What is general practice?

General practice (or general law practice) typically encompasses a broad range of practice areas by an attorney. It means that the attorney does not limit their law practice or specialty to one particular area of law. Many younger attorneys will open a “general practice” until they settle into an area of law to specialize in.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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General practice (or general law) typically encompasses a broad range of areas by an attorney. It means that the attorney does not limit their business or specialty to one particular area of law. Instead, general practice attorneys provide services to clients in several areas such as criminal law, accident and personal injury law, bankruptcy, business law, family law, estate planning, insurance law, litigation, and real estate.

Many younger attorneys will be general practice lawyer until they gain experience and settle into an area of law in which they intend to specialize. You also will often see a local, small-town attorney work in smaller communities where business may be limited, so they provide legal assistance and handle straightforward matters for clients in multiple areas of law. Attorneys are not required to focus on one area of law. However, in larger cities, “boutique” law firms have developed over the last several years that specialize in only one or two fields. The philosophy is to do one area of law extremely well and handle complex matters, thereby justifying a premium “boutique” fee.

Should you get a specialized attorney?

When you are looking for assistance with your legal matters, you may want to consider a type of lawyer who specializes in one area of law instead of a general practitioner so that you get more specialized advice. Many states have procedures where experienced attorneys can become board certified in a particular area of law.

To become specialized, board certification requirements generally include:

  • A set number of years in practice.
  • Have handled a certain number of cases and appeals involving the specialized practice area.
  • Completion of specific continuing education related to the specialty.

If your situation is very specific to one area of law, the abilities of a board-certified attorney may be a better avenue for a concise resolution and a positive outcome of your case. However, if your situation involves an overlap of multiple areas like family, criminal matters, and probate, you may want a general practitioner instead. Because they are used to handling overlapping issues, a general practitioner may be able to give you a broader picture of the options and consequences you are dealing with.

In addition, for people who have regular legal issues such as those that sometimes plague small businesses, you may find that a general practitioner who can help in all the areas may get to know you and your business better than a new lawyer looking at an unfamiliar matter every time you have some sort of problem. Keep in mind that a general practice lawyer (or any lawyer for that matter) has a responsibility to seek assistance from lawyers of a certain specialty where such specialization is needed. Your general practitioner will be in a position to assist and manage and call in expert assistance whenever and whatever may come your way.

Regardless of whether you select an attorney who is in general practice or one who is board certified, you should double-check their credentials on your state bar website. Many states will now provide online access to former complaints against attorneys. You can also verify any state board certifications or specialties that will be the most helpful to your situation.

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