If you plan to study law, you’ll soon realize that it’s a vast and complex field with many areas to major in. Some of these law areas are very broad, encompassing other areas of law and disciplines. The goal is to expose law students to different areas of law before settling on specific niches.
The different areas of law cover various social structures. These include human interactions, politics, environment, education, employment, etc. Let’s talk about some of the major areas of law, and then you can decide which is your best fit.
1. Municipal Law
Municipal law is the regulations that apply only to a particular state or country. According to the Black’s Law Dictionary, municipal law is the laws and ordinances in force inside a city, municipality, or other local government organization. It’s the area of law that’s used inside a state and is divided into public and private law.
2. Public Law
This is a major branch of law that defines laws with a public element. It covers matters that concern the public other than private matters, such as criminal law, administrative law, and labor law. It involves cases where the state is likely to intervene. It’s an umbrella of many other areas of law, making it a wide area of law that many attorneys practice.
3. Private Law
Private law is another major branch of law that houses other different areas of law. It deals with domestic and personal issues such as inheritance and succession. The state does not intervene in cases under private law, as individuals institute the court proceedings. This area of law is mostly concerned with settling disputes between citizens. Most civil litigators practice this type of law.
4. Criminal Law
Criminal law also falls under the public law umbrella. It deals with offenses arising from acts prohibited by the state. Due to the presumption of innocence, the accused in a criminal proceeding is always deemed innocent until proven guilty. A criminal proceeding’s standard of proof is “beyond reasonable doubt,” while the “burden” of that proof is on the prosecution. Each defendant in a criminal offense has the right to a criminal lawyer who defends them in a court proceeding. According to Salary.com, the average salary of a criminal lawyer is $96,678 as of May 25, 2023, with an average hourly wage of $46.
5. Civil Law
This is an area of legal practice under private law. It deals with personal disputes between individuals. Civil proceedings are instituted by individuals and not by the state. In a civil proceeding, the “standard of proof” is based on a “balance of probability.” The plaintiff bears the burden of that proof. Civil litigation lawyers work in various areas, such as family law and property disputes. A civil litigation lawyer receives an average annual salary of $ 136,788, according to Salary.com, with an average hourly wage of $66.
6. Substantive Law
This area of law defines the rights and obligations of the state and its citizens. It also creates and defines crimes and the causes of action that can be enforced by law, which, for instance, in criminal law, is the Penal Code. It also defines the rights and responsibilities of individuals in civil law.
7. Procedural Law
This area of law prescribes the procedure for enforcing one’s rights in a court of law, for example, in the Criminal Procedure Code. It covers the process in which substantive law is enforced. In this case, the created laws are known as substantive laws. However, one can’t enforce these laws without a certain procedure; hence procedural law is needed.
8. Administrative Law
This area of law places measures on administrative agencies as to how they conduct their activities and decisions. Administrative law also governs the interactions between individuals and administrative agencies. An example of an administrative agency is the Social Security Administration, which is responsible for administrating social security and benefits programs, such as Social Security Disability Insurance.
If a disabled person wants to apply for an SSDI, they don’t necessarily need an attorney. However, having a professional representative can boost their chances of getting an SSDI. It’s a good idea to hire SSDI attorneys or a disability benefits lawyer in this case. A social security disability attorney is paid an average hourly wage of $21.90. In contrast, disability benefits lawyers are paid contingency fees agreed upon with their clients if they sustain their claim.
9. Consumer Protection Law
Consumer protection law is among other areas of law that protect consumers from negligent, deceptive, or fraudulent business practices. It provides acts, statutes, and regulations that govern the relationship between businesses, consumers, and other third parties involved in the distribution of products.
To sustain a claim under this area of law, one has to prove that the defendants owed them a duty of care, that they breached that duty of care, and that the breach led to harm. They may also have to prove a breach of contractual obligations by the defendants if need be. Consumer protection lawyers may charge fees for providing legal advice, but when it comes to court proceedings, they charge contingency fees of about 30% on the settlement fees.
10. International Law
This law specialty regulates relations between independent states. It covers international trade, human rights, and dispute resolution between conflicting countries. International law attorneys mainly work for government agencies and organizations like the United Nations. The salaries of international law attorneys may vary from $124,778 to $ 155,415 per year in the United States.
11. Tort Law
This area of law is also known as personal injury law. A tort is an act or omission by the defendant that causes the claimant to suffer legal injury or harm amounting to a civil wrong, whose remedy is unliquidated damages. Tort law is a wide area of law that includes many other different areas of law. An example of a tort could be car accidents caused by the negligence of auto repair shops. In this case, since the auto repair shop is a third party involved in the auto accident, it might be difficult to sustain a claim. The plaintiff must prove that the auto repair shop was involved in fixing the car, that they were negligent in fixing it, and that the negligence led to the auto accident, causing damage. Accident lawyers mainly charge contingency fees of 33 % to 40%.
