We often encounter lawyers through television, movies, or personal connections, but understanding what they do can be confusing. Lawyers in all fields deal with meetings and contracts, but their work varies depending on the type of legal practice. We’ve identified the 18 most common legal practices in the United States, highlighting their key similarities and differences.

The 18 Most Common Types of Law Practices

1. Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (IP) law is a specialized field that deals with protecting intangible assets such as:

  • Copyrights 
  • Patents
  • Trademarks
  • Trade secrets

IP attorneys operate within the realm of law practices, protecting thoughts, ideas, and creations, ensuring that their client’s intellectual property rights are not infringed upon. To become an IP lawyer, one must have a technical background, such as a science, math, or engineering degree, and obtain additional licensing. With such qualifications, you can enter the legal practice of IP law and enjoy a less saturated legal field than others.

2. Constitutional Law

Constitutional law focuses on the interpretation and application of the U.S. Constitution. 

Attorneys who specialize in constitutional law operate within specific law practices, analyzing and litigating cases involving constitutional rights and principles. They deal with issues such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, due process, equal protection under the law, separation of powers, and the limits of government authority. 

Constitutional lawyers within the legal practice often engage in cases that challenge government actions, advocate for civil liberties, and address constitutional issues arising in criminal and civil litigation. They work collaboratively with individuals, advocacy groups, and government entities to protect and uphold constitutional rights and principles.

3. Municipal Law 

Also known as local government law, municipal law involves legal issues concerning law practices involving local governments, cities, towns, counties, and municipal agencies.

Attorneys in municipal law handle a diverse range of matters related to local governance, land use planning, zoning regulations, municipal finance, public contracts, administrative law, and intergovernmental relations. They advise local government officials, draft ordinances and resolutions, represent municipalities in litigation, negotiate contracts, and ensure compliance with state and federal laws impacting local governments. 

Municipal lawyers play a crucial role in safeguarding the legal interests of local governments and promoting effective governance at the community level.

4. Family Law

Family lawyers handle cases related to adoption, divorce, and prenuptial agreements. They also specialize in issues such as alimony, child support, child abuse, and guardianship. If you’re facing any family-related legal challenges, seeking assistance from a family attorney can guide you through the process and ensure that your rights and interests are protected.

5. Health law

Health law encompasses law practices focusing on the legal regulations and issues within the healthcare industry. It covers a broad range of topics, including healthcare policies, patient rights, medical malpractice, healthcare provider regulation, healthcare fraud and abuse, bioethical issues, and the intersection of healthcare and technology. 

Within this legal practice, health law attorneys work with healthcare providers, institutions, insurance companies, patients, and government agencies. They ensure compliance with healthcare laws and regulations, assist in structuring healthcare transactions, handle disputes related to medical malpractice, and navigate complex healthcare policies. Additionally, they address matters concerning patient privacy, healthcare-related contracts, and the evolving landscape of healthcare reform and insurance.

6. Employment Law

A group of professionals from a legal practice

Employment law deals with legal issues arising from the employer-employee relationship within law practices.

Attorneys in this legal practice handle various matters, including employment contracts, workplace discrimination, wrongful termination, wage and hour disputes, workplace safety regulations, and employee benefits. They assist both employers and employees in navigating labor laws, drafting employment agreements, resolving disputes, and ensuring compliance with state and federal regulations. 

Employment lawyers often mediate or litigate disputes, aiming to protect the rights of their clients and promote fair and equitable treatment in the workplace.

7. Finance Law

Finance law centers on the legal intricacies of financial transactions and regulatory compliance within law practices in the financial industry.

In their legal practice, finance attorneys work with banks, financial institutions, corporations, and individuals involved in various financial matters. They handle issues such as banking regulations, securities offerings, mergers and acquisitions within financial institutions, lending transactions, compliance with financial laws and regulations, investment funds, and international finance. 

Finance attorneys assist in structuring complex financial transactions, ensuring compliance within regulatory frameworks and resolving disputes arising from financial dealings.

8. Education Law

Education law encompasses law practices related to legal issues concerning educational institutions, students, teachers, and administrators. 

Attorneys within this legal practice handle student rights, special education, school governance, academic freedom, discrimination in education, and educational policies. They assist in ensuring compliance with federal and state education laws.

Education lawyers work with educational institutions to address discipline, student safety, curriculum development, and school funding issues. They also represent clients in disputes involving educational institutions, advocating for the rights of students and educators.

9. Securities Law

Attorneys in securities law focus on regulations governing issuing and trading securities, such as stocks and bonds, within the financial market.

In their legal practice, attorneys in securities law work with companies, investment banks, broker-dealers, and regulatory agencies. They ensure compliance with securities regulations and handle matters such as initial public offerings (IPOs), securities offerings, insider trading, securities fraud, and compliance with reporting requirements of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). 

