Authored by Rodney Southern in Legal
Published on 01-21-2009
Many people think lawyers are all the same but the truth is there are many different types of lawyers and many of them have very different kinds of jobs. The largest division among types of lawyers is transactional lawyers vs. litigators. Transactional lawyers handle transactions such as business incorporations, real estate deals, contracts, formation of partnerships, wills, adoptions, immigration, and other similar needs. Transactional lawyers do not get involved in trials, they just help people with procedural needs.
The second main division in types of lawyers is among litigators. Litigators are types of lawyers who go to court and get involved in trials, and they’re divided between criminal lawyers and civil lawyers. Although there are some people that practice in both areas, most lawyers stick to one or another of these types of law practices.
Criminal lawyers are types of lawyers that either represent criminals (these are defense lawyers) or work for the government as prosecutors, which means they are the ones who try to get the defendants convinced. Even among criminal practices there are many different types of lawyers, from people who represent you for a traffic ticket (believe it or not, this is part of the criminal system) to high profile prosecutors who handle murder trials. Criminal attorneys can also be divided by which courts they are admitted to; there are state courts, and some lawyers are admitted to the bar in more than one, which means they can appear in court for any state in which they’re admitted. The procedures vary from state to state to get admitted in federal court.
There are different types of lawyers among civil attorneys as well; some of them specialize in lawsuits between parties. Consumer fraud, employment discrimination, divorce and bankruptcy are examples of these types of lawyers. Any lawyer who needs to go to court for any reason other than a criminal case is a civil attorney.
Listings for attorneys in phone books and directories are usually broken up by category. If you need, say, a patent lawyer there will be a listing for people and firms who concentrate their practice in this area. Law varies from state to state, but most lawyers are not allowed to say they “specialize” in or are an “expert” in patent law; what they can say is that their practice concentrates on it, or deals exclusively in that area of the law. You’d be surprised at how many different types of lawyers there are in a typical directory; besides the areas of concentration above, others include malpractice, tax law, international lawyers, intellectual property lawyers, entertainment lawyers, elder care issues, and many more sub categories. Your needs determine which types of lawyers you’ll meet during a lifetime; the average person may only use a lawyer to write a will and to help him or her purchase a house. This lawyer may not be able to help you if you suddenly have, say, an immigration problem, but he or she may be able to refer you to someone who can.