We’ve seen lawyers on television, in movies or maybe we know someone personally who is an attorney. But what do they actually do? Seems like lots of meetings and contracts. Lawyers in any field of practice do have meetings and do work with lots of contracts. There is a lot of overlap in the different fields. However, depending on the type of legal practice, the work varies. We’ve researched the ten most common legal practices in the United States, so look out for similarities and differences between each of them!

Intellectual Property:

For the first legal practice, we chose the daunting, or unfamiliar field, of intellectual property (IP). These attorneys work closely on copyright and patent law. They protect the thoughts and ideas and all other intangible property that you have. Interestingly enough,practicing IP law isn’t for everyone. In order to be an IP lawyer, you must have a technical background and go through additional licensing. For those of us without a technical degree, we’ll need to chose a different legal practice. However for those of you with a science, math, or engineering degree, you can practice IP law! Fortunately, the IP legal field isn’t saturated at all–which can’t be said for most other legal fields as well.


If you, or anyone you know has adopted a child, been divorced or made prenuptial agreements, then a family lawyer was used. Many lawyers who practice family law specialize in divorce. The issues of alimony and child support are settled with family lawyers. Other matters such as adoption and child abuse or guardianship are directly taken care of by a family attorney.


Taxes are a pain for everybody. Misfiling can happen, issues with import duties occur, and federal and state tax laws are difficult to understand. Tax lawyers can help with all of this. When the IRS is hunting down people, tax attorneys can take their case to court and testify on their behalf.

Personal Injury:

Personal injury lawyers (PI) are a person’s best friend if ever in an accident. Whether it is medical malpractice, a car accident, or a work-related injury, PI lawyers will do their best to help clients get the best settlement, and highest award.

The only way that PI lawyers get paid are contingency fees. This means that if you win the case, then a percentage of the settlement is given to the lawyer. If you don’t win the case, the PI lawyer costs you nothing! The settlements involved in personal injury cases are usually pretty high, which attracts a lot of people to seek good PI lawyers.


Criminal Law is the most dramatically portrayed on television. Criminal law cases are the situations in which someone broke the law. Criminal lawyers either represent the government, or the accused individual (defendant). In other cases, the settlement is always monetary compensation. However, with criminal law the settlement is prison time.

Prosecuting attorneys in criminal law seek to charge someone as guilty, and ultimately, give them a prison sentence. Criminal defense attorneys seek to either prove their client innocent, or to lower their prison sentence. Not all criminal cases look like Law & Order, but at the same time, criminal lawyers do deal with tough cases. Anything from shoplifting or illegal drug use, to murder and rape are the items criminal lawyers work with.


While criminal law deals with the government v. a citizen, civil law deals with a citizen v. a citizen. Civil cases include any wrongdoings that need to be resolved legally between two citizens that don’t include a breach of contract. These are called torts. Oftentimes, laws aren’t broken, but civil wrongs were still committed that need to be resolved. These cases include trespassing, negligence, battery, etc.


Bankruptcy lawyers deal with debt. They represent 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.


Moving into the U.S. requires a signing and reading through of many documents and forms. Immigration lawyers help immigrants with their transition into the U.S. When needing work visas, immigration lawyers deal with businesses to help sort out the documentation necessary.

Mergers & Acquisitions:

Within a single business, many changes can occur. Portions of, and entire businesses, get sold, bought out, and merged. Mergers & Acquisition lawyers (M&A) must understand tax law, transactional law, and business law to make sure that things are handled fairly, all aspects considered.


As you might have guessed, corporate law deals with corporations. These business lawyers handle anything that has to do with business: taxes, contracts, mergers and acquisitions, employment, etc. Oftentimes corporations have an ‘in-house’ attorney, or counsel, that runs the legal side of their business. If you ever need help growing, ending, or organizing your business, corporate lawyers are who you will work with!