Business or transactional law is the practice of law that relates to money and commercial matters between people, businesses, and governments regulations of those matters. Generally, one can think about business law in two broad categories, the first being the regulation of the formation of business entities and the second being, the regulation of transactions, namely via contract law. Typically, a business attorney (also referred to as a “corporate attorney”) aims to assist their client (whether an individual or the business entity itself) by preventing problems that could put the business at risk of dispute or law suit. Often times a business attorney spends most of their time out of court advising clients on strategic or overall goals and how best to avoid or minimize the legal risks to their business interests or commercial transactions, then drafting or filing the necessary paperwork to execute those strategies.
Business owners tend to frequently view paperwork as getting in the way of their deals, when in reality it is their miscommunication and lack of attention to details is where usually business disputes erupt. When explaining to clients the value of following the formalities we emphasize it is insurance against these kinds of situations. That is the other party cannot argue it did not know what the terms of the deal are or worst try and alter them in the midst of the relationship. The importance of written contacts is not solely for the parties themselves, but in case a breach of contract claim is filed, then the judges, attorneys, and possibly a jury will take a look at it. Further, if your written agreements contain alternative dispute resolution clauses you want to make sure those are enforceable to get your contract case out of court and into mediation or arbitration properly. So reducing your agreements to writing is key.
Second, experience in the industry, such as with commercial leases or professional agreements becomes critical for advising a new business client. Doctors go to medical school, chefs become trained at culinary school, and social media consultants know Facebook and YouTube, but when they are launching a new business, contract law, industry-specific regulation, dealing with other vendors, contractors, etc … is all new to them. They need someone to advise and consult with to navigate all of those relationships. And, yes, get those in writing. So an attorney who knows the industry is an invaluable adviser to new business owners trying to practice and perfect their art, craft, or profession.
Lastly, for those exiting their business either through retirement or wanting to sell and move on there are a lot of things to consider. This is also for the person buying the business. Due diligence is key and is more than just money matters. It is analyzing the parties, their risks and obligations involved, and yes, sometimes depending on a business the potential tax and regulation consequences. Selling a medical practice or buying a bar is not just the money changing hands.
So as a business owner, you should focus on what makes your business great, but let us provide the formalities and advise you on the legal aspects that impact your business deals and relationships.
While you certainly need to retain an attorney for the serious issues above, your emphasis should be placed on preventing such occurrences in the first place. Prevention does not necessarily involve hiring an attorney, though consulting with one wouldn’t hurt. By the time you or your business is sued, the preventable damage has been done and the only question that remains is how much you’ll be paying in attorney’s fees, court fees, and damages.
For example, by the time a prospective employee files a lawsuit claiming gender discrimination based in part upon questions posed at the job interview, all you can do is hire an attorney to defend the lawsuit. If, on the other hand, you had done your own research on anti-discrimination laws, or you had consulted an attorney beforehand, you would have known not to inquire as to whether the applicant was pregnant or planned on becoming pregnant. The small effort at the beginning of the process would save you an enormous headache later.
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