Law Definitions



Administrative Law

Administative law is the set of procedures developed by agencies (governmental bodies of the city, county, state or Federal government) involving rules, regulations, applications, licenses, permits, available information, hearings, appeals and decision-making.Federal agency procedures are governed by the Administrative Procedure Act, and many states have adopted similar protocols either by law or regulation. It is important to consider two vital factors in dealing with administrative agencies: 1) the rules and regulations are often special for each agency and are not usually found in the statutes but in those regulations; 2) a member of the public must “exhaust his/her administrative remedies” (take every step, including appeals) with the agency and its system before he/she can challenge the administrative ruling with a lawsuit in court. There are exceptions (such as emergency or obvious futility) to exhausting one’s remedies, but those are rare. Administrative law can be a bureaucratic jungle, and the way lawyers earn their money is by knowing the path to hack through on behalf of their clients.


Admiralty Law governs activities at sea or in any navigable waters. In the United States federal courts have jurisdiction over maritime law. Maritime law n. Also called “admiralty law” or “the law of admiralty,” the laws and regulations, including international agreements and treaties, which exclusively relate to the ocean, waterways, and ports. Laws that relate to commerce and navigation on the high seas and other navigable waters and that is administered by the admiralty courts.


Adoption is the legal taking of a child into one’s family which does not biologically belong to that adult or adults. This changes the status of such a child to make him legally equal with that of a natural child of the parents. The adoption procedure varies depending on whether the child comes through an agency which handles adoptions or comes from a stranger or a relative, and on the age of the child and the adoptive parent or parents. Examples of the latter might be if a grandparent adopts the child due to the inability or unwillingness of the true parent to raise the child. Natural parents must either give binding written permission for the adoption or have abandoned the child for a lengthy period of time. An investigation will be made by a county office (probation or family services) as to the future parents’ suitability to adoption, their relationship status, their home situation, and their health, as well as the best interests of the child. If the child is old enough to understand the procedure he or she may have a say in the adoption. Finally there is a hearing before a local court judge (called “surrogate” in some states) and an adoption order made. In many states a new birth certificate can be issued, with the adoptive parents listed as the parents. If there is an adoption of an adult, the adopting adult usually must be several years older, based on the state law. In recent years, there has been much controversy over adoption by single parents, including gays and lesbians, with the tendency toward allowing such adoptions, provided all other criteria beneficial to the child met.


Environmental Law concerns the regulations, interpretation and enforcement of agreements and laws concerning air quality, water purity, species protection, hazardous materials, and sustainability of ecosystems.Attorneys may specialize in defense of individuals or in enforcement of these environmental laws. Lawyers who specialize in Environmental Law may also deal with Agricultural Law, which concerns issues such as water rights, pesticide usage, food safety, genetic engineering, and other similar subjects.

Appellate Law

“Apellate Law” means “related to appeals”. Appeal 1) v. to ask a higher court to reverse the decision of a trial court after final judgment or other legal ruling. After the lower court judgment is entered into the record, the losing party (Appellant) must file a notice of appeal, request transcripts or other records of the trial court (or agree with the other party on an “agreed-upon statement”), file briefs with the appeals court citing legal reasons for over-turning the ruling, and show how those reasons (usually other appeal decisions called “precedents”) relate to the facts in the case. No new evidence is admitted on appeal, for it is strictly a legal argument.The other party (Respondent or Appellee) usually files a responsive brief countering these arguments. The appellant then can counter that response with a final brief. If desired by either party, they will then argue the case before the appeals court. The options the court has at the conclusion of an apeal are: to sustain (up hold, or “let stand”) the original ruling, reverse it (effectively deciding the opposite way as the original court), send it back to the trial court, or reverse in part and confirm in part. There are Federal Courts of Appeal in ten different “circuits,” and above them is the Supreme Court which selectively hears only a few appeals at the highest level. 2) n. the name for the process of appealing, as in “he has filed an appeal.”


Aviation law is the branch of law that relates to aircraft, flight regulations, safety agreements, and associated legal and business concerns. Some aviation law intersects with admiralty law and is international in nature. However, the business aspects of airlines and their regulation also fall under aviation law. In the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), governs applied aspects of flight. Internationally, the governing body is the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) which mediates international concerns to an extent regarding aviation law. The ICAO is a branch of the United Nations. In the United States and most European nations, aviation law is considered a federal or state-level concern and is regulated thereby at that level. In the U.S., states cannot govern aviation matters in most cases directly but look to Federal laws and case law for this function instead. Aviation law, however, is not in the United States held under the same Federal mandate of jurisdiction as admiralty law; that is, which the United States Constitution provides for the administration of admiralty, it does not provide such for aviation law. Space law, which governs matters in outer space beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, is a rather new area of law but one that already has its own journals and academic support. Expectedly, much of space law is connected to aviation law.


Bankruptcy is a federally authorized procedure by which a debtor-an individual, corporation, or municipality- is relieved of total liability for its debts by making court-approved arrangements for their partial repayment.The goal of modern bankruptcy is to allow the debtor to have a “fresh start,” and the creditor to be repaid. Through bankruptcy, debtors liquidate their assets or restructure their finances to fund their debts. Bankruptcy law provides that individual debtors may keep certain exempt assets, such as a home, a car, and common household goods, thus maintaining a basic standard of living while working to repay creditors. Debtors are then better able to emerge as productive members of society, although with significantly flawed credit records.

