Corporate Lawyer vs. Business Lawyer: Hire the Right Attorney


Sep 20, 2022

Although most people think business and corporate lawyers do the same job, business law and corporate law are actually two separate practice areas. Understanding the differences between corporate lawyer vs. business lawyer will ensure you hire the right type of legal counsel.

What Does a Corporate Lawyer Do?

Corporate lawyers focus on the operation and formation of corporations and other business entities. They provide legal advice about the federal, state, and local rules and regulations for new and existing companies. Corporate lawyers usually serve as general counsel, either as an employee or as outside counsel. When comparing corporate and business law, remember that corporate law has a broader scope, while business law usually focuses on smaller operational details and transactions.

What are the Specialty Areas of a Corporate Lawyer?

Some of the specialty areas within corporate law are:

  • Corporate asset distribution and taxation
  • Capital financing, including issuance of shares
  • Investor and shareholder agreements
  • Division of profits
  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Licensing agreements
  • Joint ventures and partnerships
  • Securities law
  • Internal forms and agreements
  • Asset finance, which helps businesses afford large purchases such as airline fleets
  • Banking, specifically handling legal issues related to corporate finances
  • Broker-dealer, a practice area focused on adherence to Securities and Exchange Commission regulations
  • Cross-border, which includes international law and global commerce
  • Municipal, involving corporate-related work for a government agency or entity

When Should You Hire a Corporate Lawyer?

You may want to work with a corporate lawyer when you need legal help with:

  • Negotiating and drafting an important agreement, such as a contract governing an acquisition or merger
  • Purchasing, establishing, dissolving, or selling a business entity
  • Enforcing the terms of a legal contract or resolving another contract dispute
  • Engaging in international commerce
  • Avoiding or managing litigation
  • Growing your business by attracting partners or investors
  • Changing the structure of your business entity
  • Mitigating the financial risks involved with your business
  • Understanding shareholder rights and obligations

Corporate lawyers work for many different types of clients, including but not limited to investors in hedge funds, pensions, mutual funds, and private equity funds; traditional and investment banks; multinational, publicly traded, and closely held companies; and insurance providers.

What Does a Business Lawyer Do?

Also called commercial law, business law centers on trade regulations, including the federal Uniform Commercial Code and relevant state and local laws. A business and commercial lawyer handles situations involving business owners, employees, vendors, suppliers, and customers, addressing issues that arise during interactions between these groups. They also help companies by developing policies, negotiating and reviewing contracts, and advising on legal matters.

What are the Specialty Areas of a Business Lawyer

Employment law, contract law, and tax law all fall under the larger practice area of business law. Other specialties of a business lawyer include:

  • Writing and reviewing business purchase agreements, partnership agreements, and business plans
  • Managing ongoing litigation that impacts the organization
  • Developing legal policies and procedural documents, such as employee handbooks
  • Ensuring compliance with employment and tax regulations
  • Helping companies reduce their overall tax burden

As the corporate landscape becomes ever more global, more corporate attorneys have started to specialize in international law.

When Should you Hire a Business Lawyer?

Consider engaging the services of a business lawyer when you need legal representation or advice in these situations:

  • Employment disputes, such as claims involving discrimination or wages
  • Tax disputes, such as IRS audits
  • Federal or state investigations
  • Establishment of a new business
  • Development of intellectual property that requires patent, trademark, or copyright
  • Involvement in mediation or litigation

While a commercial lawyer vs. corporate lawyer offer different services, they do share some similarities. For example, either may work as in-house counsel, depending on your company’s needs, and both may seek certification from the Association of Corporate Counsel

Attorneys also follow a similar career pathway for both practice areas. These lawyers earn a bachelor’s degree, then complete a Juris Doctorate degree. While in law school, they may begin to take classes and seek internship opportunities within business or corporate law.

Once you understand whether you need an attorney who specializes in corporate law vs. business law, you can find a lawyer with the relevant skills and experience to help you solve your company’s most pressing legal challenges.

  1. About the Author:

  2. About the Author:

    As Principal with Valesco, Patrick Floeck’s primary responsibilities include business development strategy and investment origination. Patrick received his Master of Business Administration from the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business, with a concentration in Finance.

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