A law degree can offer you any number of incredible professional opportunities. However, with so many different fields of law to consider, it can be difficult to decide which legal path is right for you.
While law schools don’t expect you to choose one before you enroll, it’s always a good idea to learn about the various fields of law, whether or not you choose to narrow the focus of your legal career down the line.
Keep reading below to discover 21 different fields of law that you may want to explore before and after earning your law degree.
Animal law is the field of law that has nonhuman animals as its subject. Working in animal law means your primary objective will be to stand for the rights of animals along with the organizations and allies that serve and represent them. Duties of animal law lawyers include defending the legal status of endangered wildlife and domesticated animals as well as exposing inhumane animal facilities and practices.
Admiralty law is the field of law that governs legal matters that take place in any navigable body of water. Working in admiralty law, otherwise called maritime law, means your primary objective will be to resolve issues in nautical shipping and navigation in addition to settling disputes between ships, among sailors and/or their captains, and more.
Bankruptcy is the legal proceeding that involves a person or business that is unable to repay outstanding debts. This process is initiated by the debtor (person or business) and usually involves their assets beings aggregated and evaluated to aid in repayment.
Bankruptcy lawyers assist their clients in making advised decisions throughout the bankruptcy process. This process includes representation in bankruptcy proceedings/court hearings, gathering and preparing pertinent documents, and assessing the viability of assets to assist in paying off the debtor’s balance.
Banking and Finance Law
Banking and finance law is defined as the legal practice that oversees “the organization, ownership, and operation of banks and depository institutions, mortgage banks, other providers of financial services regulated or licensed by state or federal banking regulators and holding companies.” This also includes financial institutions and their lending practices to borrowers.
More generally, banking and finance law aims to regulate banking and finance institutions, their practices between one another, how they conduct business with others, reporting practices, taxes, and transactions. Practitioners in this field may find themselves working as an in-house counsel for a financial institution, credit unions, or for a banking and finance law firm.
Civil Rights Law
Civil rights law guarantees the right for individuals to receive equal treatment and prohibits discrimination. Civil liberties concern the basic rights and freedoms guaranteed in the federal and state constitutions. Lawyers working to protect individual civil rights and civil liberties have the ability to ensure that all individuals are treated equally under the law.
While iconic images of the civil rights movement often come to mind when thinking of civil rights law, lawyers in this specialized field of law may handle a much broader range of cases that deal with a variety of civil rights issues, including:
- Employment and housing discrimination based on age, sex, ethnicity, and nation of origin
- Police brutality
- Voting rights
- Religious liberties
- First Amendment rights
- Any other way in which an individual may feel that their rights are being infringed upon
Additionally, many lawyers interested in civil rights law can work for nonprofit organizations focused on addressing civil rights issues in society. Some of these organizations include the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Human Rights Campaign, and other nonprofit organizations. However, major private corporations–such as The New York Times–also utilize lawyers specializing in this field of law when they are confronting a variety of issues.
Constitutional law pertains to the interpretation, adherence, and amending of the U.S. Constitution. Lawyers in this branch may practice privately or for firms. On a given day, they may be representing clients, discussing cases, or litigating in court.
An article by U.S. News suggests this field can sometimes serve as a supplement to student’s legal education as constitutional law jobs, like arguing before the Supreme Court or becoming an esteemed justice, are slim. Nevertheless, this field offers a great opportunity for lawyers to work intimately with our nation’s framework. The Constitution has numerous applications that are pertinent to many other fields that concern citizens and their rights. In studying this field, aspiring lawyers can add depth to their legal understanding and use this knowledge in branches of civil or criminal law.
Corporate law is the field of law that establishes the rules and regulations needed for corporations to form and function. Working in corporate law means your primary objective will be addressing all aspects of a corporation’s legal administration. Duties of corporate lawyers include handling proceedings with mergers, acquisitions, liability disputes, patents, legal compliance, and more.
This field of law is probably the most well-known because of its prevalence in television shows and movies.
Within the field of criminal law, lawyers primarily play two roles: a prosecutor, representing “the people,” or a public/private defense attorney, representing an individual with criminal charges.
Prosecutors work for the government at both the state and federal level. Defense attorneys may work in a private firm or for the government. In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court of the United States interpreted the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution to guarantee the right to an attorney for any individual who cannot afford one. That’s why the Miranda warning contains the phrase “You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” So, the government has Public Defender Offices at both the state and federal level.
Both prosecutors and defense attorneys play important roles in our justice system. Prosecutors represent the interest of the public and ensure the enforcement of the rule of law. Defense attorneys, in addition to representing the individual, also ensure that the police and prosecutor are acting constitutionally. For example, they may assure that law enforcement didn’t violate an individual’s Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable search and seizure during a search.
Education law is the field of law that covers legal matters related to schools, their students, and their staff. Working in education law means your primary objective will be to promote the highest quality educational experience for all involved. Duties of an education attorney include advocating for students’ and teachers’ rights, exposing tuition fraud, and developing new education policies.
On the business side of the entertainment industry are smaller (but supremely important) details like payments, compliance with rules, contracts, and more. These details and only scratch the surface of all the possible avenues a lawyer could take within this field.
An entertainment lawyer will need to know the ins and outs of the entertainment industry with which they are practicing; be it music, publishing, television, etc. Lawyers might be working with performers, their management team, associates adjacent to the performer or company they are working with.
