In order to become a licensed attorney, a person must understand the basics of all kinds of law. However, attorneys usually choose to focus on one or two specific areas of law. For example, a criminal defense attorney specifically represents criminal defendants, while a personal injury attorney can represent plaintiffs or defendants in personal injury cases. Attorneys usually choose to specialize in an area of law because it's hard to be well versed in all of the different areas of law. FindLaw's Legal Practice Areas section provides information about the different areas of law. You can also find links related to some of the different practice areas.
Criminal law involves the prosecution and defense of individuals charged with committing acts against society. Criminal offenses are defined by federal, state, and local laws and vary from minor infractions like speeding to serious crimes like murder. Penalties for crimes are generally proportional to the severity of the crime, with minor offenses usually punishable by a fine or probation. Serious offenses, on the other hand, could result in life in prison or even the death penalty depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the crime.
Criminal proceedings can be very complex and can carry harsh penalties, which is why it's important to contact an attorney if you are charged with a crime especially if it's a felony. The U.S. Constitution guarantees all criminal defendants a right to counsel. If the criminal offense carries a possible jail or prison sentence, the state is required to provide the defendant with an attorney if he or she can't afford one.
Family law includes a variety of domestic issues including marriage, divorce, adoption, paternity, child custody and support, and reproductive rights. While a lawyer isn't always necessary in all aspects of domestic issues, there are a few situations when it's a good idea to get a family law attorney. For example, if a divorce involves minor children and/or complicated property issues, it's a good idea to consult with a family law attorney.
Another time when consulting with an attorney is a good idea is if your future spouse presents you with a prenuptial agreement. A prenuptial agreement is a legal contract that goes into effect if you end up getting a divorce. Since it will usually affect your spousal support and property in the unfortunate event of a divorce and it will include legal jargon, it's important to have a lawyer review it before you sign it. Finally, if there is a family law issue in which the opposing side has an attorney, you're at a disadvantage if you don't have your own attorney as well.
Personal Injury Law
Personal injury cases can arise from various different injuries. Personal injury claims can arise from a defective product, medical malpractice, car accidents, and slipping and falling on someone else's property. A person who specializes in personal injury law usually chooses to focus on the defense or plaintiff side.
A personal injury attorney who specializes on the plaintiff side brings lawsuits against businesses and individuals on behalf of the injured party. The attorney can review the case, evaluate the extent of the damages, and determine whether the person or business is liable for the injuries. The lawyer can also advise his or her client on whether it's better to settle or go to trial. Finally, the attorney may also recommend other helpful resources – such as social workers, financial advisors, or medical professionals – to the client.