It’s common to assume that a lawyer is a lawyer and will be able to provide any legal services that are required. In practice, the full body of South African law is vast and divided into many areas – from maritime law to immigration, intellectual property or tax law; from environmental law to copyright, contract or criminal law.
Some attorneys are generalists and offer legal services that span a range of legal fields. By and large though, the more specialised an attorney is in a particular area of practice, the better. It’s just not possible for a single attorney to be equally knowledgeable and experienced across numerous fields of law.
If you need legal assistance, you’ll have to consult the right type of attorney. We offer a simple overview of some of the most common types of attorneys in South Africa and the specialist services they provide.
When you’re charged with a crime, a criminal lawyer applies for bail, conducts an in-depth pre-trial investigation, reviews the evidence against you and finds and questions any witnesses to the crime.
An experienced criminal defence attorney will attempt to get the charges against you lowered or possibly dropped. Failing that, they’ll represent you in court and, if you’re convicted, possibly pursue an appeal on your behalf.
Personal injury attorney
If you or a close family member is injured as a result of another party’s deliberate or negligent action or omission, you may be able to claim compensation for losses or damages you’ve suffered. This is where a personal injury lawyer can help.
For example, a personal injury attorney can assist if you’ve been injured due to
- a train, plane or road accident
- medical malpractice
- a faulty or defective product
- police assault
- a slip or fall due to another party’s negligence
- a dog bite.
A personal injury attorney can advise you, help compile and submit a claim, negotiate a settlement on your behalf and, if required, represent you in court.
A family lawyer focuses on legal issues involving family relationships, such as marriage, divorce, adoption, and child custody and support.
Services include the drafting of pre-nuptial and cohabitation agreements, and assisting with the application of a protection order against an abusive partner or spouse.
He or she will also negotiate the division of marital assets, visitation rights, and the payment of alimony and child support in a divorce.
Intellectual property lawyer
If you want to protect unique aspects of your business, such as trademarks, patents, copyrights and registered designs, the kind of lawyer you need is an intellectual property lawyer.
Along with lodging patent applications, an IP attorney facilitates business licensing and franchising, and offers litigation services relating to unlawful competition, including the dissemination of trade secrets.
Estate planning attorney
An estate planning lawyer deals with wills, trusts and deceased estates. He or she will help you draw a will in accordance with your wishes and, if required, set up a testamentary trust to protect the financial interests of your minor children, or dependents.
An attorney specialising in estate planning will usually suggest legal ways in which you can reduce the estate tax payable to the state.
Medical malpractice attorney
Have you been harmed as a direct result of medical negligence or malpractice? For example, you might have suffered harm due to surgical error, misdiagnosis or medical treatment or care that fell below the accepted standard of care.
The type of attorney you need in this case is a medical malpractice attorney. This kind of attorney can assist you in pursuing a claim for compensation, against a medical practitioner, hospital or other healthcare provider.
Corporate, business or commercial lawyers deal with the legal aspects of setting up and running a large business. They offer advice on how to structure a business, and assist with corporate set-ups.
They draft client agreements, negotiate employment contracts, and deal with mergers and acquisitions. Shareholder agreements, share structures, purchase agreements, and memoranda of understanding all fall within the ambit of commercial law.
An attorney specialising in labour law offers advice and legal services to both employers and employees. Functions include the drafting of employment contracts and codes of conduct, dealing with labour disputes, and representing clients in the labour courts.
Unfair dismissals, disciplinary enquiries, illegal work stoppages and strike action, and facilitating dispute resolution at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration are all issues a labour lawyer may help you resolve.
Claims with DSC
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in personal injury claims. Our personal injury attorneys and medico-legal team can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. We work on a no win, no fee basis. Contact us to discuss your claim or set up an appointment.