Areas of Practice

In order to become a licensed attorney, a person must understand the basics of all kinds of law. However, attorneys usually choose to focus on a few specific areas. For example, a criminal defense attorney specifically represents criminal defendants, while a personal injury attorney can represent plaintiffs or defendants in personal injury cases. Attorneys usually choose to specialize in an area of law because it’s hard to be well versed in all of the different areas of law.

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Areas of Practice

Certain governmental bodies are charged with administering and implementing particular legislation. Examples are worker’s compensation commissions, tax commissioner, public service commissions, Federal Trade Commission, and so forth. These bodies are called agencies, commissions (i.e., Securities and Exchange Commission), corporations (i.e., Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation), boards (i.e., Federal Reserve Board of Governors), departments (i.e., Department of Education), or divisions. These bodies have authority to carry out the terms of the law, and to create regulations for the conduct of business before them. This is distinguished from legislative authority–that is, the authority to make laws. Attorneys who work for these bodies are involved in compliance with regulations, rules, orders, and decisions to carry out the regulatory powers and duties of such agencies. Additionally, lawyers from many practice areas encounter administrative issues in their practice, even if they are not working for an administrative agency. Any business that is in an industry that is “regulated,” such as health care, environmental science, manufacturing, aviation, or securities is subject to administrative authority. Therefore, attorneys in many practice areas are charged with ensuring that their clients’ business practices adhere to the standards set forth by administrative agencies empowered to interpret and regulate business activity within a given industry.

ADR refers to any means of settling a dispute outside of a courtroom.  ADR can involve arbitration, mediation, or other forms of conflict resolution– and it can be voluntary or compulsory. Most ADR practitioners have significant prior litigation experience or expertise in a particular field of law.

Animal law is designed to protect the welfare and interests of pets, wildlife, farm animals, animals used in entertainment, and animals used in research and experiments. In addition to defining the rights of animals, animal law also defines the rights of animal owners. Issues may include custody over pets in divorce disputes, veterinary malpractice, wrongful death or injury to a pet, enforceable trusts for pets, disputes involving “no pet” policies, and cruelty against animals, including the issue of who has standing to sue on behalf of animals.

There is no one area of law in which all animal attorneys practice, because animal issues span many areas of law. Some specialize in pet trusts, to allow people to leave assets for the care for their animals after they are gone. Some handle landlord/tenant issues, such as when a tenant is asked to choose between giving up their animal or being evicted. Others represent clients whose animals have been injured or killed by abuse or veterinary malpractice. Another area of practice is First Amendment law, which is important when activists want to exercise their right to protest. Some animal attorneys protect wildlife through a variety of administrative, environmental and wildlife laws. Still others represent clients whose dogs have bitten someone, and are facing civil lawsuits and/or the loss of their dogs.

Animal law crosses into all areas of the legal field. It includes (a) discrimination against the disabled due to their need for a service animal; (b) injuries or deaths of animals and the rights of their owners/guardians; animal cruelty and the humane treatment of animals; (c) custody disputes; (d) dog bites and attacks (e) veterinary malpractice; (f) disputes involving condominium associations and condominium members over the right of the members to own animals; (g) contract disputes between sellers and buyers of animals; (h) the rights of real estate developers and the protection of endangered species, etc.

Appellate attorneys concentrate their practice on advocating cases before state and federal appellate courts, including state supreme courts and the United States Supreme Court. Appellate attorneys seek to correct errors of trial court judges and persuade appellate courts to overturn lower court decisions. This can be in a civil or a criminal case, after a trial or after a disposition of a motion.

The submission of a dispute to an unbiased third person designated by the parties to the controversy, who agree in advance to comply with the award—a decision to be issued after a hearing at which both parties have an opportunity to be heard.

Arbitration is a well-established and widely used means to end disputes. It is one of several kinds of Alternative Dispute Resolution, which provide parties to a controversy with a choice other than litigation. Unlike litigation, arbitration takes place out of court: the two sides select an impartial third party, known as an arbitrator; agree in advance to comply with the arbitrator’s award; and then participate in a hearing at which both sides can present evidence and testimony. The arbitrator’s decision is usually final, and courts rarely reexamine it.

Association law is a term used in the United States for the law governing homeowner associations and related organizations.

Real estate developers often choose to maximize residential construction to clusters of residences within real property parcels. Many people purchase their residence within an association for reasons such as location along beaches and other areas, amenities, uniformity of appearance and other particular benefits or reasons. Associations are registered by the developer of the community as a not-for-profit corporation, which form of corporation is also governed by particular statutes.

The legal forms of residential associations include homeowner associations, condominium associations, cooperative associations and mobile home associations. Thus, state laws are enacted to address specific types of associations applicable to the type of communities and relationships between the governing association and its constituents.

A banking and finance practice within a private law firm can represent a wide spectrum of clients in the financial and commercial areas, including banks, bank holding companies, and clients with banking affiliations. These attorneys have substantial knowledge in state and federal banking regulation, enforcement actions, tax law, bank mergers and acquisitions, bankruptcy, commercial paper, secured financing, real estate and Uniform Commercial Code matters. Lawyers with this expertise are also found within the banking institutions themselves in a corporate setting. This practice area is largely transactional, and overlaps with many other areas of law. The banking and financial industry is heavily regulated, at the federal and state level, so many attorneys are needed in compliance work, and occasionally administrative law matters.

