Feb 062012

When considering a career in the law, there are many options available. Attorneys practice is a wide array of sectors along the spectrum. Focusing on a specific practice area is one way to begin building a successful law career.

One area of the law where attorneys can focus in the United States is immigration law. Immigration law is defined as dealing “with issues relating to foreign nationals who come to this country either temporarily or permanently, including the associated legal rights, duties and obligations of aliens in the United States.”

Immigration lawyers or immigration law attorneys spend much of their time dealing with the application processes and procedures involved with foreign nationals coming into the United States, including the process of naturalization for those who wish to become U.S. citizens. Immigration law attorneys might also deal with the legal issues faced by those people in the United States under asylum or as refugees.

A large portion of immigration law in the news right now has to do with those who have passed into the United States illegally, and those who traffic or otherwise transport illegal aliens into the United States.

Foreign Nationals vs. Citizens

Since immigration lawyers deal with foreign nationals, it is important to know the definition of a foreign national. A citizen, in the United States, is someone born in the United States or born overseas to a citizen parent, or someone who has come from another country and gone through the naturalization process. Anyone who is not a U.S. Citizen is considered to be a foreign national or alien. Aliens can be:

  • Resident
  • Nonresident
  • Immigrant
  • Nonimmigrant
  • Documented (legal)
  • Undocumented (illegal)

Immigration lawyers can focus in any number of areas. An immigration law attorney helps foreign nationals:

  • Obtain U.S. Visas (work or nonwork)
  • Obtain Green Cards
  • With the Naturalization Process
  • Immigrate to the United States for education
  • Gain Asylum

Another focus of immigration law attorneys is helping couples in the United States with international adoption.

American immigration law is currently a very politically divisive field, but as laws change regarding immigration, immigration attorneys will be in high demand. There is a big future in the field of immigration law—if you’re interested in immigration policy, it can be the perfect practice area for you.

Feb 032012

When considering a career in the law, there are many options available. Attorneys practice is a wide array of sectors along the spectrum. Focusing on a specific practice area is one way to begin building a successful law career.

One area of the law where attorneys can focus in the United States is family law. Family law is a multi-faceted legal focus dealing with family relations, and family lawyers may deal with the law on both the civil and the criminal side.

Here are some of the major practice areas family law encompasses:

  • Adoption
  • Alimony
  • Child custody/visitation
  • Children’s rights
  • Child support
  • Divorce
  • Elder law
  • Estate planning
  • Marriage
  • Marital legal separation
  • Marital property division
  • Wills and trusts

Family law attorneys may have a broader focus or focus on one of the above areas specifically in practice. Family law courts are generally focused on hearing cases that pertain to the dissolution of marriage (divorce or annulment), child custody arguments, guardianship, and domestic violence.

Family law attorneys may operate in private practice, but are also often employed by state and local jurisdictions. Possessing the right mix of legal expertise and experience in the chosen area of focus (i.e. having worked with children for working as a juvenile affairs attorney) is essential to success in family law.

Feb 022012

When considering a career in the law, there are many options available. Attorneys practice is a wide array of sectors along the spectrum. Focusing on a specific practice area is one way to begin building a successful law career.

One of the largest focuses in the American legal system is criminal law. Criminal law is loosely defined as “A system of law concerned with those who commit crimes,” but that does not really define what a criminal law attorney does. The predominant number of criminal lawyers is in criminal defense, with the majority of the rest acting as prosecutors.


Prosecutors or prosecuting attorneys represent federal, state or local governments in criminal cases against those accused of illegal activity. The majority of prosecutors work in state or district attorney’s offices; there are far fewer prosecutors at the federal level. Common job titles are “Assistant District Attorney” or “Assistant State’s Attorney” as the district attorney or state’s attorney is often an elected official.

Prosecutors are considered public servants. They participate in the investigation of crimes, present evidence in court, and try to determine the punishment a defendant should receive. Depending on the size of the federal circuit, district or state prosecutors represent, job duties may vary—for example, in small jurisdictions prosecutors may be responsible for all types of prosecution, ranging from homicide to traffic violations, whereas in larger jurisdictions prosecutors are generally focused in a specific area of criminal law.

Prosecutors spend a large amount of time in courtrooms, so they should be comfortable speaking in front of people and have trial experience. Prosecutors are also well-served to have a sense of civic duty and fairness—successful prosecution leads to an individual’s loss of rights, so the job must be taken very seriously.

