This decision is very important but it is not final, as you may have noticed, many attorneys take detours in their careers and end up achieving their goals in a completely different way they imagined when they were in law school.
In my personal experience, when I first started law school, my goal was to study and to become a judge. After starting my first internship at a law firm I discovered a whole new world and never though about judgeship again. From the law firm, went to in-house counseling, which also changed my perspective and fitted perfectly with my career aspirations.
Day to day life and work is a completely different experience than going to law school. My best advice to you would be to enjoy as many internship opportunities as you can, try out clerking, working for a government agency, a law firm, a company, to make sure you had real life experience at those jobs and are well equipped to make the best choice. Talking to ans shadowing people who are on a career path that interests you is also a great option!
The best of luck for you, Cassidy!
Lais recommends the following next steps:
That is a very good question.
My guess is that the answer will differ depending on who you talk with. I am a lawyer and I personally did not really decide which type of law that I wanted to practice until my second year of law school. And then after practicing for a few years, the scope of my practiced changed, and it has changed repeatedly over the course of my career.
To be more specific, I took some courses on intellectual property law in law school, then I got a job out of law school practicing trademark law for a firm. Once there, my practice focused on litigation, specifically patent litigation. After doing that for a while, both in private practice and for the US government, I took a job with the United Nations helping to administer a patent treaty. After doing that for a few years, I went back to private practice and mostly litigated patent cases but also practiced trademark and copyright law. After being in private practice for many years, I went in-house at a company and focused on patent litigation again but after two years of that my role changed and I managed a team of people practicing in all sorts of different areas related to intellectual property. Then I switched roles again and focused on the public policy aspects of intellectual property.
I am sure my journey is not unique. I know many people whose focus has changed over time.
My advice would be to decide what type of tasks suit you best. For example, do you want to resolve disputes or do you want to help your clients transact business in some way? Do you like writing or public speaking? How much contact with individual people do you want to have? What types of people do you want to interact with? The types of things you enjoy doing will dictate a path forward for you.
The next thing to consider is what businesses or industries interest you. Do you like sports or chemistry or politics and government? Once you think about that, then the demands of those industries will give you some insight as to the types of law to study. For example, the internet industry has a high demand for expertise in privacy law, content moderation, and law enforcement at the moment.
Once you think about those things, then it will become clearer to you what types of law you should study in school and what your options might be coming out of law school.
One thing that you can do that might guide you is to look at the classes that a typical law school offers. That will give you a good idea of the different possibilities, and once you understand what is possible you can judge those in view of your interests and the actual day to day tasks that you envision yourself doing.
Finally, I applaud you for wanting to study law. It is a great career ... one with many different possibilities and pathways.
I hope this helps and good luck.
Kevin T. recommends the following next steps:
That is an excellent question. I had absolutely no idea when I entered law school in which area I wanted to specialize. Prior to law school, I had worked for four years as an insurance liability claims adjuster (slip and falls, vehicle accidents, etc.) and workers’ compensation supervisor. My only thought was that working as a litigator might be too stressful. So, I thought that I might prefer what is called “Transactional” law, which includes Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning; Real Estate deals; drafting Contracts; incorporating companies, etc.
It wasn’t until I obtained my 2nd law clerk position during the summer after my second year of law school that I worked for a general business litigation law firm. That provided me with experience in legal research, drafting pleadings and legal memoranda, performing legal research, assisting with written discovery (questions that must be answered under oath), and performing miscellaneous tasks (file documents at the court house, pick up a real estate deed from the County Recorder’s office, draft an Arbitration brief outlining the legal basis to support our client’s case, and even find a helicopter!).
Towards the end of law school, it was clear that I would be welcome to return to this law firm. (I clerked part-time for my entire 3rd year of law school.) Then I had to make a decision – did I really want to be hired as a litigation attorney? But by then I had come to realize that verbal skills were my forte, although I did (and still do) enjoy drafting documents. Simply put, I love the written and oral word; that is where I am most comfortable – not mired in the intricacies of tax, real estate or bankruptcy law, or the Uniform Commercial Code (rules and regulations that govern business transactions like contracts, who pays if someone writes a bad check, etc.)
I now practice litigation in the specialized field of workers’ compensation, representing employers. I love my job – it’s a good match.
In summary, don’t worry if you don’t know at first in what area of law you want to specialize.
Take care and good luck with your discernment process of figuring out which field of law most appeals to you. Keep in mind that you can always change your mind by the end of law school, or even after you begin to practice law. The more you learn and are exposed to, the more you learn about yourself and the area in which you want to develop expertise.
Toward the end of law school I decided I would practice law, but I would never do so with my father (due to family dynamics, lack of opportunity to advance, lack of benefits and a very inferior office I would be working in). But I was unsuccessful finding another position. I ended up going to work with him temporarily, sort of doing it as a sole practitioner, with him giving me work and paying me by the hour. As I practiced law, I found that most of my own clients turned out to be divorce/family law and criminal law, just because that's the kind of folks who came through the door or were referred to me. I did some civil litigation, though limited at first, and liked it more.
Because I was working with my Dad, I was given some opportunities to work on, write briefs for, and do oral argument on a variety of big, civil cases, and liked it. I also had a few of my own clients who had constitutional law cases, and I enjoyed that very much as well. So I guess I would say I decided what area I wanted to practice in the first several months after graduation and admission to the bar.
I have gone on to attain an MBA and have opened many successful businesses in my career.
The real issue is where you can get a job after law school and what area of law the law firm assigns you to. Many lawyers expected to work in one field and ended up in a completely different field. Your decision on what type of law to practice should be made by the end of your first year so you can take classes and concentrate on that type of law, then try to do an internship at a law firm that practices the type of law you desire to practice.
I am currently in my last semester of law school and plan to take the February 2020 bar. I started my legal career as a contracts manager at a start up and found a love for contracts before I went to law school. I give the same advice to everyone I talk to about going to law school: try to do some legal work before you make the decision to go to law school. I know too many lawyers who are no longer practicing because they didn't understand that legal work isn't exactly what they teach you in class or what you see on tv.
I would also like to echo Kevin's answer above, take a look at your interests and consider the industries you want to go into. From there I would reach out to people you know and see if they'd be willing to show you what they do on a regular basis as a(n) [attorney speciality] attorney. Get to know what the work is like and what kind of skills you'll have to get to become one.
Marisa recommends the following next steps:
You don't have to know now and you are not stuck with whatever you decide. Start in an area and figure out very quickly whether you like that particular area!
I´m a lawyer and this question I made to myself thousands of times since I entered to law school, but in my experience I could tell you that it's all a matter of learning and getting to know the different specialties that exist as you go, now a days It may be that from this moment there is some branch of law that may catch your attention but it may happen that at the end of the degree and since you studied all the subjects related to it, they do not attract as much attention as before.
Today this profession adapts to new technologies and therefore incorporates new fields of study, what you can do is do an investigation of the different law schools that interest you, consult the study plan that each one has and see which one. It attracts your attention, you can do an investigation of the different branches of law that exist in your country and see which one best suits your interests.
From my experience I can tell you that I have dedicated myself to 3 different ones, such as administrative law when I worked in an office, financial and securities law when worked in a bank and currently I am dedicated to corporate law when working in a private company, so this is a matter of trying a little of each one.
I hope this can work for you and clarify your doubts.