Tap To Call: 727-451-6900

What Are the Different Types of Lawyers?

You have a situation that involves the need for legal assistance. Your friends and family members have told you numerous times to “just hire an attorney.” However, when you go to look up the attorneys in your area, you immediately see ads from about 15 different types of attorneys.

Who knew the practice of law was such a wide variety of different professional focuses? There are currently about 1.3 million lawyers practicing law in the U.S., a number that has remained fairly constant over the past several years.

Here is a look at some of the different types of attorneys and the cases they handle.

Legal Practice Areas

A specific area of law that an attorney focuses on is known as his or her practice area. The practice area of the attorney you’re seeking depends on the type of legal assistance you need. Out of the 1.3 million attorneys in the U.S. who are currently practicing law, some assist businesses, some help individuals recover damages after an accident, others assist with divorces and other family matters, and much more.

Personal Injury Lawyers

Personal injury lawyers help accident victims recover compensation after they were injured by someone else’s carelessness or recklessness by negotiating with the at-fault party’s insurance provider or even filing a personal injury lawsuit.

Personal injury lawyers prove liability by establishing:

  • The at-fault party owed the client a duty of care, which refers to the actions that a reasonable person would take in similar circumstances.
  • There was a breach in the duty of care, which refers to the actions that the at-fault party took that violated the duty of care.
  • This breach resulted in the accident, which caused the claimant’s injuries and resulted in expenses and quality-of-life impacts.

Some cases that personal injury lawyers work with include traffic accidents involving cars, trucks, motorcycles, rideshares, taxis, buses, trains, pedestrians, and bicycles; premises liability claims, such as slip and fall injuries, swimming pool accidents, injuries involving defective elevators or escalators, and dog bites; injuries arising from medical errors; and injuries caused by defective drugs or other products, such as vehicle parts, appliances, or even dangerous children’s toys.

While some personal injury cases involve intentional acts such as assault or abuse, many cases involve negligent acts but aren’t necessarily crimes. Personal injury attorneys can also assist the family members of an individual who died because of someone else’s carelessness or recklessness to obtain compensation through a wrongful death lawsuit.

Intellectual Property Lawyers

Intellectual property lawyers protect the intellectual property—including original scientific, creative, or technological inventions—from copycats and those wishing to profit off someone else’s work. Intellectual property lawyers provide services such as securing copyrights, patents, trademarks, and licensing agreements.

Family Lawyers

Family lawyers deal with emotionally charged cases involving divorces, custody disputes, emancipations, adoptions, and prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. Often, these cases will require knowledge of other parts of the law. For example, a custody dispute might also involve testimony regarding a domestic violence criminal case against one of the parents.

Malpractice Lawyers

While “malpractice” often refers to when a doctor or other health professional makes an error that results in injury to a patient, malpractice lawyers deal with many different cases, which all involve professionals who have caused harm due to their failure to provide a their professional standard of care.

In addition to medical malpractice, other types of malpractice that a lawyer can encounter by working in this area of the law include legal malpractice, malpractice from a business professional, or even governmental malpractice.

Business/ Corporate Lawyers

Business lawyers—also known as corporate lawyers—often work in in-house legal departments for large corporations, though many also work in private practice, offering their services to smaller businesses. These lawyers provide services pertaining to the legal formation of the company and formalities required with the particular business structure; employment matters; tax compliance; and acquisitions and mergers.

There are two general types of business lawyers: litigation lawyers who deal with situations such as a lawsuit filed against the company, and transactional lawyers who deal with everyday legal needs such as writing contracts and employment agreements.

Business litigation lawyers often deal with civil rights situations regarding employees, such as accusations of discrimination based on age, ancestry, color, creed, disability, marital status, medical conditions, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Business transactional lawyers write employee benefit policies, such as vacation time or family leave.

Immigration Lawyers

Immigration lawyers assist individuals who apply for citizenship or seek a visa that will permit them to work in the U.S. This type of lawyer also is needed when an immigrant is facing the potential of deportation for any reason.

Tax Lawyers

Tax lawyers assist their clients with disputes with the IRS, and also provide services for those who want to set up a business or preserve their assets for loved ones and protect them from tax liabilities.

Common tasks performed by a tax lawyer include:

  • Generating a legal way of reducing tax exposure.
  • Assisting a client involved in tax litigation with the IRS or another governmental agency.
  • Ensuring full compliance with U.S. tax laws and adhering to all tax deadlines.
  • Preparing a client for a tax audit.

Labor Lawyers

If you were subject to unlawful layoffs, a hostile workplace, or other issues relating to employment, you need a labor lawyer. Litigation labor lawyers also often represent businesses in labor disputes with employees, and can also write employment contracts for a company.

