Thanks to films and television programs, if you mention "law" to most people, they think immediately of criminal lawyers. But many attorneys actually work in civil law, in which they handle disputes between private individuals or organizations. A civil lawyer might have cases involving contracts or property. Civil lawyers may work for a law firm, in a large organization, or in a private practice. Civil lawyers are licensed to practice after graduating from law school and passing a state bar exam. It is a wide field and most civil lawyers specialize in particular area such as taxes, employment or family law.
A large proportion of any civil lawyer's time is spent giving legal advice to her clients. She will, for example, help businesses understand tax regulations and make sure they conform. She might also review draft contracts before they are exchanged to ensure that her client's interests would be protected in the event of a dispute. This sort of advice is all about ensuring that the client follows the law and does not open themselves up to costly litigation.
A civil lawyer is responsible for conducting certain legal processes on behalf of her clients. For example, a business lawyer might obtain necessary licenses to ensure that her clients are operating legally. A property lawyer ensures that the processes involved in a property purchase are conducted properly, obtains the necessary documents, holds funds and ensures that the appropriate monies are paid to all parties at the right time.
Some civil cases go to court. The lawyer will not only provide advice to her client in advance of the case being heard, but will also represent her client in court. As with criminal cases, this involves preparing a case, examining evidence and arguing the client's case in front of a judge.
Any lawyer has a fundamental legal responsibility to act in the best interests of her client within the boundaries of the law. This includes a crucial legal requirement to maintain confidentiality. In business and corporate law, this responsibility is almost as important as it is in criminal law cases.
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