Practice Areas

Business & Commercial Law

Introduction

‘Commercial Law’ is a broad term used to cover a wide range of legal services designed to support businesses in making money out of their products and services. Intellectual property rights are crucial for creative industries such as publishing and fashion in particular, but also for manufacturers, in order to profit from innovation. Sales of all kinds, on a domestic and international basis, are contracts – meaning lawyers are needed. Specific arrangements – agency or distribution agreements – can be made to sell the goods or services more widely.

What does this type of lawyer do?

Except in smaller firms, there is no such thing as a ‘commercial lawyer’, except in the sense that the term covers all lawyers whose clients are businesses rather than individuals. Every commercial lawyer will have a specialist practice area (e.g. Intellectual Property) or industry focus(e.g. Technology, Media & Telecoms).

It naturally follows that the precise workload is dependent on which area the lawyer works in. Broadly speaking, much of the transactional work of commercial legal advisers centres around protecting clients’ business interests by managing a very wide variety of risks. In practical terms, this could mean interpreting existing law to decide how to protect a client against liability for claims and statements made on its social media accounts and website – technological innovation is a strong theme in business, and so it is with commercial law. Similarly, the provision of online services must be protected by the same assertions of intellectual property rights as more traditional activities such as publishing.

 A lot of the day to day work tends to involve drawing up a wide range of commercial agreements, as well as standard forms of words such as disclaimers for publicly visible documents such as catalogues and websites. 

What skills are required?

Commercial lawyers need to develop a detailed and rounded knowledge of their clients’ industry sectors, competitors, market conditions and other factors which have a bearing on how they do business. Strong research skills and a sense of curiosity are therefore desirable.  It is also important to be able to keep up to date with rapidly changing circumstances.

As the smallest error in a licensing agreement or other document could deal your client’s business a fatal blow, attention to detail is of paramount importance.

Larger-scale commercial work involves working in teams with other solicitors and support staff in the firm; litigation involves multiple parties – the ability to work well in a team is of the greatest importance. The ability to develop and sustain excellent relationships with clients, retaining and winning business for the firm, is also vital.

Current issues

Recently, the economy appears to be slowly recovering from the recession and this will have an impact on those working in the various areas of commercial law. But the main changes will depend on the type of commercial work undertaken. For example, those involved in litigation and disputes will be affected by the Jackson Reforms; those working in areas of patents and intellectual property may find their work dominated by technology.

What's it like in practice

Find out what some of our people who have practised commercial law say about it, and the advice that they would give those interested in a career in this area. Look at the following Case Study: 

More information

 The student guides to a career in law have introductory descriptions of working in commercial law:

There are a wide variety of industry publications which can help you keep up to date with particular sectors, such as telecoms and media. It is important to keep up to date with broad developments in business: