Business Transactions - Your Lawyer's Role
In one of his most famous and tautological quotes, President Warring G. Harding once observed that, "The business of America is business." He was right. No nation on earth has a stronger commitment to free enterprise than the United States. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are nearly 30 million small companies in the U.S., which represents over 99 percent of all employer firms.Although it is invariably the corporations that make headlines when accused of wrongdoing, most business-related lawsuits are filed against small companies since there are so many of them. This specialized area of practice is called business litigation in the legal profession. Lawsuits that involve malpractice, contract law, and class action suits are the most common types of these cases.Who To CallEven though the law is supposed to be blind, companies of all sizes are often cast as villains when accused of wrongdoing. Whether the case is about food poisoning or a defective airbag, a firm must work fast to defend the company's good name. Failure to do so will almost inevitably result in a deluge of bad press, which will almost certainly hurt the bottom line.In any civil case, the complainant is the accuser, while the litigant is the accused, hence the term "business litigation." These accusers could be anyone, including a current or former employee, customer, client, or former partner. The most sophisticated cases litigation lawyers handle are class action suits.A lawyer that specializes in class action lawsuits must defend his client against a group of complainants that may include hundreds or even thousands of people. The outcome of these cases can alter the fortunes of any company, no matter how large they might be. The Master Tobacco Settlement, for example, was settled in 1998 for $206 billion over 25 years!What To ExpectWhether of the class action, contract, or malpractice variety, most of these cases are settled before they ever get to court. There are many reasons for this. First and most obviously, members of the firm that may or may not be responsible for any wrongdoing do not want their name tarnished in the press. As a result, they are often willing to settle cases they may not have been responsible for simply because it is cheaper and easier than going to trial. With that said, a good business litigation lawyer must be a skilled mediator, since that is often how these cases are resolved.Mediation Vs. ArbitrationAs a general rule, attorneys must negotiate in either arbitration or mediation hearings. The only difference between the two processes is that arbitration involves a legal judgment that is determined by an arbitration board, while mediation is simply an open negotiation between the two opposing sides.Settlements that are made in mediation often involve disputes where the complainant believes that they were unlawfully terminated. Because wrongful termination cases are so common, they seldom make the papers or the news, which is why they are often settled for a reasonable sum before they ever get to a judge.In any of the aforementioned situations, an experienced business lawyer may mean the difference between a crippling lawsuit and a legal victory.
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