What is a Business Lawyer?
I get mixed reactions every time I introduce myself as a BUSINESS LAWYER. "Oh, you mean corporate lawyer, right?" or something like that is the usual reply. Some would ask me directly "what's a business lawyer?" or "what does a business lawyer do?" I kind of like the introduction because it's a good opener. It's an effective way to start a conversation. However, there are plenty of occasions when I don't have the luxury of time for a conversation or even for small talk. And somehow I feel sort of misunderstood because people don't really understand what it is that I do as a lawyer. Luckily, I came across a great article written by business lawyer Joe Kafrouni while I was trying to find references for my own article on the subject. Then, I said to myself I'll just "share" Joe's article to people who might be interested in knowing what a business lawyer is, and what a business lawyer do. Joe Kafrouni says it best, "...a good business lawyer helps business people with the laws that apply to their businesses. It's the role of the business lawyer to guide and protect their clients - who are business owners and managers - so that they can get on with what they do best, run their business." So, is a business lawyer the same as a "corporate lawyer"? In many ways, they are. But the primary areas of focus of business lawyers are the laws applicable to "small businesses". That's why in the U.S., business lawyers are also called "small business attorneys". In the Philippines, small business is synonymous to our SMEs or small and medium enterprises. Let's read the rest of Joe's article
WHAT DOES A GOOD BUSINESS LAWYER DO?
By Joe Kafrouni
What does a good business lawyer or good commercial lawyer do?
Negotiating a business deal; formalising it in writing with a tight contract; determining business goals and strategising on how to best achieve them; resolving a dispute between people doing business; studying complex laws applying to business and simplifying them for business owners; identifying risk and protecting businesses from them – these are the things a good business lawyer does in a typical day.
To put it simply, a good business lawyer helps business people with the laws that apply to their business. It is the role of the business lawyer to guide and protect their clients – who are business owners or managers – so that they can get on with what they do best, run their business.
It is often with the intimate involvement of a business lawyer in a business that the business owner will have the greatest chance to succeed.
The relationship between lawyers and business owners vary. Sometimes, a business owner will only see their lawyer when there is a problem in the business. Or sometimes only when an issue, such as the need to prepare a contract, becomes urgent. However, the best relationships are when the lawyer and the business owner work together to avoid problems occurring and deal with issues before they are ‘urgent’ and therefore rushed. This type of representation is referred to as ‘proactive’ or ‘preventative’.
Therefore, it is important that a good lawyer be viewed as part of the management team of the business. For this to occur, the business lawyer must do more than just understand the laws that apply to business. They must understand a great deal about their client and their clients business and industry.
It is also crucial that the client is comfortable talking to their commercial lawyer about everything concerning their business. There must be no barrier to communication.
The factors outlined above are more than ‘what is a business lawyer’. It relates to what is a ‘good’ business lawyer.
Let’s look at an example of what legal work we have performed for a particular business person over the last year. Let’s call this client ‘Secure Sally’.
Secure Sally owns a public relations business. At the beginning of the year when we began to represent Secure Sally, we went to her offices in New Farm to see first hand her business operations. This gave us a much greater insight into her business than if she had come to see me at my offices. She showed us around, explained the work that her company does and introduced me to her partners, staff and even a client that was there at the time. She made us coffee and told me some great stories about how she had made it to where she is today and what her goals are for the future.
It has to be understood that most of the time business owners feel most comfortable in their own environment. Because of this, and the fact we were very interested in what she had to say, she told us more about her partners, her employees, customers, suppliers and competitors.
All this information will help us do our job properly.
Secure Sally was a nice lady – very ambitious and hardworking. We were able to make her recognise the value of a good business lawyer to her business. Doing things right the first time and taking precautions against unnecessary risk could cost her thousands of dollars in legal fees – but she could see that if all this effort saved her from one dispute this would probably more than make up for it.
So what have we done for Secure Sally over the last year?
we looked at her business structure with her accountant to make sure she did not pay more tax than she had to and to keep her assets safe in case someone should sue her;
we prepared a partnership agreement between her and her partners;
we advised her on a lucrative contract she won from a company and negotiated some changes she wanted;
we advised her on the laws of employment and whether she could ‘sack’ an employee for continually coming in late to work;
we prepared an employment agreement for her that was signed by her staff;
we prepared a policy for her business that deals with issues concerning anti-discrimination, harassment and bullying in her workplace;
she needed to disclose confidential information to a consultant so we prepared a confidentiality agreement making sure the information is protected;
we also prepared a consultancy agreement with her IT specialist setting out what he must do and how much she was going to pay him;
she had a customer that didn’t pay their bill. We chased it for her until it was paid;
she was charged with an offence under the Trade Practices Act in relation to misleading and deceptive conduct. She made an incorrect statement in an ad for one of her customers about their competitor. We defended her.
These are some examples of the types of things a good business lawyer does and ways in which we regularly help our clients.
What to do next:
If you need a business or commercial lawyer, call Joe Kafrouni on (07) 3354 8888 to discuss you needs and how we can help.
The information provided by Kafrouni Lawyers is intended to provide general information and is not legal advice or a substitute for it. Business owners should always consult their own legal advisors to discuss their particular circumstances. Kafrouni Lawyers makes no warranties or representations regarding the information and exclude any liability which may arise as a result of the use of this information. This information is the copyright of Kafrouni Lawyers.
The examples above are some of the types of things Sangalang & Gaerlan, Business Lawyers do, and ways in which we regularly help our clients.
What to do next:
If you need a business or commercial lawyer, contact us to discuss your needs and how we can help. Our email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was first published in The Filipino Lawyer.