An individual who is badly in debt can file for bankruptcy either under Chapter 7 (liquidation, or straight bankruptcy), under Chapter 13 (reorganization), Chapter 12 (family farmer reorganization), or under Chapter 11 (business).


Business/Commercial Law

Business and Commercial law governs the rights, relations and conduct of persons and businesses engaged in commerce, merchandising, trade, and sales. This body of law has been codified in the Uniform Commercial Code, which has been almost universally adopted by the states. Commercial law includes all aspects relating to business, including advertising and marketing, collections and Bankruptcy, banking, contracts, negotiable instruments, Secured Transactions, and trade in general. It covers both domestic and foreign trade; it also regulates trade between states.

Civil Law

In the United States, the term civil law has two meanings. The first meaning refers to a legal system prevalent in Europe that is based on written codes. Civil law in this sense is contrasted with the common-law system used in England and most of the United States, which relies on prior case law to resolve disputes rather than written codes.The second meaning of “civil law” means the laws related to disputes between individuals or businesses as opposed to public offenses which relate to the government and penal codes – that is, civil law as opposed to Criminal Law.

Class Action

A class action lawsuit is one that is filed jointly by more than one person on behalf of themselves and a larger group of people “who are similarly situated.” Examples of such cases might be: employees who were not paid overtime by a particular employer, all customers who were overcharged by a public utility during a particular period, or all of those who took a particular medication that was later deemed harmful.If a class action is successful, a period of time is given for those who can prove they fit the class to file claims to participate in the judgment amount. Class actions are difficult and expensive to file and follow through, but the results can be helpful to people who could not afford to carry a suit alone, and can force businesses that have caused broad damage to stop practices pay for damages for harm they have caused. A victory in a class action could possibly result in high fees for the winning attorneys. Often attorneys do not collect a fee at the beginning of a class action suit but might charge a contingent fee (such as 1/3 of the final judgment) which, occasionally, can be millions of dollars.

Construction Litigation

Construction law is the body of law that deals with all matters relating to the construction process. These include such topics as building contracts, bonds, guarantees and sureties, construction and builders’ liens, tendering, construction claims and related consultancy contracts. It affects all participants in the construction industry, including financial institutions, architects, builders, engineers and planners.Construction law builds upon general legal principles and methodologies and incorporates the regulatory framework (including security of payment, planning, environmental and building regulations); contract methodologies and selection (including traditional and alternative forms of contracting); subcontract issues; causes of action, and liability, arising in contract, negligence and on other grounds; insurance and performance security; dispute resolution and avoidance.

Construction law has evolved into a practice discipline in its own right, distinct from its traditional locations as a subpractice of project finance, real estate or corporate law. There are often strong links between construction law and energy law and oil and gas law.


Consumer Fraud

This area of law covers a variety of claims that concern deception and misrepresentation such as faulty merchandise, failure to fulfill contracts, or misleading advertisements. One of the clearest illustrations of what Consumer Fraud involves is Lemon Laws. Many people are familiar with Lemon Law where warrantied motor vehicles are concerned. These laws essentially say that after you have made a certain number of attempts to correct a problem within a prescribed amount of time, if the vehicle still cannot be repaired then the law protects the consumer, usually by forcing the seller to replace the vehicle. Attorneys who practice Consumer Fraud law might also be called upon to help resolve other disputes concerning defective merchandise, credit fraud, Ponzi and pyramid schemes, false advertising, identity theft, and failure to fulfill the terms of a contract.

Contract Law

Contract Lawyers help people with drafting, understanding, and disputing contracts. A contract is 1) n. an agreement with specific terms between two or more persons or entities in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit known as consideration.Since the law of contracts is at the heart of most business dealings, it is one of the three or four most significant areas of legal concern and can involve variations on circumstances and complexities. Contracts must meet certain criteria in order to be legal in the first place. The existence of a contract depends on the following elements: a) an offer; b) an acceptance of that offer which results in a meeting of the minds; c) a promise to perform; d) a valuable consideration (which can be a promise or payment in some form); e) a time or event when performance must be made (meet commitments); f) terms and conditions for performance, including fulfilling promises; g) performance.

A contract is said to be “unilateral” if it is one in which there is a promise to pay or give other consideration in return for actual performance. (I will pay you $500 to fix my car by Thursday; the performance is fixing the car by that date). A bilateral contract is one in which a promise is exchanged for a promise. (I promise to fix your car by Thursday and you promise to pay $500 on Thursday). Contracts can be either written or oral, but oral contracts are more difficult to prove and in most jurisdictions the time to sue on the contract is shorter (such as two years for oral compared to four years for written). In some areas of law, such as Real Estate, oral contracts are expressly disallowed and no oral contract can exist.

In some cases a contract can consist of several documents, such as a series of letters, orders, offers and counteroffers. Terms associated with different contracts are: “conditional” on an event occurring; “joint and several,” in which several parties make a joint promise to perform, but each is responsible; “implied,” in which the courts will determine there is a contract based on the circumstances.
Parties can contract to supply all another’s requirements, buy all the products made, or enter into an option to renew a contract. The variations are almost limitless.


