For a layperson or a small business owner, sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between a business lawyer and a corporate lawyer.
Both sound like they know what happens behind the boardroom doors.
But like everything in law, there is usually a reason for specific terminology.
If you are struggling to understand whether your situation calls for a business lawyer vs. a corporate lawyer, or you just want to understand the difference between business and corporate lawyers, the Massingill team can help.
Here is a quick overview of how the two differ and when and why you might need both types of lawyers for your business.
If you have questions, please contact us today.
What is a Business Lawyer?
Business lawyers are exactly what they sound like. These are generalists who provide legal advice on virtually all aspects of a business, from formation to wind-up.
Business lawyers are more commonly retained by small- to medium-sized businesses that require a full suite of business-related services.
Most business lawyers understand all legal aspects of the issues facing businesses like yours and can help navigate everything from copyright or trademark concerns to working with your CPA to mitigate tax burdens.
They can even review your contracts and employment policies.
What is a Corporate Lawyer?
Corporate lawyers are often more specialized in their work than business lawyers.
Often, corporate lawyers work for law firms and are hired by large companies for specific purposes or to handle certain transactions.
Corporate lawyers typically work with larger companies and help write contracts, help with the behind-the-scenes corporate legal work, and work to avoid litigation.
Corporate lawyers typically have highly specialized practices that focus on compliance with local, state, national, and international laws that regulate business affairs and transactions.
When Do I Need a Business Lawyer vs. a Corporate Lawyer?
When to Hire a Corporate Lawyer
Corporate lawyers handle many issues surrounding the buying and selling of goods. As a result, they are also called “transactional lawyers.”
You might need a corporate lawyer when:
- Seeking to buy and sell goods internationally;
- Negotiating major contracts;
- Experiencing contentious issues with a contractual relationship;
- Actively looking to avoid litigation regarding legal documents or processes;
- Starting, buying, selling, or dissolving a corporate entity;
- Drafting a highly complex contract or agreement;
- Changing your business’s structure;
- Obtaining advice on shareholder rights and obligations; and
- Mitigating business risk.
While this is not an exhaustive list, these items may be particularly true if your company is fairly large or mature.
The more complex your business or corporate structure, the more likely you will need a corporate lawyer.
When to Hire a Business Lawyer
As we mentioned, business lawyers provide businesses with more general legal advice.
As a generalist, a business lawyer can provide legal advice and also represent you and your business in a courtroom if negotiations or mediation fails.
You might need a business lawyer when:
- Navigating employment disputes;
- Updating employment documents or employee handbooks;
- Seeking advice and counsel in tax disputes or tax burden mitigation;
- Understanding your rights and obligations during a government audit;
- Starting a new business;
- Protecting your intellectual property; and
- Defending against a lawsuit, filing a lawsuit, or handling mediation or arbitration.
A business lawyer is like a partner to your business, providing advice and counsel along the way as you grow your company.
No matter how big or small your firm is, your business lawyer should be able to answer general legal questions and refer you to specialist counsel as necessary.
When Can Both a Business Lawyer and a Corporate Lawyer Help?
While business and corporate lawyers have different jobs and different skills, there will inevitably be times in your corporate lifecycle when your company will require the skills of both types of counsel.
Some key points at which you may need to consult both a business lawyer and a corporate lawyer include:
- Business formation: When you start your business, you will need to identify an organizational structure, hire employees, and register your business with the correct government agencies. Business owners should be aware that laws and regulations change constantly, especially depending on the industry in which they conduct business. Having both a business lawyer and corporate lawyer advising on structure, function, and regulation can ensure a smooth formation and business opening.
- Business acquisition or disposal: When buying or selling a business, you need to conduct extensive due diligence. Both a business and corporate lawyer can assist in identifying issues specific to their practices and advising you about how to best protect yourself and your investment. By having both types of lawyers by your side as you buy or sell a company, you can save thousands or even millions of dollars and avoid silly mistakes.
- Intellectual property protection: Both corporate and business lawyers can help identify, license, and protect your company’s trademarks, copyrights, patents, trade secrets, and other proprietary intellectual property.
- Business expansion: Corporate lawyers may have a good understanding of global business markets and regulations, which enables them to provide good advice for clients attempting to expand overseas. By also working with a business lawyer at home, companies can expand abroad without cannibalizing their success at home.
These are just a few examples of how business and corporate lawyers are different, but do not provide mutually exclusive types of counsel.
If you are considering forming or expanding a business, contact the Massingill team today. Our experienced business and corporate lawyers can help.
Contact a Business Lawyer At Massingill Today
If you are ready to take the next step with your company, we are here by your side.
Our experienced business law attorneys assist clients with everything from company formations, to corporate and regulatory advice, to legal disputes so that they can keep their businesses on track.
Contact Massingill today to discuss how we can help you navigate what your business needs to succeed.