A law degree can open the door to a wide variety of careers. Lawyers play an
important role in society through the practice of law, which encompasses a
multitude of activities. A strong education in law school also provides the
ability to pursue employment opportunities outside of the legal profession in
areas such as politics and business.
Types of Legal Practice
The practice of law takes several forms. The ways in which lawyers apply
their expertise can be broadly categorized into the following practice types:
Private Practice: involves working alone or with
partners in a firm to provide legal services to clients (individuals or
corporations); some lawyers specialize in one or more practice areas while
others engage in general practice.
Public Interest Law: serves low-income individuals,
marginalized groups and social causes; practitioners may work for advocacy
groups, legal aid clinics and other organizations with the goal of advancing
an interest of the public.
Government Counsel: governments hire lawyers for legal
advice and representation; lawyers directly employed by the government may
work for ministries, government agencies and crown corporations.
Corporate Counsel: corporations can employ lawyers as
in-house counsel; an in-house counsel works for a single company to advise
on legal matters related to its business activities.
Practice Areas (Specializations)
The law impacts our lives in numerous ways, so naturally the legal profession
covers many fields and allows for a variety of law careers. There are many types
of lawyers - some practice in all areas of the law, while others choose to
specialize. Here are some areas of specialization in law:
Administrative: branch of public law dealing with the
relationship between individuals and the government; regulates the power of
governmental administrative agencies and ensures fair implementation and
administration of laws.
Civil Litigation: involves a lawsuit resulting from a
dispute between private parties (individuals or corporations); civil
litigation is concerned with matters such as breach of contract, debt
collection, malpractice and personal injury.
Constitutional: branch of public law dealing with
powers of the federal government and the division of powers between the
federal and provincial governments; constitutional lawyers handle issues
such as equality rights, freedom of expression, security and democratic
Corporate and Commercial: deals with the formation and
maintenance of businesses; corporate and commercial lawyers handle
contracts, liability, mergers, structured financings and other business
Criminal: governs crimes against the public and members
of the public (as opposed to civil litigation which deals with private
disputes); a criminal lawyer may work for the government as a prosecutor or
represent the accused person as a defense lawyer.
Environmental: legislation and regulations relating to
the interaction of humans with the environment; environmental lawyers deal
with matters such as air pollution, wilderness preservation and waste
Family: applies to legal relationships between family
members; issues in family law include marriage contracts, divorce, child
custody, adoption, wills and estate planning.
Immigration: federal laws control the entry of
non-citizens into the country; immigration lawyers assist clients in
applying for entry, residing in the country and becoming citizens.
Intellectual Property: intellectual property refers to
the ownership rights to certain kinds of creative endeavors; intellectual
property law protects ownership through copyrights, patents, trademarks and
industrial design registrations.
International: governs the interactions and
relationships between nations; international lawyers may be hired by
national governments and international organizations, or work in the private
sector focusing on the interpretation of treaties and related laws.
Labor and Employment: defines the rights and
obligations of employers, workers and union members; lawyers may advise
management, labor or government on issues such as employment standards,
workplace health and safety, and industrial relations.
Real Estate: deals with the purchase, sale, financing
and development of land and buildings; real estate lawyers may work for
developers, tenants, investors, banks or corporations on matters relating to
residential or commercial real estate.
Securities: regulates the purchase and sale of
securities (financial instruments such as stocks and bonds); securities
lawyers typically work in law firms providing services to corporations and
financial institutions or for governmental commissions focusing on
Tax: deals with the taxes levied by different levels of
government; tax lawyers may advise corporations on tax strategies and
implications of business transactions, or counsel individuals on matters
such as legal wills and estate planning.
Other Areas: in addition to the practice areas list
above, there are many other fields of specialization in the legal profession
(antitrust, entertainment, health, municipal, sports, etc.).
Other Career Opportunities
The skills required for a law career can also be successfully employed in
other professions. Law school education is very versatile and some students
decide to pursue alternative careers upon graduation. Even lawyers who have been
practicing for several years sometimes transition into other careers.
A law degree can enable entry into many careers outside of the legal
profession, including the following:
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