Copyright/Trademark Law

Copyright law is 1) the exclusive right of the author or creator of a literary or artistic property (such as a book, movie, or musical composition) to print, copy, sell, license, distribute, transform to another medium, translate, record or perform or otherwise use (or not use) and to give it to another by will. As soon as a work is created and is in a tangible form (such as writing or taping) the work automatically has federal copyright protection. Copyrights cover the following: literary, musical and dramatic works, periodicals, maps, works of art (including models), art reproductions, sculptural works, technical drawings, photographs, prints (including labels), movies and other audiovisial works, computer programs, compilations of works and derivative works, and architectural drawings. Not subject to copyright are short phrases, titles, extemporaneous speeches or live unrecorded performances, common information, government publications, mere ideas, and seditious, obscene, libelous and fraudulent work. A work should be registered with the U. S. Copyright Office by submitting a registration form and two copies of the work with a fee which a) establishes proof of earliest creation and publication, b) is required to file a lawsuit for infringement of copyright, c) if filed within three months of publcation, established a right to attorneys’ fees in an infringment suit. For any work created from 1978 to date a copyright is good for the author’s life, plus 50 years, with a few exceptions such as work “for hire” which is owned by the one commissioning the work for a period of 75 years from publication. After that it falls into the public domain. Many, but not all, countries recognize international copyrights under the “Universal Copyright Convention,” to which the United States is a party. A trademark is a distinctive design, picture, emblem, logo or wording (or combination) affixed to goods for sale to identify the manufacturer as the source of the product and to distinguish them from goods sold or made by others.


It has become increasingly difficult to operate in modern society without acceptable credit scores, and because of this many people are trying to fight errors affecting their FICO score. Credit and collections lawyers can help with complicated issues associated with credit cards, credit reports, and items that have been placed in collections.Lawyers specializing in Credit and Collections Law offer guidance in disputing false entries on credit reports; obtaining a credit report; sorting out problems after an identity theft; and defending against abusive collections practices.

Criminal Law

Criminal Law pertains to those statutes dealing with crimes against the public and members of the public, with penalties and all the procedures connected with charging, trying, sentencing and imprisoning defendants convicted of crimes.Crimes are usually categorized as felonies or misdemeanors based on their nature and the maximum punishment that can be imposed. A felony involves serious misconduct that is punishable by death or by imprisonment for more than one year. Most state criminal laws subdivide felonies into different classes with varying degrees of punishment. Crimes that do not amount to felonies are misdemeanors or violations. A misdemeanor is misconduct for which the law prescribes punishment of no more than one year in prison. Lesser offenses, such as traffic and parking infractions, are often called violations and are considered a part of criminal law.


Discrimination is referred to as the unequal treatment of persons, for a reason which has nothing to do with legal rights or ability. Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, wages, right to promotion, educational access, civil rights, and use of facilities based on race, nationality, creed, color, age, sex, or sexual orientation. The rights to protest alleged discrimination or enforce one’s rights to equal treatment are provided in various federal and state laws, which allow for private lawsuits with the right to damages. There are also federal and state commissions to investigate and enforce equal rights.


In simple terms, a divorce is a legal end to a marriage. Marriage is a legal contract and technically a person, or both parties, requesting such a legal decree of dissolution are “suing for”, or “petitioning for” divorce. It’s a good idea to have an attorney help you through this legal action.Each state has authority, or jurisdiction, over divorces within their borders. This means that if someone got married in Nevada, but now lives in Tennessee, the new state of residence has slightly different divorce requirements or conditions that a person must be aware of. A lawyer specializing in divorce is going to know these rules more than the client, and may even present the idea that an annulment or legal separation is more in the client’s interest.

Divorces can be “no-fault” and “fault”; and there are “contested” and “un-contested” divorces. Again, the laws of the state impact possible outcomes of divorce. So it is important to speak your attorney and determine your needs.

Property and asset distribution are often the most obvious focus of a break-up. However, other areas of concern in a divorce can be child custody, visitation, spousal support, child support, and name changes. Divorce attorneys are accustomed to dealing with these issues, and it is a good idea to make sure you are working with someone who is focused on what you care about most.


DMV Hearings

The circumstance most commonly associated with the need to attend a DMV hearing is a DUI conviction or other serious moving violation. However, this is not the only reason one might need to attend a DMV hearing. Medical disqualifications can be appealed or other restrictions removed. Older drivers may have had their license suspended after an accident. Going to the DMV on your own without any legal advice or guidance may mean permanent or prolonged loss of the driving privilege. DMV hearing law specialists are accustomed to making presentations to the DMV as a normal part of their business.

Domestic Violence

Any abusive, violent, coercive, forceful, or threatening act or word inflicted by one member of a family or household on another can constitute domestic violence. Various individuals and groups have defined domestic violence to include everything from saying unkind or demeaning words, to grabbing a person’s arm, to hitting, kicking, choking, or even murdering. Domestic violence most often refers to violence between married or cohabiting couples, although it sometimes refers to violence against other members of a household, such as children or elderly relatives. It occurs in every racial, socioeconomic, ethnic, and religious group, although conditions such as poverty, drug or alcohol abuse, and mental illness increase its likelihood. Studies indicate that the incidence of domestic violence among homosexual couples is approximately equivalent to that found among heterosexual couples.

Driving While Intoxicated (DUI)

Driving Under the Influence or “DUI”, is a serious charge and can lead to consequences that many members of the public are not aware of. A trip to jail is often just the tip of the iceberg. Laws and penalties vary from state-to-state, but all are stricter than in the past.Throughout the United States, it is a crime for an adult 21 or over to drive with a Blood Alcohol Content of .08 or greater. Underage drinking is illegal, so any measure of alcohol in the system is eligible for an arrest and citation. Attorneys that specialize in DUI defense are becoming more common as laws have gotten tougher and penalties become more severe.

