Do you know your mergers from your acquisitions? Your debt from your equity? We will cover the complicated (and rewarding) work of commercial law firms.
What is Commercial Law?
The legal world can be a confusing one at times, and nowhere is this truer than when discussing ‘areas’ of law. Many terms are bandied about, and they change with jurisdiction too (especially our American cousins!). This article should help clear up any confusion, and try to paint a full picture of what it is like to work in commercial law, and what this actually entails. It is an area of law that can be very challenging, however offers almost unlimited rewards if you put in the time and effort into a career in the legal area.
A more literal definition for commercial law can also be given that it is a ‘body of law that governs business and commercial transactions.’
Areas of Commercial Law
‘Commercial Law’ is an incredibly broad term that can cover a large variety of more specific fields of law. The main part of this centres around the commercial context, involving companies. This is also a broad term, and can include merchant shipping, insurance, partnerships, manufacture and sale of consumer goods, and any commercial/company related legal disputes. Any part of law that involves companies and the regulation of said companies and the activities in which they engage in will almost undoubtedly require the use of commercial lawyers.
Here is an extensive (but not unlimited) list of the types of law that fall under the commercial umbrella:
- Companies law
- Corporate law
- Corporate governance
- Competition law (antitrust)
- Consumer protection
- Contract law
- Environmental law
- Intellectual property law
- Copyright law
- Patent law
- Trademark law
- International trade law
- Labour law
Many countries have also adopted civil codes that contain comprehensive statements of their commercial law, in an effort to curtail the problems that arise when trying to deal with such a complex branch of law. It is also important to always remember that commercial law, like any other area of law, does not exist in a ‘vacuum’. Indeed, it intersects with many other practice areas, such as trusts law, tax law, European law and criminal law.
An important question to ask when becoming a lawyer is: who will I be working for? Your clients will typically be commercial organisations, the directors of companies or shareholders.
Being a Commercial Lawyer
Whilst legal skills are on the whole transferrable, each area of law requires something different from someone who practises in that area.
One thing that must be mentioned when discussing this area of law, is that if you are looking to have a career that is based in a lot of advocacy work, this is potentially would not be your best choice. There is a large amount of advisory work and a lot of a commercial barrister’s time will be spent in chambers rather than court.
In addition, your wishes and realities for your career in commercial law largely be dependent on what area and firm you decide to work for. Commercial law incorporates such a broad spectrum, that for instance, you may or may not find yourself travelling abroad. What can be guaranteed is that the work will always be different and/or challenging, and you will find yourself working on some interesting transactions and problems.
The variety that one will find in the types of cases cannot be underplayed, and what also must be taken into account is that the cases that you will face will often be complex in nature. For instance, anything to do with fraud and financial matters will not be a straightforward and easy case. It will require a lot of time and high level analysis to be applied to it, in order to get the best results.
Your Future in Commercial Law
Hopefully in this article we have been able to expand and provide some insight into one of the largest areas of law there is. Commercial law spans countries and continents, public and private law, and has many subdivisions within it. This means that the amount of opportunities are great in number, and anyone with an interest in law should be able to find their niche. Take a look at this directory of commercial lawyer jobs for a better idea of the jobs that are out there in this field.
This is not to underestimate the commitment and hard work that each of these areas of commercial law will require, however with the right information about these areas, you will be able to make a more informed choice, enabling you to choose the right area for you.