Employment law is the field of law that addresses the rights of workers and the relationships they share with their employers. Working in employment law means your primary objective will be to help clients confront unfair challenges they have endured in their workplace. Duties of a labor law attorney include representing clients within issues ranging from wages and compensation to harassment and discrimination.
Environmental & Natural Resources Law
Environmental and natural resources law is the field of law that examines the ways humans interact with and impact the environment. Working in environmental law means your primary objective will be not only to protect the natural world in integral ways but also to maintain and bolster legislation that determines the use of natural resources. Duties of an environmental law attorney include defending clients in areas of practice such as air and water quality, mining, deforestation, pollution, and more.
This field of law can include many different things. In California, a lawyer specializing in this field of law could find themselves examining issues such as:
- Jurisdictional water rights
- Oil drilling regulations
- Public health statutes
- Land use
For example, lawyers in this field of law may be involved in a case deciding whether or not a developer or agricultural business may have access to certain land or natural resources.
While we often think of environmental lawyers as those who are actively working to protect the environment, there are also many lawyers within this field of law who are employed by businesses and corporations to ensure companies remain compliant with local and state policies and laws. In this instance, these lawyers may have to defend their organizations should they be found in violation of these policies.
Working in family law means your primary objective will be to address relational problems that arise in a familial context. Duties of a family law lawyer include working on varied cases involving areas of practice like divorce. However, although people often think of family law in the context of divorce, it is not limited to when a marriage dissolves. Family lawyers can examine a variety of additional factors that involve familial relationships or relate to family issues, such as:
- In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
- Prenuptial agreements
- Child welfare
- Domestic violence
- Juvenile justice issues
Lawyers in this field of law may specialize in a particular area or can serve all issues that may arise for a family.
Health law is the field of law that concerns the health of individuals and concentrates on policies implemented in the healthcare industry. Working in health law means your primary objective will be to promote lawful health services from all kinds of healthcare providers. Duties of health law attorneys include representing an array of individual- or organization-based clients in cases concerned with Medicare policy and compliance, public health, bioethics, hospital mergers, and more.
Immigration law is the field of law that, at least in the United States, contends with legal issues facing immigrants who come to the country for short-term or long-term stays. Working in immigration law means your primary objective will be to serve immigrant clients at all points of their naturalization process, as well as refugee and asylum seekers and individuals who have entered the country without the proper documentation.
This field of law is particularly relevant in the state of California, due in part to the large international community.
Many people tend to think of this field of law in terms of people seeking asylum in the U.S. or people entering the U.S. legally or illegally, and the subsequent deportation proceedings.
However, on the other end of the spectrum, there are law firms dedicated to helping corporations bring in skilled immigrant workers legally. Lawyers who specialize in this field of law assist companies in navigating the visa system for these workers.
This field of law can also become combined with civil rights law, specifically when questions are raised regarding due process in legal proceedings for legal and undocumented immigrants, and whether or not the legal system is honoring constitutional rights.
International law is the field of law that analyzes the particulars of relations shared by nations across the globe. Working in international law means your primary objective will be to analyze the implications of these relationships in the public and private sectors. Practicing public international law tends to have national governments or international institutions as clients whereas private international law works with clients and their respective controversies one-on-one.
Intellectual Property Law
Intellectual property law is the field of law that encompasses the protection of creative works and symbols uniquely developed by individual persons or groups of people. Working in intellectual property law means your primary objective will align within a particular domain of practice, such as patent law or copyright law, to ensure your clients maintain their ownership over their creations.
Military lawyers work to represent servicemen and women (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guards) in criminal and civil cases. Much like a typical/civilian lawyer, military lawyers advise, council, interpret and prepare legal documents, and assist clients with their needs concerning military court.
Military court is a part of the U.S. military law and justice system that enforces “discipline and punish crimes within the military ranks”. A military lawyer will need to be well versed with this system and have excellent interpersonal communication skills as this field can be highly pressurized.
Personal Injury Law
Personal injury lawyers deliver legal aid and counsel to clients who have experienced injury (mental, emotional, physical) due to the negligence or malpractice of another party. According to Balance Careers, day to day duties include intricate researching and tight deadlines—for this reason, it’s common for personal injury lawyers to specialize within their branch rather than practice as a broad personal injury lawyer.
The degree to which an injury lawyer specializes is up to them. Some types of cases they might peruse as their specialty include car accidents, slip and fall, and medical malpractice.
Real Estate Law
Real estate law “covers the right to possess, use, and enjoy land and the permanent manmade additions attached to it.” This branch of law concerns land, homes, construction, your neighbor’s property, legal solutions for construction defects like poor infrastructure, mold, or improperly installed fixtures, and more.
Real estate lawyers represent those who are impacted by the inadequate quality, building, or clarity on anything concerning housing and living conditions. This includes things concerning residential real estate law like homeowners, home buyers, lessors, lessees, people selling homes, and landowners.
In the United States, tax law, also known as revenue law, is a field that assists civilians and governmental systems in lawfully participating in the U.S. taxation system. While complying with yearly taxation requirements is a part of American life, the system can still be confusing for some people. Tax lawyers help bring clarity to this complexity as well as advise and counsel those who have made mistakes within the system. A likely clientele for a tax lawyer might include individual civilians, corporations, and businesses.