Depending on the region, the offense may be called “Driving While Intoxicated” or DWI, or even OUI (Operating Under the Influence). In understanding DUI it is important to know that, even though many people call it “drunk driving”, being obviously intoxicated is not a condition for arrest; nor is driving a car. DUI arrests have been made for “drivers” on bicycles, horses, and boats.

“Under the Influence” can refer to legal medication the driver has taken, illegal narcotics, or two glasses of wine at a house warming. Not feeling or acting drunk is an insufficient defense when facing a DUI charge. If the officer believes the driver is “impaired” by any substance, a DUI arrest and prosecution is possible. DUI lawyers from your state know the laws and can help you protect your rights and understand your responsibilities if you have been charged with it.


Education Law

Education Law is one area within the broad category of Civil Law dealing with essentially every aspect of the U. S. federal and state educational system(s). Comprised of laws and regulations on both the federal and state level, Education Law focuses on any institution or individual – including school faculty, school staff, students and parents of students – involved in that system. Consequently, if you are dealing with such issues as educational buildings, educational budgets and other funding, a board of education, educational programs and materials, school athletics, discipline within the educational setting, Civil Rights including rights against discrimination in education, the separation of Church and State within the educational system, students with disabilities or other special needs, school vouchers, charter schools, higher education, or educational justice, then you can expect Education Law to deal with those topics. Laws of other areas may also touch on these issues but you can be sure that Education Law deals with them.The importance of education, the vast number of involved individuals/groups and the development of laws over a period of many decades have resulted in whole bodies of separately titled law dedicated to education. For example, California has the “California Education Code,” an extensive and complex system of laws dealing with the numerous aspects of the K-12, Community College, University and general community levels. On the Federal level, U. S. Code Title 20 governs Education and includes such statutes as the Equal Educational Opportunities Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act and Title IX of the Federal Education Amendments of 1972. While states adopt their own common laws and statutes, they must adhere to federal requirements, such as Title IX’s prohibition against discrimination based on gender.

Elder Care/Nursing Home Abuse

When work and childcare responsibilities, or one’s own physical limitations make it impossible to care for a parent or relation that needs assistance or medical attention, it becomes important to know something about Elder Care. This care can be for a few hours during the day or round the clock based on the needs of the individuals concerned. An attorney is useful in helping to resolve and understand Elder Care issues when it comes to planning an estate in preparation for long-term care, understanding Medi-care,Guardianship and Conservatorship, and in cases of Elder Abuse. It also intersects with the areas of probate, wills, and trusts.

Employee Benefits/Labor Law

Labor Law and Employee Benefits, relate to earnings and retirements plans and employee rights under those areas. If you have not been paid by an employer for work that was performed, were not paid for overtime, were harassed or discriminated against at work, or have worked in unsafe conditions, it is useful to speak to a Labor Law attorney and know how to approach your situation. Many people feel that they were “wrongfully terminated”, but the legal question becomes whether or not your termination was illegal. Speaking to a Labor Lawyer can resolve questions in your mind of where you stand. Discrimination in hiring and termination, as well as areas related to receiving benefits may be handled by specialists. Employee Benefits, specifically pensions, are regulated under a set of laws known as ERISA, Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. There are lawyers who specialize in ERISA benefits and pensions, as well as health care and disability that occur under ERISA plans. Look for a Labor Law attorney who is accustomed to working on the kind of issues your case involves.

Entertainment Law

The areas of law governing professionals and businesses in the entertainment industry, particularly contracts and Intellectual Property; more particularly, certain legal traditions and aspects of these areas of law that are unique to the entertainment industry. The entertainment industry includes the fields of theater, film, fine art, dance, opera, music, literary publishing, television, and radio. These fields share a common mission of selling or otherwise profiting from creative works or services provided by writers, songwriters, musicians, and other artists. Songs, plays, films, works of fine art, books, and even some choreographed works are copyrightable. The contractual terms that define the ownership and use of these works are often negotiated for months, with both the artist and the entertainment company vying for as much control of the intellectual property as possible.

ERISA/Long-term Disability

Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, commonly referred to as “ERISA” is a set of laws that governs employee retirement funds. These laws are interpreted and enforced across three agencies: IRS, Department of Labor, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. ERISA regulations concern the actual fiduciary responsibility of the funds once an employee pension has been established, not whether employers have a pension plan to begin with. Similarly, health benefits under ERISA plans are regulated once those have been established. There are attorneys that specialize in this area of law. Terms associated with ERISA health care include COBRA, which allows employees to continue their health insurance by paying for it themselves after they leave a company; HIPPA, which protects employees with pre-existing conditions from being denied coverage when switching health policies; and LTD, or “long-term disability”. If you become disabled long-term (usually longer than 24 months) and your health coverage offers “group long-term disability” under an ERISA plan, there are limitations on the benefits you may receive. In other words, procedures or conditions that seem like they should be covered under the health plan may be denied even after appeals in the ERISA bureaucracy. Many people look to an attorney who knows ERISA Long Term Disability laws and procedures in order to navigate the system and try to obtain a favorable outcome.

Family Law

The area of family law intersects with divorce law, but is much broader in scope dealing with on-going issues such as child custody, parental rights, and alimony. Other areas might include pre-nuptial agreements, domestic partnerships, same-sex unions, and adoptions. Lawyers specialize in areas of their choosing, so not all divorce lawyers choose to handle all areas in family law. Similarly, an attorney practicing family law may choose to focus on child custody and adoption and have nothing to do with marriage dissolution. Either way, divorce comes under “family law”, but it is only a part of it.


