Attorneys typically focus on one (or sometimes two) areas of law, often with the goal of becoming an expert in their chosen practice area. Understanding the different legal practice areas and what they cover can help you locate the right attorney for your needs.
FindLaw's Learn About the Law section covers each of these practice areas in detail, with practical information and links to our Find a Lawyer directory. You may also want to read our articles on How to Determine if You Need a Lawyer and How Much Will It Cost to Hire a Lawyer?
Here is a sampling of some legal practice areas you may need help with:
Business attorneys help entrepreneurs start new businesses; advise small business owners on a variety of matters; work with large corporations; advise on business taxation issues; and assist with mergers and acquisitions, among other tasks. Those handling issues pertaining to intellectual property (copyrights, patents, trademarks) tend to specialize in that niche.
Criminal law involves the prosecution and defense of individuals charged with committing acts against society. When someone commits theft, for example, the defendant is prosecuted by the state and is defended by either a public defender or a private defense attorney.
Estate planning is an area of law involving the safeguarding and planned disposition of assets and interests prior to one's death or disabling condition. For example, an estate lawyer can help you write a will; set up a trust; and make sure your health care and end-of-life wishes are honored.
Family law encompasses a wide variety of domestic issues, including marriage; divorce; adoption; paternity; child custody and support; and reproductive rights. Attorneys focusing on divorce also handle child support and other related matters.
Immigration lawyers focus on business immigration, family immigration, or both. A business immigration lawyer might help a business obtain a foreign worker visa, while a family immigration lawyer might help someone adjust their status.
Employment and labor lawyers represent either employers (businesses) or employees. A lawyer representing an employer might help the business come into compliance with a new labor law, while a lawyer representing employees might help a lawyer file a lawsuit for harassment or wrongful termination.
Injury lawyers handle medical malpractice claims; car accidents; product liability claims; torts, including defamation and invasion of privacy; and other accidents or injuries. An injury (or personal injury) attorney will help you file a claim if you have been injured by another party or defend against a plaintiff's claim.
Real estate attorneys help their clients with everything from avoiding foreclosure to fighting an eviction. Some lawyers specialize in landlord-tenant law, while others focus on the buying and selling of homes.
Within this particular area of law, lawyers tend to specialize in either business taxes or individual and household taxes. A tax attorney might help a client negotiate a payment plan for overdue tax obligations; determine ways to lower one's tax bill; or help a business prepare for an audit.