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How to Become a Contract Attorney

Do you have a passion for negotiation? Can you manage contracts? As a contract attorney, you’ll be required to help clients draft, review, and sign their contracts. Contract attornies can work in a variety of industries, but they usually specialize in arranging agreements and resolving disputes. These may be between individuals or businesses. 

You will need to be a lawyer in the state that you’re practicing with experience writing contracts. Contract attornies need to possess excellent written and verbal communication skills to be able to decipher complex and wordy documents. You will need to inform clients about what is written down in the contracts in a language they can understand. If you fit this profile, becoming a contract attorney may be the job for you!

Sample job description

A contract attorney assists their clients in drafting and reviewing contracts. They also specialize in bringing about a resolution between parties in a dispute, whether they be businesses or simply individuals. They need to be competent analytical thinkers, able to read and interpret complex language, and then communicate the terms involved to clients. Written and verbal communication skills, as well as knowledge of federal and state contract laws and regulations, is essential. 

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Discuss the proposed terms of a contract with clients
  • Draft contracts
  • Review proposed contracts
  • Interpret terms of a contract
  • Negotiate contracts
  • Resolve disputes involving contracts

Education and experience

This position requires a Juris Doctorate as well as a license to practice law in the state where the candidate will work. A background in business or contract law is preferred.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Knowledge of federal and state contract laws and regulations
  • Research skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Negotiation skills

Preferred qualifications

  • 2 years reviewing, redlining, and managing commercial contracts 
  • Must be able to draft contract redlines based on individual client playbooks and risk tolerance
  • Comprehension of clauses common to SaaS Agreements

Typical work environment

Most contract attorneys work in offices, and some may meet with clients throughout the day. Some contract attorneys specialize in aspects of the law such as sales agreement contract review or intellectual property contracts. 

Typical hours

The typical work hours in an office setting for a contract attorney are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. However, many attorneys work more than 40 hours a week, especially when preparing for trials or nearing deadlines.

Available certifications

Though receiving a certification isn’t necessary beyond your J.D. from an accredited university, it doesn’t hurt to keep continuing your education. Check out these available certifications: 

  • The Contract Law Specialist Certificate Program. This is a self-paced online course offered by the University of Texas at Austin. The two required courses are contract law and business organizations. After having begun the program, students may work with the instructor to pick an elective in one of the following areas: E-Discovery, Legal Ethics, Laws of Evidence, Advanced Legal Research, and Constitutional Law. 
  • Business Contracts Certificate. From Cornell Law School is a two-week long course that goes over the creation of effective contracts, interpretation of contracts, managing risk in contracts, and enforcing contract terms. You will learn to investigate strategies to mitigate risk while learning how to minimize damages that occur in the event that a contract is breached.

Career path

Contract attorneys are required to have a Juris Doctorate from an accredited law school and a license to practice law in the state where they work. A bachelor’s degree is necessary to pursue a J.D. degree. College coursework in subjects like business administration, corporate law, negotiations, and similar subjects is also recommended.

Most attorneys start in law firms as associates, then progress along either a partner or non-partner track, leading to positions as partners, senior attorneys, or of counsel.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 23-1011

2020 Employment804,200
Projected Employment in 2030875,700
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift71,500 increase

There are some significant trends that industry observers say contract attorneys should be aware of in the coming years. According to the digital document signing company DocuSign, data security is a significant issue in managing contracts. The trend toward moving in-house data storage to more secure, cloud-based storage options is expected to continue, as is building provisions for data security and privacy into contracts between businesses and both consumers and other businesses.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is also becoming increasingly common in the legal field. Legal teams are using AI to automate things like document creation and internal workflows, as well as using AI to make clauses and concepts in contracts into searchable and filterable data.