This area of law includes aspects of corporate law, litigation, commercial law, tax law, and others. A lawyer’s negotiation skills are primary in a bankruptcy practice. The clients’ ultimate goals are, in the case of debtors, to relieve the demands of creditors so there is an opportunity to reorganize or rehabilitate the business, or in the case of lenders, to maximize their recovery. These goals are usually achieved through direct negotiations between the parties, a “work-out” in which the debt is restructured, or a reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Laws.

Business law is the body of law that applies to the rights, relations, and conduct of persons and businesses engaged in commerce, merchandising, trade, and sales.[1] It is often considered to be a branch of civil law and deals with issues of both private law and public law.

Business law includes within its compass such titles as principal and agent; carriage by land and sea; merchant shipping; guarantee; marine, fire, life, and accident insurance; bills of exchange and partnership. It can also be understood to regulate corporate contracts, hiring practices, and the manufacture and sales of consumer goods. Many countries have adopted civil codes that contain comprehensive statements of their commercial law.

Civil litigation runs the gamut from a basic marriage dissolution to a complex, mass torts case with multiple plaintiffs and multiple defendants with millions of dollars at stake. In fact, any legal issue can be litigated. For example, while the probate process is generally transactional, a will can be contested and the dispute can be settled in court. While there is a very structured set of procedures in the litigation process, it can also be an amoeba–that is–the case can take twists and turns, and change in ways you don’t anticipate. The best litigators are prepared, and not easily rattled by the unexpected. For many lawyers, it is their client’s goal not to go to trial. In fact, most issues filed in court conclude in settlement. Once in the courtroom, however, the litigator is a legal specialist who combines oratory skills with legal analysis and crossexamination to convince a judge and/or a jury of his or her client’s position.

A debt collector is someone who regularly collects debts owed to others. This includes collection agencies, lawyers who collect debts on a regular basis, and companies that buy delinquent debts and then try to collect them. A company or agency that is in the business of recovering money that is owed on delinquent accounts. Many debt collectors are hired by companies to which money is owed by debtors, operating for a fee or for a percentage of the total amount collected. Some debt collectors are debt buyers; these companies purchase debt at a fraction of its face value and then attempt to recover the full amount of the debt.

Commercial law, also known as business law, is the body of law that applies to the rights, relations, and conduct of persons and businesses engaged in commerce, merchandising, trade, and sales.[1] It is often considered to be a branch of civil law and deals with issues of both private law and public law.

Commercial law includes within its compass such titles as principal and agent; carriage by land and sea; merchant shipping; guarantee; marine, fire, life, and accident insurance; bills of exchange and partnership. It can also be understood to regulate corporate contracts, hiring practices, and the manufacture and sales of consumer goods. Many countries have adopted civil codes that contain comprehensive statements of their commercial law.

In the United States, commercial law is the province of both the United States Congress, under its power to regulate interstate commerce, and the states, under their police power. Efforts have been made to create a unified body of commercial law in the United States; the most successful of these attempts has resulted in the general adoption of the Uniform Commercial Code, which has been adopted in all 50 states (with some modification by state legislatures), the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories.

Various regulatory schemes control how commerce is conducted, particularly vis-a-vis employees and customers. Privacy laws, safety laws (e.g., the Occupational Safety and Health Act in the United States), and food and drug laws are some examples.

Commercial transactions is a general term used to describe a whole body of substantive law applicable to the rights, intercourse, and relations of persons engaged in commerce, trade or mercantile pursuits. The Uniform Commercial Code is a group of laws adopted in whole or substantially by all states, and governs commercial transactions, including sales and leasing of goods, transfer of funds, commercial paper, bank deposits and collections, letters of credit, bulk transfers, warehouse receipts, bills of lading, investment securities, and secured transactions. Commercial transactions encompasses many areas of law including banking and finance, securities, real estate, bankruptcy, and more. Some lawyers have specialties in one or more of these areas, and others will handle a wide variety of commercial transactions. These lawyers are employed by private law firms of all sizes, the corporate sector and the government sector.

General name for any organization of property owners to oversee some common interest. In a condominium or planned unit development, the association has the responsibility of managing the common elements in the project. A homeowners’ association may be established in a subdivision to enforce deed covenants.

A condominium, or condo, is the form of housing or other real property where a specified part of a piece of real estate (usually of an apartment house) is individually owned. Use of and access to common facilities in the piece such as hallways, heating system, elevators, and exterior areas are executed under legal rights associated with the individual ownership. These rights are controlled by the association of owners that jointly represent ownership of the whole piece.

Construction law is a specialty dealing with all matters of new building construction. This can range from the real estate transactions, the financing of commercial projects, and contracts between developers, subcontractors, and buyers. Some litigators specialize in this area as well, and can encounter issues from personal injury stemming from construction site accidents to products liability of materials used in building.

A contract is an agreement having a lawful object entered into voluntarily by two or more parties, each of whom intends to create one or more legal obligations between them. The elements of a contract are “offer” and “acceptance” by “competent persons” having legal capacity who exchange “consideration” to create “mutuality of obligation.”

