"What do commercial lawyers do?"

Key Facts

Commercial work tends to be very broad and can cover lots of specific areas of practice such as an intellectual property, franchising and litigation. 

Most of the work commercial lawyers do is governed by contract law and tort law. 

Commercial lawyers focus on issues that occur in the day to day running of a business

There are 'contentious' and 'non-contentious' commercial lawyers.


Contentious commercial lawyers deal with disputes and issues that arise when a commercial contract or arrangement has been (or is thought to have been) breached

The work will involve advising clients and dealing with claims that go through (or are likely to go through) court. 

This area of work is generally known as 'Commercial Litigation'. 


Non-contentious commercial lawyers deal with the entering into, and negotiating of, commercial contracts and arrangements. 

This work will include advising clients on risk and various other aspects of the contracts being entered into. 

Clients will also ask commercial lawyers to undertake due diligence exercises such as reviewing a range of contracts for a particular purpose. 

Corporate v Commercial

Often confused and used interchangeably, corporate law and commercial law are two separate areas of legal practice (although they do overlap/work together). 

Both areas of legal practice have similar clients (i.e. business clients) but the work they do for those clients will differ. 

A corporate lawyer will look at the lifecycle of a business (i.e. setting it up, expanding it, downsizing etc) whereas a commercial lawyer will deal with the day to day commercial transactions and issues of the business


Company A is a t-shirt company. It makes £5m a year and wants to expand its business by selling caps too. Company B already sells caps and makes £2m a year. Company A and Company B decide to merge their business to form one single business. A corporate lawyer will be used for this transaction. 

Alternatively, let's say Company A still wants to grow its business but not through merging with another business. Instead, it wants to start selling t-shirts online or in other department stores. A commercial lawyer will be used to negotiate and implement these commercial arrangements (usually through contracts and licences etc). 

Typical tasks of a Commercial Lawyer...

  • Reading and interpreting a range of legal documents. 

  • Drafting and amending contracts, agreements, licences etc. 

  • Negotiating with the other parties' lawyers on transactions. 

  • Researching a variety of areas of law to assist with giving advice. 

  • Advising clients on a range of issues including political and economic developments that impact the client's business. 

  • Drafting reports and advice notes/papers on commercial strategies. 

  • Attending client meetings and maintaining ongoing relationships with clients. 

Skills to be a Commercial Lawyer...

  • Good knowledge of business and the economic market.

  • Strong commercial awareness.

  • Ability to work well under pressure.

  • Innovative.

  • Strong communication and negotiation skills.

  • Ambitious and intelligent.

  • Strong interpersonal and people management skills.

  • Analytical.

  • Solid knowledge of contract and tort law to enable effective drafting. 


DON'T FORGET - every law firm is a commercial business so even if you're not interested in commercial law, demonstrating the above skills can show you will be a good lawyer. Where appropriate, use the above phrases in your applications and use examples of demonstrating these skills.