Dreaming of a career in law but not sure what the role of a lawyer is really like? Feeling like the stereotypical image of a lawyer doesn’t appeal to you? Wondering what the different types of lawyers in Australia are?
Well, you’re in the right place as we’re here to show you how many diverse roles the legal industry offers with our list of 14 different types of lawyers.
Let’s start exploring your future career!
Bankruptcy | Community | Corporate | Criminal | Employment
Environmental | Family | Immigration | Intellectual Property | Media
Personal Injury | Pro Bono | Property | Tax
How do you end up in a career as a lawyer?
The path to becoming a lawyer most commonly begins with completing a Bachelor of Laws, which usually runs for four years. Alternatively, you can gain admission to legal practice as a graduate via a Juris Doctor program.
Once you’ve finished your legal degree, the next step is to undertake supervised Practical Legal Training (PLT) to gain some real-world experience for the workplace.
To be admitted as a practising lawyer, you need to apply at your relevant state’s admission authority and choose whether you would like to practise as a barrister or solicitor. Once you’ve been admitted, your career as a lawyer begins. That wasn’t too hard after all!
Here are some universities offering law degrees you may want to consider:
Whether representing debtors or creditors, bankruptcy lawyers seek to support individuals and organisations in debt resolution.
If you’re in a dire financial situation and fear that bankruptcy is in the future, a bankruptcy lawyer will be able to intervene and provide legal guidance. They provide advice on options best suited for the circumstances, whether through debt settlement, a repayment plan, or filing for bankruptcy.
This is a role that can be quite emotionally straining. You will be dealing with clients experiencing an intense period of stress, often stemming from credit card debt, medical debt, and mortgage foreclosure. However, you can rest assured that your job will grant your clients the best outcome from their financial difficulties.
Connected with pro bono work, community lawyers work in either general or specialist independent, non-government organisations. As a community layer, you will support community members facing economic hardship and discrimination by providing services like advice and referrals, legal education and representation in special cases for no cost or a reduced cost.
General community legal centres, such as the Marrickville Legal Centre, assist with a range of issues, including family law, employment, consumer rights and housing. Specialist legal centres, such as Women’s Legal Service NSW, focus on particular areas of law like disability discrimination, welfare rights, immigration and refugees.
While the image of a corporate lawyer in a pristine suit carrying a shiny briefcase is pretty easy to imagine, their actual role might be a little less clear. Corporate law is an incredibly diverse area that deals with legal issues that arise from commercial transactions.
A corporate lawyer advises commercial clients of their legal rights, responsibilities, and duties to ensure that they are fulfilling their business obligations. This can look like reviewing, drafting and negotiating contracts, assessing partnerships, selling company stock to investors, and merging a company with other businesses.
The type of lawyer that you’re probably most familiar with from crime shows and films, criminal lawyers play a critical role in the administration of justice by defending the interests of people who have been accused of crimes.
Criminal lawyers may work in the public or private sector. Their primary responsibilities are to provide legal advice to their clients, build a defence, develop a case strategy and advocate for the defendant at court.
You will be handling a diverse range of criminal cases at the local, state, and federal levels, and you must ensure that your client’s rights are protected in the interest of justice. As such, being a criminal lawyer is an incredibly challenging yet rewarding role!
As an employment lawyer, you will play an essential role in protecting the rights and duties of both employers and employees to ensure fair and equitable working conditions.
Heavily involved with labour law, the responsibilities of an employment lawyer commonly concern workplace disputes arising from unfair dismissal, harassment, discrimination, underpayment, and breach of contracts for employees. If you’re working with an employer or business, you will provide legal advice relating to matters such as drafting and negotiating employment, performance management, award compliance, termination processes and workplace investigations.
For anyone passionate about natural resource management and sustainability, becoming an environmental lawyer is the perfect role to advocate for protecting communities and the environment. Environmental law is a broad field of law and legislation that handles legal areas involving biodiversity, heritage and cultural protection, natural resource management, and emerging issues such as climate change.
As an environmental lawyer, you may work for environmental advocacy organisations, not-for-profit organisations, government, or private practices to develop environmental legal strategies, reform the law, and advise and represent clients in court.
If you’re looking for a role where you can work with legal issues concerning domestic relationships, family Law is an emotionally charged, interpersonal and highly varied career option. Family lawyers provide legal advice and represent clients in court concerning several family disputes, including divorce, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements, and child custody.
