One traditionally thinks of a lawyer as a legal representative of an individual, but corporate lawyers operate in the complex legal area of company law. Firms conducting business in a free market need to be aware of the elaborate legal apparatus installed by the government which is in place to regulate the economy. Without such a framework, business practice may be unethical, or worse still fundamentally destabilising to the free market. A specialist solicitor will help guide companies and corporations through the minefield of corporate law, providing representation to corporations in the courtroom, and providing legal advice generally to a range of corporations across an extensive spread of issues. They tend to display a strong understanding of a niche area of law, and work in a demanding and highly dynamic field.
Corporate lawyers tend to work in firms comprised of many partners, and have numerous important functions. For instance, they will advise corporations on the process of mergers and acquisitions: where one firm joins or buys up another. Ensuring that the process of a merger or acquisition is legal is complex. The process involves extensive regulation over the procedure itself, while each party must observe legislation designed to maintain healthy industry competitiveness and protect the consumer from monopoly prices. Such transactions may be brief or they may be highly elaborate and involve very sizeable quantities of money. Malcolm Glazerís takeover of football club Manchester United, for example, was a £790 million deal that took 15 months to finalise. Yet even small firms require legal advice. The merger of two sole practitioner accountancy firms involves legal regulations and procedures that must be closely observed.
Corporate lawyers will also advise clients on raising funds. A flotation on the stock exchange is one of the most significant ways in which a firm may go about raising money, and understandably involves substantial regulation and legal input to ensure the flotation and the issue of shares is legally above board. A specialist solicitor can oversee the procedure of flotation and will help draft the necessary legal contracts.
The volume of such transactions at a given point in time is, however, affected by a set of factors, most prominently the state of the economy generally. A contracting economy may mean less money is available for mergers and acquisitions. A lack of confidence in share prices may mean fewer flotations. A company solicitor can anticipate fluctuations in the work available at any one time, although during a boom in which markets are confident they may encounter a very heavy workload!
Specialist solicitors should display a sophisticated understanding of the industries they are involved in, and full appreciation of the key legal apparatus surrounding each industry. When employing a solicitor, it is advisable to ask them whether their recent representative jobs are equivalent to the one you want them to perform, as business law is varied.