Criminal Defense Attorneys

On the other side are criminal defense attorneys. Defense lawyers make sure that anyone accused of a crime receives adequate counsel. Defense lawyers may work in private practice, or for a public defender’s office. They possess many of the same skills as prosecutors, but are instead working in defense of the person accused of a crime rather than in opposition.

The major difference between criminal defense and representing defendants in civil court is that in a civil case, the preponderance of the evidence needs only show that a defendant is 51% liable, whereas in a criminal case the prosecutor must prove to judge or jury that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The best criminal defense attorneys make sure that reasonable doubt is always there.

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys deal with crimes which consist of three elements: an act, a mental state, and the intent to do social harm. These crimes are classified in two categories:

  • Misdemeanors: lesser crimes that are often punishable by fine or probation, including traffic violations, petty theft, and in some jurisdictions marijuana possession
  • Felonies: more serious crimes that warrant imprisonment, including rape, grand theft, assault, battery, homicide

Both prosecutors and defense attorneys are essential for the criminal justice process. These careers involve working long hours, but with the added satisfaction of knowing that justice is being done. Either way is a fulfilling path to work in the law.

Feb 012012

When considering a career in the law, there are many options available. Attorneys practice is a wide array of sectors along the spectrum. Focusing on a specific practice area is one way to begin building a successful law career.

One area of the law where attorneys can focus in the United States is contract law. Contract lawyers are civil attorneys who work with the general law of obligations, with contracts defined as legally-enforceable promises made between parties.

If you are considering a career in contract law, it is important to know what that entails. Contract lawyers address the issues of how contracts are formed, when parties can escapes the obligations of contracts, contract terms and meanings, and what can be done in the breach of a contract.

Contract lawyers work with parties to draft up these agreements, and also consult and litigate based on the breaking of contracts or parties’ needs to get out of contracts due to duress or mitigating circumstances. Contract lawyers work with the basics of contracts, ensuring that they meet all of these criteria:

  • Form
  • Capacity
  • Consent
  • Legality

Contract law attorneys also make sure that contracts are valid as they are drawn up, or work to help parties get out of invalid contracts. For a contract to be considered valid, six aspects must be met:

  • Mutual agreement: For a contract to be valid, the terms must be clear and agreed upon by all parties. Often, contract lawyers will work on getting clients out of contracts in which deceptive language has been used in order to get assent.
  • Consideration: Equal consideration must be given to all parties. Contracts are often voided or broken when equal consideration is not given.
  • Sui Juris Parties: All parties entering into the contract must be competent and adult. Corporations are considered persons under the law and also able to enter into contracts.
  • Proper subject matter: A contract must have a lawful purpose (for example, any contract to commit a crime in exchange for money is obviously not a legal contract).
  • Mutual right to remedy: All parties involved in a contract should have an equal right to be compensated in some form if another party breaches the terms of the contract.
  • Mutual obligation to perform: Both parties have an obligation to fulfill.

Contract law is not for everyone. A successful contract law attorney will have a great attention to detail and strong legal writing ability. Contract lawyers are well-compensated for their expertise, though, and working at it can mean a very successful career for the right kind of dedicated individual.

Jan 312012

When considering a career in the law, there are many options available. Attorneys practice is a wide array of sectors along the spectrum. Focusing on a specific practice area is one way to begin building a successful law career.

One area of the law where attorneys can focus in the United States is a focus on torts. According to Lawyers.com, a tort is a “wrongful act other than a breach of contract that injures another and for which the law imposes civil liability.” Tort attorneys are civil lawyers that seek damages on behalf of clients who have been wronged by these acts.

There are three main categories of torts:

  • Negligence: Tort claims in this category include damages caused by car accidents. Personal injury cases, the most popular tort cases, fall in this category.
  • Intentional Torts: This category includes trespassing, false imprisonment, and defamation (libel and slander).
  • Quasi-Torts: Torts which may overlap with other areas of law fall under this category. Workers’ compensation is the primary example of this.

