19 Different Types of Lawyers (and What They Do)

The law is a complicated thing. Each year, more and more laws are added that help define, supersede, or modify existing laws. The result is a complete mess that no one person will ever be able to navigate.

To help combat this overwhelming amount of information, law firms often hire staff with a range of specialties to better serve their clients. The following are 19 different fields in which a lawyer may specialize.

Types of Lawyers

1. Bankruptcy Lawyer

Filing for bankruptcy is a risky thing. Not only will it severely harm your credit for several years, it won’t eliminate certain forms of debt recovery, such as student loans.

It’s a bankruptcy lawyer’s job to work with both individual and corporate clients in an effort to reduce or eliminate debt without having to file for bankruptcy.

In the event filing is the only viable option, the lawyer will help determine whether Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 is appropriate and assist the client in filing all paperwork and represent them during any required hearings.

2. Business/Corporate Attorney

Unlike many other types of lawyer, a business attorney has only one client at a time. These lawyers specialize in corporate law and represent the client in a wide range of legal matters.

Their loyalty will always be to the upper tiers of any corporation or franchise, not to the individual stores or businesses that fall under the company name.

A business attorney may be called upon to give advice, and will usually have skill in multiple business-related practices such as acquisitions, employment, tax law bankruptcy, international law, or trademarks.

3. Civil Rights Lawyer

In a time when equality is coming under increasing threat from social justice and other hate groups, a civil rights lawyer has his or her work cut out for them.

It’s the job of these attorneys to protect individuals against any form of hate crime or discrimination based on a wide range of factors including: age, sex, gender, national origin, physical/mental disability, race, religion, or status in any uniformed service (police, fire, military, etc.).

They must also protect any rights guaranteed by the US Constitution, Bill of Rights, or Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

4. Criminal Lawyer

A criminal lawyer handles any charge that is handled above the civil court level. They do their best to reach a settlement or vacate the charges before it goes to court.

When a trial is necessary, they represent their client to the best of their ability, regardless of whether they believe the client to be innocent.

Criminal lawyers are guaranteed by the US Constitution and are generally required by the bar association to donate a portion of their workload each year to defending those who cannot afford a paid attorney.

5. DUI/DWI Attorney

When it was proposed to create a registry similar to Megan’s Law for drunk drivers, it became clear that many members of the public and government deemed these violations to be among the most heinous.

Of course, sense won the day and we don’t have a DUI Offenders list, but we do have lawyers whose specialty it is to defend these individuals. These lawyers represent those accused of DUI/DWI at every step, starting with traffic court all the way up to (if necessary) state court.

The wide range of venues means this type of lawyer must have knowledge of the laws for each court system, potential consequences, and how to reach the best settlement in a given case if that case can’t be won.

6. Employment Lawyer

These lawyers are a merging of business and civil rights law training. Unlike the business lawyer, an employment lawyer’s job is to protect employees from discrimination or other unfair practices they may be up against.

They also work with employers to help ensure a safe and friendly work environment. The list of specialties handled by an employment lawyer is broad, so they’ll often only specialize in a few branches and collaborate with others in their firm to provide a well-rounded level of expertise.

Employment lawyers may deal with several issues, including: worker’s compensation, sexual harassment, discrimination, workplace safety, terminations, or benefits

7. Environmental Lawyer

Pollution has been a matter of increasing concern for individuals, corporations, and the government. As a result, there are quite a few laws surrounding pollution control ranging from proper disposal of waste to LEED certifications.

An environmental lawyer gives advice to businesses of all sizes to help them stay in compliance of these constantly changing laws. As laws vary greatly from local to international marketplaces, environmental lawyers must stay well-versed in any potential concerns for their clients.

They must also be able to represent or advise clients when natural disasters result in unintended pollution, such as an oil spill, or assist in risk assessment for cleaning hazardous waste.

8. Estate Planning Attorney

These lawyers specialize in wills and trusts. They may be called upon to assist in the creation or execution of both wills and trusts.

It is also the duty of estate planning attorneys to ensure the client’s estate is distributed properly with the least amount of taxes or other expenses attached.

They are also responsible for assisting in matters such as insurance, charitable contributions, and retirement plans. In cases where an estate is disputed, they will litigate in court to settle the matter on behalf of their client.

9. Family and Divorce Lawyer

Ask any attorney what the most difficult portion of law is and chances are, they’ll say it’s family law. These specialists handle very sensitive and life-changing matters such as divorce, child custody, separation, and visitation rights.

Family law is extremely complicated and is based in civil law, meaning there is no national standard in place. As a result, these attorneys must sometimes balance the laws of multiple states when handling a case where the parties live separately.

10. Government Attorney

Whether it’s local, state, or federal government, no agent or body of the government is free of legal responsibilities.

A government attorney assists is everything from helping to draft new laws and ordinances, oversee compliance during council meetings, or take part in major court proceedings or preparations.

11. Immigration Lawyer

This highly specialized field requires lawyers to know immigration, employment, and citizenship. An immigration lawyer may assist in gaining visas, applying for citizenship, or representing those accused of illegal entry.

12. Military Attorney

Lawyers working for the military have a unique set of laws to follow in addition to normal practice. They represent military personnel exclusively and may litigate in both military and civilian courts.

13. Personal Injury Lawyer

These are some of the most common lawyers to see in commercials or on billboards. They represent clients in a wide range of personal injury claims, such as worker’s compensation or discrimination.

As they deal with physical, mental, and emotional injury caused to an individual, their duties often place them against business lawyers.

They most often handle torts and civil complaints, but may also represent victims of assault or fraud where the case may end up in a higher level of the judicial system.

14. Private Practice Attorney

Often found working in a large or small law firm, private attorneys work for individuals who seek their services.

A lone private attorney may practice a more general form of law, whereas those in large firms may specialize in one or more types of law to create a well-rounded law service.

15. Real Estate Lawyer

When buying or selling real estate, these attorneys are responsible for handling all documents, transferring deeds, and ensuring.

Some real estate lawyers focus on cases of fraud, breach of contract, or serve as consultants for companies that plan to buy or sell real estate.

16. Public Interest Lawyer

Working for individuals, non-profits, or government bodies, a public interest lawyer is dedicated to legal reform and serving the public interest.

These attorneys are often paid by the government, allowing them to aid those who cannot afford representation. They may work in public defense, class action, or even international law. In other cases, they’ll offer their services at a reduced fee for individuals who qualify.

17. Tax Lawyer

One of the few things guaranteed in life, taxes can be both frustrating and potentially damaging when done wrong.

A tax lawyer aids individuals and organizations in reducing their taxes legally, represent clients in court during audits, and may be involved in real estate planning or other areas where taxes come into play.

18. Toxic Tort Lawyer

These attorneys fill a different role than their environmental associates. Their duty is to represent those who have been harmed by toxic waste or other forms of pollution.

Exposure to asbestos, class action lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, or injuries caused by a defective product are all examples of the toxic tort lawyer’s potential caseload.

19. Trial Lawyer

These are the attorneys made famous by characters such as Perry Mason and Ellery Queen. The majority of their time is spent reviewing, researching, and negotiating cases outside of the courtroom.

Unlike a criminal attorney, trial lawyers may also litigate in civil courts.

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