22 Fields of Law To Consider (Careers and Average Salaries)

By Indeed Editorial Team

November 23, 2021

If you considering a career as a lawyer or another legal professional, you have several options based on the type of cases and clients you’d like to handle. In this article, we explore 22 of the main fields of law, what each specialty requires, applicable legal careers and their average salaries to help you find the right fit for your legal career.

Related: 10 Jobs You Can Find in Law Offices

The most common fields of law

Here are seven of the most common areas of law to consider if you want an in-demand career in the legal field, along with related legal positions and their average salaries. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the national average salary link for each job title below.

1. Bankruptcy law

Legal professionals specializing in bankruptcy law serve as representatives of “debtors”—those who have incurred debt—or “creditors”—those owed debt. A debtor might file for bankruptcy if they cannot pay back their debt to their creditor(s). Bankruptcy lawyers often spend most of their time drafting motions and reviewing financial documents outside the courtroom. You can prepare for a career in this area of law by taking courses in:

  • Securities

  • Corporations

  • Tax law

  • Contracts

  • Consumer finance

  • Bankruptcy law

Bankruptcy paralegal

National average salary: $46,189 per year

Primary duties: Bankruptcy paralegals often work for private law firms that represent organizations and individuals facing bankruptcy, but you can also find employment with creditors, like mortgage companies and banks. As a bankruptcy paralegal, you're responsible for things like conducting legal research, developing and filing bankruptcy documents, interviewing clients and retrieving credit reports.

Related: Everything You Need To Know About Working as a Paralegal

2. Corporate law

Sometimes referred to as “commercial or business law,” corporate law is a broad area that focuses on the legal issues that affect businesses. This specialization primarily focuses on forming, managing and dissolving commercial transactions, acquisitions, mergers and different types of business. Corporate lawyers typically work directly for organizations or in larger law firms. Those interested in this area of law should consider taking courses in:

  • Employment law

  • Contract law

  • Real estate law

  • Bankruptcy law

  • Intellectual property law

  • Tax law

Associate attorney

National average salary: $78,826 per year

Primary duties: An associate attorney is an entry-level role usually employed at law firms. They assist in selecting juries, represent clients in court, help clients negotiate contracts or settle corporate disputes. Associate attorneys can be employed in different types of law, including corporate, real estate, family or copyright cases.

Corporate paralegal

National average salary: $68,406 per year

Primary duties: Corporate paralegals are typically responsible for conducting legal research, helping with the necessary paperwork for regulatory bodies, developing and distributing annual reports, creating contracts and drafting important organizational documents.

Corporate counsel

National average salary: $137,326 per year

Primary duties: A corporate counsel, also referred to as an “in-house counselor,” is a lawyer that works directly for one organization or business. In this position, you would provide legal services, advice and protection to an entire organization, including its employees.

Corporate lawyer

National average salary: $250,028 per year

Primary duties: Corporate lawyers specialize in commercial law and can work on an organization's legal team or in a law firm. Some of their primary responsibilities include representing a company during legal proceedings, negotiating deals, evaluating business partnerships and drafting legal documents for court proceedings.

Read more: 12 Highest Paying Jobs for Lawyers

3. Employment and labor law

This area of law focuses on legal issues that impact both workers and employers. Legal professionals in this specialty may represent a government agency, government employees, a business, a union, union workers, job applicants, a single employee or a group of employees. Some of the most common issues they address include:

  • Discrimination due to disability, age, sexual orientation, gender or race

  • Sexual harassment

  • Workplace safety

  • The right to unionize

  • Child labor laws

  • Unlawful terminations

  • Disputes over wages

If you're interested in working in this field, you can prepare for your career by taking courses that relate to employment law, such as public interest law, social justice, business law, public law and labor law.

Employment lawyer

National average salary: $141,753 per year

Primary duties: Employment attorneys represent either employers or employees in legal proceedings that involve the workplace, such as contract disagreements, benefit claims, pension disputes or unemployment cases. They use their expertise in employment law to offer their clients advice and advocacy. Additionally, employment lawyers will commonly represent employees in discrimination cases.

Employment law associate

National average salary: $88,677 per year

Primary duties: Employment law associates work with both employers and employees to provide support and counsel on the state and federal employment laws. These attorneys typically help employers ensure their workplaces are in compliance with these employment laws and that all employees are treated fairly and consistently.

