools. The associate paralegal degree is a popular option for those who have not yet completed a bachelor’s in another field. If you’ve already completed a degree in another field, you may opt for a paralegal certificate instead. While associate degree programs typically require two years to complete, a certificate may be earned in just a few months.
The next thing you can expect if you wish to specialize as a trademark law paralegal is to obtain employment within an intellectual property or trademark law firm, or a corporation employing trademark law attorneys. In order to have the best chances of obtaining employment, you may want to test for paralegal certification. If you choose to test, you have several options. You can take the certification exam offered by The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) or opt for the Advanced Paralegal Certification (also offered by NALA) if you already have experience as a general paralegal.
Certification exams are also conducted by The National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) and the American Alliance of Paralegals.
Trademark Paralegal Job Description
Once you’re working as a trademark law paralegal, you can expect to complete tasks such as preparing trademark status summaries, maintaining the docket system, conducting trademark searches, drafting trademark registration applications and renewal applications, researching procedural matters, case law, and unfair competition, and assisting in opposition, interference, infringement and related proceedings.
Trademark Paralegal Salary and Future Job Prospects
You can expect to earn an excellent salary as a trademark law paralegal, making your paralegal studies well worth the effort. In fact, as of 2016, the top 10 percent of paralegals earned a median annual salary of more than $80,260. The bottom 10 percent still earned around $31,070 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
You can also expect astounding job security. Because the need for trained paralegals in all fields of law is expected to increase 15 percent by 2026, completing your paralegal training courses will enable you to work in a career where you’ll experience little fear of layoffs and downsizing.
If you’d like to learn more about a career as a paralegal, and possible paralegal areas of specialty, please check out our other resources.
Corporate Paralegal Salaries
Paralegals in corporate environments are some of the higher paid in the profession. According to the NALA 2010 National Utilization & Compensation Survey, the average annual salary of corporate paralegals is $58,771. Payscale.com lists an average corporate paralegal salary of $65,000 per year.
Corporate paralegal salaries can vary depending on several factors, including the employer’s type and size, the paralegal’s experience level, and by geographic area. In general, entry-level corporate paralegals may earn a salary in the $30,000 to $42,000 range, while those with several years of experience could make more than $90,000.
Many corporate paralegals also receive bonuses. According to the NALA survey, the average paralegal receives around $3,000 in bonuses each year. Many of the corporations and other large businesses that hire corporate paralegals offer numerous other benefits such as health, dental and life insurance, and retirement accounts, and as well as additional perks like tuition reimbursement, discounted health club memberships, and paid continuing education classes and professional association memberships.
Required Skills for a Corporate Paralegal
It’s extremely important that corporate paralegals have strong research and writing skills. This includes not only legal, but also factual research and writing. In addition, corporate paralegals have to work well independently as well as in teams. They need to be able to handle a large volume of very detail-oriented tasks, including paperwork.
Corporate Paralegal Training
Many corporate paralegal employers prefer to hire paralegals that have a formal education, whether it’s an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, or a paralegal certificate. There may be fewer entry-level corporate paralegal positions versus those in other areas of law. Some paralegal programs offer classes on business or corporate law, which anyone who’s hoping to be a corporate paralegal should certainly take.
General business experience can also be beneficial for those hoping to obtain a corporate paralegal position. Some corporate paralegals have previous work experience in other areas (such as human resources or management) prior to becoming a paralegal. Those who are searching for corporate paralegal jobs could consider obtaining a non-legal position within a corporation, in hopes of transitioning to a paralegal position at a later time after gaining general business experience.