What Does a Business Litigation Attorney Do?
When starting a business, few owners expect to end up facing a lawsuit. But at some point during the life of the company, they may end up on either side of a legal dispute This could be with another business, customers, suppliers, lenders, employees, or a government entity. It can also be between the company’s business partners. These circumstances all call for legal help.
What does a business litigation attorney do for companies? They represent those facing legal challenges, negotiating and settling conflicts or litigating the cases in court. In addition, consulting with a business litigation lawyer before problems arise can often help a company avoid disputes altogether or at least reduce their impact.
Some businesses have in-house legal counsel to handle litigation issues. Others hire a law firm when there is a clear need for legal guidance. A third option is adding a business litigation attorney to your team on retainer. Gaining a deeper understanding of the services litigation attorneys provide will help business owners know if and when to find one.
Situations That Call for a Business Litigation Attorney
Owners of small and medium-sized businesses may never need a business litigation attorney. Instead, they accomplish simple legal tasks like obtaining licenses, permits, and an employer identification number (EIN) with a bit of research. Even navigating an Internal Revenue Service audit is possible with the company’s accountant rather than legal counsel.
If circumstances threaten business interests in some way, or if there is a good chance that a situation may turn litigious, a business litigation attorney is a must. A lawyer in this role can defend the company’s rights if they are under attack. If the business litigation attorney’s client is the entity that has been wronged, counsel can see that it is made whole.
These are the most common issues that call for a business litigation attorney:
Companies may face breach of contract issues or disagreements about how to interpret a contract’s language that necessitate the help of a business litigation attorney. Contracts may involve explicit instructions, like a stock purchase agreement in a merger or acquisition, or something less concrete such as the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing. The attorney may negotiate with the other party on behalf of the company or represent it if the matter ends up in court.
Human resource issues sometimes escalate to the point of litigation. A company may need a business attorney to defend against a former or current employee for wrongful termination, complaints regarding pay or working conditions, or claims of discrimination, sexual harassment, or a hostile work environment.
Disagreements between business partners sometimes turn contentious. A business litigation attorney can help resolve the situation and keep the partnership intact, or advise the parties on dissolving the partnership. Issues may also arise in public entities between shareholders and management about corporate control or the direction of the company. An attorney may be called upon to intervene.
Someone is Suing Your Business
A company can become the subject of a lawsuit for any number of reasons including:
- Product liability/class action suits
- Real estate disputes
- Intellectual property or patent infringement
- Breach of contract
Working toward a settlement or if necessary, going to court in one of these instances, is one of the most common reasons a company would hire a business litigation attorney.
You Need to Initiate a Lawsuit
Just as an entity may be sued for the reasons above, it may also find itself as the plaintiff in one of these same cases. Perhaps a competitor is ripping off a product design.
When it becomes necessary to file a claim or initiate a lawsuit against an individual or another company, owners will need an experienced business litigation attorney.
Facing an Investigation By a Government Entity
Business litigation attorneys also represent companies in complaints or investigations brought by the federal, state, or local government. These cases can include compliance issues, a corporate mishap or disaster, or tax liability issues with the IRS.
The Role of Business Litigation Lawyers
For many companies, dealings with business litigation attorneys are largely preemptive. Owners or managers consult with lawyers to draft contracts, write policies, and make decisions with the specific goal of not ending up in litigation. For example, a company will hire a merger and acquisition attorney to structure a deal so the transaction goes smoothly.
When things turn litigious, a business litigation attorney helps negotiate a settlement that is acceptable to both parties. A lawyer may also advise their client through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedures. The process of ADR can take the form of arbitration, where a judge decides a dispute for the parties, or mediation, where the parties come to their own agreement.
If the dispute ends up in court, what a business litigation attorney does is the same as what any other courtroom lawyer does. They prepare briefs, present motions, find and interview witnesses and experts, and present evidence. They will argue the case and defend their client in front of a judge and jury during trial.
Do You Need a Litigation Attorney on Retainer?
Companies and industries that are vulnerable to litigation often employ full-time litigation attorneys. For example, utility companies with thousands of employees and customers, and strict government regulation, have in-house legal departments.
Other companies may only hire a litigation attorney if and when they need one. Or, they may have a consulting relationship with a law firm or independent attorney for issues as they arise. In some cases, companies with in-house counsel work with an outside litigation attorney with specific litigation experience, leaving their corporate team to deal with day-to-day legal issues.
Whether a company has a legal department or hires an attorney on an ad hoc basis is often a matter of cost. Owners must ask themselves about the likelihood of ever needing legal representation. Some may never need a business litigation attorney. But if they do anticipate the need, and are weighing whether to have an attorney on retainer, they must weigh what a business litiation attorney does with being under-represented in what could become a very costly lawsuit.
What to Look For In a Business Litigation Attorney
Perhaps you will never need a business litigation attorney, but it is best to consider the possibility. At Swiecicki and Muskett , we have met many business owners who never imagined they would be sued or need to file a lawsuit to protect their business interests. This is why we suggest being proactive.
Find and form a consulting relationship with an attorney that you trust. Even if only called upon occasionally, they will be able to provide expert legal guidance. Their assistance with business basics like drawing up legally binding contracts and writing clear and compliant business policies will help you avoid unsettling legal disputes.
Even if your lawyer is not a business litigation attorney, or does not have experience relevant to your situation, they can refer you to someone they trust in the event that litigation expertise is needed. When interviewing litigation lawyers, look for superb writing and negotiating skills. Assess whether they can display the confidence in court necessary to argue your case effectively. And of course, they must be well-versed in state and federal statutes, case law, and legal precedents.
If you have questions about business litigation, schedule a consultation with Swiecicki and Muskett. We’ll discuss how best to protect your business interests and preserve what you’ve worked so hard to build.