4. Family and juvenile law

Family law is concerned with the relationships between people and their families, including prenuptial agreements, divorce, domestic abuse, child support, adoption and child welfare proceedings. Most family lawyers work in smaller law firms or sometimes might practice law independently. It's often beneficial to study things like:

  • Child custody

  • Divorce procedures

  • Mediation

  • Conflict resolution

Family law paralegal

National average salary: $62,394 per year

Primary duties: Because family law encompasses such a wide range of legal issues, the role of family law paralegals can vary based on the lawyer they work with and the specific case they're working on. They can work for government agencies that handle domestic matters or in small family law firms. In this profession, your duties may include drafting custody agreements and protective orders for social service agencies, determining and arranging court-ordered child support or arranging the immigration process for international adoptions.

Family lawyer

National average salary: $78,235 per year

Primary duties: Family lawyers manage legal issues that concern members of a single family, such as emancipation, guardianship, adoption and divorce cases. They provide their clients with legal advice, serve as mediators and manage family estates.

5. Immigration law

This area of law generally relates to international relocation, regardless of whether it's temporary or permanent, of individuals and obtainment of citizenship. Immigration lawyers typically work for private law firms that specialize in immigration, nonprofit organizations or government agencies. If you're considering a legal career in immigration, you could benefit from key courses, such as:

  • Refugee law and policy

  • International human rights

  • Employment discrimination

  • Constitutional law

  • Administrative law

Immigration paralegal

National average salary: $47,562 per year

Primary duties: Immigration paralegals can work to help clients become naturalized citizens or legal residents, or, conversely, for government agencies that deport illegal residents.

Bilingualism is a valued skill that allows paralegals to communicate with clients. Aside from communicating with clients, immigration paralegals prepare deportation paperwork, coordinate necessary citizenship or immigration documents and research and obtain international documentation, such as passports and visas, and translate paperwork.

Immigration lawyer

National average salary: $71,658 per year

Primary duties: Though some legal issues require a court appearance, most immigration lawyers perform their duties outside of a courtroom. These legal professionals guide clients through the immigration process, prepare and file the documents necessary during the immigration process and help companies obtain work visas for international employees.

6. Intellectual property law

Intellectual law deals with an individual or company's legal rights when it comes to inventions or other creative works. Within this legal area, there are several subcategories:

  • Patent law: This is the area of law that governs discoveries and inventions.

  • Trademark law: Trademark law relates to logos and brand names.

  • Copyright law: This area governs artistic works, such as movies, music and books.

Because of the need for technical knowledge, many patent lawyers have a background in technology or science. Additionally, patent lawyers are required to take and pass the Patent Bar exam.

Intellectual property lawyer

National average salary: $126,930 per year

Primary duties: An intellectual property lawyer is hired to help an individual client or company on issues related to intellectual property rights and trademarks. They can consult with a client who believes someone has used their intellectual property without obtaining proper copyrights, or they can be hired to help someone who wants to use the intellectual property or trademark belonging to a company.

Intellectual property paralegal

National average salary: $68,482 per year

Primary duties: Intellectual property (IP) paralegals help practicing IP attorneys perform duties for their clients. The responsibilities associated with this role can vary based on the type of lawyer you work for, but you might draft and file documents for the United States Patent and Trademark Office or secure copyrights for clients.

Patent lawyer

National average salary: $152,828 per year

Primary duties: Patent attorneys deal specifically with the processes and legal implications surrounding patenting intellectual property. Typically, patent attorneys help inventors prepare, file and submit their patent applications. If another individual or entity tries to infringe upon a patent attorney's client's patent, the attorney assists the client in raising a lawsuit against them.

Trademark paralegal

National average salary: $84,348 per year

Primary duties: A trademark paralegal works for a trademark attorney and is responsible for helping clients file claims for names and logos. They are responsible for assisting trademark attorneys in the creation of courtroom cases against an individual or company who stole a trademark from their client.

7. Personal injury law

Personal injury law focuses on legal issues where individuals claim they sustained psychological or physical damage due to the intentional actions or negligence of an entity or another person. Legal professionals in this field often work on cases involving workplace injury, wrongful death, product liability, automobile collisions or medical malpractice. Before you begin a career in this area, you should become familiar with tort law, which is focused on acts that, though harmful, aren't necessarily illegal.

