So, you've decided that you want to be a lawyer. Congratulations! But have you thought about what area of law you'd like to practice?
Many aspiring lawyers don't think that far ahead. Some even believe that all lawyers are the same. To help rectify this, we've put together a comprehensive list of the various areas of law you can practice and what specializing in each one entails.
What Area of Law Should You Practice?
Deciding which area of law to practice will depend on your interests, innate skills, and long-term career goals. Your options are:
Also known as Maritime Law, this area of law covers marine-related transactions, contracts, and disputes. As an admiralty lawyer, you'll work with sailors, vessel owners, marine traders, and also deal with land-based cases that have a maritime aspect.
Admiralty law is not the same as the Law of the Sea, which has to do with coastal waters jurisdiction, international public law, navigation rights, and minerals rights.
Also known as Corporate Law, it covers all the legal aspects of corporate administration, including the creation and dissolution of companies.
As a corporate lawyer, you'll be responsible for sorting acquisitions, mergers, internal reorganization, patents, liability issues, and compliance. You'll also help with the resolution of disputes between corporations, their staff, or external parties.
As a corporate lawyer, you can work on your own, as part of a firm, or as in-house counsel for a client company.
Civil Rights Law
A Civil Rights lawyer specializes in ensuring that government institutions don't abuse the rights of individuals. They provide the resolution of competing interests that occur between a person, or group of people, and government bodies.
Cases typically handled by civil rights lawyers include human rights abuse, discrimination, and other similar unfair practices.
It is a small yet competitive field, and a number of the cases are pro bono. You can work full-time as a civil rights lawyer in a public interest law firm, or independently.
Also known as Employment Law, this area of law focuses on the contractual relationship between employers and their employees. A labor lawyer helps resolve issues relating to compensation, workplace injuries, discrimination, harassment, and many others.
As a labor lawyer, you can represent companies, government agencies, individual employers or employees, and labor unions.
You can't be a military lawyer unless you are a member of the armed forces. Military law is quite different from the laws that govern regular civilians, and it was established by the Uniform Code of Military Justice in 1951.
Military lawyers typically handle disciplinary cases, criminal cases, and civil cases relating to those in the military. They can also sometimes handle non-military-related cases.
This area of law covers acts and behaviors that breach the criminal code, or are categorized as illegal. You can practice in this field as a criminal defense lawyer who represents people who have been accused of a crime. Or, you could operate in the interest of the state from the Prosecutor's and District Attorney's office to prove in court that a person has committed a crime.
Criminal law ensures that the law and personal liberties are upheld by defending the fundamental rights of individuals.
This falls under Intellectual Property Law (see separate listing) but is more focused on the entertainment industry. As an entertainment lawyer, you'll deal with cases regarding rights and royalties issues. This area of law covers the arts, cinema, music, and television. It can even extend to sports and the media coverage of it.
Environmental lawyers typically deal with cases that involve pollution, public health, natural resource management, or disputes about land or coastline use.
Environmental legal professionals represent individuals, advocacy organizations, or government agencies.
Family Law and Juvenile Law
As the name implies, this type of law covers family relationships and legal relations between family members. A family lawyer deals with issues related to domestic abuse, legitimacy, civil unions, domestic partnerships, adoptions, divorce, custody, child support, and more.
You can also choose to specialize in an aspect of family law, such as divorces or child welfare.
Lawyers in this field deal with healthcare-related issues and the laws that govern them. As a health lawyer, your clients may be clinics, patients, health practitioners, or medical insurance companies.
Health attorneys are also commonly hired by the US government for crafting, implementing, and enforcing health-related policies that affect the people and organizations.
As an immigration lawyer, you'll help people who want to become citizens of the US or are seeking asylum. You'll also assist individuals as they proceed through the process of naturalization.
Immigration law also covers people who have entered or are staying in the US illegally. Practicing immigration law is governed by not just US laws, but also bilateral accords, international treaties, and more.
Immigration lawyers can also work for community-based organizations, as in-house counsel for US companies hiring foreigners, for the government, or in a law firm. You may also become involved in business immigration law, and criminal or deportation defense.
Intellectual Property Law
Intellectual property lawyers are usually well-versed in specific niches, such as arts, science, or an industry. This is so they can better protect the rights of businesses, authors, artists, and inventors over their tangible and intangible inventions created within an industry.
A trademark or copyright attorney drafts legal contracts or manages a client's rights to their created visual identity, brand names, or slogans.
This is a broad niche that covers activities, individuals, and organizations in the public and private sector.
Private sector international lawyers typically work in the trade and finance departments of multinational corporations. This means you'll need to be proficient in business concepts, corporate law, and maybe intellectual property law to excel in this field.
Public international lawyers manage dealings, negotiations, and other activities, with or between countries. Regardless of whether you're practicing private or public international law, you'll need to be very familiar with the common and civil laws in different countries.
Animal lawyers specialize in laws that cover the welfare and treatment of animals. Practicing this area of law involves defending animal rights, and applying the law to represent animals, as well as those who care for and support them.
Animal lawyers typically face off against animal abusers, exploiters, and campaign for animal rights. A lawyer practicing this specialty can work independently, as a member of a law firm, or on behalf of an animal rights organization.
When an individual or other legal entity becomes insolvent, bankruptcy laws come into action. As a bankruptcy lawyer, you'll be an expert in bankruptcy procedures at federal and state levels and the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
This area of law is ideal if you'd like to specialize in the legal aspects of sports. It covers all sports at an amateur and professional level.
If you are a sports lawyer covering amateur sports, you can work with colleges, donors, universities, and the athletes themselves. If covering professional sports, you might operate as a sports agent for athletes, or represent team owners in personal injury cases or contract and antitrust matters.
Real Estate Law
This field of law covers all transactions relating to land or real estate. As a real estate lawyer, you'll handle issues relating to property development, land or construction ownership, litigation, landlord disputes, tenant rights, and other real estate property disputes.
Personal Injury Law
Practicing in this field of law requires a specialty in torts law. It covers accidental, negligent, or intentional actions that lead to the physical or psychological harm of others.
Personal injury lawyers commonly work on cases involving product liability, wrongful death, medical malpractice, automobile collisions, or workplace injury.
Tax lawyers are required for international and domestic transactions. A tax lawyer is always learning because tax-related laws are constantly adapting to address changes in the financial world.
As a tax lawyer, you'll be responsible for helping your client minimize tax liabilities. It'll also be your job to ensure the legality of tax levies on your client's economic transactions.
Areas of Law in Demand
Certain areas of law are more exciting and profitable than others.
The areas of law that are currently most in-demand and where legal practitioners are earning the most are:
- Tax Law
- Intellectual Property
- Complex Litigation
- Corporate Law
- Healthcare Law
A significant number of lawyers in these fields are earning between $100,000 and $200,000 yearly.
You can choose to practice an area of law because of the potential financial earning, or you can do it for the passion, reputation, or job security. You could even do it simply because you are good at it.
Whatever your reason for choosing to practice an area of law, remember that your actions must always be in the interest of your clients, and be guided by the ethics and best practices of the legal profession.