Tort attorneys often focus in a particular type of tort. A quick Google search will show that personal injury lawyers and so-called “toxic tort” attorneys are common areas of practice for tort attorneys. Here is a rundown of the major areas of practice for tort lawyers:

  • Animals: Injuries or damage to persons or property caused by animals, domestic or wild.
  • Assault and battery: This is separate from the criminal charges that may be filed in the case of assault and/or battery. Both criminal and civil charges can be filed in many cases.
  • Carriers and Passengers: Liability for airlines and other forms of travel.
  • Children: Torts focused on the welfare of children.
  • Consumer Protection: Torts based on negligence in the creation, manufacturing, or sale of consumer goods.
  • Damages: These lawyers seek compensatory damages in the case of a broken agreement.
  • Defamation: Torts based on libel or slander.
  • Emotional Distress: Damages sought based on the emotional distress caused by an incident.
  • Firearms: There is tort liability for the negligent storage of a firearm if it results in injury or death.
  • Joint and Several Liability: These types of tort lawyers seek damages from multiple parties.
  • Medical Malpractice: These attorneys focus on wrongs in the medical field, often due to negligence or misdiagnosis.
  • Motor Vehicle Accidents: Torts involving liability in the case of auto accidents.
  • Nuisance: Seeking damages for nuisances, such as noise pollution.
  • Premises Liability: Liability for a landowner when something occurs on his or her real property.
  • Wrongful Death: This can be medical malpractice or even filed in conjunction with homicide charges.

Focusing on a particular area of expertise is key for tort attorneys. When in law school, torts are covered in depth—areas of focus can become clear then. There are many successful tort attorneys, but the climate is always changing in terms of economic gain.

Jan 302012

When considering a career in the law, there are many options available. Attorneys practice is a wide array of sectors along the spectrum. Focusing on a specific practice area is one way to begin building a successful law career.

One area of the law where attorneys can focus in the United States is personal injury law. Personal injury law falls under the larger umbrella of tort law, and involves civil cases where a party seeks compensation for an injury to his or her person. Personal injury attorneys often focus in particular types of injury, be they automobile accidents, railroad accidents, airline accidents, construction or workplace accidents, and accidents caused by product liability. Personal injuries are usually physical, but can also be psychological—injuries caused by trauma.

Personal injury lawyers must prove that the defendant in the particular case is liable for the injury. Then, a judge or jury will decide upon the amount paid to the plaintiff in damages. Personal injury lawyers may work for the plaintiff’s side or the defendant’s side

There is often a negative stereotype of personal injury lawyers in peoples’ minds—the term “ambulance chaser” is derived from overzealous personal injury lawyers seeking to get rich off of the pain and suffering of others. The truth of the matter is, though, that personal injury lawyers are an important part of the legal system. They seek damages for those who have been injured, and in doing so help to deter the same sorts of injuries and wrongs from being committed again.

Jan 302012

When considering a career in the law, there are many options available. Attorneys practice is a wide array of sectors along the spectrum. Focusing on a specific practice area is one way to begin building a successful law career.

One area of the law where attorneys can focus in the United States is bankruptcy law. Bankruptcy law allows individuals and businesses to wipe out debt by liquidating assets and distributing them among creditors, among other types of resolution that may be approved by courts. Bankruptcy law attorneys help people get a fresh start when the crushing weight of debt is too much.

There are two types of bankruptcy:

  • Voluntary bankruptcy: this is bankruptcy initiated by the debtor.
  • Involuntary bankruptcy: this is bankruptcy initiated by the creditor.

Bankruptcy is regulated by Title 11 of the United States Code. There are two basic types of bankruptcy proceedings, with Chapter 7 being the only chapter under the first, involving liquidation, and four chapters, 9, 11, 12 and 13, under the second, where the court approves a plan of reorganization and repayment.

  • Chapter 7: The only form of bankruptcy involving liquidation is this type, often referred to as straight bankruptcy. In this form, the debtor turns over all non-exempt assets to a bankruptcy trustee, who converts them to cash to be disbursed to creditors. Once this is done, the debtor is discharged of debt.
  • Chapter 9: Adjustment of Debts for a Municipality (similar to Chapter 11, but only available for municipalities in too much debt).
  • Chapter 11: The most commonly referred to form of bankruptcy is Reorganization. Businesses are allowed to continue operations while repaying creditors based upon a court-approved plan.
  • Chapter 12: Provides debt relief to family farmers, in which a farmer repays debts over a period of three to five years.
  • Chapter 13: The most common individual form of bankruptcy is this form, which is available to debtors with a regular annual income. It allows debtors to keep assets like houses, unlike in Chapter 7. Like Chapter 12, this allows debtors to repay based on a court-approved plan over three to five years.

Bankruptcy lawyers should be knowledgeable in all chapters of the United States Bankruptcy Code. Some bankruptcy attorneys focus specifically on one area—for example, there are bankruptcy lawyers that strictly focus on bankruptcy for family farmers—but many are able to handle both business and individual bankruptcies.

