When looking for a lawyer, you may wonder what distinguishes one practice from another. Some attorneys are comfortable engaging in highly generalized practices, while others prefer to specialize. Take a look at some of the distinctions there are among businesses that provide law firm services.
Criminals vs. Civil Law
Criminal law is defined by two key features. First, there is a risk that a person might be deprived of their liberty or even their life if convicted. Second, there is a risk that a defendant might have to forfeit property or money to the government in the form of fines.
A criminal matter is always considered to be between a defendant and the state. Here, "the state" refers to the government in the broadest sense, meaning local, state, or federal agencies pursuing cases against individuals.
Civil law covers matters that are explicitly between two people. There is no risk of deprivation of life or liberty, but there may be an award of damages, or monetary compensation, to a plaintiff. When a person sues the government, that is also generally considered a civil matter.
The Family Court System
While criminal and civil proceedings are meant to make things right, family court cases are intended to provide stability. If there is a child caught in the middle of a situation, the focus of the court tends to be on the well-being of the kid. That can cover an array of concerns, including custody, child support, adoption, and emancipation. Most cases featuring two adults disputing a matter tend to either be divorce proceedings or spousal support claims.
The vast majority of business law issues are considered civil matters, although it certainly is possible for a company to be on the wrong end of a criminal complaint. Those who specialize in handling crime and business tend to bill themselves as practicing "white collar" criminal defense. In general, though, the legalities attached to running a business are more mundane things, such as drawing up contracts, negotiating agreements, and clarifying government regulations. Business issues can get more complex when they involve interests in two different states or counties, too.
Some lawyers will never go to trial in their whole careers. Many injury attorneys, for example, spend most of their time filing claims and negotiating with insurance adjusters. That means that working as a trial lawyer can be a specialization in its own right.