Foreclosure is the formal process by which a bank or lending company takes possession of property on which a buyer has stopped making loan payments. The failure to pay is called “defaulting” or “being in default”.Because of the recent occurrences in the field of lending, foreclosures have risen dramatically. However, foreclosure is not unavoidable.

Real estate attorneys can specialize in foreclosures, since foreclosures fall under real estate law. Seeking a foreclosure attorney’s advice may allow the house to be saved. When it comes to re-working loans (loan modification), creating a short-sale agreement, or working with the “loss mitigation” department at the lender, it is a good idea to have a lawyer help protect your rights. A foreclosure law specialist can help you determine whether you should try to negotiate a short sale, file for bankruptcy, look for “Truth in Lending Act” errors in your original loan, or offer the deed in lieu of foreclosure. It may even be that letting the lender foreclose on the house is the cheapest and best solution. Foreclosures can offer serious problems to a credit score, so it is a good idea to speak to a legal professional who can help make the most beneficial decision.


Government Law

When disagreements arise between an individual and a government entity, it is difficult to navigate the system on your own. The expression “You can’t fight City Hall.” Often applies because the methods for fighting them are not known to the average person.If a dispute occurs over land or construction and building issues, it may be necessary to speak to an attorney who specializes in government law.


Immigration law covers U.S. citizenship, loss of citizenship, and the admission, refusal, and removal of foreigners or “aliens”. Legal immigration involves immigrants, i.e., persons seeking a permanent residence card or “green card,” and non-immigrants, persons seeking temporary entry to the U.S. under a non-immigrant visa category. Immigration also encompasses asylum, naturalization, denaturalization, deportation, as well as immigration crimes, including illegal immigration, or aliens who enter the U.S. and obtain work illegally.

Insurance Litigation

Insurance companies are regulated by federal and state entitites through laws, guidelines and independent commissions and regulatory bodies. These laws and statutes ensure that the policy holder is protected against bad faith claims on the insurers part, that premiums are not unduly high (or fixed), and that contracts and policies issued meet a minimum standard.Insurers that deny claims unjustly or for a protracted amount of time are said to be operating “in bad faith”. A bad faith action may constitute several possibilities; the insurer denies a claim which is seemingly valid in the contract or policy, the insurer refuses to pay out for an unreasonable amount of time, the insurer lays the burden of proof on the insured – often in the case where the claim is unprovable. Other issues of insurance law may arise when price fixing occurs between insurers, creating an unfair competitive environment for consumers. If an insurer is found to be guilty of fraud or deception, they can be fined either by regulatory bodies, or in a lawsuit by the insured or surrounding party. In more severe cases, or if the party has had a series of complaints or rulings, the insurers license may be revoked or suspended.

Intellectual Property

(See also Copyright) Intellectual property describes a wide variety of ideas created by musicians, authors, artists, and inventors. The law of intellectual property typically encompasses the areas of Copyright, Patents, and trademark law. It is intended largely to encourage the development of art, science, and information by granting certain property rights to all artists, which include inventors in the arts and the sciences. These rights allow artists to earn money from their creations and protect themselves from infringement, or the unauthorized commercial use and misuse of their creations. Trademarks and service marks protect distinguishing features (such as names or package designs) that are associated with particular products or services and that indicate commercial source. Intangible rights protecting the products of human intelligence and creation, such as copyrightable works, patented inventions, Trademarks, and trade secrets. Although largely governed by federal law, state law also governs some aspects of intellectual property.

Juvenile Crimes

In the law a juvenile is defined as a person who is not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts. In most states and on the federal level, this age threshold is set at 18 years. In Wyoming a juvenile is a person under the age of 19. In some states a juvenile is a person under the age of 17, and in Connecticut, New York, and North Carolina, a juvenile is a person under the age of 16. These age definitions are significant because they determine whether a young person accused of criminal conduct will be charged with a crime in adult court or will be required to appear in juvenile court. Juvenile Law is an area of the law that deals with the actions and well-being of persons who are not yet adults. Juvenile courts exist in all states. They may be held in a building or room separate from adult courtrooms. The proceedings are private, and the identity of the juveniles and the records of the proceedings are also private.

Landlord and Tenant

When disagreements between landlords, or property managers, and tenants, or “renters” cannot be resolved amicably, Landlord Tenant attorneys become involved.Common landlord tenant issues that lawyers work on are evictions, habitability issues, Fair Housing complaints, and large security deposit disputes. However, it is a good idea to prevent problems before they occur, by understanding rental laws and contracts to begin with.

Eviction is the formal process by which a tenant is forced to leave a rental unit, usually for non-payment, or other serious breach of contract. Terms associated with an eviction are “3-day comply or quit”, “30 day notice”, and “Unlawful Detainer”. Evictions follow precise conditions and procedures. Failure to execute any portion of the eviction process correctly often “re-sets the clock” as if the process had never begun.

One of the first things a landlord-tenant attorney is going to ask for is a copy of the lease agreement. Absence of a written legal agreement offers problems to both renter and property owner. Landlords generally have the most to lose in the landlord-tenant relationship and should contact a landlord tenant lawyer to review their current contract, or create one specifically designed for their property to avoid misunderstandings and to reduce exposure to liabilities. The relatively small amount invested in a consultation is likely to pay for itself both in peace of mind and in legal protection.


