Legal Specialization: Types of Law

Fields of Law for Lawyers, Politicians and Policymakers

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Tulane Public Relations / Flickr

Many students apply to law school believing that their big career decisions are over, they've made it to the one path toward being a lawyer! However, the process has only just begun for these hopeful students before they set off to pursue a career in specialized or general law practice. From intellectual property law to environmental and health care law, the type of law a student chooses to study will drastically impact career opportunities in the field.

After all, you wouldn't want your divorce lawyer working on your health care contract, right?  

If you are personally seeking a career in law, it is best to ask yourself what type of cases would you most want to argue, where would your expertise shine. If for instance, you happen to have a working knowledge of businesses and innovations, perhaps intellectual property or patent law would suit you well in your studies. However, if you care more about environmental or health concerns, perhaps a career in environmental or health care law would be more suited. Read on below to find out more about each field of study. 

Concerning Property and Inventions

Intellectual Property Law deals with acquiring and enforcing patents, trademarks, and copyrights, essentially covering the legal protection of a company's right to their own assets, especially those of their own creation. It is primarily broken into six categories: patent law, trademark law, copyright law, trade secret law, licensing and unfair competition.

Each of the former three aims to protect the creative assets of the company in question with the latter protecting against sharing those assets on a global market. 

A patent grants an inventor exclusive rights (for a period of time) to a human-made invention or an improvement on an existing invention — if the United States Patent and Trademark Office deems it worthy.

Patent lawyers work on both sides of this process, for investors, the government and other parties involved in the trade. Similarly, trademark law grants exclusive rights for an idea or motto and copyright protects general publications from being plagiarized for financial gain. 

In trade secret law, lawyers help their clients protect valuable secrets to their assets' creation. For instance, Dr. Pepper keeps its full list of exact ingredients classified so that competitors like Coca-Cola won't be able to precisely imitate their design. Unlike the aforementioned fields of intellectual property law, however, trade secrets cannot be registered with a government organization. Similarly, licensing and unfair competition law protect against the utilization of another company's assets for personal gain. 

Concerning Business and Commerce

If you're more concerned with the commerce and legality side of business management, though, a business law degree may be more suited for your tastes. Business law deals with any aspect of the law having to do with industry and commerce — from employee contracts to title and deeds to tax law compliance. Those seeking a degree in business law would likely find joy in helping create and manage the legal backing and protection of businesses, including management of all legal assets.

 

Similarly, admiralty (or maritime) law deals with international navigation and shipping by sea. It includes cases of shipping, insurance, piracy and more over international waters, ensuring that both domestic and foreign businesses enter into contracts that are mutually beneficial and do not unfairly favor one over the other. 

Concerning Freedoms and Crimes

Many lawyers hope to defend the rights of people over businesses. If this is the case for you, perhaps a career in constitutional law is right for you. This legal specialization is concerned with interpreting and applying the U.S. Constitution to protect individuals and preserve relationships between state and federal governments. Essentially, it covers every element of the Constitution, including each of the Amendments (though those are often broken down individually as micro-specialties.

 

For instance, First Amendment law focuses on protecting citizens' right to free speech, religion, press, and assembly.  First Amendment cases cover a wide range of topics including book burning and prayer in schools as well as protection of transgender people and people of color. 

On the other side of this coin, criminal law revolves around the government prosecution of anyone who is purported to have committed a criminal act, as defined by public law. Criminal lawyers will often work on behalf of the criminal in question seeking to understand and pardon the accused due to legal innocence. Those studying criminal law will verse themselves in the vast legal structure of the country. Often presented with cases of wrongly accused defendants, the lawyer's responsibility is to prove, by the law of the land, the person is innocent.  

Concerning Health and the Environment

Protecting people from governmental and corporate interests over individual liberties isn't the only field of law that directly goes to help mankind, health care law is also concerned with medicine and health-related issues including the right to healthcare for U.S. citizens. Lawyers in this field primarily focus on medical malpractice, licensure, bioethical policies and the effects of state and federal health care policies on its residents. 

If instead of defending humans specifically you find yourself caring for the longevity of nature and its protection against harmful business and developmental policy, perhaps a career in environmental law is best suited for you. Environmental law is concerned with laws surrounding protecting the environment and the requirement of agencies and businesses to take into account the effect of their practices on the ecosystems immediately impacted by their business' growth.