An Overview of Commercial Law

Having a basic understanding of commercial law is very important for entrepreneurs who want to succeed in the business world.

Legal matters are usually unavoidable if you are running a company. First off, you will need to follow requirements set by the law for you to be able to operate legally in your area. Other than that, you also have to observe legalities when it comes to dealing with your employees and business contacts.

In many ways, working side by side with a commercial law firm can be for your great advantage. Professional lawyers will be your best source of information and assistance if you want to do things the right way. These specialists have wide knowledge and experience when it comes to handling legal issues, especially those that directly deal with business, property and employment matters.

You may encounter a dispute with another company regarding copyright infringement. In such instances, a commercial lawyer will know what to do and will do his or her best to make sure that your legal rights are observed.

Feeling a little uncertain about a contract you need to sign? Consulting with an attorney is also a wise move. In fact, your lawyer is not only capable of helping you decipher contracts but he or she may also provide assistance if you need to create contracts of your own. They will make sure that no laws will be violated and your best interest will be a priority at the same time.

Sensitive topics such as those regarding shares, share alteration, transfer of shares and share transfer limitations will be thoroughly inspected by these legal practitioners as well. They will make sure that there are no possible loopholes in all your dealings for your own security and protection.

When time comes that you will need to retire, commercial lawyers can help make a smooth transition for business ownership from you to your intended successor. The same can be said in time of unexpected death or other serious circumstances.

To find the best service in your area, try asking for recommendations from those you know in the business community. Many of your associates and contacts have already hired attorneys in the past and you would definitely benefit if you seek referrals from them.

Other than that, you may also do your own research via the internet. Relevant details can be easily accessed as you visit commercial law firm websites.

How to Choose a Great Business Lawyer for Your Business: My Top Ten Tips

Conventional wisdom (and many lawyers) will tell you that, if you’re a business owner or manager, you will get yourself in trouble if you don’t have a good business lawyer. But when I hear this, I view this as somewhat of a negative statement, which frankly annoys me. I assume that smart business people do not want to be belittled and told that, they if they don’t have a lawyer, they will be too naive or inexperienced to avoid pitfalls.

Another way of saying this is that I personally hate doing anything to move away from something. I much prefer to make choices that allow me to move towards perceived advantages of my actions. So I address my clients accordingly.

So with this in mind I will rephrase the primary benefit of having a great lawyer by your side as follows: you will make more money. You should thus view a business lawyer as your partner who will help you make the choices that will improve your business and drive your bottom line upwards.

Now, if you are looking for a lawyer or are not happy with your present lawyer, how do you choose a great business lawyer. But first a definition. What is a business lawyer? I personally distinguish a business lawyer from a corporate or commercial lawyer. To me the business lawyer in the classic sense of the term denotes the classic lawyer-client relationship where the lawyer is more than someone who cranks out paper. I define the business lawyer as your quasi business partner or confidante. Someone you can confide it, who can solve your problems, understand you and help you grow.

Now Here are my TOP 10 TIPS to choosing a GREAT BUSINESS LAWYER, not in any order of importance.

10. Don’t assume you need a big blue chip firm. I come from several big blue chip law firms. They do great law and sometimes you need the “brand” or “label” of the big law firm next to you, for instance if you’re going public. But for more routine work, you don’t need such a firm. They are expensive and comprise many layers. So for you to deal with the top dog, you will be paying up to $1,000 per hour, or more. If your budget is one quarter of this, you will mostly be dealing with a junior associate who will not have the business experience you are looking for. It really depends on your needs, and your budget.

9. Don’t focus only on the billable hour rate. If you’re hesitating between someone who costs you $250 per hour and someone else at $350 per hour, don’t make your decision strictly on cost. What matters are two things: first what the final bill will be and, second, what value who will have received. The hourly rate is a red herring. What is the point of asking someone to do a job for you at $250 per hour if the person needs 40 hours for the job where the other lawyer at $350 per hour only needs 20 hours? Particularly if the other lawyer can do a better job for you. Billing policy is too much of a thorny and elaborate issue to address in a few lines. My point is simply that the hourly rate is not the be all and the end all.

8. Look for someone you would be happy to have a drink with. If your relationship with your business lawyer is going to be successful, you need to connect with him (her) on a personal basis. It is to your advantage to let your lawyer into your life as a quasi-friend. For this to happen there must be personal chemistry.

