What Is Business Law, and How Can You Specialize in the Legal Field?

Although an understanding of business law is vital for lawyers and attorneys who practice in the field, it can also be an important area of knowledge for non-lawyers who come into heavy contact with business law policies and regulations.

One of the largest, most ubiquitous legal topics across industries is business law, which covers all the legal issues and practices involved in building and running companies and organizations.

While it’s vital for lawyers who want to specialize in the field to study business law, it’s also an important educational step for non-lawyers whose careers come into heavy contact with business law policies, including development, finance, contracts and more.

If you’re looking to further your knowledge and skill sets in the field, USC Gould School of Law offers an online Business Law Certificate, designed for legal professionals and non-lawyers alike.

To gain a better understanding of the certificate benefits, career opportunities and more, we spoke with Robert Robertson, lecturer in law at USC Gould and partner at global law firm Dechert LLP.

What Is Business Law?

Business law is one of many areas in the greater legal field that regulates business practices, resolves disputes, forms organizations, operates companies and more.

Simply put, it’s an umbrella term that covers the core legal areas relating to business organizations’ structure and operations, according to Robertson.

“The term includes business operations, such as management, finance and accounting, as well as various forms of business entities like corporations and partnerships. Securities regulation, and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are also very relevant, especially for larger businesses,” he explained.

While laws and regulations can vary across states and countries, business law is generally designed to provide an operational framework for companies, management and shareholders.

How Can You Specialize in the Field, and Why Is It Important?

If you want to be a lawyer who works specifically in business law, you do, of course, need to attend law school (which means you must also earn a bachelor’s degree). After receiving your Juris Doctor (JD), you can sit for your state’s bar exam to become a practicing attorney.

But how can you specialize in business law specifically? There is no set path, according to Robertson. “Strategic career moves” can give you exposure to the field, and certain jobs and internships will help you develop some of the necessary knowledge.

You can, however, gain the required training and expertise through additional schooling — which is also an option if you don’t want to become a lawyer, but your job requires an understanding of business law.

One option is to enroll in the online Business Law Certificate program from USC Gould. The certificate, which can be completed in as few as three semesters, is the perfect option for those who want to understand how the law interacts with business, corporations, agencies, the government, health care, human resources and more. While you need to have an undergraduate degree to apply to the program, no prior experience with law is required.

In the certificate coursework, students learn legal writing skills, advanced legal terminology, and legal research processes, as well as how to analyze case law, regulatory policies and statutes. The program draws many non-lawyers, but it’s also useful for those who have earned a JD and want to specialize in business law.

The online certificate can be earned on a stand-alone basis or within USC Gould’s Master of Laws (LLM) program for international attorneys and Master of Studies in Law (MSL) program for non-lawyers.

“There are several benefits to a specialized business law certificate in the USC master’s program. It is a way for students to ensure that they have taken the right courses to have a solid foundation in business law. In addition, the certificate shows employers that a student has a solid business law foundation,” Robertson explained.

As for the non-lawyers pursuing the certificate, an understanding of how business law operates can help them make savvy decisions and avoid costly mistakes in their own careers.

“Students would benefit from taking business law classes, like securities regulation and M&A, because many of the operational aspects of large corporations are driven by regulatory requirements. For example, much of what happened when Elon Musk took over Twitter was to comply with SEC filing requirements and the Musk-Twitter deal documents,” he added.

Even if you feel like you’re familiar enough with business law, there are always new trends and topics arising in the field, leaving more to learn and explore, Robertson noted.

For example, “emerging topics in the business law world include the expanding fiduciary duty of directors and officers, privacy, cybersecurity, ESG and DE&I. The Securities and Exchange Commission, moreover, is always adopting new laws to keep up with an ever-changing business environment,” he said.

Ultimately, whether you’re an attorney or a non-lawyer professional, understanding topics like business organizations, M&A, securities and so on is essential for a career in both business and business law.

“These topics make the world go around,” Robertson said.

Career Options in Business Law

By studying business law, you can open yourself up to all sorts of career opportunities. If you have your JD, you can become legal counsel for a variety of companies, whether it’s a small business or a major corporation.

If you don’t have a JD, job possibilities still abound with an understanding of business law. It can help you stand out from other candidates in roles at almost any company, including but not limited to project managers, department heads, human resources professionals, financial officers and even CEOs or presidents.

“Graduating from USC’s master program with a focus on business law is a great foundation to build a career in this growth area. The degree should help a student get through the door or move up the ladder. Then like so much in life, where the student goes from there is really up to them,” Robertson said.

Learn more about the Business Law online certificate from USC Gould School of Law today.

More stories about: ,