As you will be facing vulnerable issues involving the breakdown of relationships, your primary concern as a family lawyer is the welfare of children. Your key responsibility is to attempt to resolve legal matters outside of court through negotiation and alternative dispute resolution, requiring you to be empathetic and remain professional in the face of emotionally unpredictable situations.
If you’re looking for a rewarding career that makes a significant social difference, becoming an immigration lawyer is a great way to work directly with human rights issues and international law. As an immigration lawyer, you will provide counsel and even represent immigrant clients in court to guide them through the complicated immigration process.
Your primary responsibilities will involve advising clients on their legal rights and obligations, reviewing and interpreting legislation and providing guidance on visa applications, citizenship and naturalisation.
Immigration lawyers can be found in various legal settings in the private and public sectors and through the government. Considering the vulnerable nature of immigration issues, many immigration lawyers work in non-profit organisations to help provide clients with essential legal assistance that they would otherwise be unable to afford.
Intellectual Property Lawyer
One of the fastest-growing and highest-paying areas of law, intellectual property law involves the protection and management of intellectual capital of owners of creative works, including businesses, inventors, and musicians. As an intellectual property lawyer, you will advise clients on how best to assert ownership of their intangible assets and protect their intellectual capital using copyright, patents, brand protection, licensing and trademarks.
As an intellectual property lawyer, you can work in the private or public sectors, such as patent and trademark organisations. You may work with high-profile businesses intent on protecting their brands (remember Apple and Samsung!).
If representing big studios, networks, and stars sounds intriguing to you, becoming a media lawyer is a far-reaching area of law that often involves working with high-profile clients. This type of lawyer is often employed in-house at a media company, a law firm or for regulatory authorities and covers legal issues related to broadcasting, publishing, digital media, film, television, music and more.
As a media lawyer, you may work with contentious matters, such as copyright disputes, defamation, and libel. Non-contentious work includes drafting, reviewing and advising on contracts, negotiating talent agreements and providing ‘clearance’ advice for the use of images or music.
Personal Injury Lawyer
Specialising in tort law, personal injury lawyers are experts in helping their clients receive compensation after facing losses because of serious injuries. As a personal injury lawyer, you will be focussing on protecting your client’s legal rights and seeking damages in cases like automotive accidents, construction accidents, medical malpractice, slip and fall accidents, pedestrian accidents and more.
Your main responsibilities will involve investigating claims, gathering evidence, negotiating with insurance companies, and representing your client to recover the losses they’ve suffered because of their injury. These losses include medical bills, loss of income, emotional distress and loss of companionship.
There are many opportunities to specialise in this role. While the work process can be very time-consuming and challenging, it’s an extremely rewarding role that seeks to help injured individuals recover from their suffering.
Pro Bono Lawyer
Defined as ‘for the public good’, pro bono lawyers facilitate access to justice by working for free or at a reduced rate.
As a huge barrier for many clients in accessing legal services is their high costs, pro bono work relies on the charitable work of lawyers to support disadvantaged clients and promote the public interest. Matters that this type of lawyer covers usually involve criminal law, AVOs, divorce and immigration services
Also known as real estate lawyers, property lawyers provide legal counsel for commercial and residential property transactions. As a property lawyer, you will be representing individual buyers and sellers, landlords, tenants and property developers to draft documents, negotiate real estate deals and review sale transactions.
This role is highly non-contentious and is highly beneficial in assisting clients in avoiding potential risks or lawsuits when buying or selling property. As drafting and dealing with contracts make up a bulk of your work, you will need excellent negotiation skills, particularly when dealing with commercial clients.
While this type of lawyer may sound self-explanatory, tax lawyers work in a diverse number of employment areas and have more variety than you might expect! Working primarily with individuals, private groups or large corporations, tax lawyers provide legal advice to their clients to help navigate their tax affairs and understand their obligations to avoid any risks.
Tax laws are very complex and rapidly changing, so you can expect a lot of research to ensure you’re up to date with federal and state regulations. Interestingly, tax lawyers report the highest job satisfaction in legal practice, with less emotional stress and a greater work-life balance.
There you have it!
If law is a field you’d definitely like to pursue in the future, we hope our list of the different types of lawyers in Australia helps to narrow down your choice of specialisation! There’s so much to choose from, and it isn’t just confined to this list.
Ashley Sullivan is a Content Writer for Art of Smart Education and is currently undertaking a double degree in Communications (Journalism) and a Bachelor of Laws at UTS. Ashley’s articles have been published in The Comma and Central News. She is a film, fashion and fiction enthusiast who enjoys learning about philosophy, psychology and unsolved mysteries in her spare time.