Proof of some or all of these elements may be done in writing, though contracts may be made entirely orally or by conduct. The remedy for breach of contract can be “damages” in the form of compensation of money or specific performance enforced through an injunction. Both of these remedies award the party at loss the “benefit of the bargain” or expectation damages, which are greater than mere reliance damages, as in promissory estoppel. The parties may be natural persons or juristic persons. A contract is a legally enforceable promise or undertaking that something will or will not occur. The word promise can be used as a legal synonym for contract, although care is required as a promise may not have the full standing of a contract, as when it is an agreement without consideration.

A general corporate practice involves the entire spectrum of legal services for a diversified client base. Work includes corporate counseling, negotiating and preparing legal documents for all types of business transactions, from sales agreements to complex joint ventures and business combinations. Private law firms can represent publicly-held companies, privately-held businesses, start-ups, venture capitalists, investment bankers, and others. They will deal with issues such as joint ventures, financing, mergers, acquisitions, dispositions, securities, tax, and more.

Attorneys are also found working within corporations as “in-house” corporate counsel. For these lawyers the corporation for which they work is their client. The issues they handle may include all those mentioned above, as well as handling employment issues or lawsuits against the company arising out of personal injury, products liability, or breaches of contract.

Creditor’s rights are the procedural provisions designed to protect the ability of creditors – persons who are owed money – to collect the money that they are owed. These provisions vary from one jurisdiction to another, and may include the ability of a creditor to put a lien on a debtor’s property, to effect a seizure and forced sale of the debtor’s property, to effect a garnishment of the debtor’s wages, and to have certain purchases or gifts made by the debtor set aside as fraudulent conveyances. The rights of a particular creditor usually depend in part on the reason for which the debt is owed, and the terms of any writing memorializing the debt.

To convict a criminal defendant, the prosecutor must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. As part of this process, the defendant is given an opportunity to present a defense.

Criminal prosecution is generally handled by government agencies at the federal, state, and local levels. Attorneys are found in federal enforcement agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Agency. The United States Attorney’s Office has 94 offices across the country. This prosecutorial arm has a Criminal Division broken down into three parts: Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, General Crimes Section, and Economic Crimes Section. State agencies include those such as the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the state Attorney General’s Offices. Local offices are the city, county and/or district attorneys. Criminal defense is also handled by some state and local government entities, such as a county level public defender’s office, nonprofit or public service agencies such as Legal Aid Societies, and the private sector. Usually, law firms engaged in a criminal defense practice are small, private law firms, and will represent individuals facing drug charges, DUI, and other various misdemeanors and felonies. Occasionally, very small municipalities will contract with local firms to serve as their prosecutor.

In Constitutional Law, the grant by statute of particular privileges to a class arbitrarily designated from a sizable number of persons, where no reasonable distinction exists between the favored and disfavored classes. Federal laws, supplemented by court decisions, prohibit discrimination in such areas as employment, housing, voting rights, education, and access to public facilities. They also proscribe discrimination on the basis of race, age, sex, nationality, disability, or religion. In addition, state and local laws can prohibit discrimination in these areas and in others not covered by federal laws.

Dispute resolution is the process of resolving disputes between parties without going to court. The use of methods such as mediation and arbitration to resolve a dispute instead of litigation.

A court decree that terminates a marriage; also known as marital dissolution. A divorce decree establishes the new relations between the parties, including their duties and obligations relating to property that they own, support responsibilities of either or both of them, and provisions for any children.When a marriage breaks up, divorce law provides legal solutions for issues that the Husband and Wife are unable to resolve through mutual cooperation.

Domestic violence law focuses on areas of family and partner abuse. Domestic violence lawyers spend their careers either in direct service helping clients affected by domestic violence or in policy helping write legislation and regulations that advocate on behalf of abused persons. Though domestic violence work has traditionally occurred in the U.S. legal system, a growing number of lawyers are focusing on preventing domestic violence around the world. DV lawyers typically work in nonprofit groups or in the government with the Department of Justice or state Attorney General’s offices.

A DUI law may prohibit driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage, driving under the influence of a drug, and driving under the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug (legal or illegal), regardless of blood-alcohol level. To prove a person is guilty of the offense of driving under the influence, the following elements must be proven:

  • The person drove a vehicle — that is, steered and controlled it while it was moving.
  • At the same time, the person was “under the influence” in that his or her ability to drive safely was affected to an appreciable degree by having drunk an alcoholic beverage, taken a drug, or combined alcohol and drugs. (Note that some people’s driving can be impaired after having consumed even a relatively small amount of drugs or alcohol.)

As our population continues to age, elder law is emerging as a specialty in which many lawyers find opportunity. Elder law encompasses a host of legal issues that specifically affect the elderly. For example, the baby-boomers are in their 50s now, and becoming concerned with retirement security. Lawyers with expertise in financial markets and investment products are needed to provide those services, along with accompanying real estate and estate planning issues. Other issues might overlap with health law, including Medicare/Medicaid issues, nursing home payments, assisted suicide and living wills. Other common issues are will, trusts, and conservatorships.

