Although all lawyers take the same basic courses in law school, most move beyond those courses to focus on a specific practice area. These practice areas are diverse and reflect the lawyer’s interests and aptitudes.
When attorneys focus on a particular field of law, they develop both the knowledge and experience within that area of law to master it. That does not make the lawyer a specialist. Traditionally, state bar associations did not allow lawyers to claim to be specialists since there was no standard definition of a specialist within a field of law. Currently, only 11 states certify legal specialists including:
- New Jersey
But even if you live in a state that does not certify legal specialists, you can still find a lawyer with knowledge and experience in a narrow field of law who can help you with your legal problem. Here is an overview of what type of lawyer can help with various legal problems.
What Type of Lawyer Can Help with a Divorce or Separation?
A divorce lawyer solves many problems arising in marriage by helping a spouse dissolve it. Marriages break down for many reasons. Finances are a leading reason for divorce in the U.S.
Most states offer couples no-fault divorce. This means that you do not need to disclose, or even have, a reason for the divorce other than irreconcilable differences. The purpose of no-fault divorce is to allow either spouse to dissolve the marriage for any reason. This avoids forcing spouses to remain in a broken marriage.
During a divorce proceeding, the court will resolve four issues:
- Child custody: Also called parenting time in some states, the court must resolve the child’s living situation. This will determine where the child lives and for how much time. The court will also resolve how decisions affecting the child will be made. For example, medical, education, and religious decisions are usually made jointly.
- Child support: The parent who provides for the child’s physical needs is usually entitled to a financial contribution from the other parent. Most states use a fixed schedule to calculate child support. The calculation is based on the child’s needs and the parents’ resources.
- Property division: The couple will divide the property obtained during the marriage. Some states use community property laws that require an equal division of assets. Other states use equitable distribution. This allows a judge to vary from an equal distribution based on fairness and each spouse’s financial condition.
- Spousal support: Spousal support is also called alimony. This financial support from one spouse to another is intended to help both spouses maintain the living situation they established during the marriage.
What Kind of Lawyer Can Help With Adoption and Custody
Family law covers many issues including:
- Child custody: Separate from the custody issues that arise in a divorce, child custody issues can also arise when a parent cannot care for a child. Rather than leaving the child’s fate to social services, sometimes a relative can step in and take legal guardianship from a parent who is incarcerated, mentally ill, or struggling with substance abuse.
- Adoption: Adoptive parents use a family lawyer to guide them through adoption. In a typical adoption, the attorney may also be needed to review the documents from the adoption agency and biological parents to ensure they have properly surrendered their parental rights and cannot undo the adoption. To finalize the adoption, the family will attend a court hearing where a judge will make the adoption official and order the state to issue a new birth certificate in the adoptive parents’ names and the adopted child’s new name.
- Guardianship: When adults are unable to make legal, financial, and medical decisions on their own, a family member can seek guardianship. This gives the guardian the authority to make decisions on the person’s behalf. People with dementia, mental illness, or developmental disabilities are examples of people who might need a guardian.
What Type of Lawyer Can Help With Insurance Claims?
The answer to this question is a bit nuanced, but generally, a personal injury lawyer helps file insurance claims for bodily injury while an insurance lawyer helps file insurance claims for property losses.
Some examples of reasons you might call an insurance lawyer include:
- Natural disaster: You lost your home or business in a natural disaster like a flood, wildfire, or hurricane. During a mass casualty event like a natural disaster, the insurer receives many claims at the same time. A lawyer can make sure your claim is submitted correctly, so it can be acted upon rather than being rejected and being sent to the back of the line.
- Insurance dispute: You lost your home or business in an event that the insurer disputes is covered by the policy. For example, your home sustained water damage and the insurer denies the claim because it believes you knowingly hired an unlicensed plumber to install a new water heater. An insurer usually must have a good faith basis to deny a claim. When it does not, you can hire a lawyer to pursue a bad faith insurance lawsuit.
- Insurance fraud: In addition to being a crime, insurance fraud is also a ground for an insurance company to deny an insurance claim. If prosecutors file charges of arson against you, you will need a criminal attorney to keep you out of jail and an insurance attorney to recover the money the insurer owes you for the house fire.
What Type of Lawyer Can Help You Form a New Business?
Forming a new business can be an exciting time. A business lawyer can help you through the steps of forming a new business including:
- Forming an entity: A lawyer can explain the benefits and drawbacks of each entity type and help you prepare and file the documents needed to form a corporation, limited partnership, or limited liability company.
- Obtaining a business license: In many locations, you might need to apply for a license from the city, county, and state, so they can collect business taxes from your new venture. A lawyer can figure out which licenses you need and how you need to comply with local licensing laws.
