Tinker, Taylor, Soldier… Lawyer?

In 2014, the Utah State Bar Association released an interesting report on the statistics for lawyers in Utah.  According to that report, no fewer than 9,054 lawyers were listed as “active” in the state – roughly one lawyer for every 325 Utah residents that year.  While these numbers have doubtless changed since 2014, the report nevertheless reveals how many lawyers a Utahn must sift through to find the right one for their particular situation.  Apart from wading through the countless advertisements, websites and reviews of the various lawyers and their firms, there is one basic and often overlooked first step to finding the right lawyer: identifying the specific type of lawyer whose services are needed.

                Lawyers, like members of most other professions, have specialties, each focusing on a particular type of law.  To help ensure that a client is looking for the right type of lawyer, a few of their specialties are examined in brevity here.  While this list is not comprehensive of all the various legal professions, it does include three of the more frequently sought out categories of attorneys: criminal defense attorneys, immigration attorneys and personal injury attorneys.


                The criminal defense attorney is perhaps the most iconic and dramatized of those members of the legal profession: probably due to shows like Matlock, these specialists are probably the first thing that pops into a person’s mind when they hear the word “lawyer.”  For all that, criminal defense attorneys represent only a percentage of attorneys in Utah, primarily handling the defense of individuals accused of criminal activity – no surprises there.  While many criminal defense attorneys are generalists within their field and handle all kinds of criminal defense cases, some specialize in particular areas of the criminal code, a few of which are elaborated below:

                Domestic Violence: Arguably one of the most emotionally arduous fields of the law, some criminal defense attorneys do indeed specialize in cases of domestic violence.  These cases can encompass everything from disorderly conduct to assault charges, and even murder.  Although not every case of assault or murder need necessarily involve a situation of domestic violence, for those that do, the criminal defense attorney with a focus on this area are usually well-versed in handling the secondary consequences of being charged with a case that involves domestic violence.  Protective orders, visitation rights and special sentencing requirements – to name a few – are all issues an attorney who specializes in domestic violence excels at handling.

                Sexual Abuse: A field that many might find awkward in the extreme, some criminal defense attorneys specialize in defending people who have been accused of some form of sexual abuse.  From molestation to outright rape, these attorneys have the experience and know-how to resolve with justice and equity a case that, by its name alone, invites extreme reactions and humiliating sentencing.  This becomes all the more significant in cases where the accused is innocent.

                Traffic Charges/DUIs: Though simple traffic tickets might not seem worth hiring a criminal defense attorney to handle, there are nevertheless some criminal defense attorneys who handle these cases.  Ranging from the speeding ticket to driving under the influence, these attorneys are experts at protecting a defendant’s driver’s license and avoiding potentially oppressive insurance escalations.  With so much of life today reliant on the automobile, it is no surprise that lawyers specializing in this field thrive.

                White Collar Crimes: Today’s cutthroat business world often entices people to act with questionable legal ethics; at its worst, this can result in criminal misconduct on a colossal scale, as seen in the Enron scandal of 2001.  Often involving extremely complex accounts and financial technicalities, attorneys who specialize in this field of crime are typically very detail oriented and have a high propensity towards catching what others might have missed.  Because some cases of white collar crime can involve enormous restitution amounts if a conviction is handed down, it is often worth involving the help of an attorney who specializes in this field.


                There is no getting around the fact that immigration laws in the United States have something of a dark history: from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to California’s Proposition 187, these laws have been riddled with racist overtones and outright bigotry.  While the immigration laws of today may or may not be regarded as more of the same, for any non-citizen who must confront such laws today, the immigration attorney is likely their greatest asset.

                Immigration attorneys specialize in all things having to do with that complex and often confounding body of law, from naturalization to the threat of imminent deportation.  Whether a person is looking to permanently migrate to the United States or simply acquire a temporary visa, the immigration attorney is invaluable.  Immigration attorneys are also sought out by naturalized citizens, often for the purpose of bringing family members or potential employees to the United States.  Ultimately, while some may balk at the prospect of overcoming the bureaucratic mountain that constitutes immigration law, the highly trained eye of the immigration attorney is often more than enough to overcome the obstacle.


                Personal injury attorneys focus on a particularly special body of law: compensation.  While many other attorneys specialize in fields that are inherently defensive in nature, the personal injury attorney is often retained to take the offensive.  Normally handling cases of physical, psychological or economic distress, the personal injury attorney focuses on bringing such injustices to the forefront in the courtroom.

                The sort of cases a personal injury attorney is qualified to handle are myriad: injuries related to defective commercial products, car accidents and medical malpractice – to name but a few – are all the purview of the personal injury attorney.  Moreover, and unlike most other attorneys, personal injury attorneys often work on a contingency basis; that is, they are compensated for their work by a percentage of the compensation awarded in the courtroom.  This means that these attorneys only make money from their efforts if they win a case, providing a great incentive for a victory.  As such, when a personal injury attorney decides to take a case, a client can be reasonably assured that they’ve got a winning cause.

                Although these three fields of specialist attorneys only represent a fraction of the vast world of legal professionals, they do offer a starting point for anyone looking to find the right type of lawyer for a case.  Because the choice of lawyer can make or break any case – be it one of criminal defense, immigration, personal injury or otherwise – it is better for all involved to spend time consulting with an attorney on a case which they are trained to handle.  To do otherwise would be akin to consulting a dentist on a heart condition – not the smartest investment!

Photo Courtesy of: Renjith Krishnan@freedigitalphotos.net

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