Everyone who begins a career as a lawyer puts incredible amounts of effort into it. It takes years to qualify and enter the workforce. After a few years working for others, they might then work even harder to set up their own practice.
However, there is one essential thing that all lawyers-to-be should start to think about. Which area of practice is right for them? There are so many different areas of law, some of which you might never have considered or even heard of. Newly qualified lawyers will often begin working on a broad scope of cases. Perhaps they will then identify a niche for themselves.
Some people know sooner than others what area of law interests them. However, they can change their mind as they broaden their experiences. Other people might take a while to work things out. It’s a good idea to keep an open mind about the possibilities open to you. As well as thinking about your interests, there are other factors to take into account. You need to consider your strengths, as well as your likelihood of getting a job. If you’re trying to work out what’s right for you, think about some of the following factors and areas.
Consider Your Interests
The first thing most people want to think about when it comes to their job is what interests them. Of course, to some, it’s too idealistic to base your career on what you enjoy. But being an attorney is a tough job, and you need to be able to find reasons to do it. If you’re lost for which area of law is for you, starting with your interests can help you narrow it down. You should cover a range of areas in your studies, although there may be some you barely touch on. As well as looking into the areas and industries you study, explore further on your own.
Know Your Skills and Strengths
It can’t all be about what you like doing, however. You also need to think about what you’re good at. Everyone has their strengths and different skills. You should play to them when crafting your career. It’s important to know where your strengths lie. You will be able to make a better choice about where you are heading. There are several things to think about, beyond your academic performance. It’s also important to consider your personality and what you feel most comfortable doing. Don’t just consider how well you do in law-related subjects, either. Think about your other skills in math, writing, or perhaps networking with others. All of these things can help to indicate an area of interest for you.
Understand the Culture of Different Practice Areas
Some areas of practice in law have very distinct cultures. You can find that no matter which firm you work for, attitudes and approaches are very similar. You can also find that things differ depending on the size of the company. There are some factors to consider, such as the type of clients you would be dealing with. Are you comfortable working with clients who might get aggressive or demanding?
Think about lifestyle factors too. Some areas of law can give you more control over the hours you work. Some will have a steady stream of work, while others will have slow and busy periods.
Think About Both Practice Areas and Industries
As well as thinking about broad practice areas, do some investigation into different industries. There are some sets of laws that apply specifically to certain industries. But they aren’t technically a new area of law on their own. It’s a good idea to look into these if you’re interested in dabbling in a variety of different areas. You can find that you have to deal with a range of legal systems for a number of different reasons. You might discover roles that you didn’t know existed or job descriptions you were unfamiliar with.
Take Job Security into Account
Whenever you think about your career, you should make sure not to do it in isolation. Your happiness is important, but so are your finances and your job security. There’s no point picking an area of law you enjoy if you won’t be able to find a job. You don’t want to embark on a career where your future is uncertain, and you might be left with nowhere to go. Before you settle on an area to go into, make sure you do your research. Find out when certain industries and types of law are most in demand. It’s easy to think that people will always need lawyers. But many positions can be affected by the economy.
If you want to contemplate some different areas of law, try some of these popular choices.
Criminal law is probably the first area of practice people think of. The picture someone being defended when they have been accused of a crime or perhaps a prosecution attorney. Many people choose to go into this area of law, as either a defense lawyer or prosecutor. Some people may start off doing one job and then switch sides to the other. Of course, one of them means working for the local justice system, while the other allows for more control over work. Attorneys working in criminal law can find that they have a lot of work on their hands. It can be tough, but it is also often a very rewarding area of law to practice.
You may be more interested in civil matters than criminal ones. Working as a family lawyer involves dealing with several different types of case. It can involve helping people with divorce and everything that goes with it. That can include alimony, asset division, and child custody and support. Family law also includes marriage and agreements within it. It can involve adoption, finances and other topics related to children and family. Working in family law often means dealing with people who are experiencing a hard time. You need the ability to be sensitive to that while working in your client’s best interests.
If you have a keen interest in business, you might consider going into commercial law. Like many areas of law, this one requires a firm knowledge of another sector. You need to have a grasp on business, how companies operate and the issues that affect them. Perhaps this is an area that will appeal to you if you studied business as an undergraduate. The workload of someone in commercial law can vary, depending on the size of the firm you work for. However, it can often mean long hours, both in and out of the office. Commercial law can open up opportunities in a wide range of sectors and industries. This is ideal for someone who likes to be kept on their toes
Personal Injury and Compensation
Personal injury lawyers have perhaps one of the worst reputations out of any area of practice.
However, just like any field, there are both good and bad personal injury attorneys. Some of them use unscrupulous practices to obtain clients and fight their cases. However, many lawyers in this area are upstanding and skilled. You can work in this area as a respectable attorney and explore a range of laws. You could deal with workplace injuries, wrongful deaths or even medical malpractice. You don’t have to be an “ambulance chaser.”
The military has its own legal system that can often differ to what applies to civilians. If you want to consider a unique area of law, it is an interesting one to consider. However, many professionals in military law are members of the armed forces. Many start off in the military and later go to college. Military lawyers are typically members of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.
Environmental law is a field that has grown in recent years. Environmental lawyers work with a variety of people organizations. They can range from government bodies to private individuals. The issues involved include natural resources, pollution, land disputes, and many more. The issue of the environment in relation to public health is a concern that lawyers are addressing increasingly. This is one area of law where you should certainly have a passion for the subject.
Choosing a Law Firm
As well as picking an area of practice, new lawyers also have to find a law firm to work with. This requires some research, as well as having thought about what you are looking for. One of the most important things to consider is how prestigious a firm is. A firm with more prestige will help you to get a better start to your career. You should find out as much as you can about a firm to understand their reputation. If you can get a big name on your resume, it will be extremely helpful for your next job.
Deciding which area of law to practice in can take a long time. Make sure you give it plenty of thought to find the right path.
This post has been contributed by Ryan Gatt, it may contain affiliate links.