To the uninitiated, there may seem to be little different between a criminal and civil law attorney. Lawyers go through the same three years of education in law school, and are aware of both civil and criminal law. But in practice, attorneys specialize in specific types of law.
This misconception about lawyers runs so deep that many bright and intelligent young students mistakenly believe they would be forced to take the defense of criminals, and thus avoid pursuing a legal career since they believe they would be unable to sacrifice their values in order to do so. They are not aware of the fact that most attorneys never defend a single individual convicted of a serious crime, only small misdemeanors and civil disputes.
The key differences between criminal and civil law
Unfortunately, the stereotype of the ruthless, blood-thirsty bulldog lawyer who defends serious criminals—which is only further illustrated in the media— prevents many great legal minds from rising to their true potential. Though ABC crime dramas would have you believe otherwise, criminal lawyers represent a small fraction of the population, and very few are the attack dogs depicted in film and television.
Criminal lawyers are highly compensated and notoriously good at their jobs. While some attorneys fail to achieve any real success and never climb into the 1%, JDs who specialize in gruesome criminal defense law tend to have a strong backbone. Of course, due to the emotional labor involved in the job, only a certain type of personality can survive in that world for a lengthy legal career.
Since criminal cases are rare compared to minor civil disputes, many more lawyers, predictably, specialize in civil law. The major difference between civil and criminal law is that civil law is handled in civil court, while criminal law is handled in criminal court. Crime victims do not hire lawyers. Instead, a district attorney or prosecutor is appointed by the government.
How civil cases are handled
Civil cases are very common and usually quite hassle-free. While the public often becomes deeply invested in criminal cases, most civil cases are resolved briefly without much media attention, if any at all. The dispute is typically between two people or one person and an organization or institution. Such issues usually involve property, housing, injuries, divorce, and debts.
Once a case is filed, the defendant must be represented by a civil lawyer. If you are being sued and require legal representation, you may be wondering if you can hire a criminal attorney to represent you rather than a civil lawyer.
Why choose a criminal lawyer?
Criminal defense attorneys often rise to infamy in local communities, or gain notoriety on an international basis if they work on a particularly fascinating case that is closely followed by the public. You might be able to think of names of criminal lawyers in your local community more readily.
For instance, if you live in Colorado, one specific Denver criminal lawyer might be on your radar, and you might wish to hire them for your own purposes. Concerns about losing a case in civil court and the prevailing belief that criminal lawyers are more effective at winning cases, are common reasons why a defendant may wish to seek help from a more hardened criminal lawyer as opposed to their friendly local civil lawyer. But is it allowed?
In short, yes. Criminal lawyers are completely within their legal rights to represent you in a civil court. Most of the time, they are too busy with other large time-consuming criminal cases, but if you have a specific lawyer in mind who would be willing to help you, he or she would be able to. However, since legal aid can make or break your chances at winning a case, it is advised to choose a lawyer based on their background, experience, and success rate, rather than any close personal connection you have to them.