How To Become A Contract Lawyer: A Step-By-Step Guide

Note to Editors: We earn a commission through affiliate links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not influence the opinions or evaluations of our editors.

Contracts are woven into the fabric of everyday life and define the relationships between landlords and tenants, employers and employees, companies and customers.

Nearly all business relationships rely on contract law to ensure fairness and transparency. If you are interested in this aspect of the law, read this guide to learn how to become a contract attorney.

What is contract law?

Contract law is a branch of law that enforces legally binding agreements. It ensures that the signatories comply with all legal obligations laid down in the contract. This field also governs the negotiation of fair business deals.

A contract reduces the chance of a legal battle because it clearly spells out the terms of a transaction. If a party does not keep to the bargain, the contract attorney can punish them under state laws.

Many contract attorneys work at large law firms. However, some prefer to work for companies as corporate lawyers. Others work independently and serve a variety of clients.

What Do Contract Lawyers Do?

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

A contract attorney is the one you can call when you get caught up in a legal dispute related to a breach of contract. Most employment lawyers, however, do preventatively. Consulting a lawyer before signing the dotted lines can reduce the chance of legal battles down the line.


A contract attorney has two core duties: making legal agreements and enforcing them. However, the day-to-day tasks of these professionals may vary depending on the legal situation of their clients.

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

  • Reviewing existing contracts and advising clients on their rights and restrictions
  • Change contracts after negotiations and consultation with clients
  • Mediate between counterparties in the event of a breach of contract
  • Representing clients in court
  • Track and execute contract renewals before the expiration date

Salary and Job Outlook

As of August 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide income data specific to contract attorneys. However, the BLS does provide statistics for lawyers in general. For this assignment we use BLS data for all lawyers.

The BLS reports that the median annual salary for lawyers in the US was $127,990 in May 2021. However, factors such as level of experience and location can affect a contract attorney’s income.

The highest paying US states for lawyers are:

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

The job outlook for US lawyers is quite strong. Jobs for lawyers are expected to increase by 10% between 2021 and 2031, according to the BLS. This growth rate is twice as fast as the average projected job growth for all occupations nationwide.

Skills for practicing contract law

In addition to formal legal training, contract lawyers need additional skills to adequately protect the interests of their clients. Below we explain some of these skills.

Analytical skills

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

Communicative and speaking skills

Effective communication promotes trust between lawyer and client and even extends to counterparties. The lawyer must be able to explain the contract and other proposals to both legal and non-legal audiences.

Interpersonal skills

The lawyer must objectively assess contractual disputes and propose solutions to avoid an outright legal battle.


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


State policies can change over time. When this happens, the contract attorney must find updated laws that apply to each contract and advise the client appropriately.

To write

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

How do you become a contract lawyer?

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

Earn a bachelor’s degree

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

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 undergraduate, as this can improve your chances of getting into your preferred law school.

Pass the LSAT

After obtaining your bachelor’s degree, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)® is 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 the highest possible LSAT score and 120 the lowest, the average score falls around the low 150s. However, to gain entry to prestigious law schools such as Yale, Harvard, Cornell, and Columbia, candidates must score a minimum of 170 on the LSAT. Note that some law schools now accept GRE scores instead of the LSAT.

Go to Law School

Attending an ABA-accredited law faculty is standard practice for all prospective attorneys. While there are other types of legal degrees, the juris doctor (JD) is the most common for prospective lawyers.

The first year of law school is rigorous due to a comprehensive curriculum that includes topics such as civil procedure, contracts, criminal law, legal methods, and writing. In the second and third years, students can take electives and gain practical experience through internships. Students earn a J.D. degree after completing law school, which usually takes three years.

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

Students in need of financial aid should consider applying for student loans and law school grants.

Pass the bar

The bar exam is the last and arguably the most challenging step to becoming a contract attorney. It usually takes 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 councils to be eligible for a state license.

Find a job

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

Law school graduates seeking employment can find numerous job opportunities on job boards. Popular options include:

[hurrytimer id=”2557″]