A small business attorney is any lawyer who specializes in matters that relate to or affect small businesses. These might include company formation, taxation, business transactions, intellectual property, business licenses, contracts and litigation to mention but a few.
Small business lawyers do not really differ widely from other legal practitioners, however, certain traits and occupational requirements set them apart from the others. It is these inherent differences that form the subject of the discussion that follows.
The rest of this article shall indeed be devoted to an in-depth examination of these unique traits, duties, and responsibilities of small business attorneys, more so when compared to other kinds of attorneys.
What sets small business attorneys apart from others?
Small business attorneys differ from other specialties of lawyers in the following ways:
Small business lawyers undergo the same training as their peers in other legal fields. They, however, have a bias towards the business fields. The entire curriculum, right from the pre-law stage through to the undergraduate, and finally to the postgraduate level is all geared towards business-related topics. This is deliberately done to equip them with the right knowhow they will require to function in the industry. Their bar exams are also tailored to factor in this business bias.
Professional Skill Requirements
Apart from legal training, small business attorneys are expected to possess certain skills that are suitable for their practice. These include analytical reasoning, critical thinking, excellent research, persuasive/negotiation skills, and above-board writing skills. This is due to the sheer nature of the field business field.
Scope of the Legal Contract
As has already been alluded to previously, small business attorneys are almost always exclusively concerned with business-related matters. As such, they are significantly different in their specialization as compared to other types of lawyers. They mainly aid business in registering, filing their tax returns, complying with legal/statutory requirements, battling court cases, and upholding fair business practices and more. These differ sharply from other lawyers such as family lawyers, criminal lawyers or personal injury lawyers.
Being an intricate undertaking, business attorneys must usually also possess some amount of real-world business experience. This is often particularly true of the entrepreneur lawyer who owns his or her own law practice. The very fact of owning the business makes them practice what they preach, so to speak. So in that sense, chances are that at some point in time they likely will have experienced first hand, one or more of the same issues that their clients will be bringing to them to help them resolve. The combination of this first-hand business experience and their legal training and experience will likely give them an edge in better helping their clients.
This same first-hand experience cannot always be said of other types of lawyers. For example, it is likely that an immigration lawyer has never had to go through the process of immigrating to a new country, and so will have no experience of what a client is going through. The same can be said of a personal injury lawyer.
It obviously goes without saying that their clientele is also different from those of other lawyers. They mainly interact with and serve small businesses, entrepreneurs and startups in pretty much every industry there is under the sun. While they will hardly ever work with large corporations (though in rare occasions they might,) they will never work with cases that fall under criminal, aviation, constitutional, employment and many other areas of law that are very distinct from business or commercial law.
Every single individual who goes through the trouble of starting a business is technically a business owner, and therefore, this is the type of person who potentially might require the services of a business, commercial or corporate lawyer at some point in time. It, therefore, goes without saying that there are a lot of business owner out there. In fact, the U.S. Small Business Administration says there are 32 million small businesses in the United States, as of 2018. That sounds like there is likely to be a lot of demand for business attorneys. It is perhaps this fact that contributes to the (perceived) saturation in the field of business law.
Another factor that likely contributes to this saturation is the fact that it is not only licensed lawyers that can provide many services that a business lawyer can, which is not the case in other more ‘specialized’ fields of law like personal injury or family law where only a licensed attorney can represent you.
While reliable figures are hard to come by, ZipRecruiter, for instance, says that the average annual salary of a business lawyer stands at $79,000 as at May 2019. A CNN article from 2014, however, puts that figure at $62,000 for the average law school graduate. Then on the higher spectrum of things comes a website like U.S. News that puts the median salary of lawyers at $119,250 in 2017. There are of course many other publications out there that list their own figures, and the source of these figures are not always known, or can they always be trusted even when they are known. The fact of the matter is that it is almost impossible to accurately determine what an average salary is for a business lawyer.
The one fact that we have established is that there is likely to be a lot of demand for the services of such a person.
Most small businesses will usually be found in urban and peri-urban areas. It can therefore be expected that business attorneys will also likely be found in the same geographic spread as this is where their potential clients are located there. This may not necessarily hold for other types of lawyers. This again is due to the fact that a good number of their clients are located both in the rural and urban areas in equal measure. Apart from the rural-urban spread, most small business attorneys are also concentrated in populated areas.
Regulation and Licensure
Different urban areas where small business attorneys are mainly located are governed by a distinct set of legal regimes. Because of these, the rules that govern the licensure and regulation of small business attorneys may vary widely from one locale to another one, even within a specific state. Other kinds of lawyers are not so much affected by this divergent legal jurisprudence or jurisdictions. Some kinds of lawyers such as constitutional lawyers are in fact subservient only to one regulation i.e. federal government/the US Constitution.
In closing, small business attorneys play a very vital role and contribution to any economy. Their uniqueness is, therefore, an issue worth knowing. Of equal importance is the fact that not all of their uniqueness has been discussed. This is due to limited space and time. Indeed several others had to be inevitably left out.