Careers in Law for Business

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A wide variety of choices are available for a career in law. However, work and determination are required to complete law school and pass a state bar examination.

To be admitted to law school, students must have completed a bachelor's degree, although generally without restriction concerning the choice of undergraduate major. Law students have bachelor's degrees in business, engineering, science, history, politics, and many other disciplines.


The individual states administer the licensing of lawyers. Requirements for attorneys to enter the law field vary from state to state. Generally, a prospective lawyer must pass a state bar examination following graduation from law school. In a very few states, a person is automatically admitted to practice upon graduation from law school. It is possible for a person to sit for bar examinations and become licensed to practice in more than one state.

The states also control discipline once lawyers are admitted to practice. Complaints from clients or others may be made to the state bar, which reviews them and imposes discipline, if necessary. Discipline may range from fines or suspensions up to disbarment. In many states, the state supreme court reviews disciplinary actions imposed upon lawyers.


Lawyers deal with business organizations, individuals, international business, labor relations, educational law, poverty law, legal research and writing, and other areas.

Legal Practice With Domestic Business Organizations

In the United States, attorneys engage directly with business organizations in many fields in which they practice.

Publicly held corporations

Many areas of law involve publicly held corporations (stock available for purchase by any investor). For example, control and management have legal ramifications, as do capital procurement and maintenance. Attorneys are called upon to settle a wide range of disputes, such as those developing between stockholder and corporation.

Antitrust legislation

Antitrust laws prohibit price fixing, which could result when businesses gain monopoly power in their field. Major legislation in this realm includes the Sherman Act of the 1890s, the Clayton Act of 1914, and the Cellar-Kefauver Act of 1950. The Robinson-Patman Act prohibits manufacturers from discriminating against small retailers in favor of large chains. These acts are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice.

Unfair trade practices

These laws involve various types of business competition, especially with reference to trademarks, price maintenance, and price discrimination.


Patents are issued by the Patent and Trademark Office of the U.S. government. They grant inventors exclusive rights to make, sell, and use inventions in the United States for a given period of time. Patents often require an attorney's counsel.


Copyrights provide protection for original works of literary, dramatic, musical, or artistic expression. The Copyright Office of the Library of Congress administers these laws.


Trademarks are used to distinguish one business firm's products from another. Their symbols may be a word or words, name, design, picture, or sound. Trademark rights have an indefinite life. A company may register its trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in Arlington, Virginia, or with the trademark office in its state.


Accounting statements provide financial details concerning the operation of a business or other form of organization. Balance sheets list assets (things that are owned), liabilities (debts), and net worth (assets minus liabilities). Income statements show net income for a period of time (income minus expenses). Business firms, particularly those with stockholders, must prepare honest and conservative financial statements. Very stringent laws have been passed dealing with accounting practices.


Attorneys orchestrate a variety of negotiations, including those involving injury claims, criminal charges, family disputes, and commercial disputes.

Business organizations

Business organizations become involved with the law of employment, agency, partnership, limited partnership, and other types of unincorporated associations.

Regulated industries

Price, supply, and services are a part of Regulation C control in various industries, such as transportation agencies and public utilities. Regulatory policy can involve interaction among legislatures, administrative agencies, and the courts. Advanced legal work may be required for business planning and counseling concerning corporate and tax issues. Clients often need representation before regulatory bodies and at administrative hearings.


Attorneys become involved in the creation of promissory liability, the interpretation of words and conduct as well as the nature of obligations assumed by entering into contracts. They also solve problems relating to breach of contract, unfairness as a reason for avoiding contractual liability, and the rights of those not a party to the contract.

The Uniform Commercial Code

Articles 3, 4, and 5 concern negotiable instruments, bank collection systems, and letters of credit. Article 9 deals with secured transactions; Article 7 deals with documents of title.

Creditors' and debtors' rights

Attorneys deal with consumer credit regulation, including attachments, garnishments, assignments for the benefit of creditors, judgments, and bankruptcy.

Insurance law

This branch as law deals with property, life, and liability insurance; fire and automobile insurance forms; and the regulation of insurance companies' policies and practices.


Remedies of quasi-contract, constructive trust, equitable lien, and reformation must be applied to redress enrichment secured by tort, part performance of contract, duress, or mistake.

Government contracts

Laws and regulations apply to contracts with governmental bodies and agencies.

Legal Practice for Individuals

Individuals need a wide range of legal services in the area of business. Some services are provided for investors or owners in business situations; others, for persons finding themselves in difficulty.

Trust and estates

Legal consideration must be given to community property systems, federal gift and estate taxes on property transfers, estate planning not involving property, living wills, delegation of health care decision-making, and gifts to as well as guardianship of minor children. Related legal forms involve living trusts and gift strategies.

Family law

Family law can involve relationships of married couples, unmarried couples, or couples undergoing divorce. Additional family relationships that may involve lawyers include parent and child. unmarried parents, neglected children, foster care, and adoption.


Attorneys can assist in tax planning for individuals. especially where issues arise between the taxpayer and the Internal Revenue Service or state taxing authorities. They also deal with taxation implications for corporate organization, reorganization, and liquidation. Some attorneys deal with international tax problems, such as jurisdictional rules, tax situations between industrialized countries and developing countries, and host country taxation of foreign persons.

