Skills you'll gain: Data Management, Theoretical Computer Science, Algorithms, Big Data, Communication, Computational Thinking, Computer Programming, Data Analysis, Database Administration, Databases, Journalism, Machine Learning, Security Engineering, Software Security
Beginner · Course · 1-4 Weeks
Business law is a wide-ranging subject covering all of the legal requirements a company must follow throughout its life-cycle. This may include laws and regulations governing business formation, funding, and ongoing operations and corporate governance. Ensuring compliance with all applicable laws is an important component of business risk management, and these laws may also shape business strategy.
Sometimes, business law is used interchangeably with corporate law, which focuses primarily on the legal structures, governance, and fundraising of businesses. There are different advantages and disadvantages to consider when establishing a business as a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation (Inc), for example. Similarly, companies must consider legal ramifications when deciding on a financing strategy; for instance, going public with an initial public offering (IPO) has many requirements governing shareholder obligations and accounting disclosures.
More broadly, business law may encompass many aspects of commercial law that governs ongoing operations such as business transactions and how companies interact with their customers. This may include contract law, intellectual property law, environmental regulations, privacy compliance, and other types of consumer protections. Violating any of these legal obligations can expose a company to significant costs from fines and other legal penalties as well as reputational damage, making awareness and adherence of them essential.
Business law impacts all areas of a company, but roles in certain departments are particularly important for ensuring compliance. Financial managers and accountants need to ensure proper procedures are in place to produce accurate financial statements, which businesses are required by law to provide for lenders, shareholders, taxation authorities, and other stakeholders. Human resources managers similarly have a responsibility to ensure that contracts, benefits, hiring practices, and other aspects of employee relations are in full compliance with the law.
Professionals with a strong interest in business law may wish to become lawyers specializing in advising companies on these matters. Often called corporate counsels or in-house counsels, these lawyers advise executives on all manner of legal issues related to business formation and operations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers earned a median annual wage of $122,960 as of May 2019, and typically complete a bachelor’s degree in English, government, history, or economics before attending a 3-year law school program.
Absolutely. Coursera offers courses and Specialization in business law and related topics like corporate law, intellectual property, and regulatory compliance. These courses are delivered by top-ranked institutions like the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the ability to complete work remotely on a flexible schedule makes learning on Coursera a great choice for students as well as mid-career professionals looking to expand their skill set.
The skills and experience you might need to already have before starting to learn business law include critical reading, writing, and analytical thinking skills. These skills, along with problem-solving, oral communication, and research skills are useful for individuals who want to learn business law and other types of law. Although it’s not necessary, having an understanding of how businesses run and being familiar with terms like balance sheet and income statement may be helpful before you start learning about business law. Presentation and negotiation skills can also come in handy.
Those best suited for roles in business law tend to be inquisitive, willing to adapt to changes within an organization, and genuinely interested in understanding how laws and regulations affect the company. They typically enjoy solving problems and spending time researching complex legal issues. Individuals who work in business law and related fields tend to be detail-oriented and able to communicate with others in a variety of situations. They often immerse themselves in the operations of a company and spend time understanding the needs of an organization and the people within it, especially if they're a stakeholder in the organization.
Learning about business law may be right for you if you're passionate about negotiating deals, interpreting laws and regulations, and preparing legal documents like contracts and deeds. You may enjoy advising business leaders and keeping up with the latest rules that apply to a specific industry. If you're a business owner, learning business law may help you understand topics like contracts, forms, and government regulations and how they apply to your company. Subject matter that address international business law topics may be beneficial if your company does business overseas. If you're planning to take a CPA exam, you may find learning business law useful as part of your exam preparation.