As a law student, you may already know precisely which field of law you’d like to practice. However, if you’re interested in studying law but don’t yet know which legal specialty you’d like to pursue, you’re not alone.
Is it better to practice a niche specialty or diversify your skillset? Which branch of law is the easiest to enter? Which law firm offers the best fit? There are countless young attorneys and students wrestling with the same questions.
While I cannot make these decisions for you, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions to help you plan for a successful future in the legal field.
1. Research Legal Firms in Your Preferred Destination
You may not have settled on your specialization yet, but perhaps you have a preferred place to live. If you would like to reside in a particular area, research the local law firms. You may be able to discover an untapped market for a particular law specialty.
For example, if you’re set on living in Los Angeles, California, you may discover that the area is oversaturated with personal injury and divorce lawyers. However, there may be a need for attorneys specializing in asset protection. By researching your target market, you may be able to narrow down your selections for a productive career.
2. Choosing Your Law Firm – Small or Large?
If you’re looking to gain experience across a wide range of specialties, you may consider training at a small firm. Depending on each individual client’s needs, you’ll find yourself addressing a plethora of cases spanning a considerable spectrum of practice areas.
However, if you already have some sense of the fields that are most interesting to you, you may choose to enter a larger firm. You’ll receive in-depth experience regarding that field’s nuances and be able to determine whether it’s the right fit for you.
3. Take Advantage of Trustworthy Self-Assessments
There are a number of self-assessments and quizzes that you can use to narrow down your search for a specialty. The American Bar Association has put together an impressive list of self-assessments for law students at each stage of the process. You’ll get a glimpse of what each field entails, and there are more detailed quizzes for each particular area of interest. Yale Law also offers high-quality self-assessments that can supplement those provided by the American Bar Association.
However, it’s important to select the specialization that you are drawn to. While quizzes and self-assessments serve to gauge your interest or knowledge of fields of legal practice, it’s perfectly acceptable to disagree with their results. You should never feel pressured to pursue a specific subject.
4. Consider Your Career Trajectory
Imagine where you see yourself in ten years. Will your chosen field still be engaging and exciting to you that far in the future? Although it’s certainly possible to change your practice area, doing so may be stressful, expensive, and time-consuming. By choosing a field that aligns with your ethical beliefs, life goals, and unique skillset, you’ll find yourself positioned for success.
5. Consult With Attorneys & Advisors
Your professors and the attorneys at the local law firms have been in your situation before. Take advantage of their experience and insights into the profession. By sitting down with your advisors and discussing the pros and cons of specific specialties, you’ll be able to make an educated decision as to which field you’d enjoy most.
Additionally, many established attorneys offer free consultations to new clients. Reach out to your local law firms to see if one of their lawyers would be willing to conduct a short interview with you. You can find local attorneys through a quick Google search or a professional networking platform, such as LinkedIn.
Make sure to prepare a list of questions about your interview. You may want to ask why they chose their practice area, what kind of cases they regularly handle, and what they’ve found challenging about their role.
Take Your Time & Enjoy the Process
There’s no right or wrong way to approach your career path. I encourage you to pursue your interests, take advantage of advanced self-assessments, and consult with the advisors and attorneys around you. By seeking out insights from those already involved in the field and following your passion, you’re more likely to settle in an area of law that you’ll enjoy for many years to come.