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Know the Difference Between Types of Attorneys

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In law school, or while reading the law as an extern, the same classes/subjects are studied by all prospective lawyers. And each newly sworn lawyer makes the same oath to maintain ethics and professionalism.

  • First-year students must master the concepts of “Contracts, Torts, and Criminal Law,” across all American Bar Association approved schools.
  • Same goes for most State Bar certified schools.
  • So in general, most licensed practitioners are masters of the basics. (“Jack of all and master of none.”)

So does it matter which type of attorney is chosen for your particular legal claim? Well, first you must understand how massive law is now insofar as its various subdivisions are concerned. Yes, there are specialists. Lawyers such as those who handle patent law are one class.

But there are also trial lawyers who focus only on a particular area of tort law, like mass torts.

Imagine the law is like a giant skyscraper. Each room of the building represents an area of legal knowledge like:

  • “Negligence Law,” which would be a small room in the basement. And then, in that tiny room, maybe a desk drawer would contain the legal know how to navigate a bodily injury insurance claim, mediation, and trial.
  • “Wills and Trusts” with its sub-areas would be in a small room down the hall and so forth.
  • And then for argument’s sake, make the first few top floors criminal law.
  • All the lower floors would be civil law, and you can start to see how the law is stacked.

So to answer the original question, yes, as a general rule, it does make sense to hire a personal injury lawyer for a PI case. But only so long as your lawyer is reasonably competent in their particular practice.

After all, you need someone with above average skill for the type of case you have.

Lawyers certainly are not all the same. Therefore, it does matter which type of legal expert you selected.

  • Some lawyers are general practitioners who handle cookie cutter types of cases. Usually, the cases they handle are not always that complex.  This kind of specialist will be the one you call for a canned divorce or bankruptcy, or a traffic ticket infraction, for example.

The takeaway from all of this is that a particular type of lawyer still may not always have the requisite training for your specific claim or case. So as a seeker of help, you must familiarize yourself with some best practices for consumers.

Then you’ll be able to hire the right type of help sensibly.  So for now, we will drill down into a few of the many types of lawyers. So let’s try and understand the similarities and differences as discussed below.


What is a General Practice Lawyer (“GP”)?

Numerous types of attorneys have specialized knowledge in one particular area of law. And some even practice in a few different areas that are related. As noted, general practice lawyers do not just specialize in one particular area. In fact, GP’s usually practice simultaneously in some different areas of law.

It is not uncommon for a general lawyer to practice in several or all of the areas of law listed as follows:

  • Security law
  • Administrative Law
  • International law
  • Criminal law
  • Real Estate law
  • Corporate and Commercial Law
  • Civil Litigation Law
  • Tax law
  • Family law
  • Labor and Employment Law
  • Constitutional law
  • Immigration law
  • Environmental law
  • Intellectual Property Law

While there are some GP’s that limit the types of law they practice, this is rare. So there are some that accept cases and cash from virtually any kind of client, in a multitude of legal claims.

  • But by far the most popular and notorious lawyers in our culture are the specialized tort or personal injury lawyers.
  • Movies like “Rainmaker” with Matt Damon are a testament to the reputation of the ambulance chaser injury attorney.

What Are Personal Injury Attorneys?

A personal injury attorney [Click Here] specializes in cases that involve a personal injury to your mind, body, and soul.

In cases like this, compensation is sought from those legally liable, for intentional, or negligent damages including:

  • Psychological injury
  • Lost wages
  • Property damage such as with automobile accidents
  • Physical trauma such as with a surgery that is botched
  • Medical expenses

In law school, these types of attorneys fall under your “Negligence Courses.”

But this area of law has many subdivisions and experts, from:

  • Mass torts
  • Vehicle airbag defects
  • Exploding gas tanks
  • Commercial vehicle accidents and so forth.

The bond between these attorneys is that they know about handling cases of “tort law.”

So what is a tort anyways?

A tort lawyer is a personal injury law specialist.

  • A tort is a civil action that has been made against a particular group of people or person that justifies filing the money damages suit, according to the Cornell University Law School.
  • A crime is not considered to be a tort. (watch the video here.) A crime is a wrongdoing against the public or state in general (Learn more.)

So one who is guilty of committing a crime may be punished with jail time. But when a crime is determined, the guilty party or their insurance agency may still have to pay monetary compensation.

Compensation is money that gets paid to the party or parties that suffered the injury as reparations for the criminal OR civil act.

  • The District or City Attorney prosecutes crimes. The punishment can be a fine, imprisonment, or both.
  • A civil, or private lawyer sues for money in torts. There is no jail time.

Are you getting this so far? Personal injury attorneys often elect to take only accept specific kinds of negligence law cases. Most of them avoid hourly billing. So they don’t usually take on criminal clients at all.

Some areas of law he or she may choose to specialize in include the following:

  • Medical accident
  • Automobile accident
  • Work-related accident
  • Dental accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Assault/Battery/Rape

What are Some Differences between General Lawyers and Personal Injury Attorneys?

  • A general practice lawyer doesn’t just apply their skills to one particular area of law. So this means they know a variety of different case types.
  • A tort attorney has specialized knowledge and skill in cases that involve personal injury and tort laws. So this means the knowledge they have about cases of bodily harm is more in-depth than a “GP.”

A general practitioner can be a tort specialist, and arguably can be a better lawyer. After all, he understands better how all the law interrelates.

For example, elder abuse law cases have elements of crimes and can even involve some probate issues. But in some cases, a GP lacks the specialized knowledge for a complex area of law, such as an asbestos case. So it can be a crap-shoot. That’s why you should hire ELFPI. PI cases are more targeted, and that’s what we do.

To learn more about these issues, contact us at (213) 596-9642.


Michael Ehline - PI Law Tutorials

Michael Ehline is a highly trained personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, CA. He writes educational articles to help injured consumers.

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