What Is a Corporate Attorney?
In order to understand what a corporate attorney does, it is important to first understand how a corporation legally operates. The term corporation refers to a type of business structure created and regulated by state law. More specifically, a corporation is defined as a legal entity that is separate from its owners.
This means that the corporation has shareholders, who each own a piece of the company. Further, this means that only the corporation itself can be held liable for corporate obligations, such as maintaining certain business records.
There are several different types of corporations. Generally speaking, a corporation is classified according to specific factors. Some examples of this includes:
- Their tax structure;
- The purpose of the corporation; and
- The number of shareholders and amount of stock to be issued.
Some common forms of corporations are:
- C Corporation;
- S Corporation;
- Non-Profit Corporation;
- Business Corporation;
- Limited Liability Corporation (“LLC”);
- Professional Corporation;
- Foreign Corporation; and
- Public or Private Corporation.
It is important to note that when someone mentions the term corporation, they are usually referring to the two main categories that corporations are divided into according to tax laws. These two categories are C Corporations and S Corporations. The main difference between these two types is that C Corporations are taxed separately from their owners, whereas S Corporations are not.
A corporate attorney may be referred to as an "in-house" lawyer.” This is an attorney employed directly by a corporation and does not work for a law firm retained by the corporation. Large corporations may employ a whole department of in-house lawyers in order to service the corporation’s legal needs. Corporation lawyers are typically hired before the corporation is even formed, as properly forming a corporation requires numerous legal documents, as well as a registered agent to accept legal service on the corporation.
What Kind of Matters Do Corporate Attorneys Handle?
As many corporations engage in various business activities that require systematic legal attention, hiring in-house attorneys is generally more cost-effective than retaining a law firm. The type of matters that corporate attorneys handle can vary widely, based on the type of corporation and industry. A corporate lawyer’s services are most commonly required in order to:
- Negotiate and draft contracts that are required for various corporate business activities;
- Ensure corporation compliance with hiring and firing anti-discrimination laws;
- Monitor compliance with work wages, hours, and employee benefits laws;
- Provide general legal oversight, compliance, and due diligence; and
- Supervise the work of any outside attorneys that are hired for specific purposes.
It is important to note that the role of a corporate attorney can be compared to that of a family doctor for the entire corporation. Corporations often face legal issues which require specialized assistance that the corporate attorney cannot handle. For example, if a legal action is filed against the corporation, a corporate lawyer will not generally handle the lawsuit. Instead the corporate lawyer will utilize their contacts with another attorney who may specialize in that area of law.
For instance, if the corporation is being sued for a violation of another corporation's intellectual property, the corporate attorney may hire an outside intellectual property firm to represent the corporation on that matter. However, there are some legal actions that a corporate attorney may handle internally, especially if the corporate attorney has various legal specializations.
How Can Corporate Attorneys Help?
A corporate attorney can help business owners due to the fact that they have a greater understanding of what it takes to run a business, especially in legal terms. They can provide expert advice regarding any legal obligations, rights, and responsibilities that the corporation should be aware of. A corporate attorney can also coordinate with other transactional lawyers in order to address specialty issues such as taxes and real estate.
Corporate lawyers work to ensure that the provisions of any contracts are clear and legally enforceable. This is so such contract terms will not cause any issues for their client later on. They structure transactions and draft documents. Additionally, a corporate attorney can negotiate deals on behalf of the corporation that they represent, and attend meetings and make calls.
Generally speaking, a corporate attorney will have a specific skill set that enables them to provide the best possible legal help to their corporate clients. One set of these skills include strong communication skills, both written and verbal. Another example is that most corporate attorneys will be greatly interested in expanding their knowledge base as corporate law is such a diverse practice area that is constantly evolving and updating.
Should You Hire a Corporate Lawyer?
As can be seen, a corporate attorney is an essential element to any business. Thus, if you are starting a business, especially a corporation, you should consult with a corporate lawyer. An experienced and local corporate lawyer can help ensure you are adhering to all necessary laws and regulations, and can provide you representation should any legal issues arise.
In order to find a corporate lawyer, you could begin with a simple search using a term such as “corporate lawyer near me.” However, a more simple and effective way would be to search through LegalMatch. LegalMatch connects attorneys with potential clients at no cost. Additionally, attorneys that are a part of the LegalMatch database, are all pre-screened and bar certified.