7. Look for business experience. If your business lawyer is going to advise you on your business, it is trite to say that having business experience is a must. Again it goes to the difference between dealing with a junior associate just out of school and someone who has real practical hands on business experience.

6. Look for someone open to a fixed fee arrangement. No one I know wants to retain a lawyer not knowing what the final bill will be. While this is often difficult for a lawyer to estimate, he (she) may be open to a flexible or fixed fee arrangement. And he (she) should be able to give you at least a good idea on the fees.

5. Look for a deal maker not a deal breaker. In any business deal, there can be dozens of reasons why the deal can’t work or why the agreement is not right. You don’t want a lawyer that throws unnecessary obstacles to making the deal work. It takes a practical approach. It is all about business risk and your lawyer should give you the pros and the cons and provide advice rather than blocking the deal.

4. Think of your business lawyer as your part-time VP legal. Some business lawyers are open to retainer arrangements where they will agree to act as your part-time VP legal at a lower cost than hiring a law firm. A lawyer could for instance offer to work a certain numbers of days per month for you at a fixed fee. It could save you money and help you grow your business with a smart person on the inside who gets to understand your business inside out.

3. Find someone with good business connections. Getting things done in this world often requires a good business network. Having access to this through your lawyer is invaluable.

2. Find a people person. If you want your lawyer to make things happen for you, he (she) will need to be someone who does not antagonize everyone around him (her). Having someone who relates well with other people can be a key to making something work.

1. Think bottom line. Lawyers cost money but I submit this should not be your first thought. What you should be thinking about is whether by spending say $1,000 your lawyer can help you generate $2,000. If so, the lawyer is not a cost. He (she) is a co-generator of a rate of return of 100%. If you think about it that way and your lawyer delivers, the cost will not be so bad to digest.

With these elements, you will be in a position to make the best decision for what works for you.

Commercial Law – Alleged Breach of Contract – Building Contract – Performance Bonds

The case of Spiersbridge Property Developments Ltd vMuir Construction Ltd [2008] involved a determination relating to an action alleging breach of a building contract. A bank had paid out an amount demanded by the pursuer under a performance bond and it had to be decided, if the demand on the bond exceeded the sum ultimately due, whether the pursuer was obliged to account for the excess to the bank or to the defender.

The pursuer in this case was a property development company and the defender was a construction company. The parties entered into a building contract in June 2005, in accordance with this contract, the defender was to design and construct a development consisting of warehouses and office space.

This case was centred on the pursuer claiming for alleged delays in completing the works whilst the defender counterclaimed, requesting for an extension of time in which it could complete its obligations.

According to clause 2.10.2 of Appendix 1 of the building contract, the defender, as the contractor, made an undertaking to execute and deliver to the pursuer, as the employer, no later than 14 days following a written request from the pursuer to do so:

“…A performance bond in an amount not less than 10% of the Contract Sum in terms the same as the draft performance bond set out in Part Five of this Schedule”.

The Bank of Scotland subsequently issued a performance bond. The performance bond was in the form of a letter which was addressed to the pursuers and included substantially the same terms as the draft bond referred to in clause 2.10.2.

Then, in November 2006, the pursuer made a demand requiring the bank to pay £503,193.75 under the bond, which the bank duly paid to the pursuer. The defender stated that it was obliged, under a counter-indemnity it had granted to the bank, to pay that same amount to the bank and that it had duly done so.

Furthermore, the defender stated in its counterclaim that the grounds on which the pursuer called on the bond were erroneous. The defender argued that the grounds were erroneous due to the fact that it was not in breach of contract as alleged by the pursuer. It asserted that the pursuer was obliged to account to it for the sums received under the bond. The basis for that assertion being that the following term was to be implied into the building contract:

“…In the event that… the pursuer should make a call on the bond it would account to the defender for the proceeds of the bond, retaining only the amount equivalent to any loss suffered by the pursuer as a result of the defender’s breach of contract, if any”.

It was argued that such a term required to be implied as a matter of business efficacy. This meant that the dispute as to whether the defender was in breach of the building contract, as alleged by the pursuer, was yet to be settled.

Despite the fact that a ‘proof before answer’ had been appointed, the parties also disagreed on whether the pursuer was obliged to account to the defender for that excess, assuming it was found to be entitled to a sum less than it was paid under the bond.

Accordingly, the pursuer argued that its duty to account was owed to the bank and not to the defender. The pursuer’s principal concern was that if it made payment of that excess to the defender, it risked being sued for an equal sum by the bank.

