Types of legal firms

Types of Law firms: Variety and Specialty


While there are numerous large law firms across the United States that can tackle almost every legal challenge possible, there are thousands of individual firms across the country that operate in specific areas of US law. From finance to criminal defense, our legal system is extensive, complex and varied, resulting in a multitude of specialist law firms.


Whether you’re looking for legal help, or searching for employment, it’s important to understand the differences between all these varieties of US law firms. Take a look at this handy guide to some of the most common law firms in the United States.

Wall Street

Wall Street is home to some of the biggest and most notorious law firms in the world, including Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP and Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. New York now has thousands of law firms and attorneys and makes up a significant portion of the nation’s legal market.

Despite being based in New York, many firms work with clients from all over the world, dealing with financial and banking matters. Wall Street legal firms are prestigious, making it harder for young graduates to make their way up the ladder – but when they do, it’s certainly rewarding.

Small and Regional

Smaller, more regional firms have a drastically different hierarchical structure and culture to New York firms. Typically, these slower-paced, smaller firms will work with companies and clients across their local area and state. This does not mean, however, that their remit is limited.

Smaller legal firms have to adapt to more specialized legal markets in their states, and will work on a variety of issues from banking and finance to government and regulation.


All firms start somewhere, and usually it’s a result of one attorney deciding to ‘go it alone’. A solo legal firm is run by one lawyer, and may often provide services in multiple areas of law. Some solo firms may also practice in one specialized area of the law.

A solo firm’s services will typically cost less, but will be able to provide high quality services as a result of hiring paralegals and other legal professionals to assist with the work load.


Owing to the complexities of criminal law, many firms across the United States (and indeed the rest of the world) will specialize in providing only criminal law services. Clients will request legal representation for court cases that relate to some form of criminal activity.

Criminal attorneys will often work with other local attorneys and have a knowledge of the most prominent judges in the state and region.

Public defenders are available, but given that clients are often fighting to stay out of prison, a criminal attorney will have extensive experience and a huge deal of knowledge of criminal law.


Transactional practice is used when two disputing parties want to stay out of court. Research, preparation and extensive reviewing of documents and contracts will take place, allowing companies to settle their disputes or go ahead with acquisitions or company mergers. Typically, transactional law firms will focus on disputes relating to insurance, finance or property.

These lawyers will always stay out of court, and work across the board to negotiate the best deal for both parties.


Litigation is very different to transactional practice. Though litigation specialists may also focus on property, money and insurance cases, they will seek to solve the dispute in the court room.

Litigators will have to prove that contracts were breached, crimes were committed or the other party was negligent in order to win their case. While there will be days in court, litigators use their extensive knowledge of the law, and team of specialists, to negotiate deals with the opposing party’s lawyers, too.

Around 95% of these cases actually settle before they reach court, according to recent statistics.



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