Friday, September 24, 2010

What is a Corporate Lawyer?

What is a corporate lawyer?

I am often asked something like: "What area of law do you practice in?"  When I answer "Corporate and Securities law," I am often met with blank stares or other responses that indicate that the other person has only a vague notion of what folks in my area of the law do. 

Some people think "corporate law" means you only work for big corporations, which is sometimes, but hardly always, the case.  Others use the term "corporate lawyer" to refer to any lawyer who represents companies who they imagine are determined to pollute the environment, distribute unsafe products, crush labor unions and torture puppies.  Some must imagine that we all look just like the team of gray-suited attorneys engaged by The Simpsons' Montgomery Burns to intimidate and crush the innocent citizens of Springfield.

The truth is that Corporate and Securities lawyers are much less evil than one might think.  We assist clients with the formation of companies, the merger and acquisition of companies, and the financing of companies.  As far as I know, no client of mine has ever tortured puppies.

In 1997, when I was a law student trying to decide what area of law to pursue, I asked a corporate and securities attorney to explain what he did.  He said, "We assist clients with buying and selling companies and with public and private offerings of debt and equity securities."  Of course, we do other things too, but I thought that explanation artfully captured the essence of what we do. 

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