Securities lawyers assist clients in navigating the complex regulatory landscape, drafting disclosure documents, conducting due diligence, and representing clients in regulatory investigations and litigation related to securities transactions.

10. Tax Law

Tax lawyers encompass law practices dealing with a wide range of tax-related issues, such as federal and state tax laws, import duties, tax filing issues, tax disputes and litigation, and estate planning and inheritance tax.

When dealing with the IRS or other tax authorities, tax attorneys can represent clients in court and advocate for their interests, helping them navigate complex tax laws and regulations.

11. Personal Injury Law

Personal Injury Law deals with cases where individuals have experienced an accident or injury caused by another person’s negligence. If you’ve experienced an accident or injury due to someone else’s negligence, a personal injury (PI) lawyer can help you secure the best settlement or award. PI lawyers handle cases involving:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Car accidents
  • Work-related injuries
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Defective products

The only way that PI lawyers get paid is through contingency fees, meaning you only pay if you win the case, making legal representation accessible to those who may not afford it otherwise. The settlements involved in personal injury cases are usually pretty high, which attracts a lot of people to seek good PI lawyers.

11. Criminal Law

Criminal Law is the most dramatically portrayed on television. Criminal law cases involve individuals accused of breaking the law. In this legal practice, Criminal lawyers represent either the government as prosecutors or defendants as defense attorneys, focusing on securing prison time or defending clients from conviction. Criminal law covers a wide range of offenses, from misdemeanors to felonies, such as drug crimes, sex crimes, homicide, white collar crimes, violent offenses, and property crime charges.

Not all criminal cases look like Law & Order, but at the same time, criminal lawyers face tough cases on a daily basis.

12. Civil Law

While criminal law deals with the government versus a citizen, civil law deals with disputes between citizens that do not involve breaches of contract. These cases, known as torts, include trespassing, negligence, battery, and more. Often, laws aren’t broken, but civil wrongs that need to be resolved are still committed. 

Civil lawyers represent clients in lawsuits where the goal is to seek compensation for damages or to settle disputes rather than seeking a criminal penalty, as in criminal cases.

13. Bankruptcy Law

Bankruptcy lawyers specialize in debt-related issues, representing either the debtor or the creditor.  When people need to be pulled out of bankruptcy, or need to work through their debt, bankruptcy lawyers are involved. 

Depending on the bankruptcy situation at hand, different types of bankruptcy lawyers are involved. Their expertise may vary depending on the specific bankruptcy situation, and they aim to help clients navigate the legal process and achieve the best possible financial outcome.

14. Immigration Law

Immigration lawyers assist immigrants transitioning into the U.S. by guiding them through the many required documents and forms, which are otherwise difficult to navigate without the assistance of an immigration lawyer. They also help secure work visas and collaborate with businesses to ensure proper documentation.

15. Mergers & Acquisitions

Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A) lawyers navigate the complexities of businesses being sold, bought out, or merged. M&A lawyers are required to possess a comprehensive understanding of tax, transactional, and business law to ensure the fair and legal handling of these situations; they are involved in:

  • Due diligence investigations
  • Drafting and negotiating agreements
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Post-acquisition integration

Their expertise allows them to manage transactions and protect their clients’ interests successfully.

16. Corporate Law

As you might have guessed, corporate law encompasses the legal aspects related to corporations. These business lawyers work with corporations on matters such as taxes, contracts, mergers and acquisitions, and employment. They may serve as in-house counsel, managing the legal side of a business. If you ever need help growing, ending, or organizing your business, corporate lawyers are who you will work with!

18. Environmental Law

Environmental law deals with legal issues surrounding environmental protection, conservation, and sustainability. 

Attorneys in this field address environmental regulations, land use, natural resources management, pollution control, hazardous waste disposal, and climate change. They work with government agencies, businesses, non-profit organizations, and individuals to ensure compliance with environmental laws. 

Environmental lawyers also assist clients in environmental impact assessments, permitting processes, compliance audits, remediation of contaminated sites, and litigation involving environmental disputes.

Finding Your Path in the Legal Landscape

A woma working at a legal practice

The legal profession offers a diverse array of practice areas, each with its own unique focus, challenges, and opportunities. Whether you’re an aspiring lawyer, paralegal, or law student, understanding the most common legal practices is essential to making an informed decision about your career path. By exploring various fields and gaining relevant experience, you can find a practice area that aligns with your passions and skills. 

As you navigate the world of law, remember that each area plays a crucial role in shaping our society and providing justice. Embrace the journey, and let your legal expertise make a lasting impact on the lives of those you serve. Want to know more? Give us a call to speak with an attorney from Esplin | Weight at no-charge to learn about your path in the legal landscape!