What's commercial law? Commercial law is an area of law that regulates the conduct of individuals, merchants, and businesses that engage in trade, sales, and commerce. In other words, the rules and regulations that merchants and others engaged in commerce must follow as they conduct business are considered commercial law.

Commercial law and business law have many overlapping concepts, so in general, you might hear either term referring to the same thing. In addition, a lawyer who practices one is most likely experienced in the other. Any dispute that involves companies or business conduct will most likely require a commercial lawyer.

Commercial law is quite a wide realm of law that engages with several other areas of law including real estate, food and safety laws, and environmental regulation. A few of the larger subcategories of commercial law are contract laws, intellectual property laws, and consumer protection. Commercial law regulates sales of services and products, negotiable instruments, leases, principal and agent relationships, security interests, and much, much more. It also covers related concerns like company bankruptcy and tax planning.

Definition of Commercial Law and the UCC

Because the definition of commercial law is so expansive, it may be helpful to define the matter in relation to timing. Legal issues that present themselves before the beginning of a lawsuit are covered by commercial law, as opposed to litigation, which exists once a lawsuit has been filed. Commercial law attorneys assist in negotiating and entering into business contracts, whereas litigation attorneys assist clients in defending their interests in court when business agreements are breached.

Commercial law is centered around the sale and distribution of goods and financing of specific transactions. It is governed by the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), an example set of laws concerning the sales of goods, leases of negotiable instruments, and secured transactions. Every state utilizes some version of the Uniform Commercial Code, however, every state is able to make its own changes to the provisions as it deems appropriate. Due to the varying nature of each state's implementation of UCC provisions, it's necessary to hire a lawyer who is experienced with the UCC as it pertains to your state.

Areas of Commercial Law

Commercial law revolves largely around the commercial context, or that which involves companies. It may also include insurance, partnerships, manufacturing, merchant shipping, sales of consumer goods, and any company-related legal disagreements. Commercial law includes the following areas of law (among many others):

  • Merchant sales
  • Consumer protection
  • Contract law
  • Corporate law
  • Copyright law
  • Patent law
  • Trademark law
  • Intellectual property law
  • Competition/antitrust law
  • Environmental law
  • Corporate governance
  • International trade law
  • Labor law

In addition, several countries have enacted civil codes containing detailed statements of their commercial laws. This has been done in an attempt to reduce the issues arising when attempting to deal with such a broad area of law. It's helpful to remember that commercial law does not exist in a vacuum. Rather, it interacts with many other areas of law, such as those relating to trusts, tax, European law, and criminal law.

Should I Hire a Commercial Lawyer?

There are countless reasons to hire a commercial lawyer. Distinct business and commercial law concerns face each and every industry. An attorney who is experienced in the kind of business that your company operates has the ability to give more practical and specific advice as they help you figure out an answer to your legal concern that also considers ethics and standard industry procedures.

Frequently, company owners hire legal assistance only after too much time has passed for the attorney to be of use. In addition, many company owners try to come to an agreement on the sales of goods without knowing or understanding the necessary legal requirements as determined by their state's adoption of UCC provisions. This can result in breached or canceled contracts and lost profits.

If a party to the contract decides to take the other party to court, legal penalties and litigation could result. Business owners would be wise to seek the assistance of a commercial law attorney during the initial stages of the agreement negotiation process instead of attempting to navigate the law on their own. This will ensure the protection of their legal rights.

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