Real estate transactions

In this field, lawyers deal with options, binder contracts, and rights and duties between vendor and vendee among other things. Lawyers also practice in basic land contract and mortgage law as well as real estate recording systems. They work with both land-use controls and water-rights laws. They may also deal with environmental law and institutions.

Legal Practice for International Business

International trade in the world is becoming more prevalent and increasingly legally complex. This increases openings for interested attorneys.

International legal practice may involve issues of recognition and nonrecognition of governments and nations, interpretation of treaties and other international agreements, the effect of peace and war, and international claims.

Lawyers may advise on the risks, assumptions, and benefits of doing business in a foreign country. Questions may arise concerning international commercial transactions and investments, the impact of U.S. securities and antitrust laws, and trade laws of the United States and other countries.

Labor Relations Law

State and federal laws deal with employee representation, collective bargaining, and employer-union practices. These laws, the National Labor Relations Act, and related federal and state labor laws often make legal counsel necessary.

Attorneys provide counsel in collective bargaining and with the negotiation and arbitration processes.

Statutes such as those involving fair employment practices, workers' compensation, fair labor standards, unemployment compensation, and Social Security protect workers against insecurity, discrimination, economic exploitation, and physical damage. Their purpose is to guard against unequal opportunity linked to race, sex, religion, age, physical disability, and other factors.

Legal questions linked to public policy arise from representation questions, limitations on the right to strike, grievance arbitration, impasse procedures, and the scope of bargaining.

Educational Law Practice

Legal issues arise from educational financing, integration and segregation, punishment methods applied to children, and alternatives to public school education.

Poverty Law

Although often unable to pay, the poor frequently require legal services. Some indigents make contact with public-interest law firms or offices that provide legal services for the poor. In this area, lawyers deal with issues such as welfare rights, health, education, public assistance, or housing.

Legal Research and Writing

Some lawyers engage in legal research and writing. This work involves library and computerized research, brief and memorandum writing, organization of legal material, and prediction of rules of law. Much of this activity takes place in law schools or at the appellate court level.

Other Areas of Law Practice

There are a number of additional areas of law practice. These include legal problems related to technology and society, bioethics, science, psychiatry, and attempts to achieve progress in developing countries.


The court system also offers career opportunities. An understanding of the court system is relevant to a career discussion. The courts in the United States fall within two classifications: the federal court system and the state court systems.

Federal Court System

The federal court system is comprised of the Supreme Court, circuit courts of appeal, and district courts. There are also specialized federal courts.

The U.S. Supreme Court is the final court of appeal for both civil and criminal law. It was created by Section 1, Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Title 28 of the U.S. Code establishes its jurisdiction. The Court's organization is specified by legislation, although the rules governing case presentations are formulated by the Court itself.

Judicial review is an important power given to the U.S. Supreme Court. This refers to (1) declaring invalid laws that violate the U.S. Constitution, (2) asserting the supremacy of federal laws or treaties if they differ from state and local laws, and (3) serving as the final authority on the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court includes a chief justice and eight associate justices. Appointed by the president with the approval of the Senate, they serve for life or until they retire, resign, or are impeached.

The U.S. Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in some cases, particularly where a state is a party or diplomatic personnel are involved. The remaining cases come from lower courts. Requests for review number approximately 4,500 annually; less than 200 cases are selected for decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Some appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court come from any of the twelve federal courts of appeal or the ninety-four federal district courts. These cases involve the U.S. Constitution, federal laws or cases in which the U.S. government is a party, disputes between residents of different states ("diversity" jurisdiction), or matters assigned by federal legislation.

Appeals also come from specialized federal courts. The Court of Military Appeals reviews courts-martial cases appealed from military courts. These cases concern offenses committed by members of the armed forces and are sometimes brought before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Court of Claims hears cases dealing with claims against the federal government. Its decisions may also be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court may rule on cases involving decisions of U.S. Custom offices, such as import duties.

State Court Systems

Each state has its own court system. These courts are created by state statute or constitution to enforce state civil and criminal laws. Most of the states have trial courts, intermediate courts of appeal, and a supreme court.

Most states have local trial courtsmunicipal, county, district, and small-claims courts. Millions of civil and criminal cases are tried at this level. Other state courts may include police courts, magistrate's courts, justices of the peace, and probate or surrogate courts that handle wills and inheritances. There are also traffic courts, juvenile courts, and domestic relations courts.

State appeals courts (sometimes called error-correcting courts) review trial court cases to determine if errors caused an incorrect decision. Their decisions may be appealed to the federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court in certain instances.

Supreme courts in each state, like the U.S. Supreme Court at the federal level, interpret their state constitutions, statutes enacted by their state legislatures, and the body of state common law.

see also Law in Business


Margolis, Wendy, Gordon, Bonnie, Puskarz, Joe, and Rosenlieb, David, eds. (2005). The ABA-Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools, American Bar Association and Law School Admission Council.

Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, (2001). Martindale-Hubbell. "U.S. Courts," Retrieved October 15, 2005, from

Craig A. Bestwick

G. W. Maxwell

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Careers in Law for Business

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