If you’re a prospective or current law student, you may be wondering whether or not you want to specialize and, if so, in what field. The law expands to so many areas of society and it may seem like there is a law specialty for almost anything. In their second year, many law students decide to focus on a specific area. A student at Princeton may, concerned about the high risk oil refinery jobs, wish to one day be the best work accident lawyer in Elizabeth NJ, or, concerned with refinery pollution, become a top environmental lawyer. Perhaps his classmate aspires to be a leading NJ drunk driving attorney. She may fulfill this desire. She may not. These two law students, like their classmates, may specialize in completely different areas or not at all. When making decisions around law specialties, consider these five tips:
1.Pick an area you enjoy- As the cost of law school rises, law students appear to feel increasingly pressured to choose a high-paying field. However, these high paying jobs are extremely competitive and there are thousands of bright eager law-school graduates vying for these jobs every year. If you choose a field you actually enjoy, you will enjoy law school more and may be more likely to excel in your field.
2.Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. This is self-explanatory. It is important to be realistic about where you shine and where you need improvement as a student. Luckily, however, the areas where we excel often coincide with the things we enjoy.
3.Speak to different professionals- Network with other lawyers in your areas of interest. If you are interested in, say New Jersey workers’ compensation law, try to meet with a workers’ compensation law in New Jersey to learn more.
4.Look at the job outlook- perhaps your field of interest is not popular in your geographic location. For example, you are interested in maritime law but live in a landlocked area. Are you willing to relocate for your job? Also, consider that as society’s needs change, so do the laws and many specialty areas have a finite life span.
5.Get real-life experience- Make the most of clerkship opportunities. While a law degree is highly valuable, there is no substitute for hands-on involvement. During your first and second summers, take advantage of clerkships to learn the inner workings of different practice areas. At most law firms, you will find lawyers practicing in several different areas. Spend time with as many of them as you can. You may learn that the field that most interested you at first is not all that you believed it to be. Conversely, you may enjoy working in a field you never thought you would choose.
Whatever specialty field you choose, keep your mind open. Although you may choose one field in a specific area, you may later change your mind. A maritime law student in Los Angeles, CA may one day end up a workers compensation attorney in West Palm Beach FL or a DUI lawyer in Montgomery County. It is good to take classes outside of your concentration so that, whatever you choose, you can be a well-rounded practitioner. At law school you will be required to take certain classes that extend to different areas of the law. Remember, also, you will need to know these areas to pass your bar exam and practice regardless.