How many times have we dreamed of being the next great lawyer, like Clarence Darrow or the fictional Harvey Specter? Growing up, many of us envisioned standing in a courtroom and getting our man to admit his guilt through a series of chess moves or finding the real killer and letting your client leave a free man – the power of the imagination.
The justice system isn’t all about sending away drug dealers, rapists and kidnappers to prison with 20-year life sentences, though. It also entails defending intellectual property, protecting corporations from frivolous lawsuits and ensuring the right family member gets grandpa’s collection of vintage drachmas and Deutschmarks. Put simply, there are many types of law to practise.
As you search for a new career, you need to analyse the different types and then determine which one of these branches suits your skills and interests. Do numbers tickle your funny bone or does sticking it to unscrupulous employers give you pleasure?
Whatever the case, let’s explore the many types of law and the different types of lawyers.
1. Criminal Lawyer
For the most part, a lot of young people go into law because they want to specialise in criminal justice. This role not only prosecutes or defends defendants who have been charged with a crime, but it also entails a strong acumen of arraignment, arrest, bail, plea agreements and a whole host of issues pertaining to the criminal trial.
You might get the impression that everyday criminal law is akin to episodes of Law & Order, but it is a slow, brooding and frustrating system. Criminal lawyers will spend more time on paperwork and legwork than delivering Oscar-worthy performances in the courtroom.
2. Corporate Lawyer
Corporate attorneys are critical to owning and operating a corporation. In fact, corporations have their own legal departments for guidance, advice and elementary day-to-day legal functions such as compliance, governance, drafting legal documents, preparing government reports, negotiation and administering training workshops.
A corporate lawyer will have specialised knowledge in all sorts of related fields, like the tax code, federal regulations, state/provincial law and perhaps even global treaties. In a global economy, a corporate law team is more important than ever before.
3. Intellectual Property Lawyer
Intellectual property has metastasised into a geopolitical issue, particularly as the economy has gone global. It has become harder than ever to protect intellectual property, serving as contentious issues in international trade negotiations, as we have seen during the US–China trade negotiations or the numerous complaints with the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
While not exactly one of the sexiest types of lawyer, the primary role of an intellectual property lawyer is to establish and protect IP. Legal professionals will counsel their clients and handle issues pertaining to the following:
- trademark law
- technology transfers
- industrial design
This is one of the most in-demand legal occupations today.
4. Tax Lawyer
As any living human being – heck, even the dead ones! – can attest to, taxes have become increasingly complicated. Federal, state/provincial and local – taxes are giving everyone a brain haemorrhage. Perhaps that is the way politicians and bureaucrats like it. Who knows?
A legal professional who concentrates on taxes will essentially prevent their clients from getting into trouble with their relevant country’s tax authority. If there is a tax issue to be solved, this person will give sound advice – at a price.
In addition, a tax law expert will have a number of other daily tasks, including:
- evaluating intricate tax matters
- talking and negotiating with the government
- maintaining confidential tax records for clients
- staying up to date on both important and mundane tax issues
- developing plans to solve financial matters important to clients.
5. Family Lawyer
One of the more depressing branches of the legal profession is possibly family law. You see couples that once loved each other engage in bitter divorce proceedings. You witness children being used as pawns and their hearts being broken. You see siblings go to war for a piece of property.
From child custody and support to the division of marital property to alimony, these attorneys will litigate and draft documents (postnuptial agreements or divorce papers, for instance) for all sorts of family matters.
6. Immigration Lawyer
Immigration has transformed into one of the most contentious public policy issues to date. Amid changing political trends and geopolitical tensions, governments have concentrated more on immigration laws, regulations and practices that makes relocating from South Korea to Australia or from Pakistan to the United States more complex.
Therefore, an immigration lawyer is critical should you wish to move to another nation for business or personal reasons. An immigration professional will consult, advise and guide clients on asylum, citizenship, naturalisation, green cards, visas and refugee status. They will also take on deportation and employment issues, which are now imperative topics in certain parts of the globe.
It should be noted that immigration lawyers will spend less time representing civil disputes in court than other kinds of attorneys.
7. Employment Lawyer
The state of the modern workplace is on trial. Sexual harassment, racial discrimination, wage disputes and the like are all part of employment law that has not only gone to court but also ignited an international conversation. Like IP or tax lawyers, employment attorneys are becoming increasingly needed by both employers and employees.
Employment lawyers will typically provide advice and solutions to a diverse array of employment-related topics, like contracts, interoffice relationships and compensation. Since a growing number of jurisdictions are adopting stringent regulations, codes and laws in the workforce, it is important to stay up to date on these additions and revisions.
8. Personal Injury Lawyer
Whenever you travel on the open road, there are generally three types of advertisements you will see: fast food, new smartphones and personal injury.
Personal injury lawyers help clients who suffered serious accidents, including a slip and fall in front of a business, medical negligence or a car accident. While some may frown on this type of lawyers, they pretty much get what you are owed in the form of damages for injuries perpetrated by other parties – blatantly or accidentally.
9. Real Estate Lawyer
Back in the day, when you purchased a house, you attained a mortgage, signed the deed and received your keys. Today, the process to buying a home – detached house, condominium or townhouse – requires an ocean of paperwork, a swimming pool of costs and fees, and a riverbed of complicated real estate terminology that requires the expertise of a linguistics expert with experience in Greek, Latin and quite possibly Aramaic. Or, you know, maybe just a real estate lawyer.
A real estate attorney works with clients to review appraisals, prepare inspections, draft leases, complete purchase agreements, obtain financial agreements and sign deeds. Typically, anything that is associated with your house, besides a mortgage, demands the attention of a real estate lawyer.
10. Bankruptcy Lawyer
A growing number of consumers are inching toward insolvency. Whether it is because they lived beyond their means or they got into a financial crisis from a job loss or the death of a family member, many people are filing for bankruptcy. This heart-wrenching and complicated process should not be done alone – it requires the assistance of a bankruptcy attorney.
Bankruptcy lawyers will advise clients on eligibility, various options, types of bankruptcy and what would work best for that individual’s specific circumstances. They will also proffer possible alternatives to bankruptcy that might be worth exploring. Ultimately, this occupation entails counselling people on reducing their debt load, liquidating assets and paying creditors.
A law career is one of the greatest decisions you will make. In addition to extending competitive compensation, most legal fields will be rewarding and offer meaning, something that is in demand among the new generation of talents. Yes, going to law school is hard and expensive, but it is a prerequisite before you open your law practice.
Is this a career choice for everyone? No. Will some young people who enter this industry be disappointed that it isn’t as exhilarating as 1959’s Anatomy of a Murder or 1992’s A Few Good Men? Absolutely.
But if you have a stellar acumen, an interest in numerous types of legal areas and the desire to help people, then perhaps this is a profession that you can survive and thrive.
What type of lawyer would you like to be? Join the conversation down below and let us know.