Lawyers in private law firms represent clients in both the private and public sectors in a variety of labor and employment matters. A labor relations attorney will represent employers in matters such as unfair labor practices, collective bargaining negotiations, representation elections, grievances and arbitrations, and strike litigation. These attorneys also counsel clients on issues such as affirmative action compliance, employee handbooks, workplace rules, and other related matters. An employment litigator will represents clients on issues such as discrimination in hiring, wrongful discharge, breach of employment contract, workplace libel and slander, employee right to privacy, and other issues. Some employment lawyers are also found representing companies before administrative agencies such as state bureaus of employment, bureaus of workers’ compensation, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the National Labor Relations Board. Others actively advise and represent clients in OSHA matters involving employee health and safety.

An estate (or decedent estate) is a legal entity created as a result of a person’s death. The estate consists of the real and/or personal property of the deceased person. The estate pays any debts owed by the decedent and distributes the balance of the estate’s assets to the beneficiaries of the estate.

A trust fund is a fund comprised of a variety of assets intended to provide benefits to an individual or organization. The trust fund is established by a grantor to provide financial security to an individual, most often a child or grandchild – or organizations, such as a charity or other non-profit organization.

Family law practices are usually limited to small and mid-sized private law firms. Some public service agencies, such as Legal Aid Societies, will represent indigent clients in family law matters. Family law matters can include pre-marital advice and planning; child-related issues such as custody, support, and visitation; divorce planning, negotiation and/or litigation involving support, spousal maintenance, or division of property; and post decree modifications and enforcement. Those engaged in a family law practice are very skilled counselors and negotiators, whose success is often dependent upon their ability to demonstrate genuine concern and compassion for their clients. Family law often involves trial work, and can overlap with many other areas of law such as tax and estate planning, real estate, corporate and finance, contract, and criminal.

“Unbundled legal services” [in the family law context] refers to the concept of a party engaging an attorney to take limited measures, such as helping to prepare initial pleadings and perform child-support calculations, without either the lawyer or the client being obligated to the other for the duration of the dissolution or modification proceedings. This measure enables the attorney to charge a reasonable flat fee for defined services, and the client to control and budget for expenses.

Family law practices are usually limited to small and mid-sized private law firms. Some public service agencies, such as Legal Aid Societies, will represent indigent clients in family law matters. Family law matters can include pre-marital advice and planning; child-related issues such as custody, support, and visitation; divorce planning, negotiation and/or litigation involving support, spousal maintenance, or division of property; and post decree modifications and enforcement. Those engaged in a family law practice are very skilled counselors and negotiators, whose success is often dependent upon their ability to demonstrate genuine concern and compassion for their clients. Family law often involves trial work, and can overlap with many other areas of law such as tax and estate planning, real estate, corporate and finance, contract, and criminal.

Federal law is the body of law created by the federal government of a country. A federal government is formed when a group of political units, such as states or provinces join together in a federation, surrendering their individual sovereignty and many powers to the central government while retaining or reserving other limited powers. As a result, two or more levels of government exist within an established geographic territory. The body of law of the common central government is the federal law.

Law involving firearms governs the production, sale, transfer, and registration of any weapon which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive; the frame or receiver of any such weapon; any firearm muffler or firearm silencer; or any destructive device.

Foreclosure is a legal process in which a lender attempts to recover the balance of a loan from a borrower who has stopped making payments to the lender by forcing the sale of the asset used as the collateral for the loan.

In its most general sense, the practice of law involves giving legal advice to clients, drafting legal documents for clients, and representing clients in legal negotiations and court proceedings such as lawsuits, and is applied to the professional services of a lawyer or attorney at law, barrister, solicitor, or civil law notary.

The legal aspects of dealing with various government entities, departments, and regulations. This includes relationships between governments, between governments and business, and between government and individuals.

A legal guardian is a person who has the legal authority (and the corresponding duty) to care for the personal and property interests of another person, called a ward. Usually, a person has the status of guardian because the ward is incapable of caring for his or her own interests due to infancy, incapacity, or disability.

A guardianship is a legal relationship created when a person or institution named in a will or assigned by the court to take care of minor children or incompetent adults.

Insurance law is the practice of law surrounding insurance, including insurance policies and claims. It can be broadly broken into three categories – regulation of the business of insurance; regulation of the content of insurance policies, especially with regard to consumer policies; and regulation of claim handling.

An intentional tort is any deliberate interference with a legally recognized interest, such as the rights to bodily integrity, emotional tranquility, dominion over property, seclusion from public scrutiny, and freedom from confinement or deception. These interests are violated by the intentional torts of assault, Battery, trespass, False Imprisonment, invasion of privacy, conversion, Misrepresentation, and Fraud. The intent element of these torts is satisfied when the tortfeasor acts with the desire to bring about harmful consequences and is substantially certain that such consequences will follow. Mere reckless behavior, sometimes called willful and wanton behavior, does not rise to the level of an intentional tort.

