What is a lawyer?
A lawyer is a licensed professional who advises and/or represents clients in legal matters. There are many types of lawyers, all of whom cover different areas of the law, ranging from personal injury to criminal cases.
Types of lawyers
Each type of lawyer handles different aspects of the law and has varying responsibilities depending on their field. Below are the most common types of lawyers and what they do.
Adoption lawyers handle matters related to adoption law. They can help protect the parental rights of all parties involved and ensure the adopted child is taken care of.
Adoption lawyers can be brought in from the very beginning of the adoption process. They can find adoption agencies or oversee private adoptions, handling the paperwork and communications in either scenario. They can also handle a number of other aspects listed below.
- Providing legal counsel
- Negotiating terms and conditions of an adoption
- Mediating disputes or legal actions
- Appearing in court if needed
Bankruptcy lawyers provide legal advice to clients who are or are considering filing for bankruptcy. Additionally, they manage any paperwork or legal documents needed from their clients, and represent some clients in court. Bankruptcy lawyers act as guides throughout the complicated process of claiming bankruptcy. They offer advice regarding:
- Whether or not filing for bankruptcy is appropriate
- Which type of bankruptcy to file for
- What to expect after filing
- Which legal forms may be necessary
- What assets are acceptable to keep after filing
Business lawyers, also referred to as corporate lawyers, cover the breadth of legal matters businesses face, ranging from malpractice lawsuits to contract negotiation and mergers. Their job is to make sure everything a business or organization does is legal and carried out honestly and openly. They can handle a myriad of legal duties, but some of the most common can be found below.
- Opening or starting a business
- Writing and managing contracts (NDAs, non-competes, mergers, etc.)
- Commercial property and real estate law
Civil lawyers, more formally referred to as civil litigation attorneys or litigators, are lawyers that handle non-criminal issues. They manage lawsuits centering around personal injury, familial matters, employment issues, and real estate. They can also handle custody battles, personal relationship issues, and property disputes. They often seek redress in the form of compensation.
Defense lawyers handle criminal trials on behalf of a defendant. They aim to protect the rights of the defendant and ensure a fair, unbiased trial. Defense attorneys build a defense strategy with the goal of minimizing the punishment for a given crime.
Many defense lawyers choose one area of criminal law and solely practice on those types of cases. Some may choose to handle violent crimes, while others may stick to drug offenses or petty theft.
Disability lawyers, also referred to as ADA lawyers, protect the rights of disabled persons under The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Signed into law in 1990, The ADA prohibits discrimination against those with disabilities in all areas of public and private life. It guarantees individuals with disabilities have an equal opportunity in the workplace, government facilities, transportation, and businesses.
When those with disabilities experience discrimination or are not provided with reasonable accommodations, a disability lawyer will work to ensure proper treatment, structural updates, and/or reparations if necessary.
Divorce lawyers represent the individuals involved in a divorce or separation. They can only work on behalf of one party, meaning each person will need to hire their own lawyer in the event of a divorce.
All legal aspects of a divorce, including asset distribution, child custody, and legal advice, are handled by divorce attorneys who know the ins and outs of this kind of litigation. However, if a prenuptial agreement is signed ahead of time, it could make the divorce process smoother.
Should you receive a DUI (driving under the influence) charge, a DUI lawyer will be able to help navigate the situation. They can offer legal advice and recommendations for how to proceed once this charge is brought against clients and can offer insight into what comes next. A DUI lawyer’s main job is to ensure the outcome of the case is in favor of the client. DUI lawyers might argue for a reduced sentence, financial reparations, or a dismissal of the charge.
Estate planning lawyer
An estate planning lawyer is responsible for helping clients build and manage their estates. With their knowledge of how estates are inventoried, dispersed, and taxed after your or a loved one’s death, estate lawyers help clients understand the estate planning process and guide them through it. They are typically able to oversee the following duties:
- Creating a will
- Choosing a beneficiary
- Establishing durable power of attorney
- Navigating estate tax laws
- Keeping the process out of the courts
- Setting up trusts
Identity theft lawyer
Identity theft attorneys specialize in defending their clients’ rights and helping them recover their stolen identity. They can handle correspondence with financial institutions, shield you from debt collectors, and even help build a case against the perpetrator in court.
Intellectual property lawyer
Intellectual property lawyers (IPs for short) protect their clients’ intellectual property. This can include copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets, inventions, literary/artistic work, designs, images, and all other intangible, non-physical assets.
Labor and employment lawyer
Labor and employment lawyers represent employees and/or employers and work within industries with labor unions, such as education or firefighting. They can aid their clients in creating new unions, negotiating between union members and employers, and collective bargaining regarding terms of employment (e.g., pay, employee benefits, hours, health and safety, and more).
Personal injury lawyer
Personal injury lawyers provide legal representation to clients who were injured in any kind of accident. They work in what’s called “tort law,” or acts or omissions that could result in an accident or injury. That includes unattended safety issues, neglect, slip and fall accidents, animal bites and attacks, and other liability problems.
A prosecutor is a lawyer that represents the state or federal government in criminal trials. They typically operate under the jurisdiction of a district attorney’s office. Prosecutors are the opposing counsel to defense lawyers and work on behalf of an accuser or victim, called a plaintiff. They handle a number of legal issues, which include:
- Investigation of accused individuals
- Drafting the official charges being filed
- Arguing a case for a plaintiff
- Plea bargains with defendants
Real estate lawyer
A real estate lawyer handles what are called “real property” transactions—transactions regarding fixed properties like land, homes, or buildings. Typically, real estate lawyers offer advice and take care of any legal documents involved in buying or selling real property. These documents can include:
- Additional agreements
- Titles and deeds
- Communications and negotiations with the seller and real estate agent
Tax lawyers help their clients to navigate complex and often confusing tax laws and regulations. They can assist clients in understanding and taking advantage of tax deductions, credits, and exemptions, as well as represent clients in tax disputes.
Workers’ compensation lawyer
When an employee is injured or becomes ill at work, they may be entitled to workers’ compensation, which is a type of insurance that pays out for medical expenses, lost wages, and other associated costs. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help employees ensure they are given fair and just treatment and hold organizations accountable for damages.
The different types of lawyers give you someone in your corner
No matter what kinds of legal matters you’re dealing with, there is a type of lawyer who can help you through it. Now that you know what kind of lawyers are available to you, you can feel more confident in approaching the legal concerns of life.