Bankruptcy Lawyers

Bankruptcy lawyers not only assist their clients in filing for bankruptcy, but can also help them avoid bankruptcy by coming up with financial strategies to relieve some of the burden caused by excess debt. They can help their clients negotiate with creditors and can negotiate a repayment plan that bears in mind the money that the client needs to pay bills and survive while also reducing his or her debts.

Environmental Lawyers

Given the growing interest in climate change and protecting the environment, environmental lawyers are seeing a lot more cases these days. This practice area involves environmental damage and mitigation, as well as the development of policies for corporations and local governments that can protect the environment from industrial hazards.

You may find most of the federal laws pertaining to environmental protection in:

  • The Clean Air Act of 1963
  • The Clean Water Act of 1972
  • The National Environmental Policy Act of 1970
  • The Endangered Species Act of 1973
  • The Comprehensive Environmental Response and Conservation Act of 1980.

Governmental Lawyers

Governmental lawyers, often referred to as prosecutors, are the legal professionals who get involved when an individual or entity has committed a crime against the federal government, state government, or a local municipality by violating its laws. One type of government lawyer, known as a public defender, provides criminal defense services for criminal defendants who can’t afford an attorney.

Governmental lawyers can also work at city hall or the state capitol building, as this type of lawyer can also provide services to ensure that a municipality or other governmental entity has policies to protect the entity from legal liability and ensure that the municipality properly collects, accounts for, and uses public tax money.

Toxic Tort Lawyer

Toxic tort lawyers deal in cases involving exposure to environmental toxins or toxic substances through manufactured products. These cases generally involve many individuals and can even include governmental entities, such as a town in which a company contaminated the public water supply.

Often, these cases are certified as class action lawsuits or multi-district litigation. Some well-known examples of toxic tort cases include mesothelioma lawsuits, and lawsuits involving the use of firefighting foam that has contaminated the water supplies near military bases across the nation.

Criminal Defense Lawyers

Criminal defense lawyers represent clients who are accused of a crime, whether that crime is a felony or a misdemeanor. A criminal defense attorney will often attempt to dismiss the charges against his or her client due to improper investigation or arrest techniques, faulty laboratory test readings, or violations of the client’s civil rights during the criminal investigation process.

If the lawyer cannot get the case dismissed, he or she can negotiate a plea deal in which the client receives a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea and the avoidance of litigation.

Criminal defense attorneys often catch flak about the clients they choose to defend. However, these attorneys ensure that everyone accused of a crime has access to an attorney, regardless of their ability to pay. Criminal defense attorneys provide their services to adults and juveniles and work in federal, state, and local courts. Defense lawyers working in federal courts must first apply for admission to practice in the court.

Some of the tasks involved in criminal defense include:

  • Interviewing witnesses.
  • Performing legal research.
  • Creating courtroom evidence exhibits.
  • Accruing additional evidence that can provide reasonable doubt and helps their client avoid conviction.
  • Examining the crime scene.
  • Gathering witnesses who can testify on behalf of the client in court.

Traffic Lawyers

Many criminal defense lawyers assist clients with disputing traffic tickets and represent them in court for traffic offenses. While traffic offenses often refer to minor incidents in which a person has simply received a citation that they wish to fight in court, traffic lawyers also often represent clients who face prison time for DUIs or even reckless driving charges if an accident injured or even killed someone else.

Estate Planning Lawyers

Estate planning lawyers help their clients to structure their assets and finances in a tax-friendly way to preserve them for their beneficiaries. They help individuals to create wills, trusts, or other financial documents so that their assets and their business affairs can be passed seamlessly to their heirs after they are gone.

Real Estate Lawyers

Real estate lawyers provide services for buyers, sellers, and renters of real property, including homes, office buildings, and vacant land. This type of lawyer works with clients and real estate agents to draft legally binding documents. They can also negotiate a settlement in contract disputes regarding a real estate transaction, such as working with a tenant and landlord to rectify issues that could result in an eviction. Significant building projects, such as high-rise developments, can also benefit from a real estate lawyer who specializes in land use issues and development.

Constitutional/ Civil Rights Lawyers

Constitutional/ civil rights lawyers often work for non-profit organizations focused on assisting individuals whose civil rights were violated by a governmental agency, such as a police department or a governmental agency that provides housing or other benefits. Civil rights lawyers protect the rights of individuals who have been subject to discrimination or harassment on the grounds of physical or mental disability, gender, religion, race, national origin, age, status as a member of the U.S. Armed Services, sexual orientation, or gender identity.