Personal injury lawyer

National average salary: $68,798 per year

Primary duties: Personal injury lawyers provide their clients with legal expertise, prepare and file legal complaints and represent their clients in personal injury cases. In most cases, these professionals focus on obtaining justice and compensation for their client, the injured party. Personal injury lawyers can choose to further their specialization by developing expertise in certain types of cases.

Personal injury paralegal

National average salary: $62,369 per year

Primary duties: Within this area of law, a personal injury paralegal can specialize in either plaintiff or defendant personal injury. Responsibilities can vary depending on the chosen specialty, but you may interview clients, gather medical reports, obtain insurance information, help prepare settlement demands or review witness or police reports.

15 additional areas of law

Some areas of the law may not be as common, but they are equally important. Other areas of law include:

1. Animal law

The study and practice of law as it relates to animals is known as animal law. Within this legal specialty, you can work for a law firm or an animal rights organization as an animal rights lawyer. Animal rights lawyers often use their legal expertise to defend the rights of animals, represent animal rights activists and challenge those that exploit animals. This includes protecting endangered species and exposing inhumane animal practices.

2. Banking and finance law

Banking and finance law focuses on banks, lending institutions and other financial providers. If you choose this field, you may work as an in-house counsel for a financial institution, credit union or a banking and finance law firm.

3. Civil rights

Civil rights law focuses on the balance between individual liberties and governmental powers. Some lawyers specialize in this field specifically, while others work in other fields and take on occasional civil rights cases for free, or pro bono, as a way to give back. Civil rights attorneys who work in this area full-time often find employment with large law firms, public interest law firms or nonprofit organizations. Cases may include housing discrimination, police brutality and voting, religious or First Amendment rights.

4. Constitutional law

Constitutional law focuses on the interpretation, adherence and amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Lawyers may practice privately or for law firms. For most, the highest achievement would be to argue a case before the Supreme Court.

5. Criminal law

Criminal law relates to fundamental legal issues and the personal liberties of citizens. Within this field, there are criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors. Criminal defense attorneys represent individuals accused of committing a crime, while prosecutors and district attorneys represent the state or federal government.

6. Education law

Education law generally focuses on laws according to educational agencies and school districts. Most education lawyers represent the parents of children who have a case against an institution or school district. Some of the common focus areas within this specialty include special education law, student discipline, education policies, tuition fraud, issues with personnel and student residency.

7. Elder law

Elder law is growing in demand as Baby Boomers reach retirement age and need their rights protected. Elder law focuses on protecting the rights of vulnerable elders regarding insurance, wills, estate planning, guardianship and more.

8. Entertainment law

Though it's closely related to intellectual property law, entertainment law focuses specifically on the royalties and rights issued in athletics, cinema, television, music and the arts. Because these areas are so vastly different, attorneys in this field often distinguish themselves as entertainment or sports lawyers.

9. Environmental and natural resources law

Environmental law is concerned with transnational, federal and state laws, conventions, regulations, treaties and statutes that involve the preservation and management of natural resources. Legal professionals in this area of law often work for individuals, advocacy organizations or government agencies. An environmental law attorney may deal with air and water quality, mining, deforestation and pollution.

10. Health law

Health law focuses on health care-related legislation. Because the health care industry is such a rapidly developing field, health law has had to evolve just as quickly. Attorneys in this specialty can represent health practitioners, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, academic institutions, health facilities or patients. Additionally, the federal government hires health lawyers to supervise the development, implementation and enforcement of health care policies.

11. International law

International law is a broad legal area with public and private sectors. While international lawyers in the public sector take on cases between nations, private sector international lawyers work in the trade and finance divisions of large corporations.

12. Military law

Military law is an area of law that focuses on the governing procedures and codes of the armed forces, also known as the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Legal professionals in this field are usually members of the military and serve in the Judge Advocate General's Corps.

13. Municipal law

Municipal laws are specific to municipalities, counties and cities. The government bodies within a municipality govern property taxes, education policies, zoning and police power. In many cases, municipal law attorneys are hired by and represent the municipality.

14. Real estate law

Real estate law focuses on land or construction ownership, development, litigation, tenant rights or landlord disputes. Real estate lawyers may work on residential or commercial transactions, review contracts or work in planning and other government offices.

15. Tax law

Tax law is also known as “revenue law.” Lawyers in this area primarily work to help clients reduce tax liabilities. Others work to ensure local, state, federal and international laws are followed. As a lawyer in this field, you may work for individuals, corporations or businesses.

Related: 20 Legal Career Opportunities

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