What Does a Corporate Lawyer Do?
What Is It Like Working as a Corporate Lawyer
Even lawyers have trouble defining corporate law. Corporations engage in many activities. For example, corporations borrow money, sell goods, sign contracts, and pay taxes. In the broadest definition, corporate lawyer represent corporations, whether they are filing lawsuits, soliciting investments, or engaging in any other corporate activity.
Here are four general areas in which corporate lawyers spend the bulk of their time:
Compliance is the process of ensuring that a corporation meets legal requirements at the local, state, and federal levels. Compliance makes up a huge part of every corporation’s legal budget. Although industries vary in how much they spend on compliance, the average business spends about $10,000 per employee annually on legal compliance.
Some examples of agencies that require compliance to avoid enforcement actions include:
- Licensing boards
- Health departments
- The Occupational Safety and Health Agency
- Labor and wage regulators
- Tax agencies
- Advertising regulators
- Securities regulators
These regulatory agencies often require corporations to keep records, file reports, and make payments within set timeframes. Even when a corporation keeps the right records and files the same reports, it can still be fined if it files them late.
Corporate lawyers spend a lot of their time on compliance. They research regulations and help clients to develop compliance plans. They can also help clients to prepare regulatory filings and communicate with regulatory agencies when questions about the filings arise.
Corporate lawyers play a major role in negotiating, structuring, and consummating transactions. Whether the deal relates to the purchase of machinery or a merger with a competitor, corporate lawyers are usually deeply involved in the transaction.
When they structure a transaction, a corporate lawyer acts as more than just a go-between who carries messages between the parties to arrive at a final deal. Rather, the corporate lawyer:
- Listens to the client’s goals
- Advises the client about structuring the deal in a legally enforceable way
- Represents the client’s interests during interactions with the other party
- Negotiates a deal that meets the client’s goals
- Drafts documents to reflect the deal negotiated
Some corporate lawyers are so deeply involved in transactional work that they never see the inside of a courtroom throughout their career.
Other corporate lawyers, on the other hand, spend a great deal of time in the courtroom. Lawyers often view litigation as the last resort for resolving disputes.
In a typical legal dispute, lawyers will correspond with each other for weeks or even months, all while trying to resolve a dispute without resorting to litigation. They may even try alternate dispute resolution, like mediation or arbitration. Sometimes, however, disputes cannot be resolved without the involvement of a judge or jury.
The job of a litigator is more than just courtroom advocacy. Litigation involves:
- Preparing pleadings to initiate the lawsuit and providing notice to the court and the opposing parties of the nature of the dispute
- Conducting discovery to uncover the evidence that is necessary to support the claims or defenses being made
- Drafting and arguing motions to resolve legal disputes that arise during the litigation
- Developing a trial strategy and preparing to question and cross-examine witnesses
- Presenting evidence to a judge or jury as the trier of fact
- Preserving legal issues for appeal, and in many cases, conducting the appeals
This process is not unique to corporate lawyers. Litigators who handle cases in criminal law, family law, personal injury law, and other areas of law go through the same process. But corporate lawyers represent corporate clients in issues that relate to the conduct of their businesses, including contracts, real property, intellectual property, and securities law.
Securities and Business Law
Two areas that are unique to corporations are securities and business law. These areas of law cover the formation of corporations and their rights and responsibilities. This is the area of law that deals with mergers, acquisitions, and initial public offerings.
It also deals with the ways that corporations are governed in order to satisfy their duties. Without a corporate lawyer, a corporation runs the risk of lawsuits being filed by shareholders, officers, customers, lenders, competitors, and the public.
No Business is Too Small for a Corporate Lawyer
A sole proprietorship with $100,000 in revenue may have the same legal issues as a corporation with 1,000 employees and billions in revenue. Both need advice and counsel when dealing with compliance, transactions, litigation, and securities law.
Talk To A Corporate Lawyer Who Understands Your Business Needs
Our lawyers are not only knowledgeable in the law but also understand the ground-floor realities business owners and professionals face every day. To arrange a consultation with one of our experienced business law attorneys, please call our law offices.