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Types of Attorneys

Updated on November 5, 2019

If you have ever been involved in a legal conversation before, the titles “lawyer” and “attorney” have probably been thrown around quite a bit. Truthfully, the two titles are used pretty interchangeably in the United States, and not very many people know the difference between the two. In simplest terms, a lawyer is someone that is knowledgeable and educated in the interwoven mechanisms of law, but isn’t yet allowed to practice it. That’s because they haven’t passed their bar exam yet, but are still more knowledgeable than the layman. Most lawyers still give legal advice and are current students of law at a university. An attorney (which is sometimes also called an attorney-at-law, which is the longer version of the title) is someone that is legally qualified to perform in a court of law. That means that they have passed the bar exam for whatever their particular specialty might be which allows them to provide legal representation.

That means that an attorney is a lawyer but a lawyer is not necessarily qualified to be considered an attorney.

On top of the specific distinctions between the two titles, there are different types of attorneys as well. The varieties in specialties allow a person to practice and hone singular niches in law, though most attorneys choose to practice in a variety of specialties. It also makes it easier for someone to hire an attorney that will be well versed in the services that they are going to be required to provide. Think of it in terms of cooking; a generic chef with no specified specialty might be able to cook anything, but if you want an enchilada you know that a chef that specializes in Mexican food will probably make it better. It is guaranteed that they will know how to cook an enchilada, whereas you can’t guarantee anything with a generic chef with no specific specialties. With that same logic in mind, a criminal attorney might not be the best person to hire if you’re looking to settle a malpractice suit. It is very important to make sure that you get what you pay for by hiring an attorney that specializes in the specific field that you need help with.

In 2013, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics concluded that there were an estimated 740,000 attorneys in the United States that practice law. These attorneys were all broken into sections that represent their various fields and specialties that dictate their career paths. There are enough branches of law and attorneys that practice them to give anyone writing about it carpal tunnel, but there are more than a few more commonly known and used types of attorneys.

General Practice Attorneys

This is usually a person’s first stop when they need legal advice and don’t know where to go for it. A general practice attorney can give out legal advice in order to help a person figure out where to go for their legal needs and advocate on small disputes. General practice attorneys also work as a notary public.

Corporate Attorneys

These are the types of attorneys that you want on your side if you own a business. They will make sure that all of the legalities are taken care of by drafting contracts, helping with filing patents, facilitating mergers, assisting in incorporating a business, and personally assisting the company owner with the process of developing a succession plan to make sure that the business continues to grow and blossom.

Contract Attorneys

These are the types of attorneys that specialize in the specifics of contracts. These cases can be handled by your corporate or company attorney, but in the instances where they aren’t, a contact attorney will prepare anything that can be considered a contract between your business and your clients. They will also review and analyze anything that you need to sign, to make sure that it is in your best interest.

Bankruptcy Attorneys

These types of attorneys are one of various types of attorneys that generally stick to one topic and focus on the one singular field of law. They offer their services to both individual people and corporate companies and help them file for bankruptcy. Some specialize in personal or corporate, but some specialize in both. A personal bankruptcy attorney will assist the normal, everyday person in filing their bankruptcy claims. The outcome of these claims is a liquidation of debt, so there are usually plenty of people that are more than willing to fight these claims. A personal bankruptcy attorney will do their best to give their client an air tight case in order to earn them their claim. A corporate, or commercial, bankruptcy attorney specialized in handling cases that involve organizations, companies, or businesses; both public and private. These cases are generally more complicated and complex, because a commercial bankruptcy attorney has to worry about settling disputes between the company and their creditors as well as between the company and their employees.

Civil Rights Attorneys

These are the types of attorneys that you would go to for cases that involve discrimination or anything that violates the U.S Constitution. Their cases involve things like racial discrimination, voter discrimination, and discrimination that is based on sexual orientation or gender.

Birth Injury Attorneys

While there are other attorneys that specialize in malpractice or personal injury, the birth injury attorney specialized in injuries that were brought on by medical malpractice during childbirth. More often than not, these injuries are focused on the mother, but they can also include the baby.

Deportation Attorneys

These are the types of attorneys that specialize in immigration, deportation, and everything else that surrounds those two topics. They are well versed in immigration policies, and may be hired by someone that is being accused of staying in the country illegally. A deportation attorney will fight for the wrongfully accused’s right to stay in the country.