In times of economic stress, there is a definite need for bankruptcy attorneys.

Jan 272012

Tough economic times have slowed job growth in many legal sectors. With the amount of people graduating from law school remaining the same, but fewer openings in the sort of high-paying corporate jobs many aspiring lawyers anticipated, the job market for lawyers can look like it is suffering.

In many sectors of the law, though, that is far from the case. The nonprofit sector is thriving, particularly because of the stresses put upon many groups by the troubling economy. For lawyers who would like to make a difference in America by fighting for the causes they care about, it is a great time to be an attorney.

Many nonprofit organizations are hiring lawyers fresh out of law school that have the energy to fight for causes they believe in. Issue-specific advocacy is one of the primary areas of nonprofit legal work, with many nonprofit organizations focusing on specific legal issues or supporting specific groups of people in need.

Issue-specific advocacy by nonprofit legal services organizations can take a number of forms, though it usually falls into either directly representing clients within a specific group or through policy work and lobbying, or a mix of all three. Sometimes this work will overlap with that done by public defenders or legal aid societies—one of the most prominently featured issues in the area of nonprofit legal advocacy comes with the defense of death row inmates.

Here are some examples of issues for which groups advocate:

  • Child welfare
  • Civil liberties
  • The environment
  • Human rights
  • Reform
    • Justice system
    • Government
  • Labor and employment

If you have an interest in the law and a cause you believe in, nonprofit legal advocacy may be the career for you.

Jan 272012

Serving in any of the United States Armed Forces can help one’s career options when time in the service is completed. Often, the area of specialization a service member focuses on is the area he or she finds full-time employment within the civilian sector. From electrical engineers to public relations officers, the Armed Forces provide vocational training that qualifies service men and women for a number of occupations outside of the military.

Military police men and women (commonly referred to as MPs) often seek jobs in law enforcement following their service. In the case of military police training, often state and local police departments will waive requirements for certificates or associate or bachelor’s degrees in lieu of the work experience provided by working as an MP.

One area where military police may also find an advantage in seeking employment is with federal law enforcement agencies like the FBI, ATF, DEA, and ICE. Each of those departments require at least a bachelor’s degree and three years of professional experience, but prefer applicants with both professional experience and an advanced degree in their area of specialization, namely master’s degrees in accounting, computer engineering, and other fields, or the Juris Doctor (JD) law degree. If said professional experience is within the military, an applicant is often preferred.

A few online colleges like Abraham Lincoln University offer online Juris Doctor programs that allow military service men and women to make progress toward, and obtain, their JD degrees while still in the Armed Forces. MPs who take advantage of an online law degree program who are interested in a career in federal law enforcement when their service is up will have a great advantage over many of the other applicants interested in such highly-competitive jobs: above-and-beyond work experience in the armed forces and an advanced degree.

Jan 262012

In the past, a career in law enforcement with state and local police forces generally only required a high school diploma or equivalent GED certification for employment, but now, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, many state and local departments require at least one or two years of college coursework in law enforcement, with some requiring an associate degree and others, particularly on the state police level, requiring a bachelor’s degree.

While many law enforcement officers do not pursue a juris doctor (JD) degree before entering a state or local police force, many do pursue that law degree once employed as an officer.

While a JD degree is not often required for advancement within state and local police departments, it can be a benefit when competing with other officers to move up in the ranks, or when seeking to make the jump to a detective role. Police officers who are also law school graduates can also make the jump to a department’s legal affairs department, and may find upward mobility into the office of the district or state’s attorney as an investigator.

While the law degree is helpful for those already employed as police officers or detectives at the state or local level when it comes to promotion and upward mobility, an advanced professional degree such as the juris doctor degree is nearly essential to obtain a job at the middle or higher levels of federal law enforcement. Many police officers seeking to make the move from state or local police departments into federal law enforcement, to work as a special agent in the FBI, ATF, DEA, or in Homeland Security, obtain a law school degree just for this purpose.

Take, for example, the information gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. To be considered for employment as an FBI special agent, an applicant must be a college graduate (with a bachelor’s degree) and have at least three years of professional work experience, or must have an advanced degree and two years of professional work experience. Applicants must have one of the following:

  • College major in accounting, electrical engineering, information technology, or computer science
  • Be fluent in a foreign language
  • Have a degree from an accredited law school
  • Three years of related full-time work experience

Requirements vary throughout the federal law enforcement agencies, but having a law degree and work experience in law enforcement goes a long way toward landing one of these coveted jobs.