What Are the Differences Between a Business Lawyer and Corporate Lawyer?

Business Lawyer and Corporate Lawyer

Lawyers in the United States typically focus on specific areas of practice. In this day and age, there are very few attorneys who can be described as being “legal generalists.” This includes legal specializations that focus on business and corporate law. While business lawyers and corporate attorneys do have significant similarities in their practice areas, there are differences as well.

Basic Comparison Between Business Lawyer and Corporate Lawyer

A suitable way of delineating between a business attorney and a corporate lawyer initially is to note that a business lawyer can be described as a broader practice area. In other words, a starting point in considering the work of a business lawyer and a corporate lawyer is to note that a corporate lawyer is a type of business lawyer. The practice of corporate law appropriately can be described as a legal specialty within the broader practice area of business law.

Typical Clients of Business Versus Corporate Lawyers

A business lawyer fairly can be described as something of a generalist who may maintain a fairly broad client base. For example, a business lawyer may have clients that are sole proprietors or members of limited liability companies or LLCs themselves. As an aside, owners of LLCs legally are known as members. A business lawyer may represent partnerships as well.

A corporate lawyer will have a practice that focuses exclusively on representing corporate clients, with one caveat that will be discussed in a moment. There are three primary types of corporations that a corporate attorney might provide representation:

  • Subchapter C corporations
  • Subchapter S corporations
  • Not-for-profit corporations

In basic terms, a Subchapter C corporation typically is a larger entity, typically with a significant number of shareholders. Generally, a Subchapter S corporation is a smaller entity that can only have a limited number of shareholders. The subchapters reference specific parts of the Internal Revenue Code and pertain to how these legal entities are taxed.

In some instances, a corporate lawyer might focus his or her practice a bit further and represent not-for-profit corporations. Nonprofit law is something of a legal specialty in its own right. Because many nonprofits, particularly larger ones, organize as not-for-profit corporations, there can be a major role for corporate attorneys in this arena.

Business Formation and Lawyer Specializations

As mentioned previously, a typical corporate lawyer represents the affairs of a corporation as a general rule, with on primary caveat. The practice of corporate law can involve corporate attorneys in the initial formation of a corporation. In such an instance, a corporate lawyer may be retained by a group of investors of entrepreneurs intent on starting a new corporation.

There are business lawyers who specifically practice in the area of business formation. They may assist clients in the formation of a corporation but also in the creation of other types of business entities as well. Ensuring that a business properly is created in the first instance is crucial and necessitates an experienced lawyer who truly understands specific laws associated with different types of business structures.

Location of Practice

A business lawyer nearly always will be part of a law firm. This can range from a larger law firm with a considerable number of attorneys to a boutique practice with a small number of lawyers specializing in business law to a sole practitioner.

Corporate attorneys can also be found as part of larger law firms and boutique practices as well. A considerable number of corporate attorneys are employed directly by corporations.

In the final analysis, a San Diego based corporation, or one headquartered elsewhere but with a relatively significant presence in this part of California, can benefit from the services of a local San Diego corporate lawyer. Such an attorney not only has a background in the California corporate code but understands the nuances of doing business in the San Diego area.


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