Starting a new business is one of the most exciting things that a person can do. After years of dreaming about starting your own cafe, bookstore, garage, or another type of company, it is finally time to take that leap of faith and see if your business can make it against the competition.
But not so fast. There are many legal issues that are going to need to be sorted out. But before you get to those, there is one question that you’ll find yourself asking: Do I need a business lawyer or a corporate lawyer?
The answer to that question is going to depend on the needs of the company, but chances are decent that you could benefit from both. To understand why that is, we will take a deeper look at both business law and corporate law. Then we’ll close out with a quick discussion about when you might want to hire a business lawyer or a corporate lawyer.
What Is Business Law?
Business law is a wide-ranging field that covers a lot of what goes into running a business. There is a mistaken belief that business law and corporate law are primarily focused on the size of the business in question, with business lawyers working for smaller companies and corporate lawyers working for larger ones. This is not exactly true as you’ll see, but many small or medium-sized businesses are more likely to retain the services of a business lawyer rather than a corporate lawyer.
This is because a business lawyer’s skills will be more appropriate for their daily needs. Business law focuses on areas like the relationship between the business and its customers, suppliers, and vendors to ensure that everything is handled appropriately and legally. A business lawyer would be aware of any legal implications that may arise from these dealings, or from other aspects of handling a business such as unforeseen delays.
Perhaps the most vital area that business law covers is that of employment law. The hiring and firing of employees is an important component of any business, but it can also be a major source of pain. The laws around the hiring and firing of employees are very strict; a failure to abide by them can be incredibly costly. A business lawyer will help to ensure you don’t end up on the wrong side of those laws.
Other areas that a business lawyer will help with are ensuring that your business maintains a safe working environment and dealing with the fallout from a failure to do so. While a business lawyer won’t perform maintenance for you, they will keep you aware of issues that could make for an unsafe environment. If left unchecked, issues of this nature can leave a company open to a premises liability lawsuit.
In addition to the tasks above, a business lawyer can also help with issues of taxation, disagreements, and litigation. This includes both filing a lawsuit and representing the business’s interests in the case that the company is sued over a relevant matter.
What Is Corporate Law?
Corporate law is similar to business law, though it focuses on different areas. A fairly common expression states that corporate lawyers write the contracts, but business lawyers interpret them. This is a simplified version of how the two compare to each other, though there is some validity to it.
While some companies may hire a corporate lawyer to be on staff, it is quite a bit more unusual than having a business lawyer on the payroll. Many companies don’t need the ongoing services of a corporate lawyer, so instead, they hire a corporate law firm to help them with certain issues or special circumstances.
Corporate lawyers help with writing contracts and taking care of the corporate legal work that needs to be done in order for the company to function properly and legally so as to avoid litigation. They don’t want to deal with the litigation itself, they’re goal is to try to limit or avoid it in the first place.
Corporate lawyers are especially valuable for companies with an international aim. While a corporate lawyer will help you to comply with local, national, and state laws, it is often the international laws that cause the biggest issue.
When Should I Retain a Business Lawyer or a Corporate Attorney?
Of the two types of lawyers, you are much more likely to want to start an ongoing relationship with a business lawyer. A relationship with a business lawyer is a more active experience. You may want the services of a business lawyer when:
- You need representation to assist with employment disputes, tax disputes, or other business-related disputes
- Your business needs to file a lawsuit
- Your business needs to enforce a contract
- You are looking for advice on matters ranging from disputes to intellectual property
- You need advice or assistance understanding and complying with tax law
- Your business is being investigated by state or federal authorities
A corporate lawyer is often referred to as a transactional lawyer since many of the issues they deal with are transactional in nature. A corporate attorney is useful when:
- You’re looking to buy or sell goods internationally
- It’s time to negotiate contracts with other businesses, individuals, or entities
- Issues have arisen from a contractual relationship
- You are looking to avoid litigation around matters like legal documents, active processes, or other areas of the company
- Your business is looking to attract investors or partners
- You want to start, sell, or dissolve a corporation
- When you need contracts drafted such as NDAs, agreements, and other vital paperwork
- You want to change the structure of your business
Do I Need a Business or Corporate Lawyer?
While your business may be too small to think about staffing a business lawyer, it’s always a good idea to consult with a business lawyer on important matters. But you should try to stick with the same lawyer.
Building a relationship with a business lawyer can be beneficial, too, because you don’t need to explain to them what your business is each and every time. That’s more time focusing on whatever issues are at hand and less time (and money) spent trying to explain to a stranger what they need to know to assist you.