The 5 Most Common Types of Lawyers/Attorneys and When to Hire Them

A lawyer is a professional that provides legal advice (and services) to their clients as it pertains to specific parts of the law. When you break it down, there are over 30 different types of lawyers, including business, human rights, social security and disability, real estate, bankruptcy, mergers and acquisitions, civil rights, and even environmental lawyers.

The reality is that the majority of people aren’t aware of all of these different types of lawyers. Instead, there are only five types of lawyers that most people may need to hire sometime in their life. Not to say that you’ll need all five of these lawyers, but the general population uses these five types of lawyers more than any other type.

#1: Criminal Defense Attorney

Criminal defense attorneys are arguably the type of lawyers that most people think of. They’re portrayed in movies and TV shows more often than other types of lawyers, which is likely why this type of lawyer is pretty well-known. Criminal defense attorneys are the type of lawyers that represent clients in court when they’ve been accused of a crime. They defend clients at the local, state, and federal levels.

Most criminal defense attorneys are public defenders who are appointed cases. All criminal defense attorneys are just that— attorneys. An attorney is someone who has passed the bar exam in their state of practice and can represent clients in a court of law. On the other hand, a lawyer is someone who is an expert in the law, but has not taken or passed the bar exam, and cannot represent clients in court.

#2: Family Lawyer

Family lawyers are lawyers (and attorneys) that handle legal matters as they relate to families. This includes adoption, child custody issues, and divorce/marriage agreements. The attorneys represent families in court, while the lawyers help families with legal documents behind the scenes. Although about 2% of Americans have adopted, statistics still show that about half of marriages end in divorce— which, unfortunately, is what makes family lawyers popular.

#3: Immigration Lawyer

In the U.S., immigration lawyers help those from other countries become legal citizens. The immigration process is extremely complicated, and it’s nearly impossible to become a U.S. citizen without the help and expertise of an immigration lawyer. They can help immigrants prepare paperwork such as birth certificates and proof of marriage to help get them visas, green cards, and full-on citizenship.

In 2016, the U.S. admitted more than one million legal immigrants, making immigration lawyers one of the most popular types of lawyers. The U.S. is one of the most popular countries that people immigrate to, so immigration lawyers are always going to be needed.

#4: Personal Injury Attorney

Personal injury attorneys are also a pretty well-known type of lawyer because they represent clients who have been injured in some way. When most people hear “personal injury lawyer”, they often think that this is the lawyer to contact when they’ve been in a car accident. While this is true, personal injury extends beyond car accidents to include:

  • Workplace accidents
  • Surgical malpractice
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Nursing home/assisted living abuse and neglect
  • Medical malpractice
  • Drug and product recalls
  • Construction accidents
  • Birth injuries
  • Animal (dog) bites

Also, if any of these injuries result in death (known as wrongful death), you can contact a personal injury lawyer.

#5: Tax Lawyer

Anything that relates to taxes can be confusing for the average person, which is why most people don’t do their own taxes. However, trouble with the IRS isn’t the only time that you may need a tax lawyer. You can also hire the services of a tax lawyer if you have a taxable estate, or if you plan on starting your own business. If you’re dealing with taxes beyond the scope of services that an accountant provides, you may need the expertise of a tax lawyer.

It’s important to note that hearing the term “hiring a lawyer” doesn’t necessarily have a negative connotation, as noted by some of these types of lawyers listed above. However, because lawyers are experts in the law, it’s natural to assume that one would only need to hire a lawyer if one were in legal trouble. The reality is that there are also instances where you’d hire a lawyer to avoid legal trouble, such as a business lawyer or tax lawyer for your business. The bottom line is that you should know that there are different types of lawyers out there for a variety of reasons.

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