12. Electoral Law
This law discipline covers various areas involved in the electoral process. Electoral law, therefore, establishes how to conduct elections. This area of law was established to provide free and fair elections for all citizens who participate in the electoral process. It ensures that election disputes have a legal framework within which they can be addressed.
13. Family Law
Family law is another major area of legal practice. It falls under private law and deals with divorce, child custody, and adoption matters. Divorce lawyers practice this area of law when handling divorce and child custody cases. The average annual salary of a divorce lawyer in the U.S., according to Comparably.com, is $143,197. They mostly charge $3000 to $5000 to get started with the case and an additional hourly amount agreed upon with the client. When involved in a child custody case, each lawyer seeks to demonstrate that their client is best suited to take care of the child’s interests.
14. Constitutional Law
This is one of the different areas of law that deal with constitutionalism. It encompasses the interpretation and application of a country’s constitution. Constitutional Law deals with law principles, such as the doctrine of separation of powers, democracy, the rule of law, constitutionalism, and many other law principles. The constitution is a country’s supreme law, which the people create for the people. Constitutional law also covers the history of a constitution and how it was established.
15. Medical Law
Among the different areas of law, this one is special. It handles medical lawsuits and other medical malpractice claims. Medical law also establishes the rights of patients and the obligations of medical professionals to their patients.
The annual average salary of a medical lawyer is between $ 91,959 to $ 126,652, according to Salary.com. A family care doctor involved in a medical malpractice claim should seek a medical lawyer as they’re more informed on the medico-legal field.
A family care doctor is prone to a higher liability risk as there’s greater proximity in the doctor-patient relationship. To sustain a medical malpractice claim, they must prove that the physician owed a duty of care to the patient, which they breached, leading to an injury and causing damages. A medical malpractice lawyer receives a 30% to 35% contingency fee of the settlement fees.
16. Business Law
If you’re a business person, you’ll be interested in this law discipline. It governs business activities by providing a legal framework for establishing, financing, and managing businesses. It also provides a procedure for dissolving businesses. Business law also allows businesses to become a body or entity through corporations, which means businesses can sue or be sued. Business law also covers the taxation of businesses and the different degrees of liability for a sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation.
17. Employment Law
Of the different areas of law, employment law addresses the legal issues concerning the rights and obligations of employees. It protects employees’ rights by ensuring wage and hourly laws are followed, workers are provided with a proper working environment, and employees are protected from wrongful termination and discrimination.
A staffing agency is an intermediary between employees and employers. Staffing agencies ensure their employees enjoy their rights when working for their employers. Staffing agencies can be held liable for not ensuring that the employer meets their standard of care for employees. Even though they’re intermediaries, they have a relationship of proximity to their staffing employees.
18. Contract Law
This is an area of law dealing with disputes between individuals arising from failure to fulfill their contractual duties, the remedy for which is liquidated damages. Contract law establishes the rights and duties of each party, which aren’t created by law but by the parties themselves.
Contract law exists under the doctrine of privity to ensure that people can conduct agreements independently without the government intervening in their dealings. Some of the remedies pursued in a contract are specific performance and liquidated damages. Contract law is not punitive but compensatory, mainly geared at preventing other parties from facing harm due to the other party’s failure to fulfill their contractual duty.
19. Law of Succession
Of the different areas of law, the law of succession, also known as the inheritance law, deals with how a deceased person’s property is administered upon death. It covers estate taxes, wills, testaments, intestate and testate succession. It’s important to make a will to prevent potential conflicts among heirs. To do so, you’ll need the will services offered by an estate planning attorney, who may charge between $1000 to $3000, according to contractscounsel.com. A will documents how you wish your assets to be managed after death.
20. Environmental Law
This area of law deals with policies and rules that ensure the protection and conservation of the environment. It covers waste management, water quality, soil erosion, and air quality. Its sole aim is to ensure the preservation of the environment for future generations.
There’s a lot of truth in the oft-quoted saying that ignorance of the law isn’t a defense in a court of law. It’s your responsibility as a good citizen to upbraid yourself of your state’s existing laws. You can go one better and enroll to study one of the different areas of law. No matter what you choose, it’s impossible to ignore the critical importance of the law in society. Because of the existing laws, we have systems and structures that bring harmony and order to society. The security we enjoy and our humane daily interactions with each other wouldn’t be possible without the law. In the absence of law, we’ll have total chaos and anarchy. The good thing is that, as with life, the law is dynamic, and new laws are always being created while existing ones are constantly challenged. A career in any of the different areas of law is socially and financially rewarding since a law degree is one of the most prestigious.