An area of the law that deals with the actions and well-being of persons who are not yet adults. In the law a juvenile is defined as a person who is not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts. In most states and on the federal level, this age threshold is set at 18 years. In Wyoming a juvenile is a person under the age of 19. In some states a juvenile is a person under the age of 17, and in Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina, a juvenile is a person under the age of 16. These age definitions are significant because they determine whether a young person accused of criminal conduct will be charged with a crime in adult court or will be required to appear in juvenile court.

Land use law encompasses the full range of laws and regulations that influence or affect the development and conservation of the land. This law is intensely intergovernmental and interdisciplinary. In land use law there are countless intersections among federal, state, regional, and local statutes. It is significantly influenced by other legal regimes such as environmental, administrative, and municipal law.

An association between two individuals arising from an agreement by which one individual occupies the other’s real property with permission, subject to a rental fee. The term landlord refers to a person who owns property and allows another person to use it for a fee. The person using the property is called a tenant. The agreement between a landlord and a tenant is called a lease or rental agreement.

Leasing is a process by which a firm can obtain the use of a certain fixed assets for which it must pay a series of contractual, periodic, tax deductible payments. The lessee is the receiver of the services or the assets under the lease contract and the lessor is the owner of the assets. The relationship between the tenant and the landlord is called a tenancy, and can be for a fixed or an indefinite period of time (called the term of the lease). The consideration for the lease is called rent. A gross lease is when the tenant pays a flat rental amount and the landlord pays for all property charges regularly incurred by the ownership from lawnmowers and washing machines to handbags and jewelry.

Legal services are generally private, nonprofit corporations which provide free legal representation in civil and criminal matters to low income and elderly residents in various geographic areas. Attorneys who join legal service organizations have the opportunity to acquire experience quickly and develop skills in a variety of civil and criminal matters. Legal issues common to legal service organizations are family law matters, landlord/tenant disputes, criminal defense, fair credit practices and other civil rights claims.

LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) law is a relatively new and cutting edge area of law. LGBT lawyers work to protect and advocate for LGBT rights on the local and state and federal levels. The work encompasses diverse practice areas, such as employment discrimination, family law, HIV/AIDS law, etc. LGBT lawyers frequently work in non-profit advocacy organizations where they focus on direct client representation or policy. In addition, there is a growing need for LGBT advocacy in private family law firms.

A non-corporate business whose owners actively participate in the organization’s management and are protected against personal liability for the organization’s debts and obligations. The limited liability company (LLC) is a hybrid legal entity that has both the characteristics of a corporation and of a partnership. An LLC provides its owners with corporate-like protection against personal liability. It is, however, usually treated as a non-corporate business organization for tax purposes.

Civil litigation is a legal dispute between two or more parties that seek money damages or specific performance rather than criminal sanctions. A lawyer who specializes in civil litigation is known as a “litigator” or “trial lawyer.” Lawyers who practice civil litigation represent parties in trials, hearings, arbitrations and mediations before administrative agencies, foreign tribunals and federal, state and local courts.

Clients can be damaged by lawyers in many ways such as:

  1. Neglect -missing a statute of limitation, failing to conduct and respond to discovery, failing to designate experts and/or proper witnesses.
  2. Lawyer’s conflict of interest-putting the lawyer’s interests above a client’s or putting one client’s interest over another’s.
  3. Drafting errors in documents and/or agreements.

The most common types of mistakes are:

  1. Failure to know the substantive law.
  2. Failure to get a client’s consent or to inform the client.
  3. Failure to calendar events.
  4. Not knowing or observing a deadline.
  5. Insufficient discovery and/or investigation.

Most legal malpractice occurs through:

  1. Administrative errors (among them: failure to calendar, clerical error, procrastination).
  2. Substantive errors (such as: failure to know the law, conflict of interest).
  3. Client relations (not following client instructions, improper withdrawal).
  4. Intentional wrong doing such as libel, civil rights, fraud, theft, malicious prosecution.

Medical malpractice is professional negligence by act or omission by a health care provider in which the treatment provided falls below the accepted standard of practice in the medical community and causes injury or death to the patient, with most cases involving medical error. Standards and regulations for medical malpractice vary by country and jurisdiction within countries. Medical professionals may obtain professional liability insurances to offset the risk and costs of lawsuits based on medical malpractice.

The breach by a member of a profession of either a standard of care or a standard of conduct. Malpractice refers to Negligence or misconduct by a professional person, such as a lawyer, a doctor, a dentist, or an accountant. The failure to meet a standard of care or standard of conduct that is recognized by a profession reaches the level of malpractice when a client or patient is injured or damaged because of error.

The attempt to settle a legal dispute through active participation of a third party (mediator) who works to find points of agreement and make those in conflict agree on a fair result. Mediation differs from arbitration in which the third party (arbitrator) acts much like a judge but in an out-of-court less formal setting but does not actively participate in the discussion. Mediation has become very common in trying to resolve domestic relations disputes (divorce, child custody, visitation), and is often ordered by the judge in such cases. Mediation also has become more frequent in contract and civil damage cases. There are professional mediators, or lawyers who do some mediation for substantial fees, but the financial cost is less than fighting the matter out in court and may achieve early settlement and an end to anxiety. However, mediation does not always result in a settlement.

