Carnegie Mellon University

Specialities in the Law

There are many different specialty (or “practice”) areas in U.S. law. Some of the more common areas are described below. When exploring options for a law career, keep in mind that one specialty area can often overlap with one or more others.

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

  • Administrative lawyers handle issues related to the administration and regulation of industries or professions and to compliance with laws administered by governmental agencies at the federal, state, county and local levels.
  • Antitrust lawyers work to ensure that antitrust laws are established and adhered to by large corporations. Their job is to protect the consumer while encouraging free commerce within the business arena. Individuals in this specialty can serve as courtroom litigators, regulatory advocates or business advisors.
  • The work of banking lawyers covers topics such as incorporation of banks, corporate and private lending, electronic banking and regulatory and corporate governance, financing and refinancing, international banking transactions, financial leasing, loans, taxation, government regulations and issues with an individual's bank. 
  • Depending on the nature of a case, bankruptcy lawyers represent creditors, debtors, individuals or businesses. The objective of these lawyers is to help bring back individuals or corporations from the brink of financial failure or to recover as much as possible for creditor clients in the wake of a bankruptcy filing.
  • Business litigation lawyers handle issues related to contracts, debts, antitrust and other commercial transactions. 
  • Civil litigation lawyers handle issues related to personal injuries, gross negligence, strict liability, defective product liability and malpractice. 
  • Civil rights lawyers are concerned primarily with four key areas regarding client rights: employment, education, housing and voting. Various groups are protected by civil rights laws and practice in this area usually means vindicating their rights by enforcement of the laws that prohibit discrimination. 
  • Commercial and corporate lawyers handle issues related to business entities, mergers, torts, contracts, copyrights, trademarks and property disputes.
  • Criminal lawyers handle issues related to misdemeanors such as drunken driving arrests; felonies such as assault, battery, rape and murder; and white collar crimes, such as when corporate executives face criminal prosecution for their conduct related to corporate activities.
  • Cyber lawyers address issues pertaining to the internet and internet-related technologies, providing legal protections to people using the internet. 
  • Disability lawyers represent and protect the interests of their clients under the accord of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines that have been established for employers, businesses, schools and other places of "public accommodation."
  • The issues that come before elder law attorneys can involve laws concerning real estate, health insurance, pension plans, Social Security benefits, trusts, estates, taxation and possibly divorce. Elder lawyers work to ensure that the rights of their clients are not violated in any scenario.
  • Employment lawyers handle issues related to unions, compliance with discrimination laws, equal pay laws, employment contracts, unfair labor practices and family leave.
  • Entertainment and sports lawyers work to get the most out of contract negotiations for their clients. Their job requires intense research to discern competitive salaries and bonuses in preparation for negotiating such contracts. In addition, these lawyers often deal with issues involving taxation, probate law, domestic law (paternity, divorce and pre-nuptial agreements), intellectual property, criminal law, real estate law and business law, among others. Entertainment and sports lawyers also must understand the processes and requirements of collective bargaining agreements (or union rules in the arts), worker's compensation issues, grievance procedures, possible adjudication of fines and conflicts of interest with team, product and management.
  • Environmental lawyers handle issues related to compliance with and litigation arising out of federal and state environmental laws. 
  • Family lawyers handle issues related to wills and estate planning, child custody, adoption, divorce, prenuptial contracts and child support.
  • Healthcare lawyers handle issues related to the administration of medical practices. Individuals practicing health law can work for a variety of practices dealing with the following legal concerns: antitrust, regulatory issues, tort reform, contract negotiations, government practices, etc. 
  • Immigration lawyers handle issues related to deportation, applying for entry and the employment of illegal and/or legal residents. 
  • Intellectual property and patent lawyers handle issues related to copyrights, trademarks and patents.
  • Insurance law covers legal representation on insurance issues. Attorneys in this field can be found working for large or small firms, or in-house for insurance agencies. They handle regulatory and compliance issues, insurance coverage disputes for individuals or groups, disputes between brokers and agents and litigation, as needed.
  • International lawyers handle issues related to compliance with federal statutes and treaties (including the relatively new subfield of “space law” [national and international laws governing activities in outer space]). 
  • Maritime lawyers specialize in aspects of marine industry on the whole, including compensation for seamen who have been injured, claims for compensation for accidents that have occurred when ships collide and issues relating to events occurring on the oceans and the seas.
  • Lawyers specializing in national security law work in both the public or private sector addressing issues such as administrative regulations, management plans, anti-terrorism programs and terrorism response plans and the reworking of government statutes.
  • Personal injury lawyers work to defend the rights of individuals who have been injured. Injury can come by many means: slip and fall accidents, animal bites, incorrect dosing of prescriptions, automobile accidents, medical malpractice and more. Some attorneys in this specialty work solely within the realms of medical malpractice, worker's compensation, nursing home liability claims, product liability suits or on class action lawsuits. 
  • Privacy law is a specialty that has emerged in both the private and public sectors with the advent of the Internet and its free-flow nature of information transmittal and sharing. In corporations, privacy lawyers provide legal counsel about the security of company data, the handling of personal information about workers, and the management of information pertaining to their customers. In the public sector, privacy lawyers address issues pertaining to the use of information by financial institutions.
  • Real estate lawyers handle issues related to the purchase, sale, use and financing of property.
  • Practitioners of securities law (involving stocks, bonds, and similar instruments from a legal perspective) find their work broken down into three general areas: transactions, regulatory, and litigation. Lawyers on the transactional side may work with mutual fund development, mergers and acquisitions, initial public offerings, and so on. Several regulatory groups, such as the federal Securities and Exchange Commission, the New York Stock Exchange and the National Association of Securities Dealers, will keep attorneys working in this niche quite busy as they are involved with sorting out and dealing with the various state and federal laws designed to protect investors. Litigators will find work in the criminal and civil arenas at both state and federal levels.
  • Tax lawyers deal with the constitutional, common-law, statutory, tax treaty and regulatory rules that constitute the law applicable to taxation.