The types of lawyers listed in the subsequent pages contain a general explanation of each lawyer job description. Be advised that there are many sub-categories, specializations and niches in each of these fields of law, and thus the below is not full and comprehensive list of all fields of law. This list has been provided with the goal that you begin to explore what fields you might be interested in pursuing.
Also keep in mind that there is both a litigation and transactional contingent to the practice of law. Generally speaking there are some lawyers who go to court and and file lawsuits against other people/companies (litigation attorneys), and there are lawyers who never go to court and draft agreements and close deals all day (transactional attorneys). Most of the subjects listed have lawyers who are on the transactional end and lawyers who are on the litigation end.
For instance, a commercial real estate transactions attorney may draft the documents for and close a sale of a building, however if there is a breakdown in the deal and the matter goes to court a litigation attorney will proceed with the case. (Sometimes, they are the same lawyer if experienced and skilled in both.)
• Administrative law . Administrative law concerns how administrative agencies of the government make decisions, rules, and regulations. This applies to both state and federal agencies. Administrative law is the legal framework within how public administration is carried out. The types of lawyers that practice in this field of law argue in administrative courts (generally arguing in front of a committee or tribunal). The Administrative courts have different rules and regulations from standard civil/criminal courts. The common subject matter issues that Administrative Law attorneys address are: 1) Regulatory issues, where a new law may be in direct conflict with their client’s business and you are seeking remedy; 2) Entitlement issues, where their client was denied social security, workers compensation, or other benefits which should have been received; 3) Enforcement issues, where the government begins a hearing against their client. This legal profession is almost exclusively litigation based (quasi-court).
• Admiralty/Maritime law . Legal professions in this field of law have both a litigation and transactional contingent. This field of law concerns maritime navigation, commerce questions, offenses and also concerns international trade/commercial activity. Federal courts have jurisdiction. The types of lawyers in this field of law deal with subject matter covering not only injuries to ship crew, but also damages based on “Bills of Lading”, which is a contract between three parties; the seller of the goods, buyer of the goods, and transporter of the goods. Disputes that often arise concern who is responsible to pay for lost or damaged goods at sea. Admiralty law is unique because of the “in rem” process; this process allows the plaintiff to sue a vessel directly as if it were the defendant. The concern is that it's hard to discover the true owner of a vessel. Jurisdiction of the court extends to all navigable waterways connecting different states or nations and the contracts made on land regarding maritime trade.
• Aviation law . Aviation law concerns the operation of aircraft, related facilities, flight and air travel and related commercial concerns. The Federal government’s laws remain supreme in this area of law, though states do have their own applicable aviation laws. A lawyer who practices in this field will generally come across subject matter concerning personal injury, wrongful death, lost/destroyed property, or other related claims and litigation.
• Bankruptcy law . These types of lawyers spend their days dealing with debts where individuals (or corporate entities) are suffering extreme financial difficulty. Laws seek to balance the interest of the creditor while relieving the debtors of pressure from creditors and preserving the assets of the debtor for orderly settlement of valid claims. When a bankruptcy is filed a trustee is appointed to administer all of the assets and pay off secured loans in the proper priority. Often most creditors are not fully paid. Unsecured creditors are especially at risk and usually share what is left after the secured creditors are paid. Jurisdiction in bankruptcy is solely reserved for the federal courts. There are several different forms of bankruptcy some which are full liquidation of assets (i.e. sell everything) and others which are reorganization: 1) Chapter 7 – straight liquidation; 2) Chapter 13 – reorganization; 3) Chapter 11 – business bankruptcy. Once the bankruptcy court approves a petitioner receiving a discharge there is a release of pre-bankruptcy filing debt (i.e. the debts are removed).
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