Different Types of Attorneys and What They Do
Most people are familiar with attorneys and some of the types of work they do. We are shown attorneys constantly in the media, in movies, commercials, and other areas in life. I’m going to discuss 10 types of attorneys and focus on their duties in each of their specific areas of expertise. This should give you a broader understanding of how lawyers become lawyers and the types of responsibilities they have based on the area of law they practice.
Most attorneys tend to specialize in a specific area of law. Some have multiple areas of expertise. A lawyer typically will take at least 7 years to become a lawyer. Most states and jurisdictions require a four-year college degree to be completed upfront. The prospective lawyer will then take the law school admission exam, known as the LSAT. Once this is passed, they will then attend three years of law school. Upon completion of law school, the next step is taking and passing their state bar exam. Once they have passed this exam, they have now become a lawyer.
Deciding which area of law to practice and specialize in can be a daunting task. Some lawyers know right away which areas they want to work in and excel in. Others may find themselves trying to decide between a number of areas they have an interest in. Motivating factors for deciding which type of lawyer to become can range from personal belief systems, income range, geographical locations, and many other reasons. Let’s discuss 10 different types of attorneys and what they do.
1. Criminal Lawyers
Criminal defense lawyers defend those who are accused of committing a crime or numerous crimes. They are hired to protect their clients’ civil liberties and basic human rights. There are two main types of criminal defense lawyers. Private attorneys are hired by the defendant when the defendant can afford to pay to be represented in a court of law. Public defender attorneys are court-appointed to represent defendants when they can not afford to pay for their own representation.
Criminal defense attorneys may be present in court more often than other types of lawyers. This is especially true when a case goes to trial. They may work many hours preparing for their client’s case and then defending them in a courtroom setting. Defense attorneys are often well-paid by their clients who can afford their services. Public defender lawyers, though, generally have a set salary and may not earn as much as their private lawyer counterparts. When understanding different types of attorneys and what they do, criminal lawyers are a major one to know.
2. Real Estate Lawyers
If you’re wondering about different types of attorneys and what they do, you should also know about real estate lawyers. Real estate lawyers specialize in drawing up purchase and sale agreements for residential, commercial, and industrial real estate. They are also hired to review contracts that are drawn up by a buyer or seller. They may represent people or companies who are interested in purchasing bare land with a private money loan. They may be called upon to help settle lot line disputes, usage laws for certain areas and may also be asked to interpret and explain various real estate laws. Real estate lawyers also deal with tenant rights as they relate to landlord and tenant agreements and can draft legal eviction notices when a lease agreement has been violated. A good landlord and tenant attorney can make this happen legally and effectively.
Many states require that a real estate lawyer be present at closings, to observe the signing and sale of any real property within that state. A real estate lawyer may charge clients an hourly fee or possibly a flat fee for the transaction. This is generally decided upon and negotiated upfront.
3. Tax Lawyers
Another item on the list of different types of attorneys and what they do are tax lawyers. Tax lawyers understand and interpret the many facets of tax law. They may find themselves working for individual clients, small businesses, large corporations, government agencies, non-profit companies, and even other law firms. These clients rely heavily on the expertise and knowledge of the tax code by their tax lawyers in order to save them money, be more profitable, and operate within the legality of the tax law.
A tax lawyer can spend a great amount of time researching and dealing with tax law for their clients. They will perform tax planning for their clients as well as interpret tax law. Because tax laws are often changing, they must stay current on these changes and research the most recent developments in tax laws. This is done by following recent IRS tax rulings, court opinions, and changes to the current tax laws.
4. Corporate Lawyers
Corporate lawyers specialize in handling all the legal matters for a business. Their clients may range from a single, small business to a large corporation, with hundreds or even thousands of employees. They typically make sure that all company transactions are compliant with local, state, and federal guidelines. They often oversee mergers, acquisitions, liability disputes, formations, or dissolution of companies, liquidation of assets or divisions within a company. They also make sure patents or intellectual property rights are protected for the company.
On a daily basis, corporate lawyers may find themselves conducting legal research, writing and revising legal documents, or negotiating contracts related to the businesses or corporations they represent. Many corporate lawyers have a business law certificate in addition to their Juris Doctor degree and have received advanced training for their corporate law practice. After graduation from law school and passing the bar exam, business lawyers will usually work at either a corporate law firm or as in-house counsel for a single business or corporation. Corporate lawyers are a very specific type of lawyer you should know about when it comes to different types of attorneys and what they do.
5. Personal Injury Lawyers
Another really common type of lawyer is a personal injury lawyer. You will often find these in your search for different types of attorneys and what they do. Personal injury lawyers specialize in representing their clients who have been injured through no fault of their own. For instance, perhaps they’ve had a recent brake repair done on their car, and the repair was done incorrectly, causing the brakes to fail, their car to crash, and they get injured as a result. A personal injury lawyer would help them to win a settlement against that negligent repair shop in court and the cost of auto collision repair, as well as their medical bills. The lawyer may also deal with the auto insurance agency in charge of repairing or replacing the injured client’s vehicle.
