The Top Differences Between a General Practice Attorney and a Criminal Law Attorney


If you’re in need of legal counsel, it’s important to understand the difference between general practice attorneys and criminal law attorneys. Here are some of the key differences between these two types of lawyers and how they can affect your case.


You can save thousands by enlisting a general practice attorney instead of one that handles criminal law matters. Because there are so many different legal fields, it’s possible to specialize in criminal law while practicing as an attorney in another field. The average cost of hiring an attorney is $180 per hour, but you can cut your bill down significantly by hiring someone who limits their practice to general law instead of just one area.

Types of Cases

One of the main differences between general practice attorneys and criminal law attorneys is their area of expertise. General practice attorneys handle a wide range of cases that are unrelated to each other, such as family law, real estate law, probate, business law, and more.

A criminal attorney focuses on defending those who have been charged with crimes; therefore, an individual looking for legal representation would need to hire a criminal attorney in order to receive legal advice on such matters.

Size of Firms

The average firm size for general practice attorneys is larger than that of criminal law attorneys. Most criminal law firms will have less than ten lawyers, but many general practice firms can have over 100 attorneys on staff.


A criminal attorney typically goes to law school, meaning he or she has earned his or her Juris Doctor degree. A general practice attorney, on the other hand, can go to law school, but it’s not necessary—many attorneys start out as paralegals or even litigators. This means they may have less formal education than their criminal counterparts.



Your state may or may not require you to choose between practicing general law or criminal law exclusively, but it’s good to know what your choices are if you end up specializing later on. In general, criminal law attorneys defend people who have been charged with crimes, while general practice attorneys handle everything from business-related cases to family matters. However, that’s not always true.

Some general practitioners also specialize in divorce cases or other types of domestic disputes; some criminal defense lawyers do divorces as well.

Malpractice Coverage

One of your key considerations when choosing an attorney is malpractice coverage. Malpractice coverage insures you against your attorney not getting you what he or she has agreed to get you—or, in other words, not properly representing you or your case. With criminal law representation, malpractice insurance may be more important than in other types of cases because of how emotionally charged these cases can become.

Payment Type

The attorney you choose to handle your legal matter will determine how much you have to pay for their services. In general, criminal law attorneys charge less than a general practice attorney would for similar work.

This is because criminal law is more specialized, meaning that there are fewer opportunities for work than in other areas of law; therefore, it can be harder to fill an empty schedule with extra cases. When choosing your legal representative, look at all fees charged by various attorneys before making your decision.

Research & Court Experience

The bread and butter of any attorney’s career, these two skills are honed by general practice attorneys. Although most people think that every criminal case is defended in court, they couldn’t be more wrong. As such, as part of their training, general practice attorneys are exposed to all aspects of what it takes to defend a client—this includes writing briefs, researching cases law and even participating in mock trials.