You’re looking around for a lawyer. But when you type ‘lawyer’ into Google, you’ll find that they come under different names: advocate, barrister, attorney, and solicitor (just to name a few). And you might not be sure which one applies to your situation. You don’t know if your problem is civil or criminal, or even know what those words mean
To help you start with finding the right one, we’ve broken them down into different categories and the areas of law that they cover.
1. The litigator – to sue or get sued
Litigation is when one party sues another party to defend or enforce their legal rights. A litigation lawyer protects your interests when there is a dispute, whether it is civil or criminal. They will work to maximise your chances of getting a favourable outcome.
A litigation lawyer will also prepare you for self-representation. This is when you need to be present in court, maybe for a cross examination. They will brief you depending on your needs and circumstances of the case, as well as what to reveal and what to conceal to the opponent parties.
There are mainly two areas that are covered by litigators :
A civil lawyer will have to be familiar with a wide range of laws, as a civil lawsuit covers many different areas such as personal injury, employment, family, finance, immigration and landlord/tenant agreements. But the main concern is usually the recovery of money or reclaiming property on your behalf.
They know how to make your case look more favourable for your side. For instance, if you were physically injured by another party, a civil lawyer will advise you to take photos of your injuries as soon as possible. This is because he knows that in civil disputes, the worse an injury looks, the stronger your case will be.
Your lawyer can advise you on how much money certain injuries and emotional strain can be worth in a case like this. This means that you won’t have to settle for a lesser payment than what you deserve.
The process of criminal litigation is different. Their clients are those accused of a crime (wrong doer) or the accuser (person making the police report).
There are two types of criminal lawyers: prosecutors and defense lawyers. Prosecutors work on behalf of the accuser and present their case against the defendant. Defense lawyers, on the other hand, represent the accused and work to protect his client's interests. As a defendant, you will have two choice of defense lawyers.
If you can afford it, you can hire a private defense lawyer for your case, if you believe that this will ensure the best outcome for your case. If not, you can look for a public defender. Public defenders are defense lawyers that work for the government, and represent those who cannot afford to hire private counsel.
Whether you have a public defender or private lawyer, their goal is the same: they will argue for your behalf in court and advise the best way to go in order to reduce your punishment/fine. In fact, going in and out of court can be an emotionally taxing experience, so your lawyer will help you prepare mentally and emotionally for what may happen during a trial.
2. The conveyancing lawyer – for your property needs
Are you planning on buying or selling property and you are unsure of the procedures involved? This is where a conveyancing lawyer comes in.
They will advice you on going through the process of buying or selling a property, rentals, land joint ventures and securing bank loans. Property transactions almost always involve a mountain of paperwork to handle, as well as dozens of people to liaise with, from mortgage brokers to real estate agents. The average person might not be prepared to deal with all these.
Conveyancing lawyers probably already know most of the people you have to deal with, and how best to deal with each of them. Their clients are usually those who deal with large transactions such as banks, property buyers and sellers, land owners and developers. But they also serve individuals looking to buy a single home or apartment.
Conveyancing lawyers can either be on the sellers or the buyers side, and also serve as guarantors during transactions. For instance, let’s say Ali wants to sell his house to Govin. Instead of Ali and Govin just shaking hands and exchanging money, there would be paperwork to be resolved and large sums of money transferred to confirm the change of ownership. Their lawyers will then work to ensure that the right amount of money is transferred, and that all the necessary papers are signed and exchange of ownership is confirmed.
3. The commercial lawyers – for your business deals
A commercial lawyer deal with issues relating to business transactions. This includes drafting client agreements, negotiating employment contracts or writing purchase agreements. Disputes can come up throughout the transaction, and they can help you handle it or even avoid it altogether.
The branches of commercial law mainly deal with business and financial transactions which include corporate law, intellectual property law and tax law.
Some might say that commercial and corporate lawyers are the same, but they cater to different levels of businesses. For example, commercial lawyers advise matters for small businesses. However, if you own a corporation, you’ll likely find yourself consulting mostly with a corporate lawyer. Corporate matters includes shareholders disputes, mergers, compliance issues and lawsuits.
