What Kind of Lawyer?

You’ve met someone new, and you’re having one of those routine icebreaker conversations. You’ve just told the other person that you want to be a lawyer. You brace yourself for a dreadfully familiar follow-up question.

“What kind of lawyer?” they ask.

“Maybe litigation,” you say.

The truth is that you have no idea. Whether you’re a pre-law student, you’ve been accepted to law school, or you’re in your first year, you’ll likely find yourself in this scenario more than you’d like. There are so many types of lawyers. How can you possibly narrow down what field you want to pursue?

The truth is that the list of lawyer specializations is too long to cover in a single article, but let’s start with the most common. After all, if you are a prospective lawyer, your decision should factor in demand. Of course, you’ll want to choose an area of law that you are passionate about, but will that land you a job at a law firm? Here’s some basic information about the top five most in-demand specializations in the field:

Civil Litigation

Civil litigation refers to any legal dispute between two or more parties in which money or specific actions for damages are sought rather than criminal sanctions.

Every year in the United States, over 15 million lawsuits are filed. Whether clients are suing or being sued, they’ll need lawyers on their side. This type of law is so in demand that some lawyers specialize in certain types of civil litigation, such as commercial litigation or defamation law. Most lawsuits are settled outside of court, but on occasion, a litigator may need to show her face in the courtroom.

Criminal Defense

Criminal defense lawyers protect those who have been accused of committing crimes. This is the lawyer that is often romanticized in Hollywood, but the real job isn’t usually so glamorous. A criminal lawyer is educated in issues related to bail, arraignment, arrest, plea bargains, court defense, and anything else that may help alleged criminals stay out of jail. You may not always be pleading on behalf of the innocent, but remember, everyone has a right to an attorney.

Criminal defense lawyers typically spend more time in the courtroom than any other lawyer.

Some lawyers choose to focus on a particular subset of criminal law – traffic law. After all, these lawyers often defend a different kind of population. They also need to have a good foundation in traffic law, which can be a vast and daunting category.

Real Estate Law

Real estate lawyers deal with rights concerning land, water and structures. They may defend real estate firms, home owners, or tenants. They may also specialize in estate planning, such as formulating wills and trusts for passing on assets to a deceased person’s relatives and friends.

Business Law

If you want to help business owners assert their rights and stay afloat, you’ll be going one of two routes – litigation or transactional.

Corporate litigation (a.k.a commercial litigation) is really just another subset of civil litigation, in which lawyers defend or prosecute businesses who sue one another.

A transactional business lawyer, on the other hand, is a lawyer that helps with the everyday needs of a growing, thriving business. This lawyer may turn a startup into a corporation, help secure funding, draft contracts, and countless other tasks. Transactional lawyers never go to court.

Family Law

A family lawyer addresses any legal problems in a family, such as prenuptial agreements, divorce, child support, custody, domestic violence or adoption. Divorces are common cases, and as any Salt Lake City divorce lawyer knows, can be simple, complex, or adversarial. It is tough, personal work, but it can also be very rewarding.

Family cases often go to court – sometimes almost as much as criminal law cases do. The work is steady, but you won’t get wealthy overnight like a plaintiff’s lawyer. If it is your dream to work in front of a jury, you’ll want to choose another area of law. Most family law cases are decided by a judge.

Whatever type of law you choose, chances are that you still have a good amount of time to decide. Examine the details of each area carefully. Take classes related to your top interests and pursue mock court cases that reflect those categories of law. That way you can go forward confidently, knowing that you made the right choice.

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