The practitioner here will deal with claims that question the standard of care rendered by a
physician, dentist, optometrist, chiropractor, or an employee of a hospital. An attorney
practicing in this area must understand not only legal principles, but also must be
knowledgeable as to the appropriate standard of care to be exercised in a variety of health care professions and settings. Representative issues can include those such as: Did the medical professional fail to diagnose or misdiagnose the patient’s condition resulting in injuries? Did the surgeon perform a procedure improperly resulting in injury to the patient? Did the nursing staff follow orders issued by the physician? The attorney’s task is to simplify and focus the issues, and to make a case involving complex medical facts, issues and analysis as simple and straightforward as possible.

A legal document by which the owner (i.e., the buyer) transfers to the lender an interest in real estate to secure the repayment of a debt, evidenced by a mortgage note. When the debt is repaid, the mortgage is discharged, and a satisfaction of mortgage is recorded with the register or recorder of deeds in the county where the mortgage was recorded. Because most people cannot afford to buy real estate with cash, nearly every real estate transaction involves a mortgage.

State and local governments have need for many different kinds of legal services. Some of those
services are provided by attorneys who are employed within the government entity, and others
by special outside counsel in private law firms who specialize in the public sector practice.
Those services required include general advice and counseling, drafting agreements and
legislation, advice and assistance in the implementation of governmental programs, and
representation in judicial and administrative proceedings at the federal, state and local levels.
Substantive areas can include public finance, education, securities regulation, hazardous waste
management, housing and urban development, land use control, telecommunications, elections,
and a host of other issues. Clients of these lawyers include states and their agencies, board of
education, counties, cities, villages, townships, state and municipal university and colleges, and
some private sector entities in their relations with public bodies.

Conduct that falls below the standards of behavior established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm. A person has acted negligently if he or she has departed from the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent person acting under similar circumstances. In order to establish negligence as a Cause of Action under the law of torts, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty by failing to conform to the required standard of conduct, the defendant’s negligent conduct was the cause of the harm to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff was, in fact, harmed or damaged.

Companies law (or the law of business associations and organizations) is the field of law concerning companies and other business organizations. This includes corporations, partnerships, and other associations which usually carry on some form of economic or charitable activity. The most prominent kind of company, usually referred to as a “corporation”, is a “juristic person”, i.e. it has separate legal personality, and those who invest money into the business have limited liability for any losses the company makes, governed by corporate law. The largest companies are usually publicly listed on stock exchanges around the world. Even single individuals, also known as sole proprietors, may incorporate themselves and limit their liability in order to carry on a business. All different forms of companies depend on the particular law of the particular country in which they reside.

A corporation or an association that conducts business for the benefit of the general public without shareholders and without a profit motive. Nonprofits are also called not-for-profit corporations. Nonprofit corporations are created according to state law. Like for-profit corporations, nonprofit corporations must file a statement of corporate purpose with the Secretary of State and pay a fee, create articles of incorporation, conduct regular meetings, and fulfill other obligations to achieve and maintain corporate status.

An association of two or more persons engaged in a business enterprise in which the profits and losses are shared proportionally. The legal definition of a partnership is generally stated as “an association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners a business for profit” (Revised Uniform Partnership Act § 101 [1994]). Early English mercantile courts recognized a business form known as the societas. The societas provided for an accounting between its business partners, an agency relationship between partners in which individual partners could legally bind the partnership, and individual partner liability for the partnership’s debts and obligations. As the regular English courts gradually recognized the societas, the business form eventually developed into the common-law partnership. England enacted its Partner-ship Act in 1890, and legal experts in the United States drafted a Uniform Partnership Act (UPA) in 1914. Every state has adopted some form of the UPA as its partnership statute; some states, however, have made revisions to the UPA or have adopted the Revised Uniform Partnership Act (RUPA), which legal scholars issued in 1994.

Many trial attorneys have rewarding careers litigating personal injury cases. Attorneys who are successful and rewarded in this practice area are skilled presenters, and enjoy the advocacy role. They represent people who suffered “damage to their person.” While that might bring to mind some late night television advertisers soliciting whiplash victims, most often, attorneys in this practice area are representing victims who have been damaged in ways that affect them for the rest of their lives. The personal injury lawyer’s job is to “prove damages,” or to maximize monetary compensation for an injured client. To do so, a personal injury lawyer will actively engage in investigation of the accident or event that caused the injury, and will almost always call upon medical and/or technical experts for testimony. They are adept interviewers, gathering information from witnesses, medical professionals, insurance companies, and victims. They are persuasive communicators, and often must know how to utilize sophisticated technology for graphics and visuals to demonstrate their case to a jury.

Probate, Trust and Estate Planning attorneys represent clients who run the gamut from the most modest of estates to those that are highly complex, either because of the unusual nature of the client’s assets and liabilities, or because of the nature of the client’s business, commercial and other interests. Services include extensive review, analysis and recommendations with respect to income, gift and estate tax matters, and well as pre- and post-death personal and administrative aspects of a client’s estate. This is another practice area with huge tax implications. Many of these attorneys are CPAs or have accounting background. Attorneys with this expertise are found in many different environments, including private law firms of all sizes, and in organizations such as banks, trust companies, and accounting firms. Clients can be individuals or corporations.

