Thinking about the type of lawyer you will need for your case can be daunting. Since there are many different fields of law and many different levels of government, it can be difficult to determine what type of lawyer you may need. This article breaks it down for you.

Criminal Law

Crimes are illegal conduct prohibited by state or federal laws, punishable by fines, probation, and/or imprisonment. Offenses are typically categorized as infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies. Criminal cases usually involve a prosecutor and the charged criminal defendant. Simple matters, such as infractions or traffic violations that would result in only a fine, may be handled without a lawyer. However, cases with potentially more severe punishments should be handled by a lawyer, such as certain traffic violations that may result in the temporary loss of a driver’s license.

In more serious cases that may lead to a greater loss of rights, a lawyer is greatly recommended, if not necessary. For example, pleading guilty to certain charges, even just misdemeanor charges, may carry detrimental consequences later on. A non-citizen’s guilty plea can subsequently impact immigration status or lead to deportation. Moreover, when you are facing possible jail time, you may not be able to work, resulting in the loss of your job and/or income. Keep in mind that in many jurisdictions if you cannot afford a lawyer (which usually requires a showing of financial indigence), the court will appoint you one, depending on the type of criminal case.

Civil Law

Civil law encompasses a wide range of practice areas usually dealing with private matters that include both litigation (suing another person) and transactions (for example, facilitating business deals). Litigated civil matters often involve contractual disputes in business, real estate, and personal transactions. Unlike criminal cases, the parties may only recover monetary or injunctive (court orders a party to do or refrain from doing something) relief.

Civil law includes almost every non-criminal law matter. Personal injury suits, wherein one party is injured because of an accident or defective product, are civil law suits. Evictions are also civil matters because they concern a dispute between two private parties – the landlord and tenant. Civil litigation can be very complicated and messy. Failure to properly follow the rules can lead to monetary sanctions or even dismissal of your case, which is why it is helpful to have a lawyer.

Even in a transactional setting, a lawyer can be beneficial, such as drafting a contract in a way that will help you avoid major problems down the road. The purchase of real estate, business, or creation of a copyright or trademark will likely involve the expertise of an attorney.

Family Law

Family law, as the name suggests, involves family matters, which usually include marriage, divorce, adoption, establishing parentage, child support, and custody. Most of the time, marriages do not require the services of a lawyer. However, prenuptial agreements should be reviewed by a lawyer, and in certain states, it is required (unless expressly waived) that a person is represented before signing. Divorce can be potentially devastating financially and emotionally if not properly handled, especially if children are involved. A lawyer can advise you as to what you are entitled to. Without a lawyer, you might end up paying an unfair share of alimony or child support, or inadvertently waive your right to alimony or give up custody of or visitation rights to your children.

Probate and Estate Planning

Probate deals with the distribution of the property of a decedent (person that died) after his or her death under court supervision. Probate also deals with guardianship (adult appointed to care for a child or the child’s property), emancipation (a minor is granted some rights of an adult, such as signing contracts), and conservatorship (a person is appointed to care for another adult who cannot care for himself or herself).

Estate planning usually involves the drafting of wills and trusts to prepare for the distribution of a person’s property in the event of his or her death. A lawyer is highly recommended in dealing with these matters, especially if significant assets and finances are involved. For example, a poorly drafted will could lead to your property being transferred to the wrong person. Moreover, if you are a beneficiary of a will and another beneficiary contests your inheritance, you may be left with nothing.

Where Can I Find the Right Lawyer?

Now that you have an idea about the type of lawyer needed for your case, find the right one here today.