What Does a Corporate Paralegal Do? A Beginner's Guide
When you think of a paralegal, you’re most likely envisioning someone working at a law firm taking on important behind-the-scenes legal legwork and support activities for attorneys. While picturing that setting is a fair assumption, it does overlook one substantial source of paralegal employment—the corporate world.
You might not have realized it, but corporations and other large organizations often have paralegals on staff as well. The paralegals assist their in-house legal and compliance teams on legal issues related to their business interests.
Sound interesting? You may be in luck. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment of paralegals and legal assistants to grow by 12 percent from 2020 to 2030, noting that this growth is being spurred in part by large corporations increasing their in-house legal departments to cut costs associated with keeping outside legal counsel.1
So what’s the distinction mean in practical terms? We asked legal experts to weigh in so you can get a sense of these differences as well as what working as a corporate paralegal is really like.
What is a corporate paralegal?
A corporate paralegal is a paralegal who works specifically on matters of corporate law. Corporate paralegals have a familiarity with many aspects of business, such as contracts, finance, bankruptcy, securities, trademarks and patents.
“It’s a role that basically handles the paperwork for big business and makes sure that every decision and move made by the company is not only recorded but is legal and above board,” explains Michael Rose, founding partner at Hach & Rose.
As with all paralegals, corporate paralegals assist lawyers in their work. These responsibilities often include preparing legal documents, maintaining records and conducting research.
Where do corporate paralegals work?
In theory, any business can hire corporate paralegals—the practical hurdle to this is for the organization to have a significant enough business need to employ their own in-house legal team instead of seeking outside help. Rose explains that those who do typically have a lot of resources at their disposal.
“Large companies and global corporations have the sort of budgets to create and employ their own in-house legal teams,” says Rose.
Government entities and regulators also often have corporate paralegals on staff to assist their internal legal teams.
“They might also work with agencies like the Patent Trademark Office or the [Securities and] Exchange Commission,” explains Jonathan Brockman, attorney at Jonathan R. Brockman, P.C.
Additionally, law firms—while not quite as easily overlooked as employers—are a common landing spot for corporate paralegals, particularly for firms that place an emphasis on business law.
What kinds of work do corporate paralegals do?
The day-to-day responsibilities of a corporate paralegal will depend on the unique needs of their employer. Working as a corporate paralegal involves many administrative tasks, such as circulating material, maintaining meeting minutes and keeping detailed legal records. Non-administrative duties include legal research, interviewing and drafting documents.
“Paralegals help their companies and clients with high-volume tasks that require legal accuracy, like responding to document requests,” says Matthew Carter, an attorney and consultant at Inc and Go. “If a company is involved in litigation, it will likely be asked to produce thousands, or tens of thousands, of documents. Paralegals are responsible for reviewing these documents, redacting private information and producing them to the other side.”
Unlike regular private practice paralegals, however, most corporate paralegals do not work in court trials.
“Even though the work is varied and interesting, the chances of a corporate paralegal ever seeing the inside of a courtroom are pretty much slim to zero,” says Ross Jurewitz, founder and managing attorney at Jurewitz Law Group.
Research of all kinds is another common task for corporate paralegals.
“Paralegals working in corporate law are generally asked to conduct research, not just on legal issues but also on the business [practices] of certain companies,” says Kim Chan, attorney and CEO of DocPro. “They may be required to conduct due diligence on companies, such as going through their annual reports and important contracts.”
A corporate paralegal works with documents like limited liability companies and partnerships, meeting notices, license applications, stock certificates, merger and dissolution agreements, and amendments. Corporate paralegals frequently work with the legal aspects of corporate transactions.
“Contractual and business law will fill the day of any paralegal in the corporate arena to [the point of] bursting,” says Jurewitz. “As no two agreements are ever the same, the career is interesting and varied and never boring.”
What skills do corporate paralegals need?
Corporate paralegals need to be organized and excellent communicators who aren’t afraid to pore over often-complex documents. But what other skills and abilities are employers seeking? To answer that, we’ve analyzed over 3,000 corporate paralegal job postings from the past year to identify some of the most commonly sought-after skills and abilities. Here’s what we found:2
- Mergers and acquisitions
- Corporate governance
- Due diligence
- Legal documentation
- Legal research
- Contract preparation
Attorney Stewart Guss stresses the need for corporate paralegals to be accurate and detail-oriented in their work.
“The legal departments of large corporations are scrutinous even by lawyer standards,” Guss says. “They need to make sure every ‘t’ is crossed and every ‘i’ is dotted in every contract the corporation undertakes.”
Corporate law is a challenging business, with a lot of money on the line.
“These are large institutions making multi-million- and billion-dollar decisions every week,” Guss continues. “Corporate paralegals need an extra degree of scrutiny and a knack for seeing patterns in huge reams of data and documents.”
Ready for the next step?
Are you a detail-oriented thinker with top-notch organization and analytical skills? Does a career in law mixed with business appeal to you? Take a look at the Paralegal programs page to see how to get started. For more details into paralegal work in general, check out our article “What I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Paralegal.”
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, [salary data accessed March 1, 2022] www.bls.gov/oes/. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed March 1, 2022] www.bls.gov/ooh/. BLS salary data represents national, averaged earnings for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
2Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 3,943 corporate paralegal job postings, March 1, 2021 – February 28, 2022).