Business Law Practice

Business lawyers often develop expertise in one or more specialized areas of practice, such as those described below. The varied and broad range of practice opportunities available to business lawyers cannot be conveyed fully in the space available here. However, these are some of the specialties for which our graduates can prepare themselves through the study of business and commercial law.

Commercial Law

The sale of a piece of machinery is a commercial transaction. So too is the sale of a National Football League franchise. Commercial lawyers are concerned primarily with the transfer of goods, services, or other value from one business entity to another. Commercial lawyers may work in-house for a business, as sole practitioners, or in law firms of all sizes. Some commercial lawyers practice with federal, state, or local government entities. Commercial lawyers structure and document transactions. They can organize the financing that brings a transaction to fruition and can sort out competing claims of creditors when transactions do not go as planned. Negotiation, counseling, and drafting skills are critical to the commercial law practitioner.

Corporate and Securities Law

The practices of corporate and securities lawyers range from representing a large corporation in a high-profile takeover battle played out on the front pages of The Wall Street Journal to helping an entrepreneur set up a local hardware store. Lawyers who practice in this area assist clients in forming business entities, structuring the relationships among investors and managers, raising capital through public or private offerings of securities or by selling assets, and resolving disputes related to management of business entities or the sale of securities.

Intellectual Property Law

Intellectual property lawyers assist clients in securing and protecting the client’s intellectual property assets. At its core, intellectual property law involves the dynamic fields of copyright, trademark, and patent law. But an intellectual property practice can also include the areas of unfair competition, trade secret law, misappropriation, and rights of publicity. Intellectual property law is quickly becoming a critical component to every business law firm’s practice.

International Business Law

This practice area is in many ways an extension of all other facets of business law. A modern business lawyer is unlikely to complete his or her career without encountering problems involving international business law. A moment’s reflection on the origins of many products seen on store shelves or the ultimate destination of locally produced items reveals the international dimension of daily life, which can add a layer of legal and cultural complexity to many business transactions. In addition to U.S. export-import laws, international business law involves a consideration of issues of foreign law and international trade organizations.

Labor and Employment Law

A labor or employment law specialist focuses on the relationship between the worker, the employer, and the workplace. The traditional domain of labor lawyers is representing management or workers in union-related negotiations and disputes. In nonunion environments, the broader field of employment law plays a central role in the business community and in most individuals’ lives. The law governing these relationships includes state and federal statutes barring invidious discrimination on grounds such as race, color, national origin, religion, age, disability, and sex. Statutes also regulate other aspects of the workplace, including family leave, pension and medical plans, wages and overtime pay, safety, and noncompetition agreements. Common law contract doctrines and business torts involving wrongful discharge, privacy, and trade secrets round out this complex picture. Because of the multifaceted nature of this field, employment lawyers have a wide range of practice opportunities.

Real Estate Law

This field touches all aspects of the sale, financing, and development of land. Consider, for instance, the development of a shopping center, a project with many stages and involving many players. The developer who acquires the raw land, the sellers of the land, architects hired to design the shopping center, the contractor who builds it, the bank that finances the construction, and the retailers who lease or purchase space in the new shopping center all are likely to need the expertise of a real estate practitioner.

Tax Law

A tax lawyer helps clients plan transactions to minimize federal, state, and local taxes. In addition to dealing with general income tax issues, tax lawyers may specialize in distinct problems such as pensions and estate planning. They may advise clients about how to report completed transactions on tax returns or may represent clients in controversies with the Internal Revenue Service and state and local revenue agencies, both at the administrative level and in court.

General Business Litigation

Attorneys who practice business law, regardless of specialty, tend to be classified either as transactional lawyers or as business litigators, though many attorneys do some of both. A business litigator represents firms as they resolve business disputes in the courts. Some become experts in alternative dispute resolution methods, such as arbitration or mediation. Some business litigators are in court daily; others spend much of their time working on cases involving complex pretrial questions, where the brief writer’s art is key.