Business and Commercial Law
Business law and commercial law are two areas of legal practice that have so many overlapping issues that most attorneys who practice one will also have expertise in the other. Commercial law focuses on the sale and distribution of goods, as well as financing of certain transactions. Business law focuses on the other aspects of business, including forming a company, mergers and acquisitions, shareholder rights, and property issues such as leasing office or warehouse space. A business that sells products will almost certainly need a lawyer with experience in both of these fields. Business law is regulated by both state and federal law. The federal government primarily governs stocks and investments, workplace safety and employment laws, and environmental protections. States, however, can add to these federal laws and pass their own laws in other areas, such as imposing licensing requirements for certain professions and establishing rules for forming and running a legal business. Commercial law is primarily regulated by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), which is a model set of laws regarding the sales of goods, leases of good, negotiable instruments, and secured transactions. All states have adopted some form of the UCC, though each state is free to make its own modifications to the laws as it sees fit. Because many states have modified at least some of the UCC provisions to fit their needs, it is important to hire a lawyer familiar with the UCC as it has been enacted in your state.
A contract is a legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties where each assumes a legal obligation that must be completed. Many aspects of daily life involve contracts, including buying property, applying for a car loan, signing employment-related paperwork, and agreeing to terms and conditions when buying products and services or using computer software.
Legal issues involving contracts arise most often when one party fails to perform the legal obligation it has agreed to do. When a party breaches a contract by failing to perform, the other party can often sue for money damages, or, in some limited cases, can ask the court to force the other party to perform as promised.
Contracts can also be the source of legal disputes when they are not written clearly. Parties who misunderstand the terms of their agreement may sue each other and have a court settle the argument. Additionally, when a company signs a contract and later goes out of business or is unable to fulfill its promises, the other party may have to pursue legal action in civil or bankruptcy court to obtain relief.
Litigation and Appeals
Litigation is the process of going to court to argue your case. The case could be criminal, in which the state argues that a citizen violated the law, or civil, in which two citizens or businesses argue against each other. Within each of these categories there are several other smaller courts. For example, criminal cases about traffic violations or youthful offenders have their own courts, and civil cases relating to housing, family, and bankruptcy often have their own courts. Some litigation also takes place in administrative courts, such as the IRS's tax court or the Executive Office of Immigration Review's immigration court. Although exact procedures vary by court and by state, most trials follow a similar pattern. One side, known as the "plaintiff," "complainant," or "prosecution," files a complaint listing out all of ways the other party broke the law. The other party responds by admitting or denying the items in the complaint. Then there is an investigative period known as discovery, in which both parties investigate the facts of the case. The parties will attempt to resolve their issues many times over these initial stages, but if these attempts are unsuccessful, the case will go to trial. A judge will preside over the trial to ensure that the law is interpreted accurately and that each side follows procedure. Sometimes the judge will also decide the facts of the case, but sometimes that task is left to a jury. If either party believes that the judge made an error in her interpretation of the law or procedure, that party can appeal the case to an appellate court, which will then review the judge's decisions for accuracy. When the appellate court judges find an error, they will often send the case back to the trial court for correction.
Construction law involves any legal issue related to the construction of a building or other structure. Legal issues related to construction activities can arise under federal, state, or local laws. Federal statutes, such as workplace safety regulations and employment laws, can impose requirements on worksites and hiring practices. States may impose additional regulations on top of federal ones, which can range from safety and employment to environmental rules. City and county ordinances may impose additional restrictions on zoning and construction noise.
With all of the levels of government playing a role in construction regulation, legal issues can arise in a number of ways. Common construction-related legal disputes include workplace injuries and accidents, construction defects, contract issues, and problems with obtaining the proper planning or building permits.