Financial law,or financial services law, can be thought of as the law of money and banking. Financial services law is among broadest areas of legal practice and encompasses areas as diverse as bankruptcy law, fair credit practices, interest rates on credit cards, and the regulation of Payday Loan companies.
Many attorneys who specialize in financial services law are employed by the various regulatory agencies of federal, state, and local governments. At the federal level such agencies include the Federal Reserve Board and it various sub-agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury Department, or the Internal Revenue Service. Financial service lawyers are also employed by the various state and local regulatory agencies as well as by consumer watchdog or advocacy groups.
While certain financial lawyers deal with financial criminal matters, this is different from traditional criminal defense work. For example, Attorney Peter Elikann is a well known criminal defense attorney in Boston, Massachusetts. While Peter handles a multitude of criminal matters, financial crimes would generally be outside of his usual scope of practice. Unlike a financial crimes attorney, a criminal defense attorney would be more likely to handle matters such as sex crime criminal defense.
In the private practice of financial services law, two types of practices are the most frequently represented: bankruptcy law, tax law, and debt restructuring / debt resolution law.
The roles of bankruptcy and tax attorneys are well known. Bankruptcy attorneys guide their clients through the complexities of the Bankruptcy Code, plan and write inventories of assets and bankruptcy petitions, as well as advising their clients during mandatory court appearances. Tax attorneys advise their clients regarding the tax laws and questions of tax liability. Tax lawyers frequently work with other professionals such as Certified Public Accountants (CPAs) or Certified Financial Advisers (CFAs) to help their clients reduce the amount of taxes will owe in the future. Obviously, lawyers practicing tax or bankruptcy law are aware that their areas of legal specialization often overlap to the extent that many attorneys have chosen to practice in both fields.
As is the case with securities or banking lawyers, those wishing to enter financial services law will take both required and elective courses while in law school. During school, of after graduation, many students will serve an internship with a law firm that specializes in financial services law or perhaps with one of the many governmental regulatory agencies that deal with financial services. A number of financial services lawyers will also complete a Master of Business Administration, with special interest in areas such as accounting or financial planning.
To summarize, financial service law is a broad field that includes areas such as banking law, tax law, and consumer financial protection. Although many lawyers practicing financial services law are employed by various governmental regulatory agencies, bankruptcy and/or tax attorneys represent a significant number of financial services lawyers who have entered private practice.