There are generally two different types of cases that lawyers handle: civil and criminal. In criminal cases, lawyers either prosecute or defend people when accusations are made against them by governing bodies. In criminal cases, the defendant is suspected, in some way, to be a potential threat to society. Civil cases are where lawyers represent private individuals in a dispute. While there may not be an imminent threat to society, one individual can seek compensation from another who allegedly wronged her.
Some civil lawyers handle civil rights cases. These are cases in which an individual -- or group, for class action lawsuits -- believes that her basic human rights have not been respected. Examples include seeking damages for unlawful police searches, or discrimination in housing, employment or education. People can feel that their right to privacy is violated during unwarranted searches or that they were denied opportunities to get a job, a residence, or go to a school because of certain characteristics.
Business law is another civil area in which people often need a lawyer's guidance. If you are setting up a business, an attorney can help you determine which form to put it in -- such as an LLC or sole proprietorship -- as well as complete the necessary legal paperwork, which can be substantial and confusing. These attorneys can also help you dissolve a business or defend you against a lawsuit brought by another company.
Personal Injury Law
Personal injury law is an enormous legal field encompassing many different types of harm. Essentially, personal injury lawyers can assist you when you are harmed through the negligence, recklessness or carelessness of another party. Common practice areas include slip and falls, car and truck accidents, mass transportation accidents, medical malpractice and dog bites. These attorneys help you seek compensation for medical bills incurred, time lost at work, loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and punitive damages. The punishment sought for the wrongdoer is separate from that sought by criminal courts -- in fact, it is not uncommon for individuals to be prosecuted in both civil and criminal trials for the same offense.
Other types of civil law do not involve wrongdoing at all, but instead relate to people seeking legal advice in complex areas. This can include bankruptcy, tax law, family law, estate planning and certain types of immigration cases. It's important to note that these legal areas can also spill over into criminal law, but it depends upon why the individual requires representation.