I get that question a lot, mostly from other lawyers. We don’t take a class on small business law in law school. We take “Business Organizations” and “Contracts,” but there are few classes on representing small businesses. You hear lawyers describe themselves as “Corporate” (read: “Transactional”) lawyers or as Litigators. I understand why I confuse other lawyers when I say that I practice “Small Business Law.”
A small business lawyer is not defined by a specialty practice area, but by the type of clients they serve. On any given day, I find myself practicing in several areas of law: corporate law, tax law, trademarks, copyrights, landlord/tenant law, employment law, trademark law, copyright law, collections and/or contracts. I like that I get to blend so many practice areas. Instead of narrowly focusing on one practice area and getting really good at doing on area of law for a wide variety of clients, I only deal with the issues in each of those practice areas that are unique to the small business owner. So you can define what a small business lawyer is by what we don’t do.
For example, I very rarely set up C-corporations because most of my clients are mom & pop businesses that fit the definition of an S-corp. I don’t do many complex partnership agreements either, because most of my clients want the protection of an LLC or corporation. I don’t do patent law, but I do help clients with copyrights and trademarks. I don’t do corporate tax returns, but I do help my clients figure out sales tax issues. I don’t do securities work, but I do help clients buy and sell small businesses. I don’t handle complex commercial litigation, but I do collections work and handle trademark and copyright infringement claims. I draft employment agreements, but I don’t litigate labor disputes or worker’s comp claims. I help with defining a business exit strategy, but I draw the line at estate planning, which I don’t do (I do work with a WONDERFUL estate planning firm). I don’t do family law, bankruptcy, real estate, probate or criminal law.
I don’t take every case that walks through the door.
My ideal client isn’t a rich guy with 500 employees. It’s the start-up entrepreneur with two employees and an office above his garage; the restaurant owner whose kids work the cash register; or the local bike shop that has been there for years. It’s the “little guys” that I love working with. They have just as many legal issues as the big guys, but they have different goals and limitations.
So there you go. That’s what a small business lawyer is, who we serve and what we do.