Maybe the client searched for a dentist to do work on a root canal. They find a family dentist who specializes in root canals and dental surgery. But the surgery goes wrong and their client suffers additional pain and suffering. They may represent this client to sue the dental office for punitive damages and lost wages from missing work.
Say a worker in a large automobile factory is running heavy, loud equipment without being given proper noise-reducing ear protection. As a result, they require expensive hearing loss treatment. A personal injury lawyer could help represent them to recover the cost of this treatment.
6. Intellectual Property Lawyers
No list of different types of attorneys and what they do is complete without intellectual property lawyers. An intellectual property lawyer specializes in dealing with patents, copywriting, trademarking, and protecting trade secrets. This may be for an individual, a small business, or a large corporation. They are involved with products that are often inventions, and other things such as slogans, symbols, or brand names. State bars and law schools may issue specialization certificates relating to patent law.
Intellectual property lawyers in this field have three main responsibilities: The first is counseling their clients about the best way to protect their intellectual property. Secondly, they protect their clients’ intellectual property by registering their patents, copyrights, or trademarks. Third, they enforce the client’s intellectual property rights against infringement. Nobody wants their million-dollar idea stolen by another party before they can capitalize on their hard work and the future profits that will come from it.
A divorce lawyer sees a tough and often emotional side of the law field. They have the responsibility of dividing marital assets and often establishing child custody and visitation schedules between families who are getting divorced. They have to fairly and accurately divide the marital assets and often have to help establish child support and alimony amounts and guidelines. This is not an area of law that is for the faint of heart.
Divorces are sometimes agreeable and can go smoothly for both parties involved. This, however, is more the exception than the norm. Many times, one party wants to move forward with divorce while the other does not. This can leave the other party feeling jilted and angry about the divorce proceedings. They may want to be vengeful and unfair about marital assets or in regard to custody of the children. Divorce lawyers have the sometimes unpleasant task of fairly dealing with and mediating both situations. It takes a level-headed, competent lawyer who knows all aspects of the divorce laws in their local and state jurisdiction, to help the clients make the right choices for all involved. Divorce lawyers are a very common lawyer in the realm of different types of attorneys and what they do.
8. Bankruptcy Lawyers
Bankruptcy lawyers work in one of two ways. They either represent the individual or company who is struggling financially or the creditor or corporation to whom the money is owed. Regardless of which side they represent, the job is generally the same. They protect the best interests of their clients. This is achieved by restructuring the debt, forgiveness or some or all of the debt, and protecting certain aspects of a client’s property and well-being during a bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy lawyers must be well-educated and informed about all aspects of the current bankruptcy laws. They must navigate through the local and governmental rules and regulations and be informed and aware of changes made to bankruptcy law. They will sometimes appear in court but often work behind the scenes negotiating between the two sides involved and working toward a resolution that both parties end up being agreeable to. Most situations can work out for the betterment of both parties if a knowledgeable bankruptcy lawyer is involved.
9. Family Lawyers
Many think that family lawyers only deal with divorce and child custody cases. That’s far from the truth. Family lawyers have a multitude of other responsibilities within the scope of the law they represent.
Family lawyers deal with other areas of family law such as adoption and guardianship, child custody, child safety, and welfare, as well as paternity issues. Some of the responsibilities of a family lawyer could include participating in negotiations, drafting documents related to child custody or prenuptial agreements, advising and counseling clients on legal options they may not be aware of, and resolving familial disputes. Family lawyers often work at large law firms, smaller law firms that might specialize in family law, or sometimes even for nonprofit organizations. If you know anything about different types of attorneys and what they do, you cannot forget family lawyers.
10. Entertainment Lawyers
The final type of lawyer we’ll focus on in our list of different types of attorneys and what they do are entertainment lawyers. Entertainment lawyers have a very specialized area of expertise in the law field. Entertainment lawyers may represent musicians, athletes, artists, actors and actresses, celebrities, and brands. They work to protect the intellectual property of their clients. This can range from a musician’s song lyrics to a comedian’s comedy act and routine.
Entertainment lawyers may negotiate contracts and fee arrangements, or work to secure talent releases. They may act as a liaison between the clients they represent and booking venues or may oversee membership of the people they represent in actor’s guilds or unions. There are numerous law schools that offer certification programs and classes in entertainment law.
There are many areas and specialties in the arena of law that lawyers specialize in. There are even more fields we haven’t covered in this article. However, hopefully, you now understand a bit more about the ten we’ve covered in this article. The importance of the job a lawyer provides to his or her client cannot be emphasized enough. Lawyers require a lot of education in order to practice law. They generally are not cheap to hire to represent you, your family, or your business. But the value they bring and the importance of having excellent legal representation in a court of law is understated.