The parties came to the mutual decision to have the issue decided in a debate before the proof. The question for decision during the debate was:

“Where a demand had been made on a performance bond in an amount which was ultimately found to exceed the sum due to the party making the demand, was that party obliged to account for that excess:

(a) To the bank; or

(b) To his opposite contracting party?”

Counsel for the pursuer said that there were three contracts which needed to be considered:

§ The bond contract, namely the contract on the performance bond between the pursuer and the bank;

§ The building contract, which was the contract between the pursuer and the defender; and

§ The banking contract between the defender and the bank pursuant to which the bank agreed to issue the performance bond.

It had to be decided to whom the pursuer should account for the excess and the route to achieve this. It was submitted that the most sensible route was by implication of a term into the bond contract. The term would state that the pursuer would repay the excess to the bank. This would be matched by a corresponding term to be implied into the banking contract under which, if it had already been paid by the defender, the bank would repay the said amount to the defender.

This however raised some potential difficulties. If the term was implied into the building contract where the defender became insolvent, and the pursuer was required to account for the excess to the defender, the payment by the pursuer would go into the pot for the general body of creditors of the defender. This would mean that unless it had already been paid by the defender, the bank would lose out.

Counsel for the defender submitted that the term should be implied in the building contract. If it were the case that it was the bank that could sue on the bond for the excess, the bank would be undertaking the burden of seeking to prove in litigation with the pursuer that the defender was not in breach of contract. Alternatively, that the damage suffered by the pursuer was less than the amount called under the bond.

It was argued that that was not a task a reasonable banker would be particularly willing to undertake, not just because of the difficulty of running such a case, but also due to the fact that it would be expensive.

It would be much better for the bank to be able to rely upon its counter-indemnity from the defender at the time that the bond was called. If the bank had the right of action for recovery of the excess, counsel for the pursuer argued that those difficulties could be overcome by an assignment of the right of action by the bank to the defender. However, this would not work as the terms of the bond prohibited the bank from assigning its rights without the pursuer’s consent. Furthermore, if the bank had been paid by the defender pursuant to its counter-indemnity, it would not have suffered any loss and would have no claim to assign.

After much deliberation, the court held that where a demand was made on a performance bond in an amount which was ultimately found to exceed the sum due to the party making the demand, that party was held to be obliged to account for that excess to the opposite contracting party. In the circumstances of this case, the parties had agreed that the obligation on the pursuer to account for any excess must rest upon an implied term in one of the contracts to which it was a party.

This meant that the question then became one of establishing which implication best gave the intended business efficacy to the transaction.

The court was of the opinion that the natural implication was an implication of the type for which the defender argued, namely an implication of a term into the building contract as follows:

‘…In the event that… the pursuer should make a call on the bond it would account to the defender for the proceeds of the bond, retaining only the amount equivalent to any loss suffered by the pursuer as a result of the defender’s breach of contract, if any’.

It was held that a term implied into the building contract had none of the disadvantages of involving the bank in the merits of the case. Furthermore, it also allowed for establishing what loss, if any, the pursuer had suffered as a result of the defender’s alleged breach of the building contract. This could be determined in litigation or arbitration between the parties to that contract.

The court further held that it was unrealistic to think that the bank would not have agreed with the defender a counter-indemnity in terms of which the defender would in turn indemnify the bank in the like amount upon a call being made upon the bond.

In the event that the call on the bond was excessive, the defender would be out of pocket, not the bank. According to the court, it seemed quite natural that it should be the defender to whom the pursuer had to account for that excess. This did however leave one potential problem. That problem being that if the defender became insolvent after the bond was established by the bank, but before the bank could claim against the defender on the counter-indemnity, then the bank would stand to lose out if it had not taken security.

This potential problem was held to merely be a commercial risk which the bank would decide whether or not to take depending upon its assessment of the defender’s creditworthiness. As such, the bank could overcome this problem by refusing to issue the bond, or require some security before agreeing to issue it.

© RT COOPERS, 2008. This Briefing Note does not provide a comprehensive or complete statement of the law relating to the issues discussed nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight general issues. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in relation to particular circumstances.

Learn About the Ideal Job Description of Commercial Real Estate Lawyers

Money becomes an imperative figure when it is about considering any sort of investment or dealing in estate property. Most of the times and for the majority of us, we do not have the true resources and all the necessary information that is required in estate transactions. Therefore, in such situations the best choice is to consult a professional and experienced commercial real estate lawyer who will have all the necessary and precise information during the process.

