A juvenile lawyer is a lawyer who specializes in juvenile law, the area of the law which pertains to people under the adult age. In many regions, this includes individuals under the age of 18, although this age can vary in different areas. Juvenile lawyers work with their clients to help them navigate the justice system, and like lawyers who work with adults, they can represent clients in court, provide legal advice, help to negotiate settlements, and offer other forms of assistance.
Some juvenile lawyers work for government agencies. When children enter the legal system, a juvenile lawyer can be appointed for a child who cannot afford to pay a lawyer. Other juvenile lawyers work in private practice, and may work alone or in a group practice. Lawyers tend to make more money in private practice than in government work.
Juveniles who enter the legal system fall into a number of different categories. Some of them have been accused of criminal activity, and a juvenile lawyer provides representation as they are tried. Others may need services or protective custody, in the case of abused and neglected children and other children who have ended up in the care of the government for a variety of reasons. A juvenile lawyer may provide representation at hearings used to determine whether or not juveniles should be returned home and where they should be placed.
Other juveniles have committed what are known as “status offenses.” A status offense is an activity which is illegal because someone is a juvenile, such as underage possession of alcohol or cigarettes, or truancy from school. Because incarceration is generally deemed a harsh punishment for juveniles, people who commit status offenses are not imprisoned, but they may be fined, asked to do community service, or evaluated to determine if abuse, neglect, and other factors might be contributing to their behavior.
Working as a juvenile lawyer can expose legal professionals to a wide variety of people and cases. The work is often highly dynamic, as lawyers work with people in a variety of situations and with an assortment of needs. People in this field are often interested in human rights, the rights of juveniles specifically, and the place juveniles occupy in the legal system. Many law schools offer training in juvenile law and provide access to internships and other training opportunities for lawyers who intend to work in this area of the law.