How to Become a Contract Specialist in Three Simple Steps


Jennifer Clifton

Jennifer Clifton is an attorney turned recruiter who lives in Dallas, TX and is happy to celebrate Taco Tuesday any day of the week. She places all levels of attorneys from associates to general counsels both with law firms and in in-house legal departments from Texas through Missouri.

So, you want to become a contract specialist, but where do you start? Do you need special schooling? How can you get hired without prior experience? Who hires contract specialists? You’ve come to the right place.

What is a Contract Specialist, exactly?

A contract specialist is someone who negotiates, drafts, reviews, and manages contractual agreements between two parties. One party supplies either materials or labor to a company. Luckily for you, Special Counsel regularly helps our clients hire for these roles. In this article, we recommend three simple steps to help you become a contract specialist

How Much Does a Contract Specialist Make?

A contract specialist typically earns between $65,000 and 80,000 per year while a contract manager ranges from $85,000 to $110,000. For more salary information and a guide on market specific salaries and compensation packages, take a look at our 2019 Salary Guide.

Luckily for you, Special Counsel regularly helps our clients hire for these roles. We recommend these three simple steps to become a contract specialist:

Step 1: Educate and/or Train Yourself

Educate Yourself

While you do not need to be a lawyer to be a contract specialist, legal education is helpful if you do not have on-the-job experience. That can mean obtaining a paralegal certificate, taking courses in law, or completing a negotiation course. The National Contract Management Association (NCMA), the Federal Acquisition Institute (FAI), and the International Association for Contract & Commercial Management (IACCM) also offer specialized training and certification programs.

Train Yourself

Many employers value experience above formal education and are looking for evidence of negotiating, drafting and analytical skills in your prior job experience. Prior experience working in procurement, in a legal department, or experience selling goods and services provides valuable real-life experience that will help you become a contract specialist.

Step 2: Find the Right Job Opportunities

Who Hires Contracts Specialists?

The next step to becoming a contract specialist is to find the employers seeking contract specialists. Many governmental agencies and departments hire contracts specialists, including defense and law enforcement agencies. In-house legal departments for every industry including manufacturing, technology, and retail also hire contracts specialists. Many of these employers will post their jobs online.

Networking and Utilizing Recruiters

Networking through contract specialist membership agencies such as the NCMA, FAI, and IACCM can also lead to discovering unposted job opportunities. Conferences focused on contracting are effective for networking as well. Finally, an experienced legal recruiter such as our team at Special Counsel can help you find contract specialist roles in your target market.  

Step 3: Update Your Resume, Apply for Positions, and Nail the Interview!

Update Your Resume and Cover Letter

Update your resume to include any new training, education, or membership that may be relevant.  Make sure your resume is easy to read, concise, and error free. You should also include key words in both your resume and cover letter of skills that employers may be seeking such as “negotiating,” “contracts,” “drafting,” et al.

Apply for Positions

The next step is to put yourself out there! Send your resume to job postings that are of interest to you. Take a look here for samples and tips on submitting your email cover letter. Network with your contacts in the field (who you can meet through NCMA, FAI, and IACCM). My colleagues and I at Special Counsel are also here to help connect you with our clients currently seeking contract specialists. You can identify resources in your location here.

Nail the Interview

Once you line up the interview, you want to make sure you thoroughly research the company. You will also want to prepare for potential interview questions. Potential interview questions may include:

  • Why do you want to be a contract specialist?
  • Share an example of a time you have successfully negotiated something with a difficult party.
  • You discover there has been a breach in a contract, how do you respond?

Special Counsel also offers interview coaching to all of our candidates. We look forward to working with you to achieve your goal of becoming a contract specialist!

Jennifer Clifton is an Attorney Recruiter with Parker+Lynch Legal, a service offering of Special Counsel. Connect with Jennifer on LinkedIn or via email today!

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