Whether you are starting a business, buying or selling an existing one, or simply seeking to maximize the opportunities that present themselves, you can have the confidence that an experienced legal team is protecting your interests at every step.
The first thing you must understand is that whatever business you’re in, you can benefit from the services of a professional business lawyer. There are simply too many legal issues your business could run into, and it pays to be prepared upfront. Here are some important scenarios when you will need a business lawyer.
- Purchase and sale of businesses: Purchasing a business can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity or the worst mistake you’ll ever make. If you are considering the purchase or sale of a business, it is critical to seek the advice of an experienced attorney.
- Whenever contracts get involved: Whenever you need to draft a business contract, you must have a business lawyer on your side to help with the legalities. They will help create a sound and solid contract that will be in the interest of all parties, and more than that, one that will protect your business from ill will. In fact, hiring a business lawyer is much cheaper compared to the potential legal problems that may arise from a casually drafted contract.
- Commercial and business litigation: The majority of business disputes are resolved through negotiation. An experienced attorney’s early involvement can help you reach a faster resolution and avoid costly litigation.
What Is the Function of a Business Lawyer?
The primary role of a business lawyer is to provide advice and other legal services relating to various aspects of a business. In general, a business lawyer ensures that businesses adhere to various business regulations and that all business operations are conducted ethically.
Typically, a business lawyer also assists with matters such as conflict resolution, corporate law, business formation, compliance, intellectual property, mergers and acquisitions, and a variety of other legal issues that arise when running a business.
One critical point to remember about business lawyers is that they do not specialize in the same types of legal issues that employment attorneys do. You should bear in mind that a business lawyer is concerned with a business’s operations and overall structure, while employment lawyers deal with issues such as employment discrimination and employment contract disputes.
What Types of Cases Are Handled by Business Lawyers?
By and large, business lawyers possess a diverse set of skills and are thus equipped to handle a wide variety of business-related matters. Several common legal issues that a business lawyer may come across on a daily basis include the following:
- Disputes involving businesses and/or contracts;
- Concerns about real estate or business property;
- Intellectual property registration (e.g., copyrights, trademarks, and patents);
- Inappropriate use of protected data (for example, privacy issues, security breaches, and information governance);
- Conflicts arising from the sale and purchase of businesses, stocks, and other securities;
- Observance of applicable business regulations and other applicable laws;
- Registering the business structure, obtaining federal and state tax identification numbers, and obtaining any necessary licenses; and
- Concerns about interstate and international commerce (e.g., transportation of goods, etc.).
As demonstrated by the preceding list, business lawyers are capable of providing a broad range of legal services. This may entail performing transactional tasks, such as drafting contracts and preparing business tax returns, or case-based tasks, such as representing a client in court or negotiating terms for a settlement agreement.
What Other Legal Concerns Do Business Lawyers Address?
Other less frequent issues that a business lawyer may handle include the following:
- Transferring ownership of a business or its shares;
- Supervising the “wind-up” process (that is, the procedures necessary to dissolve a business);
- Assisting a business in adapting to changes in the law or new ownership;
- Assisting a business in changing its structure (e.g., from an LLC to a C corporation); and
- Conducting contract reviews, drafting, and negotiations for a variety of business contracts.
Many of the aforementioned issues and tasks that business lawyers deal with on a daily basis may also be determined by the business’s size and industry. A small business lawyer, for instance, may be hired to handle all aspects of a small business or startup company. This may include everything from structuring the business to regularly reviewing compliance issues.
By contrast, business lawyers who work for large corporations may specialize in more particular areas. For instance, a corporation may have an entirely in-house team of legal professionals dedicated solely to compliance matters, or it may choose to retain outside counsel exclusively for litigation purposes.
Finally, business lawyers’ breadth of knowledge regarding legal issues affecting businesses may qualify them to serve as expert witnesses in a lawsuit. For instance, if a court or a party requires additional information about a particular type of business practice, an experienced business lawyer can be retained as an expert witness.
What Factors Should I Take into Account When Hiring a Business Lawyer?
When hiring a business lawyer, there are numerous factors to consider. The following list contains some general guidelines that may assist you in finding the right business lawyer:
While hiring the best lawyer in the country to file paperwork to form a Limited Liability Company (“LLC”) may not be necessary, corporations involved in multibillion-dollar mergers will almost certainly want the sharpest lawyers negotiating on their behalf. Additionally, while a general business lawyer can file LLC paperwork, a party may wish to hire a corporate lawyer specifically for a merger.
Thus, to narrow a search, begin by looking for lawyers who specialize in the area of law in which the issue arises and determine whether their credentials (e.g., the law school from which they graduated) are relevant.
- Attorney fees: Before hiring an attorney on a formal basis, inquire about their fees and how they are structured (e.g., flat rate, hourly, etc.). Continuing with the preceding example, an individual should not be charged $1,000 per hour to file LLC paperwork, but may be charged that amount for a large corporate merger. Additionally, it may be beneficial to conduct the search with a budget in mind.
- Conduct a background check on the lawyer: Read firm biographies, look for client reviews, speak with other attorneys, solicit recommendations from friends and family, and visit attorney/lawyer rating websites, among other things. Oftentimes, a person can locate an excellent lawyer through word-of-mouth referrals.
- Though not every legal issue requires hiring a lawyer who practices in the same state, a person should make every effort to find one who practices as close to their residence as possible. This way, they will avoid having to find a new business lawyer if a dispute arises and they are required to appear in court. Depending on the nature of the matter, a local lawyer may be a better option if it involves the laws of a particular jurisdiction.
- Apart from the lawyer, clients should research the firm and the additional resources they can bring to the table. For example, can the firm connect them with prospective business partners, clients, or other types of lawyers? Determine whether the firm handles similar cases on a regular basis and what their success rate has been in the past with similar cases.
- Always be aware of the reason for hiring a lawyer. This can assist in focusing on the aforementioned factors, thereby narrowing the search and possibly revealing the duration of the professional relationship. For instance, a startup may wish to hire a lawyer who will oversee all aspects of the business, from filing to fundraising to future employment issues.
In comparison, a small business owner may only require the services of a lawyer for a brief period of time, such as when they require immediate tax advice or assistance filing their business’s trademark application.
Sometimes a lawyer will check all of these boxes, but a client may not feel comfortable working with them for whatever reason. At the very least, it is critical for a client to be able to communicate with their lawyer and trust that they will assist them in making the best decisions possible. As such, while it is not an exact science, there are some instances in which a client would be better off trusting their intuition over everything else.