Legal Malpractice

All lawyers are required to obey the guidelines of a code of ethics that are in effect where that lawyer practices. These rules, typically known as the Model Rules of Ethics, or Ethical Rules, address a lawyer’s conduct in various situations. A lawyer has a duty, in all dealings and relations with a client, to act with honesty, Good Faith, fairness, integrity, and fidelity. He or she must possess the legal skill and knowledge that is ordinarily possessed by members of the profession. A lawyer should not take any action that is improper under these rules or that which even suggests the appearance of impropriety.Errors made by an attorney, with negligence, are possibly considered malpractice. This category is based on the premise that an attorney has committed an error that would have been avoided by a competent attorney who exercises a reasonable standard of care. Lawyers who give improper advice, improperly prepare documents, fail to file documents, or make a faulty analysis in examining the title to real estate may be charged with Malpractice by their clients. A legal malpractice action, however, is not likely to succeed if the lawyer committed an error because an issue of law was unsettled or debatable.

Lemon Law

Lemon Laws are statutes adopted in some states to make it easier for a buyer of a new vehicle that is not working properly to obtain compensation or replacement if the dealer or manufacturer cannot make it run properly after a reasonable number of attempts to fix the car. Without a “lemon law” auto makers have often demanded the buyer come back a dozen times or more and give up use of the car for lengthy periods while they test it, claiming they are “still trying” to make it run right.

Licensing Law

Licensing Law is an amalgam of common law, case law, statutes and regulations – both federal and state – dealing with the protection of Intellectual Property rights. “Intellectual Property” involves creations of the mind. “Intellectual property rights” are protections allowing a creation’s maker/owner to benefit from work/ investment in the creation. Those rights are legally protected in order to: reward the maker/owner; encourage further innovation, by protecting the original maker/owner and inspiring others to make/own other creations; spur economic growth by creating jobs and industries; and protect consumers. For purposes of intellectual property rights, Intellectual Property is divided into two broad categories: Industrial Property and Copyright. “Industrial Property” refers to trademarks, patents for inventions, geographical indications and industrial designs. “Copyright” is a bundle of rights involving many facets of literature, music, film, art and architecture.Though Licensing Law is increasingly treated as a distinct body of law, it cuts across many legal categories, including but not limited to contracts, property, public policy, antitrust law, secured transactions and laws/regulations governing digital and online industries. Consequently, a lawyer specializing in Licensing Law has a developed a working knowledge of those areas in view of licensing for the protection of Intellectual Property Rights.

Loan Modification

Loan modification is a process where the terms of a mortgage are modified outside the original terms of the contract agreed to by the lender and borrower (i.e mortgagor and mortgagee). In general, any loan can be modified.Types of modification
Mortgages are modified to the benefit of the borrower in one or more of the following ways:

    • Reduction in interest rate, or a change from a floating to a fixed rate, or in how the floating rate is computed
    • Reduction in principal
    • Reduction in late fees or other penalties
    • Lengthening of the loan term
    • Capping the monthly payment to a percentage of household income

The borrower can be current, late, in default, in bankruptcy, or in foreclosure at the time the application for modification is made. The programs available will vary accordingly.

There may be modifications made at the discretion of the lender. The lender is motivated to offer better terms to the borrower because of the expectation that the borrower might be able to afford a lower payment, and that a performing loan (i.e. one in which payments are current) will be more valuable ultimately than the proceeds obtained from a foreclosure sale.

The state and federal government may structure a mortgage modification program as voluntary on the part of the lender, but may provide incentives for the lender to participate. A mandatory mortgage modification program requires the lender to modify mortgages meeting the criteria with respect to the borrower, the property, and the loan payment history.



Mediation is the attempt to settle a legal dispute through active participation of a third party, called a mediator, in a discussion to find points of agreement in a conflict and agree on a fair result. Mediation differs from arbitration in which the third party (arbitrator) acts much like a judge but in an out-of-court less formal setting but does not actively participate in the discussion. Mediation has become very common in trying to resolve domestic relations disputes (divorce, child custody, visitation), and is often ordered by the judge in such cases. Some courts, for example at the Small Claims level, advise complainents to seek resolution through mediation before approaching the court. It has also become more frequent in contract and civil damage cases. There are professional mediators, or lawyers who do some mediation for substantial fees, but the financial cost is less than fighting the matter out in court and may achieve early settlement and an end to anxiety. However, mediation does not always result in a settlement.

Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice is a specialty area of law that comes under the field of Personal Injury. Attorneys often further specialize for example only taking cases related to a specific drug, condition, or medical device. Malpractice is not limited to mistakes hospital doctors make and can apply to dentists, psychiatrists, plastic surgeons, and nursing home care takers. It also encompasses errors that nurses and other staff have made, incorrect interpretation of symptoms, misapplication of drugs, or failure to obtain “informed consent.”Like ordinary Personal Injury cases, the attorney usually takes the case “on contingency” meaning that the lawyer does not get paid until the end of the case when the losing party pays. If the lawyer does not make his case, he receives nothing for months or years of effort. In addition to costing tens of thousands of dollars to bring to trial, Medical Malpractice cases can be made more difficult by the fact that sometimes the injured party cannot testify due to their injury.