Everything that is the subject of ownership that does not come under the denomination of real property; any right or interest that an individual has in movable things. Personal property can be divided into two major categories:

  1. Corporeal personal property, including such items as animals, merchandise, and jewelry
  2. Incorporeal personal property, comprised of such rights as stocks, bonds, patents, and copyrights.

An agreement to perform a particular task to benefit the community at large that is financed by government funds. Federal, state, and local governments enter into contracts to purchase goods and services. The construction of public buildings, highways, bridges, and other structures is governed by a well-defined contractual process of competitive bidding that seeks to protect the public against the squandering of public funds and prevent abuses such as fraud, favoritism, and extravagance. A public contract is a legally enforceable commitment of a party to undertake the work or improvement desired by a public authority. Public contracts are largely governed by the general law of contracts. Private individuals and corporations are held to stricter standards in their dealings with the government than in their private dealings. Conversely the government must deal fairly with those who contract with it. It can enter contracts within the limitations imposed by constitutional and statutory provisions. In addition, federal laws must be observed because most public projects receive financial aid from the federal government.

The Pacific Railroad Acts were a series of acts of Congress that promoted the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the United States through authorizing the issuance of government bonds and the grants of land to railroad companies. The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 (12 Stat. 489) was the original act. Authorizing a northern route (rather than a central or southern route), it was passed after southern states seceded, losing their votes. Some of its provisions were subsequently modified, expanded, or repealed by four additional amending Acts: The Pacific Railroad Act of 1863 (12 Stat. 807), Pacific Railroad Act of 1864 (13 Stat. 356), Pacific Railroad Act of 1865 (13 Stat. 504), and Pacific Railroad Act of 1866 (14 Stat. 66). The Pacific Railroad Act of 1862 began federal government grant of lands directly to corporations; before that act, the land grants were made to the states, for the benefit of corporations.

Real estate law relates to any issue involving real property. Many lawyers have a special
expertise in real estate law, while many others encounter tangential issues of real estate law in
other practice areas. Real estate tends to be a fairly technical practice area with a lot of
accounting functions and tax implications. It is common for real estate issues to be dealt with
on a regular basis by tax and probate and estate planning practitioners. Many in-house,
corporate attorneys deal with real estate issues. For example, many companies lease retail space as part of their business, purchase large commercial sites for their own office space, or lease space in their building to other businesses. Real estate lawyers also represent individuals making all kinds of real estate transactions. Title companies, mortgage companies, and other lending institutions will also hire real estate legal specialists. Government real estate lawyers may deal with issues such as condemnation and eminent domain, and are usually hired at the local level.

A rule of order having the force of law, prescribed by a superior or competent authority, relating to the actions of those under the authority’s control. Regulations are issued by various federal government departments and agencies to carry out the intent of legislation enacted by Congress. Administrative agencies, often called “the bureaucracy,” perform a number of different government functions, including rule making. The rules issued by these agencies are called regulations and are designed to guide the activity of those regulated by the agency and also the activity of the agency’s employees. Regulations also function to ensure uniform application of the law.

An association between two individuals arising from an agreement by which one individual occupies the other’s real property with permission, subject to a rental fee. The term landlord refers to a person who owns property and allows another person to use it for a fee. The person using the property is called a tenant. The agreement between a landlord and a tenant is called a lease or rental agreement.

A security is simply a manifestation of an investment in an enterprise. It may be a bond,
a share of common stock, a note, a limited partnership interest, interest in real estate or any
other tangible or intangible asset imaginable. The practice is primarily transactional work,
business counseling, some litigation relating to investments, and the raising of capital for the
enterprise. Securities lawyers are found in private law firms as well as in-house corporate
counsel. Some government entities also hire securities lawyers, the largest of course, being the
Securities and Exchange Commission. Day-to-day work can address those issues associated
with financing transactions, public offerings, private placements, blue sky commissions
(registration requirements that vary from state to state), reporting requirements, and SEC
compliance. The client base can be diverse and dynamic including private and public
businesses, venture capitalists, investment analysts, bankers, and securities brokerage houses.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment is a form of Sex Discrimination that occurs in the workplace. Persons who are the victims of sexual harassment may sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e et seq.), which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace.

Tax law is an area of legal study dealing with the statutory, regulatory, constitutional, and common-law rules that constitute the law applicable to taxation, which is the method by which the government levies on economic transactions. Taxes are imposed by multiple levels of government from small special purpose districts, to counties, states, and the Federal government.

A business that does not have to pay Federal taxes is considered to be “tax exempt.” All tax-exempt businesses in the United States are also corporations set up as a nonprofit organization. But nonprofit organizations are not automatically tax-exempt. They must file a special application with the IRS, requesting to be exempt from paying Federal tax. Some states also require a separate filing in order to be tax-exempt from paying state taxes.

