Different Types of Lawyers and How they Work

When you choose to study law, you probably don’t have a sense of how many career possibilities there are within that field.

And then, during college, he discovers that there are all kinds of lawyers and he realizes that he has to choose which way to go.

To make this decision, seek out as much information as possible. After all, it’s one of those choices that will definitely affect your life.

Are you finishing college or just graduated and still don’t know where to take your career? To help you, we’ve prepared this article by introducing you to the main types of lawyers that exist and information about the job market for each of them. 

How did the law come about

It’s a profession with a long history. Some claim that the fathers of the law were the ancient Greeks, especially the rhetoricians, known for their oratory and persuasive skills.

Advocacy, as we know it today, emerged after the French Revolution, when the modern concept of law also emerged, supported by the principle of formal equality between men. The great milestone was the creation of the French Civil Code or Napoleonic Code.

Main Types of Lawyers

The list is long, reflecting the complexity of the field and profession. To make the matter less complicated, we can work with some distinctions:

  • Public lawyer and private lawyer,
  • Litigation Lawyer and Advisory Lawyer,
  • Natural person attorney and legal entity attorney,
  • Civil law and criminal lawyer,
  • Freelance Lawyer and Associate Lawyer,

Read: How to Become a Lawyer?

Let’s discuss what these are one by one:

1. Public lawyer and private lawyer

Public law, that is, one who works in public law, is a professional who works at the service of the State. He enters the career through public examination and may be linked to a Municipality, State, Federal District, or Union. 

One of the advantages of a career as a public attorney is high starting salaries. An Attorney General of the Union can receive, at the beginning of his career, more than R$ 21,000. Another differential is stability, which brings more security to you who want to settle down in a job and stay there for a long time.

A private lawyer is one who works in the service of a natural person or a legal entity governed by private law, such as a company, association, or foundation. He can work as a self-employed person, be linked to a law firm, or even a collaborator in the legal sector of a company. 

Among the advantages of a career as a private lawyer, we can mention the greater freedom to make personal choices (where you want to work, which cases you want to accept) and the possibility of growth that has no limits. 

2. Litigation Lawyer and Advisory Lawyer

The litigious lawyer is the one who acts in the process. His job is to help the client get the best possible outcome in the case under trial. In some cases, this may even involve a due process hearing seeking an agreement with the other party to avoid an unfavorable judgment. 

Litigation lawyers need to be very knowledgeable about procedural law. Another important feature is organization since one of the main enemies of this function is the loss of procedural deadlines. Fortunately, they can count on law firm software to help them control lawsuits.

On the other hand, the advisory lawyer does not act directly with processes. Its role is to provide advice to help clients make the best decisions and thus avoid any legal problems. 

The biggest challenge for the advisory lawyer is that he needs not only to understand the law but also to know his client’s situation in depth. Otherwise, he cannot assess all the risks and foresee all the possible legal consequences. 

3. Natural person attorney and legal entity attorney

The lawyer who provides services to natural persons finds cases and works in different areas than those who provide services to legal entities.

For example, if you work with natural people, you will likely have clients asking for advice on a divorce or sharing property. In the meantime, if you work with legal entities, you will receive clients asking about the legal procedures for starting a business or filing for bankruptcy protection.

This is important because, in view of these differences, you need to target your training. There are law firms that serve both individuals and legal entities, however, they have different teams for each case. 

The skills required of these types of lawyers are also slightly different.

For example, if you are a corporate lawyer, it is interesting to have knowledge in administration, because legal issues always go hand in hand with business management issues.

On the other hand, if you advocate for individuals, you will need to develop a lot of empathy, because your clients are human beings facing difficulties. For them, the relationship with the lawyer is not just about business, but about personal matters.

4. Civil Lawyer and Criminal Lawyer

A civil lawyer is one who specializes in civil law and its sub-areas, such as family law or contracts. Meanwhile, the criminal lawyer is one who specializes in criminal law and its sub-areas, such as corporate criminal law or tax criminal law.

