The Different Types Of Lawyer and What They Do


Have you ever considered a career in law, needed the services of a lawyer, or simply always wondered what the difference is between a lawyer and an attorney? With our handy guide, you’ll soon know!

Lawyer vs. Attorney

Is there a difference? Technically, yes. For many people, it’s a question of semantics, as the terms are frequently used as synonyms. However, an attorney can be a lawyer but a lawyer can’t always be an attorney.

An attorney (also known as attorney-at-law) is someone who is legally qualified to defend or prosecute actions in court on behalf of a client. A lawyer is trained in the field of law and provides aid and advice on legal matters.

However, as similar as these seem, sometimes it depends on the country as to how we use these terms and their definitions. For example, in the United States, the difference is significant to the American Bar Association.

The Bar Exam

A Juris Doctor degree (sometimes referred to as a J.D. degree) is the highest law degree a person can get in North America. At this point, they’re a lawyer. To become qualified to actually work in a court and become known as an attorney, they must then pass the bar exam.

This is a final test that means the person is approved to practice law in their jurisdiction. However, because it is relevant to the jurisdiction of the individual, the requirements can vary. Subjects typically covered can include all or some of the following: Constitutional law, criminal law and procedure, torts, business associations, family law and Federal civil procedure, plus many other topics.

Different Countries

In the United Kingdom, a person can be a solicitor (works with a client on legal matters but doesn’t appear in court), a barrister (appears on behalf of the solicitor in court), or advocate (often used as a synonym for barrister).

Sometimes the distinction can make a huge difference to the services and rights afforded to a client. Canadian tax amnesty lawyers, for example, can offer client confidentiality, whereas a tax notary in Canada provides much the same service but has no obligation to keep a client’s information private.

The Most Common Types of Lawyer

For the purposes of this article, we’ll use “lawyer” in the public sense: i.e. someone qualified to help with legal matters. These are, generally speaking, the most common types of lawyers and what they do.

Personal Injury Lawyer

If you’ve suffered an injury that is not your fault (car accident, slip and fall at work, etc.) a personal injury lawyer can help you claim compensation.

Estate Planning Lawyer

If you’re looking to draw up a will or start a trust fund, an estate planning lawyer can help.

Immigration Lawyer

Something that’s becoming more and more common is people who have to deal with immigration issues. This can be anything from refugees to people seeking a green card and is handled by an immigration lawyer.

Criminal Lawyer

One of the most common types of lawyer, a criminal lawyer handles any and all cases related to crime. This also includes arranging bail, plea bargains, and so on.

Tax Lawyer

For anyone who’s involved in a tax dispute with the IRS, a tax lawyer can help figure out who owes what and why.

Family Lawyer

For anything from divorce to child custody to prenups, a family lawyer is what you need.

General Practice Lawyer

As their name suggests, a general practice lawyer is a jack-of-all-trades. Rather than specializing in one particular field, as the above lawyers do, they handle a wide range of legal topics.


There are said to be approximately 18 different types of lawyer, all in all, although the area they specialize in may vary from country to country. If you’re starting a law degree or looking for help with a problem, you’ll be sure to find someone suitably qualified.

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