Construction Attorneys

These are the types of attorneys that specialize in helping builders get the right permits so that they can continue to build legally. This might also involve a consultation before the building begins in order to prepare all of the necessary documents that are required to file for permits.

Employment Attorneys

These are the types of attorneys that work with employees that have been wronged by their employer. They’re the dueling side of corporate attorneys, who are the people that would be defending the employer in these types of cases. Employment attorneys help people fight cases that involve things like worker’s compensation claims, wrongful employment termination, and harassment at the workplace.

Criminal Attorneys

This is one of the murkier branches of attorney specialties. There are many different things that a criminal attorney might be asked to assist with, but not all criminal attorneys will be able to offer their services for every type of criminal case. They offer a very wide range of different services that will vary from attorney to attorney. There are many different types of crimes, so if you think about it, it really makes sense that not every criminal attorney is going to be able to fight in every type of criminal case. It’s possible to find a criminal attorney that will help fight a case involving a DWI or DUI, but that same attorney might not be able to help with other traffic violations. (As a side note, there are attorneys that specialize in DUIs and only DUIs.) Others choose to specialize in assault cases, while others have decided to handle murder as a specialty instead.

Traffic Attorneys

These are the types of attorneys that specialize in traffic disputes. These usually involve traffic tickets. In these specific cases, it is very difficult to fight, because it is always going to be your word against a police officer’s. That is why you need someone to represent you that specializes in the topic and has specific knowledge of traffic law.

Personal Injury Attorneys

These are the types of attorneys that specialize in accidents that lead to injuries. They help people fight against insurance companies to get compensation for their pain. If the insurance company doesn’t cover the damages, then they’ll go after a specific person instead. These types of cases involve things like injuries resulting from a slip or fall, car accidents, hearing loss, back injuries, or anything else that can be considered a personal injury.

Accident Attorneys

Much like personal injury attorneys, these are the types of attorneys that specialize in representing either the victim or the defendant in the case of an accident. They help settle the legal responsibilities between the two parties and facilitate the process of compensation. Unlike a personal injury attorney, there doesn’t need to be an injury to pursue these claims.

Health Insurance Attorneys

These are the types of attorneys that specialize in helping someone fight against an insurance company when they have been denied the right of health insurance coverage after filing a valid claim.

Inheritance Attorneys

Sometimes, this specific niche is handled by a private practice or family attorney. In the instance where it is not, an inheritance attorney will know the rights that are offered to heirs. If something goes wrong and an heir is not given the share of the inheritance that they were allotted, an inheritance attorney will fight for their claim and help them get whatever it is that was left behind for them.

Wrongful Death Attorneys

In the event of a wrongful death, a wrongful death attorney will help the heirs of the deceased when it comes to claiming compensation and recuperation of loses that are deemed appropriate in the face of the wrongful death.

Spousal Support Attorneys

This is another specific niche that is sometimes handled by a private practice or family attorney. In the instance where it is not, a spousal support attorney will help file and fight a claim for spousal support after a divorce. The spousal support attorney will know the rights that their client has when it comes to their claim and the negotiation process for whatever settlements need to be made in order to end the divorce proceedings completely.

Autism Attorneys

It isn’t a secret that people with autism have a hard time fitting into society sometimes. Anyone that has been diagnosed with autism is given a set of certain rights by the government in order to help them live in society like normal people. An autism attorney will know what to do if these rights are violated, and can help ensure that the people involved know how to take advantage of those special rights.

Private Practice Attorneys

These are what people refer to as personal attorneys. Usually, these types of attorneys are hired by people that have a lot of money and a great number of assets that they wish to protect. They get involved in helping plan estates and make sure that their clients business affairs run smoothly. Hiring a private practice attorney is like hiring your own legal white knight that will ride in to guide you against whatever legal problems that you may come up against. For an average person, these legal problems can include child custody battles, divorce, and criminal charges. Celebrities and company owners usually have at least one too. They’re also called family attorneys, or family lawyers if the client doesn’t know the distinction between the two titles.

There are even more fields of law that an attorney can specialize in than the ones listed above. Because there are so many different specialty fields of law, it is important to pick an area to focus on for anyone that decides to begin walking down the path towards passing the bar and becoming an attorney. Each and every specific field of law has a complex web of information, and they all require years of training in order to be able to claim mastery and practice legally. For the same reasons, it is important to look for anyone that is looking for an attorney to look for one that specializes in the services that they need to be provided.


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