If you plan to be a lawyer, you must fully understand law-related careers and legal terminologies. Becoming an attorney is not as clear-cut as getting a degree, passing the bar exam, and starting to practice. There are so many types of lawyers that deciding on the kind of law you want to practice is not as obvious as it seems. With a good comprehension of the legal field, you will be better positioned to pick a career that best suits your qualifications.
According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, careers in law are expected to grow by 10% by 2031. To start a career in law, a Juris Doctor (JD) degree is the first qualification you need as it is the prerequisite to bar admission. Even if you can pursue many careers with a law degree, following the specialty you are most passionate about is important. This is a look at the various types of lawyers and their roles and responsibilities. Ome areas of law appeal more to your interest and fit your qualifications better than others.
Lawyers work in the legal system, advising individuals on legal proceedings and issues. Paralegals are assistants to attorneys or lawyers; it is an entry-level position to learn more about the legal field. The terms lawyers, attorneys, and counsel are often used interchangeably, but there are some differences, as follows:
- Lawyers are hired by private practices and law firms to advise clients on their legal problems and how to move forward.
- Attorneys: They have the same role as lawyers but can go beyond a consult and represent clients in a legal proceeding.
- Counsels: They are lawyers hired by organizations or companies and act solely on the organization’s behalf.
What are the most common types of lawyers?
These professionals are experts in the US Bankruptcy Code and deal with insolvency issues for companies or individuals. They specialize in commercial bankruptcy, representing corporate debtors or creditors, and consumer bankruptcy, representing individual creditors. The work scope of commercial and consumer lawyers is similar in that they provide solutions to financial restructuring, valuation disputes, and plan confirmations. They assist clients when they file for bankruptcy and help them build their credit after bankruptcy. They also represent their clients in court if there is a claim to dispute.
Working as an intern or a clerk at a law firm that practices bankruptcy will help you decide whether you want to pursue this field.
Corporate lawyers are also referred to as business lawyers. They provide legal advice to individuals and corporates carrying out business transactions. They ensure all business transactions are within the scope of federal, state, and local laws. Most of their work involves contract negotiations, mergers and acquisitions, formation and dissolution of companies, intellectual property, liability disputes, and patents. On a day-to-day basis, these lawyers will conduct legal research, write and amend legal documents and negotiate contracts.
In some law schools, a business law certificate is offered in addition to the JD, ensuring students get advanced training to practice corporate law. Once they have graduated and passed the bar exams, corporate lawyers can either work for a sole company offering in-house legal counsel or for a firm.
Criminal defense lawyer
If one is arrested and charged with a crime, a criminal defense lawyer comes in handy to represent you in court. Criminal lawyers uphold and advocate for the accused’s basic rights and liberties in the justice system. They can work as private attorneys or public defenders, but their main responsibility is to leverage the law on behalf of their clients. They act as protectors of the best interests of their clients as long as this is within the law. They generally appear in court more often than other lawyers, especially if the cases they handle go to trial.
Some state bar associations offer specialty criminal law programs, and those who want to pursue trial advocacy can get illegal law certifications.
The workplace environment can breed conflicts with harassment, pension security, workplace discrimination, wage and hours regulations, and benefits. Employment and labor lawyers’ responsibilities often overlap, but the former deal with non-union workplace issues while the latter deal with union-related matters. They work with labor lawyers to deal with the relationship between employers, employees, and unions.
Like all the other specialties, law schools provide specialization certificates for labor and employment law for students with a minimum number of courses in that field. However, the certification is not mandatory to practice or be employed in the area.
A family lawyer handles any family-related issue or domestic relations processes from paternity, guardianship and adoption, child welfare, child custody, and juvenile delinquencies to the division of marital assets, divorce, and alimony. Their responsibilities include providing counsel to clients, drafting contracts and prenuptial agreements, and resolving family disputes. They might work for NGOs or law firms that specialize in family law.
Anyone who wants to showcase advanced knowledge in family law or child welfare law can get a board certification offered in some states.
Estate planning lawyer
This lawyer knows the ins and outs of wills, trusts, probate, and property rights. They offer legal counsel and help ensure that a client’s assets, in and outside the will or trust, are handled properly. They also make sure that all the tax and legal issues are addressed. Dividing assets and providing for all family members is a delicate issue, so these lawyers assist clients in evaluating their assets and liabilities and help them make decisions. They often work with financial advisors and accountants to help clients meet their estate planning goals.
One needs additional certifications to pursue estate planning law. The most common is the Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA), Chartered Trust and Estate Planner (CTEP), and Accredited Estate Planner (AEP) certifications.
There are so many other types of lawyers, including immigration lawyers, tax lawyers, intellectual property lawyers, personal injury lawyers, entertainment lawyers, constitutional lawyers, and healthcare lawyers. Choosing the type of lawyer you should solely depend on your interests and career goals. Look at the work you enjoy doing daily, the responsibilities you would like to take on, the coursework that interests you, and your strengths. Carefully consider all factors before deciding which career path is right for you.