Regarding the different types of lawyers, it is important to realize that not all lawyers practice law. Many lawyers never actively practice law and use their degree to go into other industries. Industries that prefer a JD degree include but are not limited to Government, Insurance, Regulation, Real Estate Development, and Consulting.
Other lawyers will practice for a few years and then decide to move into a different industry such as Management Consulting.
But for now let’s concern ourselves with those types of lawyers who actively practice law.
There are many different types of legal professions in the United States. All commercial entities and citizens of the United States will require the services of lawyers for one reason or another. As you can imagine the problems that arise for a business vs. an ordinary citizen can vary significantly.
Long ago, there were local attorneys who addressed the needs of everyday citizens and businesses. These attorneys were essentially a “jack of all trades” and would be able to handle most legal issues that arose for a citizen or business. However, as time went on technology and government regulations expanded the quantity of laws and new fields of law came to fruition. Naturally, one attorney could not keep up with all of those fields and still be competent. Consequentially, legal professions became more focused on one (or a couple) types of law.
So analyzing the different lawyer job descriptions and fields of law, an important question to ask is “how focused is a lawyer’s practice?” Remember that all firms are different, and the focus will generally be determined by the type of work that comes in the door, but generally the below is accurate:
-The solo practitioner/small law firm = This type of firm is the most general in scope in terms of the lawyer job description. The majority of smaller firms handle matters for citizens and small businesses. A solo Practitioner, on a Monday night may sit on the board of a municipality's zoning board (land use); Tuesday may close a sale of a home (real estate); Wednesday may file a law suit against an insurance company (litigation); Thursday may form a corporate entity and close the sale of a pharmacy (commercial transaction); Friday may appear on a DUI charge (criminal).
The above matters would be considered rather simple in terms of legal work (relatively speaking) compared to other law practices. (Don’t expect to be able to handle any of the above without several years of experience under your belt.)
-Medium sized law firm =The medium sized law firm will employ more attorneys and the focus of each attorney will be more specific vs. the smaller law firms. For example, perhaps a lawyer may be in the Commercial Real Estate group in a law firm and will only handle commercial real estate matters such as leasing, tax appeals, purchases and sales of buildings, and financing for purchase of real estate.
-Large law firm = As the size of the firm gets larger, the individual types of lawyers will focus on much more specific areas. Here a Lawyer may only review leases and never get exposed to other aspects of commercial real estate let alone other legal professions or fields of law.
-Boutique law firm = This type of law firm is small, but the types of lawyers who are employed here are highly sophisticated and highly focused on one area of law. For example after 9/11 there were a few boutique law firms who specialized in Aviation law who worked on compensating victims and family members for their legal claims.
I bring the above to your attention to begin your education in different legal professions and the depth vs. variety aspects of the legal practice. However, there is certainly more that you must learn about your options for a legal practice before you commit to law school.
Continue reading our articles and arm yourself with enough knowledge to decide if you should become a lawyer (and if so what type of lawyer)!