A contractual arrangement entered into to indemnify loss or damage resulting from defects or problems relating to the ownership of real property, or from the enforcement of liens that exist against it. Title insurance is ordinarily taken out by a purchaser of the property, or by an individual lending money on the mortgage, in an amount equivalent to the purchase price of the property. To be entitled to coverage, the purchaser typically pays one lump sum premium, usually at the day of the closing. Title insurance companies are specially organized for this purpose. They retain complete sets of abstracts of title or duplicates of the record, hire expert title examiners, and prepare all types of conveyances and transfers. Following a title search, such companies furnish a certificate of title, indicating the findings of the title examiner with respect to the state of the title to the property involved. Title insurance companies are liable only for a lack of care, skill, or diligence on the part of their examiner when a title certificate is issued up to the face amount of the policy. An insurance of title, however, warrants the validity of the title in any and all events.

A body of rights, obligations, and remedies that is applied by courts in civil proceedings to provide relief for persons who have suffered harm from the wrongful acts of others. The person who sustains injury or suffers pecuniary damage as the result of tortious conduct is known as the plaintiff, and the person who is responsible for inflicting the injury and incurs liability for the damage is known as the defendant or tort feasor. Three elements must be established in every tort action. First, the plaintiff must establish that the defendant was under a legal duty to act in a particular fashion. Second, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant breached this duty by failing to conform his or her behavior accordingly. Third, the plaintiff must prove that he suffered injury or loss as a direct result of the defendant’s breach.

A broad concept that describes the Substantive Law that governs transactions between business entities, with the exception of maritime transportation of goods (regulated by Admiralty and Maritime Law). Commercial law includes all aspects of business, including advertising and marketing, collections and Bankruptcy, banking, contracts, negotiable instruments, Secured Transactions, and trade in general. It covers both domestic and foreign trade; it also regulates trade between states.

Traffic laws are the laws which govern traffic and regulate vehicles, while rules of the road are both the laws and the informal rules that may have developed over time to facilitate the orderly and timely flow of traffic.

There are some lawyers who work exclusively with legal issues affecting Native American
tribes, Indian land and reservations, and treaties. Attorneys are found in federal government
bodies such as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and The Indian Claims Commission, which hears
and determines claims against the United States on behalf of any Indian tribe. Private law firms
also have lawyers who specialize in matters relating to Indian lands and reservations, tribal
rights, and other legal issues affecting Native Americans. Additionally, specific Indian tribes,
which are recognized as sovereign entities with the power to regulate their internal and social
organization, have lawyers who may be members of the tribe themselves, and/or lawyers who
are hired as “general counsel,” to handle the legal affairs of their tribe. Public service agencies
also serve the Native American community with lawyers who specialize in the Indian Child
Welfare Act, and others who serve children, the elderly, or indigent members of the Native
American community.

Probate, Trust and Estate Planning attorneys represent clients who run the gamut from the most modest of estates to those that are highly complex, either because of the unusual nature of the client’s assets and liabilities, or because of the nature of the client’s business, commercial and other interests. Services include extensive review, analysis and recommendations with respect to income, gift and estate tax matters, and well as pre- and post-death personal and administrative aspects of a client’s estate. This is another practice area with huge tax implications. Many of these attorneys are CPAs or have accounting background. Attorneys with this expertise are found in many different environments, including private law firms of all sizes, and in organizations such as banks, trust companies, and accounting firms. Clients can be
individuals or corporations.

A general and inclusive group of laws adopted, at least partially, by all the states to further uniformity and fair dealing in business and commercial transactions.

Insurance benefits paid by the state or federal government to individuals who are involuntarily out of work in order to provide them with necessities, such as food, clothing, and shelter. Unemployment compensation for U.S. workers was established by the federal Social Security Act of 1935 (42 U.S.C.A. §§ 301 et seq.). Unemployment insurance provides workers who have lost their job through no fault of their own with monetary payments for a given period of time or until they find a new job. This compensation is designed to give an unemployed worker time to find a new job equivalent to the one lost without major financial distress. Unemployment compensation is also justified as a way to provide the U.S. economy with consumer spending during an economic downturn.

A group of rights designed to protect the use and enjoyment of water that travels in streams, rivers, lakes, and ponds, gathers on the surface of the earth, or collects underground. Water rights generally emerge from a person’s ownership of the land bordering the banks of a watercourse or from a person’s actual use of a watercourse. Water rights are conferred and regulated by judge-made Common Law, state and federal legislative bodies, and other government departments. Water rights can also be created by contract, as when one person transfers his water rights to another.

Probate, Trust and Estate Planning attorneys represent clients who run the gamut from the most modest of estates to those that are highly complex, either because of the unusual nature of the client’s assets and liabilities, or because of the nature of the client’s business, commercial and other interests. Services include extensive review, analysis and recommendations with respect to income, gift and estate tax matters, and well as pre- and post-death personal and administrative aspects of a client’s estate. This is another practice area with huge tax implications. Many of these attorneys are CPAs or have accounting background. Attorneys with this expertise are found in many different environments, including private law firms of all sizes, and in organizations such as banks, trust companies, and accounting firms. Clients can be individuals or corporations.

The taking of the life of an individual resulting from the willful or negligent act of another person or persons. If a person is killed because of the wrongful conduct of a person or persons, the decedent’s heirs and other beneficiaries may file a wrongful death action against those responsible for the decedent’s death. This area of Tort Law is governed by statute. Wrongful death statutes vary from state to state, but in general they define who may sue for wrongful death and what, if any, limits may be applied to an award of damages.