While the traditional perception of an attorney may be as an advocate in an adversarial court proceeding, that role is typically a very minor element of a business law attorney. Although business law and conflicts surrounding corporations and other business entities do sometimes end up requiring in-court appearance, the bulk of a business lawyer’s job tends to be outside of the courtroom. And rather than engaging in adversarial situations, a business law attorney is often assigned the task of figuring out how to avoid conflicts.
Business Law Attorney – Jack of All Trades
Business law attorneys perform many roles: advocate, counselor, defender, gate-keeper, and boundary-setter. While the United States has, for the most part, laws that are friendly to a business climate and allow for much unfettered competition and business operation, there are many specifically delineated boundaries to business behavior. Unfortunately, leaders of corporations may not know about these boundaries and may find they run counter to the operations of the business. Thus, it is a business law attorney’s job to understand the rules of the game and make sure that clients do not stray outside of those rules.
In many cases, rather than creating adversarial situations in a court room, executives may get the impression that lawyers intend to create adversity inside the business or boardroom. While it is true that it is the lawyer’s job often to say no to proposed ideas, it is not for the sake of creating conflict. Rather, the lawyer is protecting the business from its own ambitions, because seemingly good ideas that are less than legal can sink a company and its employees very quickly.
But saying no is rarely the end of the conversation. The business law attorney has to understand how the law works and research a variety of scenarios to demonstrate why the answer to some questions is no. At other times, the lawyer may be tasked with finding a way to alter the planned course of action so that unethical and illegal actions can be avoided. This does not mean the lawyer is supposed to find loopholes; rather, the attorney must take into account the objectives of the company and find legitimate means to securing those ends.
Because the business law attorney often serves as a gate-keeper for future ideas, much of a corporate lawyer’s time is dedicated to evaluating hypothetical situations. Considering the corporate and legal consequences of actions and inactions is crucial for determining the right course for a business.