A limited liability partnership (LLP) is a partnership in which some or all partners (depending on the jurisdiction) have limited liabilities. It therefore exhibits elements of partnerships and corporations. In an LLP, one partner is not responsible or liable for another partner’s misconduct or negligence. This is an important difference from the traditional unlimited partnership under the Partnership Act 1890, in which each partner has joint and several liability. In an LLP, some partners have a form of limited liability similar to that of the shareholders of a corporation. In some countries, an LLP must also have at least one “general partner” with unlimited liability. Unlike corporate shareholders, the partners have the right to manage the business directly. In contrast, corporate shareholders have to elect a board of directors under the laws of various state charters. The board organizes itself (also under the laws of the various state charters) and hires corporate officers who then have as “corporate” individuals the legal responsibility to manage the corporation in the corporation’s best interest. An LLP also contains a different level of tax liability from that of a corporation.
Limited liability partnerships are distinct from limited partnerships in some countries, which may allow all LLP partners to have limited liability, while a limited partnership may require at least one unlimited partner and allow others to assume the role of a passive and limited liability investor. As a result, in these countries, the LLP is more suited for businesses in which all investors wish to take an active role in management.
There is considerable confusion between LLPs as constituted in the U.S. and those introduced in the UK in 2001 and adopted elsewhere — see below — as the UK LLP is, despite its name, specifically legislated as a corporate body rather than as a partnership.