You may need to approach a lawyer when you are selling or buying commercial property or when you want to make sure that the sale you are getting is fair and legitimately priced. Well, whatsoever is the reason, a lawyer is always the most advisable and sensible option when it comes to dealings in the realty industry. Before we go through the crucial details of commercial real estate lawyers, let us briefly read about real estate law.

What is Commercial Real Estate?

This term loosely refers to any piece of land purchased with the full intent of making substantial money on the overall property. Commercial estate can also be used for apartment complexes and industrial production. However, most commonly it is used for restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, office buildings and any other similar property on which the owner of the land expects to mint some money.

What Does a Commercial Real Estate Lawyer Do?

Real estate is basically the sale, purchase, and transfer of homes, buildings or any other commercial property and very strict laws are alleviated for real estate transactions. Thus, a lawyer is typically required for such types of commercial transactions. A lawyer has focused and practiced the real estate law and thus is entitled as a fully licensed attorney. The lawyers handle estate transactions encumbering commercial properties. They also title opinions.

The clients can be property owners, lenders, or developers and can be involved in issues related to property litigation, zoning problems or contract disputes. A lawyer has to render advice to his clients regarding all the paperwork and property transactions. This is one of the most important roles as a commercial lawyer.

Many of the times, established commercial firms hire dedicated lawyers to work for their corporations. Sometimes, these lawyers attain good opportunities and act as general counsel for large scale developers too. However, the job of such attorneys is to sell and buy properties, review the financial documents, file paperwork for corporations, partnerships, documentation for taxes, and communicate with investors regarding the property.

Nevertheless, other attorneys in this domain are also in charge of reviewing the deeds and ensuring the titles are appropriately filed with the right governing policies. They also manage the negotiating leases for various commercial office buildings and shopping centers.

Choosing Your Lawyer

The job of a lawyer is globally recognised and respected as a position of authority and trust. Lawyers’ job roles vary significantly depending upon which aspect of law they choose to specialise in. The fact that they generally specialise in only one aspect of law means that you may consult with more than one lawyer in your lifetime depending on the situation; you would need a family lawyer to sort out a divorce whilst a commercial lawyer would ensure that your business is in order.

Family Law

Family lawyers cover issues such as divorce and child custody. This aspect of law can be very emotive and often refer to sensitive issues therefore lawyers in this field should be approachable and sympathetic. One of the main things to consider when choosing a lawyer in this sector is whether you feel comfortable speaking to them. This is because you will need to share all of the information about the circumstances of the situation which can often be a harrowing experience. Having a lawyer that you are relaxed with should make divulging this information less stressful.

Criminal Law

Criminal lawyers work for both the accused party and the victim of crime. When choosing a lawyer if you are accused of a crime ensure that they have a good track record with cases similar to your own, their experience will be invaluable.

If you are a victim of crime, reliving the incident by talking to a lawyer can be a very emotive experience. It is important then that the lawyer gains all of the evidence necessary to build a case against the accused, but also that they are sympathetic and understanding to your feelings and emotions. As with all good family lawyers, criminal lawyers should make you feel comfortable to talk to them about all of the issues surrounding the criminal act.

Commercial Law

All businesses, regardless of size, are governed by commercial law. This means that in order to operate, they must be compliant to all aspects of this law. As a result, businesses often use commercial lawyers on a consultancy basis to ensure that their practises are in line with the law. When you employ a commercial lawyer, ensure that you are able to maintain a healthy working relationship with them. This will benefit your company as the more that the lawyer knows about your company, the more they will be able to assist you with decisions and planning for the future. It also means that should you come into difficulty with the law, they will know enough about how your business operates to be able to represent you honestly.

Tax Law

Businesses are responsible for calculating the amount of tax they must pay each year. If this is done incorrectly it can result in businesses overpaying or underpaying tax. Underpayment of tax can result in substantial fines so it is imperative that the tax calculation is accurate and the money reaches the government on time. Tax lawyers can be a useful tool in helping to complete these calculations as they have vast amounts of knowledge about the legal requirements of tax payments. You should choose a tax lawyer that you feel you can trust as they will be dealing with your business finances at least once per year. Also, should you have an issues concerning tax, they will have the inside knowledge to be able to represent you fairly.