- Filing a trademark application: If you have a unique name for your business or the products and services it offers, an attorney can help you file a trademark application. A registered trademark can be used to stop competitors from copying the names of your products, services, and business.
Just as important as filing, a new business might need guidance to remain compliant with the law. Businesses must comply with many regulations, such as health codes, tax codes, labor laws, and building codes. A business attorney can coach you, so you can implement a compliance program. This way you can ensure your business does not violate any applicable regulations. A business attorney can also help you if any state or federal agencies file an enforcement action against your business for a regulatory violation.
What Type of Lawyer Can Help Plan Your Estate?
Planning your estate can be complicated work. But an estate planning lawyer usually can take your wishes and turn them into legal enforceable plans. More importantly, an estate lawyer can help you put your plans into action while minimizing taxes and other transactional costs that eat into your estate.
Some options available for an estate plan include wills, trusts, and gifts. Gifts help you reduce your estate, so you can avoid the estate tax and minimize probate costs. But you might need a lawyer to make sure your gifts fall within the exceptions to the gift tax.
A will is useful to put your wishes into writing for how your property is passed. For example, if you want your antique toys to go to your nephew and your wedding ring to go to your granddaughter, you can do that through a will. But wills must go through probate. Probate is a court proceeding where a judge reviews the will to make sure it is valid and the way that it devises property is legal. Probate also gives heirs and creditors an opportunity to challenge any property transfers in the will.
Trusts can do most of the things a will can do. But trusts do not go through probate. This makes the process of transferring property after your death go smoother and with less expense. On the other hand, trusts take more time and expense to draw up, so you may incur similar costs overall by shifting more of the expenses to before your death from after your death.
What Type of Lawyer Can Help With Insolvency?
When your liabilities and debts exceed your assets and income, you qualify for bankruptcy. Many people feel shame in declaring bankruptcy, but bankruptcy is an orderly and legal process that pre-dates America’s founding. In fact, the U.S. Constitution specifically grants the U.S. government the power to establish a system for bankruptcies.
Bankruptcies help both the creditor and the debtor. Without a bankruptcy system, the cost of collecting debts would skyrocket and credit would freeze. Creditors would also be left to battle among themselves for repayment, increasing the cost of lending even more. A bankruptcy system provides an orderly way to prioritize creditors in a single proceeding.
Bankruptcy also benefits debtors. After bankruptcy lawyers file a bankruptcy petition, the credits must cease all collection efforts. When a repayment plan is approved by the court and the debtor emerges from bankruptcy, all dischargeable debts become void and the debtor will be debt-free as long as the repayment plan is met.
What Type of Lawyer Can Help With Work-Related Injuries?
Americans suffer millions of work-related injuries every year. Most of those injuries are covered by worker’s compensation.
Workers’ compensation is an insurance system used in every state. Except in Texas, employers are required to buy workers’ compensation insurance. When a work injury occurs, the insurer investigates the injury and pays workers’ comp benefits. If the insurer disputes the injury, a workers compensation lawyer can help you fight the insurer.
The benefit for the worker is that work injuries are compensated regardless of the cause. The benefit for the employer is that the worker cannot sue the employer for the accident and is limited to workers’ comp.
What Type of Lawyer Can Help After an Arrest?
A criminal defense lawyer has the experience in both criminal law and procedure to guide you through the criminal justice system. In many cases, an arrest is not followed up with charges. But when it is, you will probably need a criminal defense attorney to help you avoid jail.
A criminal lawyer is there to protect your rights. If the police violated the Constitution while investigating the accusations, your lawyer can help you get the evidence excluded. The lawyer will advocate for your right to present your defense at trial and receive fair treatment from the court.
What Type of Lawyer Can Help an Older Client?
Elder law encompasses many issues that affect seniors including:
- Disability and pensions: Whether through a private insurer, employer or union policy, the VA, or Social Security, many Americans are entitled to payments when they retire or illnesses prevent them from working. An elder law attorney can help seniors fight for their benefits.
- Elder abuse: A lawyer can help with accusations that an elderly person is being abused by relatives, caretakers, nursing homes, or assisted living facilities.
What Type of Lawyer Can Help After a Boating Accident?
While less common than auto accidents, boating accidents do happen. Just like auto accidents, boating accidents might require a boating accident lawyer to help recover compensation for injuries.
The complication with boating accidents is that most states do not require boaters to carry liability insurance. Thus, where an auto accident claim would go to an insurer first, almost all boating accidents go straight to a lawsuit. This makes it necessary to consult a boating accident attorney after a boating accident.
If you think you’re in legal hot water, it’s important to contact the right professional for the job. Make sure you’re keeping this information in mind.