There is a lot of debate about which area is “better”, and there is even a common saying among legal professionals: “students fall in love with Penal, but marry Civil”.

One reason is that, while criminal law is exciting, at least in principle, there are more job opportunities in the area of civil law.

However, it is important not to choose your path based solely on which alternative seems easiest at first. And we have two good reasons for that.

The first is that a career is a long-term project. Therefore, you must choose the area in which you can visualize yourself working five, ten, or twenty years from now. If that area is criminal law, then pursue that view!

The second reason is that, even if the civil area is easier to enter because there are more opportunities available, this does not mean that it will be easier to achieve success. In fact, competition for the best opportunities is just as strong among civilians as it is among panelists. 

The message, then, is clear: both the civil and the criminal areas are important, they have their merits, their advantages, and, of course, their obstacles. Make your choice for the right reasons, act on the one that has the most to do with your professional profile and your career vision.

5. Self-employed Lawyer and Associate Lawyer

In the absence of a better term, let’s talk about a self-employed lawyer to refer to one who is not associated with someone else’s office and who acts on his own; while the associate lawyer is the one who acts as an employee of an office. 

The self-employed lawyer is a great entrepreneur. Even if he is not planning to open an office, he is the company itself. He needs to serve clients and take care of cases, but he also needs to manage finances, develop marketing actions, network, issue invoices, control the schedule, and all the other activities that, in fact, any office requires.

Along with all this responsibility, the self-employed lawyer has extreme freedom and flexibility. Therefore, this is a good path for professionals with initiative, willingness and discipline, and who do not want to leave decisions in someone else’s hands.

Meanwhile, the associate does not have to worry about all office activities. He takes care of the cases and the tasks that are assigned to him. But that doesn’t mean you can settle down; on the contrary, if you want to grow within the team, you need to stand out.

This is a good path for those who are comfortable dealing with hierarchy, have no problems accepting the rules and following orders. It’s also ideal for those who don’t feel the need to play multiple roles but prefer to have a role with well-defined assignments. 

Other Types of Lawyers

In the previous topic, you saw some of the main types of lawyers based on fundamental distinctions. This list leaves out other very important types of lawyers who can be good career choices for your professional life, especially considering current market demands. Check out some of them.

Environmental Lawyers

The degradation of the environment is one of the main issues of the 21st century. The environmental law has central importance, helping to ward off undesirable behavior through sanctions, to promote environmental preservation.

In this scenario, the environmental lawyer plays a double role. On the one hand, it advises companies on what they can and cannot do, and informs them of the risks of sanctions; on the other hand, it defends the environment, taking actions against companies that violate the law.

Startup Lawyers

With the growth of the wave of startups, which are digital companies with high growth potential, lawyers specialized in meeting the needs of these companies are also gaining ground. 

Advocating in this field is a challenge. In some cases, the startup is so innovative that it creates completely new legal problems. So, the lawyer who works with startups’ law needs to identify these problems and think of solutions so that they don’t become obstacles to the business.

Compliance specialists

Technically, the compliance specialist does not need to be a lawyer. However, the lawyer is one of the most prepared professionals to perform this function.

Compliance is compliance with regulations. Each segment of the market has its regulations, from the banking sector to the mining sector. If companies do not follow the regulations of their sector, they are exposed to sanctions, such as fines and even compulsory closure.

The compliance lawyer, then, is responsible for:

  • analyze regulations,
  • identify whether they are being obeyed or not,
  • create and implement actions to increase the level of compliance,
  • and develop mechanisms to identify when regulations are broken,
  • When this job is done well, it can save the company millions,


In this article, we share the main types of lawyers so that you can better understand the labor market situation for each of them.

What is the next step? Try to talk to lawyers who are already working to find out what the reality of these professionals is like. The more real experiences you can hear, the more confident you will be when choosing your own path.