The different types of lawyers, and picking what’s right for you

There are lots of different types of lawyers. But which one is right for you?

You may be a little overwhelmed at how much variation there appears to be in the legal sector. After all, for every kind of law, there is an entire legal industry built around, in need of specialist lawyers.

So, with the aid of our expert academics in the School of Law, we’ve mapped out a mix of different types of lawyers, so you can see the vast amount of variety in career choices ahead of you, and can start to think ahead in terms of our module choice in the future.

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Civil litigation

A civil litigation lawyer is a mediator. They are involved in trials that aren’t concerned with criminal charges – instead, they are involves with cases where two or more parties are in dispute about an issue, and a trial has been organised to seek an outcome.

Civil litigation is a very wide discipline, as the disputes they try to resolve are almost infinite in their variety. Civil litigation lawyers therefore require a good all round background and knowledge of law.

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Helpful modules

  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (Option module, second year) – Law, Law with American Legal Studies, Law with Criminology
Corporate law

Corporate lawyers deal with legal matters concerning businesses. This can cover a very wide range of issues, from claims against businesses from the public, to overseeing mergers and acquisitions between companies.

Corporate lawyers are also somewhat distinct as they can both operate within law firms, or from within the businesses themselves as part of an in-house legal team. Small companies will likely seek out private law firms to represent them, whereas large firms will employ their own lawyers who are entrusted to have a better in-depth knowledge of the whole company.

Our Law with Business degree is an ideal starting point for a career in corporate law, as it will give you a balance of legal knowledge and insight into the day to day running of a business.

Helpful modules

  • Law of Contract (Core module, first year) – All courses
  • Company Law (Option module, second year) – Law, Law with American Legal Studies, Law with Criminology
Criminal law

One of the most common types of law, a criminal law lawyer will work on cases that involve criminal charges. They can work on behalf of defendants, and on behalf of the crown as a prosecution lawyer.  

As criminal law covers everything from minor traffic violations to murder, there are lots of sub-specialisations within the sector, and criminal law lawyers can work everywhere from small local courts all the way up to crown courts.

Our Law with Criminology degree can not only give you a solid legal foundation, but also allow you to look into the theories behind crime, giving you a balanced view of both sides of criminal law.

Helpful modules

  • Criminal Law (Core module, first year) – All courses
Employment law

As opposed to a corporate lawyer, who are concerned with cases that deal with claims and complaints from outside the company, employment lawyers focus on cases involving employees and employers.

These cases could stem from issues with pay, wrongful dismissal, or health and safety negligence. One similarity employment lawyers and corporate lawyers do share is that they can both work for either a private firm or in-house for the employers.

Helpful modules

  • Employment Law (Option module, second year) – Law, Law with American Legal Studies, Law with Criminology
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Family law

Issues between family members can be tricky to resolve, so family lawyers are highly specialised. As most cases are born from break-ups between couples, it can be an emotionally charged sector.

Divorce is a main component of the work family lawyers deal with, but in itself divorce can also involve aspects of property law, finance law and child custody. Family law also covers matters surrounding adoption. It therefore requires a good overall knowledge of law.

Helpful modules

  • Family Law (Option module, final year) – Law
Human rights

Human rights lawyers are on the front line of ensuring that society remains equal and just for everyone, in-line with the Human Rights Act 1998.

This broad job description means that human rights lawyers cover subjects as varied as prisoner rights and freedom of speech to discrimination and hate crimes. Internationally, this sector can also cover lobbying against governments that are believed to be committing human rights violations.

A cause close to our hearts here at Birmingham City University School of Law, our Centre for Human Rights have worked alongside the UN and the EU on human rights issues across the world.

Intellectual property

With new inventions popping up left, right and centre in today’s world, intellectual property law, or IP law, is an ever-growing field. Intellectual property lawyers are concerned with the protection of these bold new ideas.

Day-to-day, they will work to patent or trademarks new inventions, ranging from new pieces of technology to song lyrics. Intellectual property lawyers can also register complaints if IPs are copied by other parties.

Helpful modules

  • Intellectual Property Law (Option module, final year) – Law
Personal injury

Injuries are an everyday part of life. But personal injury lawyers step in when injuries are more than just bumps and bruises. They work on cases that involve injuries sustained during accidents, whether at home, at work or in public.

Similar to lawyers who specialise in personal injury, clinical negligence lawyers work with cases that involve injuries that occur whilst under medical care. This can include botched surgeries, misdiagnosis, and complications during childbirth.

Helpful modules

  • Medical Law and Ethics (Option module, second year) – All courses
Property law

Property Lawyers cover matters relating to both land and the properties built on it.

This can involve buying and selling. Private and retail. Tiny plots of land and huge estates. Property law does stretch to cover a lot of sizes and scales, and often plays a part in other sectors such as corporate law, family law and finance law.

Helpful modules

  • Land Law (Core module, second year) – All courses
Wills and probate

Working with clients to ensure they and their family know what happens to them after they die can help to relieve them of a lot of stress. Wills and probate lawyers, also called estate lawyers, help to draft wills that commit a person’s final wishes to law.

Inheritance is also a large part of this, and wills and probate lawyers can also be drafted in when inheritance is disputed. Estate lawyers also manage the reallocation of debts owed by the deceased.

 Helpful modules

  • Equity and the Law of Trusts (Core module, final year) – All courses

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