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What’s the Difference Between Business Law and Corporate Law?

By
Lia Kopin-Green
/
January 23, 2023

Are you unsure whether you need a business lawyer or corporate lawyer to address the legal issues facing your company? There has been plenty of confusion regarding the difference between business and corporate law. In this article, we’ll review the main differences between these two legal sectors and explore how they impact your business.

What is Business Law?

Business law can be considered an umbrella term that covers a variety of different legal elements relating to establishing and operating a business. Business entities of all forms, such as limited liability partnerships (LLPs) and joint ventures (JVs), deal with aspects of business law. Generally, business lawyers have a vast knowledge base that includes employment law, contract law, tax law, and intellectual property law. Let's examine these areas of law in more detail and explore how they relate to the broader field of business law.

  • Contract Law: Contracts are a crucial aspect of starting and running a business. Depending on the type of business entity involved, contracts may be used for a number of reasons. For instance, a business owner may choose to sign an Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) with their employees to ensure that his or her company’s trade secrets will not be disclosed to the public.
  • Tax Law: The United States federal government, as well as state laws, require taxes for certain business entities. Tax law encompasses the laws and regulations related to the taxation of businesses, including matters such as income tax, sales tax, and property tax.
  • Employment Law: Employment law, which covers the laws related to the relationship between an employer and its employees, is likely to be relevant to most businesses. This sector of law also covers important employee issues like discrimination, wage and hour laws, and worker’s compensation.

What is Corporate Law?

Corporate law, on the other hand, specifically focuses on the legal issues surrounding corporations. In its essence, corporate law may be considered a subset of business law. It mainly deals with the operations of a corporation including the duties of its directors and officers, shareholder rights and other important subjects. Let’s delve deeper into some of the fundamental components of corporate law, such as:

  • Incorporation: Establishing a corporation is a complex process that goes beyond just choosing a name and setting up a website. It is a highly technical, legal sequence of actions that is governed by several federal and state laws. It includes registering the corporation with the appropriate agencies, filing articles of incorporation and association, and obtaining relevant permits.
  • Governance: Understanding corporate governance, which refers to the way in which a company is organized, is key to operating a successful business. Depending on the specific circumstances of the corporation, organizations can be structured in a number of different ways. It is highly advised to consult with a professional corporate attorney when deciding which type of corporate structure works best for your circumstances.
  • Mergers and Acquisitions: This field deals with the laws that govern the process of acquiring and merging with other corporations. This typically encompasses laws of due diligence, antitrust review, securities regulations and other notable issues.

Business Lawyer vs Corporate Lawyer

Are you still unsure if you require the services of a corporate or business lawyer? Understanding the specific areas of expertise of each type of attorney can assist you in making an informed decision.

Business lawyers, in the simplest sense, are concerned with how the law impacts businesses in certain circumstances and activities. They provide assistance on a wide range of legal issues related to the day-to-day operations of a company, such as contracts, employment law and intellectual property. Moreover, business lawyers may provide assistance in IRS and tax compliance. Here are a few other instances in which you might want to go to a business lawyer:

  • You are interested in entering a contract with a third party and need legal advice on the agreement’s terms and conditions.
  • You are planning on hiring new employees and need help creating employee contracts.
  • Your business is facing a legal dispute with a competitor and you need representation in court.

Alternatively, corporate lawyers have a slightly different area of practice. In general, corporate lawyers might provide legal support regarding the responsibilities and legal rights of corporations. The following are examples that typically require the expertise of a corporate lawyer:

  • You need legal representation in the face of dissolution, liquidation, and bankruptcy of your corporation.
  • You are planning on going corporate with your business and need help with the incorporation process.
  • Your business is in the process of merging with another company and you need advice on how to conduct due diligence.

Seeking Legal Support

While it is not uncommon to get confused between corporate lawyers and business lawyers, there are a few major differences between these two fields of law. Nonetheless, it’s also important to note that many lawyers are able to handle both corporate and business matters. Ultimately, when it comes to choosing proper legal representation, it depends on the exact needs of your business and the expertise of the lawyer. 

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