Types Of Lawyers (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Nov. 16, 2020

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Choosing a career path can be a daunting process.

You have to consider what you like to do, what you’re good at, and what your lifestyle goals are, and then you have to decide what industry you want to work in and what job you want within that.

If you’re interested in becoming a lawyer, for example, there are more specialized areas available to you within the field than you might realize.

The good news is that this also means there is a specialty that will fit your skills and passions best.

In this article, you’ll learn about the many different types of lawyers and what they do so that you can decide how you want to specialize.

Types of Lawyers

  • Criminal lawyer. Criminal lawyers are who most people think of first when they think about becoming a lawyer. They’re the ones who show up in court to either prosecute or defend a client who has been charged with a crime.

    If you become a criminal lawyer in the U.S., you’ll need to know not only federal criminal laws but also state and even city and county laws where you’ve passed the bar exam and now work.

    You can also specialize within criminal law and focus on specific offenses such as DUIs and DWIs. Public defense attorneys also fall under this category.

  • Bankruptcy lawyer. Bankruptcy lawyers assist both corporate and individual debtors and creditors through the bankruptcy process. This includes helping them determine if they need to declare bankruptcy or if there are other options they can pursue.

    If you choose to go into this specialty, you’ll need to be ready for your workload to ebb and flow with the economy since more foreclosures, debt, and failing businesses mean more cases for you.

  • Immigration lawyer. If you become an immigration lawyer, you’ll be able to help your clients navigate through the complex immigration process until they become citizens. This includes helping them obtain green cards, refugee status, and jobs, as well as dealing with deportations if necessary.

    You’ll also work with businesses that want to set up shop in the U.S. to make sure they obtain all of the licenses and permits they need to do so legally.

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    Because of the complexity of immigration laws, this field is highly specialized, which means it’s difficult to switch over to another focus, so you need to be sure this is what you want to do. But, it’s also highly rewarding, as you’ll get the opportunity to help immigrants reach their lifelong dreams.

  • Family lawyer. Family lawyers work with divorces, annulments, prenuptial agreements, child custody, child support and alimony, adoptions, and anything else that has to do with familial relationships.

    Many of these laws are set by individual states instead of by the federal government, so if you go into this field, you’ll need to learn the laws specific to the state where you’re practicing.

    If you want to become a family lawyer, you’ll need excellent interpersonal and listening skills so that you’ll be able to handle the highly sensitive situations and emotions of your clients.

  • Estate planning lawyers. If you want a desk job and have a good head for finance, estate planning law might be the specialty for you. You’ll work with your clients to help them draft their wills and create trusts for their children, as well as give them advice about their retirement plans and charitable donations.

    This field involves a lot of paperwork, so it might be an excellent fit for you if you have strong organizational skills and don’t mind desk work.

  • Corporate Lawyer. Corporate or business lawyers typically work for one business and provide counsel as the organization establishes and changes its corporate structure, navigates governance and compliance issues, and handles mergers and acquisitions.

    If you become a corporate lawyer, you’ll protect the organization you work for rather than the people who run it. This brings its own unique set of challenges and skills, so consider that as you contemplate this specialty.

  • Employment/labor lawyer. While corporate lawyers focus on protecting the company itself, employment or labor lawyers represent the employees that work for them.

    If you enter this field, you’ll help your clients navigate severance packages, unlawful terminations, and harassment and discrimination claims. Often your clients will be individuals who don’t have a union to act on their behalf.

  • Worker’s compensation lawyer. When employees are injured, become sick, or are killed as a result of their job, they or their families can hire a worker’s compensation lawyer to help them get the restitution they deserve.

    This specialty does require lawyers to be in the courtroom pretty regularly, so keep this in mind as either a pro or a con when you’re deciding what you want to pursue.

  • Contract lawyer. Contract lawyers specialize in – you guessed it – contracts. Whether it’s creating them, advising clients to sign them, or handling problems that arise after they’ve been signed, you’ll be an expert at assisting individuals and corporations with their contract disputes.

  • Intellectual property lawyer. Called IP lawyers for short, intellectual property lawyers assist clients with copyrights, trademarks, patents, and licensing for their unique creations and inventions.

    You’ll help clients both obtain and maintain these licenses and handle any infringement issues that come up after they have them. You’ll also help your clients avoid infringing on anyone else’s intellectual property.

    Lawyers in this field also typically specialize by industry, as the intellectual property laws vary within each one.

  • Real estate lawyer. Real estate lawyers do everything from assisting real estate agents, buyers, and sellers navigate the home buying process to advising construction companies about zoning laws.

    Real estate lawyers will also assist clients with foreclosures and evictions, whether they represent the landlord or the tenant.

    If you want to become a real estate lawyer, you’ll need to brush up on your negotiation skills. Whether it’s helping negotiate sale contracts or disputes between tenants and landlords, you’ll put these skills to good use throughout your career in real estate law.

  • Medical malpractice lawyer. As much as they try to prevent mistakes, medical professionals do err. Medical malpractice lawyers specialize in cases where a doctor or other medical professional is sued for harming a patient.

    If working on cases involving medical professionals doesn’t interest you, other professionals that are held to rigorous standards such as lawyers, accountants, and government officials may hire you to help them avoid being sued for malpractice.

  • Tax lawyer. Most everyone knows that tax law is complicated and that breaking those laws can bring serious consequences. Because of this and because everyone has to pay taxes, tax attorneys have great job security.

    As a tax attorney, you’ll defend clients who are being sued by the IRS for tax fraud, evasion, or failure to file taxes.

    This is a law specialty that requires very little time in the courtroom, so if that sounds appealing to you and you enjoy working with numbers, this might be a great career option for you.

  • Civil litigation lawyer. When one individual wants to sue another, they’ll both need civil litigation lawyers to represent them.

    If you become a civil litigation lawyer, your cases could range from contract and property disputes to class action lawsuits. You also may deal with clients who are suing a city or other organization.

  • Social security disability lawyer. The social security system is already complicated enough, but social security disability issues add another level of complexity.

    As a social security disability lawyer, you’ll help your clients file for disability and appeal if they were denied benefits or if their benefits were terminated or dramatically reduced.

  • Personal injury lawyer. When someone is injured in an accident such as a car crash, they can hire a personal injury lawyer to sue the other party involved in the crash for the financial damages caused by the injury.

    If you become a personal injury lawyer, though, you won’t only handle cases involving physical injury. Personal injury includes damage to the mind and emotions as well, so you will also encounter libel and defamation cases.

  • Civil rights lawyer. If you are passionate about defending citizens’ constitutional rights, this might be the law specialty for you.

    You’ll be consulted whenever a client wants to sue the government or other establishment for violating their civil rights, and you’ll be able to represent them in court as they work to get compensation.

    These cases are unique because they’re often high-profile and bring a lot of publicity. As a result, you’ll need to be comfortable handling this without compromising the case. You’ll also need to be able to explain the civil rights issues in order to educate your newfound audience.

  • Environmental lawyers. If you love the outdoors and want to do something to protect the beauty of nature, becoming an environmental lawyer might be the career path for you.

    With this specialty, you’ll handle anything to do with environmental regulations, whether that’s air and water quality, species preservation, biodiversity, or waste management.

    You’ll work with government organizations, businesses, and private citizens to enforce the always-changing environmental laws and protect the Earth we live in.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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