Mold Claims

Mold is a fine, fungal, organic substance that grows in moist environments. Its presence can be absolutely benign – even beneficial – or trigger allergic reaction. The burden of proof of an injury due to mold exposure is not as light as it may have been in the past. It is important to consult an attorney who specializes in mold litigation if you think you may have been injured or had a condition caused by the presence of mold. Toxic mold refers to the “mycotoxins” that some molds generate on their own to thwart the growth of competing molds. The lawyers who deal with mold cases know what you need to do to document your injury.

Patent Law

Patent Law deals with an infringement of an exclusive right to the benefits of an invention or improvement granted by the United States Patent Office, that is for a specific period of time, and on the basis that it is novel (not previously known or described in a publication), “non-obvious” (a form which anyone in the field of expertise could identify), and useful. Manufacture of a product upon which there is an existing patent is “patent infringement” and can result in a lawsuit against the infringer with substantial damages granted.

Personal Injury

Personal Injury occurs when a person has been harmed physically or psychologically by another person or a person’s act of negligence. Auto accidents are possibly the most common areas of this practice, but not the only ones. Other areas can include falls, injuries from defective products, dog bites, and even libel or slander.In a personal or bodily injury case, an initial contact with an attorney will likely involve a discussion about: Fault and Damages. If it is unreasonably difficult to demonstrate either fault or damages, the lawyer cannot move a personal injury case forward.

The “value” of the case, meaning how much compensation a plaintiff (the one filing the suit) is likely to receive in reimbursement for incurred losses and money paid on top of it as punishment, affects how the case will be handled. It may not even be worth taking to court because the cost of bringing the case equals or exceeds the “value” of the case. However, solid personal injury cases are often “settled” before they ever get to court.

Unlike other attorneys, Personal Injury lawyers usually take no money up front. They take their payment as a percentage of the money that is awarded to a successful case and they get nothing if the case loses. This form of payment is called “on contingency”. For this reason, Personal Injury attorneys will be easy to find if the case value is a million dollars and harder to find if the case value is $1,000.


Product Warranties

Product Warranties Law is an aspect of Consumer Protection stemming from a seller’s promises about a product that product he/she/it is selling. Based on state and federal law, products ranging from toasters to cars to washing machines to lamps, etc., have warranties for the benefit of a consumer who buys those products. Warranties (promises) can be express or implied. An “Express Warranty” is specifically stated, usually in writing; for example, the buyer of a new washing machine might be given a written 1-year express warranty guaranteeing the washing machine’s performance and for repairs/parts/replacement if the washing machine does not perform correctly during that year. An “Implied Warranty” is one imposed by law on the seller to protect a buyer’s reasonable expectations about a product. Based in the federal Uniform Commercial Code, followed in some variation by every state, there are 2 types of implied warranties: the “Warranty of Merchantability” and the “Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose.” An implied Warranty of Merchantability means that a product must reasonably conform to an ordinary buyer’s expectations. For example, an ordinary buyer of a washing machine would expect it to work the way washing machines usually do; if this washing machine doesn’t have a rinse cycle, for example, then the washing machine breaches the Warranty of Merchantability. A Warrant of Merchantability always exists unless the seller states that there is no Warrant of Merchantability or the product is sold “as is.” An implied “Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose” means that the buyer is relying on the seller to provide a product that performs a specific function and the product does perform that function. For example, an underwater camera must be waterproof; if a retailer sells an underwater camera that is not waterproof, then the seller breaches the implied Warranty of Fitness for a Particular Purpose.When a warranty is breached, consumers are empowered by laws and statutes to force sellers, distributors and/or manufacturers of the product to repair or replace the product and/or to pay money damages. Lawyers specializing in Product Warranties Law are familiar with federal and his/her state’s regulations about express and implied warranties and may represent individuals/organizations on either side of a warranty argument.

Real Estate

There are two major areas of Real Estate: Commercial and Residential. Commercial Real Estate refers to sites and buildings where businesses can operate. Residential property refers to houses and apartments where people live.Real Estate Law not only covers buying and selling land or “property”, but also involves a variety of issues related to the “improvements” meaning “buildings” on that property, in addition to contracts, title, and other disputes. In recent years, foreclosure, mortgage issues, title fraud, and eminent domain have risen to the forefront of Real Estate Law, especially in Residential Property.

Misunderstandings, mistakes, and outright fraud are bound to occur in a certain percentage of real estate transactions. Having an experienced Real Estate agent who works exclusively in the area where the property in question is located often avoids many problems, but some issues are beyond the scope of an agent’s duty to the buyer or seller. These areas will require a lawyer’s guidance and legal skills.
Before calling a lawyer who specializes in Real Estate law, it is a good idea to know in advance who is “on title” for the property in question. This means, “Who legally owns the property as of the last time it was recorded?” It can be a person, several people (including people who are deceased), a company, or a trust.


Sexual Harassment/Abuse

Sexual harassment is a form of Sex Discrimination that occurs in the workplace. Persons who are the victims of sexual harassment may sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits sex discrimination in the workplace. Such harrassment is defined as: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that tends to create a hostile or offensive work environment. The federal courts did not recognize sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination until the 1970s, because the problem originally was perceived as isolated incidents of flirtation in the workplace. Employers are now aware that they can be sued by the victims of workplace sexual harassment.

