There is a great confusion in the population regarding types of lawyers that exist in the legal world. Most people assume that a lawyer is a lawyer, and so any lawyer will be able to provide every legal services you might need. Technically this is true because a lawyer is licensed to practice law.
But you have to take into account that the law is so vast and all-encompassing that it is impossible for a single lawyer to effectively provide legal services for all different areas of the law. Lawyers typically specialize in one, or a few related types of law.
Below is a list of the most common types of lawyers and a brief description of each lawyers’ law practice.
Employment & Labor Lawyer
Employment & Labor lawyers handle issues relating to employment. They deal with making sure businesses are complying with state and federal labor laws. There are both litigation and transactional employment lawyers. Employment litigators go to court and argue when a business violated the terms of an employment contract or state law. Transactional employment lawyers deal more with drafting the employment documents themselves when an employee is being hired.
Business Lawyer (a.k.a. Corporate Lawyer)
Business lawyers will deal with several areas of law, such as employment, intellectual property, and mergers and acquisitions. Some lawyers just focus on basic business legal tasks such as forming your company, and others are more encompassing and will work on all types of business needed. From employment issues to tax compliance. A
Within the branch of corporate lawyers there are business transactional lawyers and business litigation lawyers as well. The differences are significant, business transactional lawyer handles transactions (such as negotiating deals) and drafting documents (such as employment agreements), while business litigation lawyer handles your lawsuits (such as when someone sues your company for violating the terms of a contract).
Finance & Securities Lawyer
Finance and Securities lawyers only operate in a very specific sector of law. They only deal with issues relating to banks and individuals issuing money, or companies selling stock. They also help defend clients when the SEC or IRS files a complaint against a person or a corporation.
Mergers & Acquisitions Lawyer (M&A)
Mergers and acquisition (M&A) lawyers deal with the buying and selling of companies. The buying and selling of major companies is a very long and complex process which usually involves a team of few lawyers. M&A lawyers are very well-versed in finance and securities laws, as well as tax law.
Intellectual Property Lawyer (IP)
Intellectual Property, or IP, lawyers deal with protecting intellectual property. The three major areas of law within intellectual property are copyright, trademark, and patent. Patent law is one area of the law that requires further licensing than just a regular law degree, it also requires a technical background (i.e. engineering, software development, chemistry, or life sciences). Since IP laws are all very technical and different from each other, lawyers don’t tend to handle all of these issues (however IP law firms will have a team of lawyers who can help you with any of them). Like most areas of law, there are normal IP lawyers and IP litigators. The normal IP lawyers help with all the filings required to protect your IP, while litigators are the ones who go to court to battle who owns what IP and how much that IP protects the individual in a given dispute.
Family lawyer handles anything having to do with direct family issues. This includes estate or family planning, they alsos handle things like divorce (razvod braka), custody battles, prenuptial agreements, and other issues surrounding marriage and children.
Estate Planning Lawyer
Estate planning lawyers make sure your family dealings are all in order if something goes wrong. Their tasks range from creating trusts for a child’s college fund to drafting a will. The make sure your assets get distributed appropriately to the members of your family when you die. When you do not have a will your assets have to go through Probate (court that decides what happens to your assets after death). In these instances, there is a subset of family lawyers, called Probate Lawyers, who argue where and how those assets are distributed.
Tax lawyers usually help businesses and individuals comply with state and federal laws when filing their tax returns. However, a larger proportion of these lawyers actually go to court to defend you if the IRS audits you and you face potential jail time or significant fines. Most individual tax lawyers also work in estate planning in some fashion unless they work in the tax department of a large corporation.
Criminal Defense Lawyer
Criminal defense lawyers help defend people accused of committing a crime against prosecution by the government. The goal is reducing their sentencing or helping them stay out of jail. The crimes handled by criminal defense lawyers range from small offenses such as shoplifting to more serious crimes such as DUI, drug trafficking, assault and battery, or even murder.
Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury (PI) lawyers are the types of lawyers that deal with accidents and injuries of any nature. Personal injury lawyers get involved when you are in a car accident, you had bad side effects from a prescription drug or you were injured by a defective product. Their cases can lead to huge financial settlements or judgments, usually involving insurance companies. PI lawyers work for contingency fees, meaning they only take a percentage of the money they recover for you in court, and they will cost you nothing if you lose. The typical contingency fee ranges from 33%-40%.
Civil Litigation Lawyer
A civil litigation lawyer is a very general term that encompasses many other more specific areas of law, including real estate, employment, business, and more. Civil litigation lawyers will typically handle any type of litigation, or lawsuit, that is non-criminal. Therefore, anything from a landlord issue to a breach of contract is handled by these lawyers.
An immigration lawyer will help with anything relating to bringing a family member, employee, or individual into the country. Most immigration lawyers’ practices work with businesses since they require employment visas in order to bring employees from overseas. There is a lot of forms to file with each government entity involved and complex laws to be followed in order to employ a non-citizen.
Real Estate Lawyer
Real Estate lawyers assist with any legal issues related to real estate and property. There are many differences between commercial real estate and residential real estate, as well as other types of personal property, so most real estate lawyers specialize and focus on one of these areas. Real estate litigators go to court to argue if a contract or purchase/sale agreement was violated. Real estate transactional lawyers solely deals with the negotiation of real estate transactions and drafting documents surrounding those negotiations.
If you are looking to hire a lawyer, it’s important to figure out how to find the right lawyer for your needs. There are many overlapping practice areas, each type of law is different and you will want to make sure to get a lawyer that specializes in the type of legal service you need.