Types of Lawyers: Top 20 Practices

types of lawyers

There are so many types of practices out there. Most of the time, students graduate law school and only find out about a handful of there. Read on and I’ll give you a quick summary about 20 different areas of law you could potentially work in.

1. Criminal Defense

This is the law and order job. Being a criminal defense attorney, you get to defend people in their criminal cases. There are a lot of different kinds of jobs you can do in this area.

2. Immigration

The immigration statute is one of the fastest growing statutes there is. It’s an amazingly complex area of law to practice, and there are lots and lots of potential clients out there to serve. You definitely won’t have to look hard to find them, as long as the US borders remain open to new immigrants.

3. Divorce

There is a lot of divorce in the United States and there are a lot of people getting divorced out there without the help of attorneys. Being a divorce attorney may not be the easiest, or funnest, job out there, but you will get to practice a lot of different areas of law at the end of the day.

4. Bankruptcy

With the way the economy was going and with the unemployment rate where it is right now, federal bankruptcy court is quite the busy place. There is no shortage of work in this area either. If you practice this area of law, you’ll be able to help people with a small number of assets, lots of assets, and even large corporations deal with their bankruptcy issues.

5. Civil Litigation

Civil litigation involves a lot of different areas of law. Technically, everything we’ve mentioned up to this point, with the exception of criminal defense, is a kind of civil litigation. However, the bread and butter of a civil litigation law firm is breach of contract, where one or both parties to a contract decide not to abide by the terms of a contract, or completely withdraw. It can be really fun, and it can be really tedious.

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6. Real Estate

Real estate law also involves several kinds of law. However, when you get down to it, most attorneys that practice real estate law do a bunch of evictions and basic real estate transactions. The eviction dockets for most real estate attorneys are large. They’ll have a single court day where they go and take care of 20 to 50 evictions at once. It’s an extremely high volume area of law to practice in.

7. Appeals

This area of law takes a special kind of attorney. It’s less about arguing in court and more about the art of persuasion, both in the written and spoken word. Appeals attorneys come into play when a person goes to trial and doesn’t get the outcome they wanted or thought should have happened. The case will go to an appeals court, where the appeals judge(s) will review the trial court’s decision and determine if he or she did what the law required.

8. Employment Disputes

This area of law involves disputes between employers and employees. Generally, the disputes arise because an employee is fired or there is some kind of discrimination, whether on the basis of sex or race, or some other kind. The disputes can get heated and there are usually a bunch of moving parts.

9. Personal Injury

These guys are the ambulance chasers. There is a lot of money that changes hands in the personal injury world. It is one of the few areas of law that actually works on a contingency fee. That means if you don’t win your case, you won’t get paid. However, since the standard rate is 1/3 of the gross settlement, if you settle a case for $300,000, you’ll get $100,000 in attorney fees. It’s a high risk, high reward area of law for sure.

10. Business Disputes

This is an area of civil litigation, but it happens enough that it warrants its own description. Generally, business disputes arise when there are unmet expectations between business partners. There is a lot of contention when the partners begin fighting, and in many cases, these disputes end up looking a lot like divorces.

11. Business/Non-Profit Formation

Every state has its own rules for business and non-profit organization formation. That means there are a bunch of rules that new business owners have no clue about. Attorneys play a key role in the formation of these entities and there are literally thousands of them being formed every single year. You can specialize in partnerships, corporations, LLCs, non-profits, and many other areas as well.

12. Elder Law

Elder law encompasses a bunch of areas of law. It’s essentially a hodgepodge of any issues that could deal with people over the age of 65. The issues range from the drafting of wills and trusts to the establishment of guardianships and conservatorships to taking a deceased person’s estate from the court process.

13. Dependency and Neglect

There are two kinds of ways to get involved in a Dependency and Neglect (DNN) case. You can represent parents who’ve been accused of abusing or neglecting their children or you can represent the best interests of the children who’ve been abused or neglected. There are a bunch of really sad and difficult cases, but the experience is a very rewarding one, as you’ll be able to help families navigate their issues and become better all around.

14. Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is also known as copyright law. Large companies (think Apple, Microsoft, Intel, etc.) like to protect their ideas. In the United States, ideas are worth money and people/companies are entitled to own them, just like they would own a pair of sneakers. There are two sides to this coin. Some attorneys help companies patent their ideas and some attorneys help defend when there has been a patent infringement.

15. Constitutional Law

Constitutional law attorneys help protect individuals’ freedoms, like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and basic privacy issues. Non-profits like the ACLU and NAACP employ attorneys all over the country to help push cases with large constitutional ramifications through the legal system, in hopes to increase individual rights in this country.

16. Environmental Law

Right now, this is a very attractive area of law to practice in. There are numerous ways to practice environmental law, from policy making to enforcement with the EPA. There are lots of opportunities to practice water law, of all things, and there’s also a large demand for oil and natural gas. Attorneys are all over the place with these issues, representing injured parties, the government, and defending entities or persons that may be in violation of environmental laws.

17. International and Comparative Law

We are living in a world that is growing ever more integrated. Countries are able to interact and communicate in ways that were unfathomable even 5 to 10 years ago. As the world has gotten smaller, cultures have become mixed, and there has been a lot of good and a lot of not so good that has come out of it. Attorneys that practice international law can practice all over the place, whether it’s in international human rights, international policymaking, or international business transactions.

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18. City Planning

Cities have just as many codes and rules as their county, state, and federal counterparts. In addition to all of these rules and regulations, cities need to plan for the future. This includes trying to figure out how quickly the city wants to expand and develop. There are hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of moving parts going on with the inner workings of municipalities, and lawyers/lawmakers are involved in every step of the way.

19. Reproductive Rights

This is also a burgeoning area of law, as gender walls are being broken down and technologies continue to expand, allowing more and more people to bring children into their homes. With new supreme court decisions and a constant change in laws and reproductive technologies, there are many, many opportunities for lawyers to practice in this area.

20. Land Use and Development

This area of law is similar to real estate and city planning. However, it’s big enough that I thought it was entitled to its own section. While cities are involved in expanding, the other side of that coin are the commercial developers and builders. If you’ve seen those high-rise building in large metropolitan areas, you’ve seen a large-scale development project. There are literally hundreds of regulations that govern how these projects can proceed and oftentimes, only attorneys can decipher them.

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