The corporate lawyer focuses on securing your transactions and negotiations. They ensures that all the transactions complies by the law, and will warn you of any potential breaches your company might do.
In this digital age, copying and sharing information illegally is much easier now. If you’re a digital artist, chances are if you put up your artwork online, it can be surprising to see your artwork appear on a T-shirt or an album cover without your permission. Worse, not only are you not paid for it, you aren’t even credited anywhere. All that hard work, and someone is reaping all the benefit.
An Intellectual Property (IP) lawyer will help you to deal with your design being reused or copied without your consent or compensation. They will show you how to protect your work, and how to bring a case against those infringing your rights. But IP is not just related to creative artworks such as designs, patterns or songs. They also work on matters relating to patents for medicine ingredients, or even trade secrets on how your restaurant prepares its food (the recipes).
In Malaysia, Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO), is the official body that provides protection for an IP, and responsible for the administration and development of an IP. An IP lawyer will help deal with MyIPO to secure the rights of your creation, as well as help you in cases where your copyrights is infringed.
"I didn't know" is not an excuse if you accidentally infringed a tax law. Tax laws change frequently and it is your responsibility to keep up with it. Hiring a tax lawyer can be your insurance against ignorance, and keep your business far away from a dreaded audit. An audit happens when the income tax officer raids your premises IF they discover suspicious financial transactions.
The thing is, sometimes the suspicious transactions is just mistakes in paperwork on your side, instead of any attempt to evade the law. So, the tax lawyer will ensure that the mistakes are avoided to prevent any fine imposed on you
If you plan to start a company with employees, then a tax lawyer will guide you on issues related to withholding taxes and more. You might also enjoy tax relief or deductions that you wouldn’t have known when a tax lawyer managing your income tax. For individuals, tax lawyers use charitable deductions and various tax planning structures to reduce the burdens of the total income taxes that you are required to pay. Remember, the government has its troops of tax law and procedure specialists, and they won’t be shy to throw the book at you to recover unpaid taxes.
4. The human rights lawyer – if your rights have been violated
As its name suggests, a human rights lawyer will help to investigate, assess, and defend you in matters relating to human rights. They can help you if you’ve been discriminated against based on your race, religion, gender or disability.
For example, an employer can't decide to not hire you based solely on race or religion.It can also involve things such as a dress code at work. Your employer might not allow you to wear something that covers your head, and this rule applies to everyone at the company. But if you wear, say, a turban or burqah for religious reasons, they might have to let you dress differently.
In Malaysia, The Human Rights Commission of Malaysia or SUHAKAM is the national human rights institution to promote human rights education, advise on legislation, and conduct investigations into human rights violations. In general, human rights lawyers tend to be passionate advocates of human rights issues, and some have become prominent media figures such as Ambiga Sreenevasan.
[[ READ MORE: Is child marriage actually legal in Malaysia? ]]
5. The sports lawyer – for finalizing a sports deal
This is a very new area of law in Malaysia, but popular in other countries with a developed sports scene like the US, Australia and UK. Sport lawyers are involved in the legal aspects of sports which includes sponsorship contracts, athlete’s welfare and rules of the sport. Their clients are companies looking to use sports as a marketing tool or advertisements for official sponsorship of stadiums.
For instance, if you hire a corporate attorney, will they have experience negotiating with sports leagues and league business models? Do they know the importance of having date controls over your stadium or arena?
A typical corporate lawyer doesn’t always understand the politics involved with everyday league affairs, and therefore, cannot advise on how to draft the league’s governing documents. Like most areas of law, the sports law practice is unique and takes specific industry knowledge to avoid future problems and misunderstandings.
The right lawyer can make your experience a good or a bad one
Once you've made the decision to hire a lawyer, the next step is to pick a specific lawyer to handle your legal matter.Choosing a lawyer is like choosing any product or service, where the wise consumer conducts thorough research beforehand.
Getting a second or even third opinion is important, to make sure you are making the most informed decision. Lawyers will even recommend their clients to seek a second opinion. But always keep in mind that the most expensive lawyer does not necessarily equate with the most qualified lawyer.