LegalArchiver.org was founded as “a quick reference archive site for the major acts and legislation covering business and corporate control issues.” Essentially, a place where business owners, lawyers, or law students could go to browse through laws germane to their work that had been gathered in one place. While the site intended to increase the number of acts they covered over time, it remained virtually unchanged from 2004 to 2017. Nevertheless, the laws it compiled are still of use to many in the world of business. So, while not extensive, the list can certainly be considered helpful.
What is Business Law?
Also known as commercial or mercantile law, business law governs commercial disputes and dealings between employers and their employees. It can be divided into two main areas: regulating entities and regulating transactions. Either way, many laws in this field are attempts to prevent problems that might hurt businesses or their customers. Once a company is up and running, there are many other areas of law that intersect with their affairs. For example, if an employer hires someone from another country, they’ll need to know how to navigate immigration law. If a corporation grows large enough, they might come up against anti-trust laws. There are numerous other legal entanglements that might arise, including tax-related issues, intellectual property disputes, and even bankruptcy.
Congress has passed many laws that affect business owners. For example, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 governs health and safety standards in the private sector. An employer being accused of discrimination should certainly be familiar with the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 governs employee health insurance and company-owned policies. A business that profits off of unique intellectual property in the digital age should know the content of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The rights granted to citizens by the Security and Freedom Through Encryption (SAFE) Act are important for anyone invested in protecting trade secrets. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 sets requirements for public company boards and public accounting firms, and the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 established national standards for the sending of commercial e-mail.
In addition to legislation, legal precedent can be useful in navigating what actions a company should or shouldn’t take. If a businessperson is in a situation that is reasonably similar to a case that has already been decided, it will be easy for them to predict what the outcome of their own case will be. And if the precedent is favorable to them, their lawyer will be able to use it to strengthen their case. While precedent can eventually be overturned by higher courts or the legislative branch, it is still an important part of the legal system.
One of the most important things an employer has to keep in mind while running a business is the rights of their employees. The last thing any boss wants to do is get caught up in a lawsuit against a disgruntled worker, especially if the boss is in the wrong. Employees have rights the moment the hiring process begins. Discrimination based on race, religion, gender, disability, or national origin is both morally wrong and legally prohibited. Once hiring is over, there are plenty of other concerns, including workplace safety, employee privacy, fair wages, state-mandated break time, and family and medical leave.
If a business invents a new product, part of what helps them to profit off of it is the fact that they have a unique entity that no one else can offer. This is why it’s important to protect their right to their intellectual property. This brand of law is technical and complex, but critical to companies that make money off of novel work. Copyright law is also important to companies that make money from creative endeavors, like art and entertainment.
Practicing Business Law
When most people hear the word “lawyer,” they tend to picture a person presenting a case before a judge and jury. But business law often takes place outside of a courtroom. Business lawyers can be brought in as a preventative measure, before a conflict arises. They look over contracts and prospective company bylaws, making sure that everything is in legal order. Some have a private practice that offers services to multiple clients, while others work in-house as an employee of the company they serve.