10 Kinds of Law You Can Practice after the LSAT

By Lisa Zimmer Hatch, Scott A. Hatch, Amy Hackney Blackwell

So you’re seriously considering law school. You’re getting ready to take the LSAT. Have you thought about what you’d do with a law degree? A degree of Juris Doctor can lead down all sorts of roads. A lawyer isn’t a multipurpose legal expert; different lawyers specialize in different fields.

Business/Corporate

Some lawyers spend all their time working on behalf of corporations. They negotiate deals, write and review contracts, and handle venture capital, securities, mergers, acquisitions, commercial paper, and plenty of other big-money topics. Some lawyers work directly for individual corporations as corporate counsel. Others work in firms that do the work for big and small businesses. If you’re into deal making, this field could be for you.

Criminal

Do you want to put bad guys behind bars or fight to keep wrongfully accused people out of jail? Perhaps what interests you most is the theoretical study of criminal justice, the rationale behind such concepts as the insanity defense, the death penalty, and lengthy incarcerations. These topics all fall under the heading of criminal law.

Criminal lawyers include prosecutors, who work for the state prosecuting people accused of crimes, and public defenders, who defend these same people accused of crimes. This field is a great area to pursue if you want to spend a lot of time in court.

Domestic Relations/Family Law

Domestic relations and family law encompass all the legal aspects of family life — prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, divorce, custody, child support, division of marital property, visitation, child abuse, adoption, and so on. Many family lawyers work closely with social services, particularly to monitor the welfare of children who may get lost in unfortunate family situations.

Employment/Labor

Employment law concerns itself with all aspects of the workplace — compensation, discrimination, sexual harassment, hiring and firing, benefits, and workplace safety. When employees sue employers for wrongful termination or national origin discrimination, employment lawyers get to participate in the fracas.

Labor law isn’t the same thing as employment law. Labor law involves labor unions and collective bargaining agreements. Labor law has tons of federal regulation, such as the National Labor Relations Act, and various other state and federal statutes that cover specific industries, such as railroads.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property includes copyrights, trademarks, and trade names. It also includes patents, though patent lawyers tend to specialize primarily in that area. Intellectual property lawyers help their clients register trademarks, file lawsuits for trademark or trade name violations, watch out for unfair competition, and regularly consider matters such as the value of celebrity endorsements.

The Internet has opened up a vast new arena of intellectual property matters, so if you’re into software and electronically distributed texts, you may want to pay more attention while you’re in intellectual property class.

International

You’ve heard of the United Nations, but there are hundreds of other less well-known international organizations in the world, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), and Mercosur (or Southern Cone Common Market — that’s in South America).

Countries enter into treaties and conventions with one another. International organizations such as the International Court of Justice decide some international disputes, and the vague but important principle known as customary international law provides guidance for nations interacting with one another. International lawyers figure out all this stuff.

Personal Injury/Insurance Defense

Plaintiffs’ attorneys file lawsuits on behalf of people who’ve been injured in some way and hope to recover damages. These lawsuits are usually based on torts, which are injuries such as battery, trespass, fraud, products liability, intentional infliction of emotional distress — anything that injures someone but isn’t a crime under state or federal law.

Of course, someone has to defend the people and companies who get sued in personal injury lawsuits. Defense lawyers rise to the occasion here. In any given year, many personal injury lawsuits are filed against companies with malpractice insurance, and the insurance companies often end up paying for the legal defense. Lawyers who defend defendants in certain kinds of personal injury cases are called insurance defense attorneys.

Real Estate

If you’ve ever bought property, you’ve probably met a real estate attorney. Real estate lawyers are the folks who oversee closings, those quaint ceremonial occasions at the end of which the buyer is poorer and owns the property and the seller is richer and doesn’t.

Real estate lawyers also do title searches, investigate zoning laws, and come to a deeper understanding of arcane concepts such as the rule against perpetuities. Real estate tends to be a fairly stable field that attracts people who want relatively regular hours.

Tax

Ever read the Internal Revenue Code? Become a tax lawyer and you’ll experience that sublime pleasure on a daily basis. Tax lawyers almost have to specialize in this one area; the state and federal tax codes are so complex and change so often that being a generalist with a sideline in tax is difficult.

Good tax lawyers have mastered a delicate balancing act, making sure that their clients pay exactly as much tax as they need to in order to avoid prosecution but also ensuring that they don’t pay a penny more than they absolutely must.

Attorneys who specialize in tax are unusual in that they very often have an advanced legal degree, called a Master of Laws (LLM).

Trusts and Estates/Probate

When people die, they usually leave stuff behind. Trusts and estates is the field of study concerned with how all that stuff gets disposed of, a process known as probate. Sometimes people die without wills, and it’s the lawyer’s job to figure out who gets what according to state laws of descent and distribution.

Lawyers who do estate planning are usually in demand, especially if they combine this specialty with some specialized knowledge of tax laws.