Social Security/Disability

Social Security Disability (SSDI) lawyers specialize in helping applicants get benefits, especially after having been denied. “Disability” is defined as the “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physician or mental impairment which can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months or result in death.” This benefit is only available to those who are under the age of 65, since 65 is the age when most are allowed to collect social security retirement benefits. Most applications for disability are denied in the first stage. Therefore it is worth considering the value of having the advice and services of an attorney from the very beginning. When serious illness is affecting a person’s ability to work, it may also impact the energy available to wage a battle with the Social Security Administration. SSI is a different program and stands for “Supplemental Security Income.” It is similar to SSD or SSDI but the biggest distinction between the two is the number of work credits earned. Someone who is receiving SSD has worked most of their life and has enough credits to qualify. SSI is generally someone who has had nearly no ability to work and does not have enough credits to receive benefits under the “disability” program. Generally, a person on SSI also has no assets, such as a home.

Surrogacy and Egg Donation

Surrogacy is a form of assisted reproduction. It is also known as third party reproduction. Surrogacy is an arrangement whereby a woman agrees to become pregnant for the purpose of gestating and giving birth to a child for others to raise. She may be the child’s genetic mother (the more traditional form of surrogacy also known as artificial insemination), or she may be implanted with someone else’s fertilized egg (gestational surrogacy). Egg donation is also a form of assisted reproduction. Egg donation is a process whereby the egg donors eggs or ovum are extracted and used to make embryos outside the human body by a process known as in vitro fertilization. These embryos are then placed in a recipients uterus and that woman gestates the baby until birth. Surrogacy and egg donation law relates to the legal and contractual dealings between all participating parties.

Tax Law

“Tax” is a monetary amount that becomes due by law on a purchase or on earned income (money from jobs, business, or investments). Usually the amount is determined as a percentage of the income or the purchase. The IRS, or Internal Revenue Service is a government entity that pursues earned income of every employee and business that makes money in the United States. It has unique legal standing. Its legislative power, that is, “its power to make and enforce laws” comes from itself, which makes it difficult to contradict its decisions without legal representation.Income tax attorneys can assist in the filing of taxes to begin with and in looking after the interests of the filer when facing the IRS or other revenue agency in an investigation. Tax lawyers can also help in dealing with IRS penalties associated with failure to file, mistakes or misrepresentations on filings, and perhaps even “abating” penalties altogether. If not avoiding penalties altogether, they can sometimes make an “offer in compromise” (OIC) that reduces the amount the IRS is willing to accept to settle the matter.

When the IRS or the State makes a mistake, even a seriously negligent one, there is often no penalty to them. This is certainly not the case for tax filers. Tax attorneys can help reduce through their knowledge of “the system” penalties placed on tax return filers or non-filers. There are some protections afforded to tax payers under certain Privacy Acts and tax lawyers can explain how these help when fighting the IRS or similar agency.


Traffic/Moving Violations

Moving violations, such as speeding or running a red light are often an expensive occurrence, but sometimes are worth fighting to keep car insurance instated or from going up; or prevent false information being recorded on your driving record. Traffic tickets, unlike parking tickets, are recorded on an individual’s driving record using a system of “points” depending on the severity of the violation. Having too many points can become a problem in applying for a job, obtaining insurance, or keeping affordable insurance payments. Traffic Violation attorneys can help get penalties reduced or keep privileges that would ordinarily be revoked. They also may specialize in fighting certain types of tickets, such as red-light-camera violations. There are also attorneys who specialize in fighting Driving Under the Influence or “DUI” violations.


A will is a written document which leaves the estate, or sum total of posessions of a deceased person, to named persons or entities (beneficiaries, legatees, divisees). This estate can be given as a whole or in percentages to whomever has a legal right to receive such porperty. Gifts may also be “bequeathed”, such as a particular piece of furniture, or a specific sum of money going to a certain person. A will usually names an executor to be in charge of handling all of the paperwork and distribution of the property of the estate, following the wishes stated in the will. In addition to distribution of the estate, they may also manage the funeral and/or burial instructions and see to nominating guardians of minor children. A trust is an entity created to hold assets, much like a person would, for the benefit of named persons or entities, with a trustee managing the trust (and often holding title on behalf of the trust). Most trusts are founded by the persons (called trustors, settlors and/or donors) who execute a written Declaration of Trust which establishes the trust and spells out the terms and conditions upon which it will be conducted. A trust may take the place of a will and avoid probate (management of an estate with court supervision) by providing for distribution of all assets originally owned by the trustors or settlors, upon their death. Probate is the process of proving a will is valid and thereafter administering the estate of a dead person according to the terms of the will. Even if there is a will, probate may not be necessary if the estate is small with no real estate title to be transferred, or all of the estate is either jointly owned or community property.

Workers Compensation/Disability

A system whereby an employer must pay, or provide insurance to pay, the lost wages and medical expenses of an employee who is injured on the job.Workers’ compensation law is governed by statutes in every state. Specific laws vary with each jurisdiction, but key features are consistent. An employee is automatically entitled to receive certain benefits when she suffers an occupational disease or accidental personal injury arising out of and in the course of employment. Such benefits may include cash or wage-loss benefits, medical and career rehabilitation benefits, and in the case of accidental death of an employee, benefits to dependents. The Negligence and fault of either the employer or the employee usually are immaterial. Independent contractors are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, and in some states domestic workers and agricultural workers are excluded or only partially covered.

The formula for permanent partial disability benefits varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction but usually considers the employee’s average weekly wage combined with the degree of permanent disability. A worker who is permanently disabled from working at all may be entitled to permanent total disability benefits.