How to Choose Your Law Career Path.

A law career path is something that most law school students don’t think about.  In fact 99% of law students seem to focus on the things directly in front of their face…  their classes and grades.  This is a mistake as the following progression will demonstrate.

Action: Focus on grades in law school.  Result: You get good grades in law school and put no effort into considering the direction of your career and life.  Subsequent Result: Because of your high grades you get offered a lucrative 6 figure job at a large firm.  Once you start working the firm pushes you into Tax law (or some other type of law that does not suit your personality).  You dislike the work but grunt through it and after 8 years you come to the realization you are completely miserable but cannot quit your job because your spouse doesn’t work and you have a mortgage and two kids.

Unfortunately, the above example is very common, you may have spoken to lawyers who tell you “DON’T BECOME A LAWYER”.  But the truth is if law students spent 1/20th of the effort trying to figure out where they fit in the legal industry (where their strengths weaknesses and personality match best), they could easily find a niche of law that makes them satisfied emotionally and financially.  (the legal industry and work types are large and diverse.) For some reason law students find it difficult to really look at themselves and analyze the type of work that would really make them happy. 

So our overall point can be summarized as follows:  There are many law career paths and one that would make you happy is out there, but it will not find you… YOU NEED TO ACT. 

What do I wish I knew about the law career path before beginning law school?

Start from the big picture:  There are two main types of legal work, LITIGATION and TRANSACTIONAL.  Generally speaking, Litigators appear in court, and Transactional attorneys work on business deals.  (However, all transactional work can become litigation work if the deal goes bad and the parties file a lawsuit against each other.)

So let’s get more specific, examples of each:

1.    Family Law - (Litigation type)

2.    Criminal Law - (Litigation type)

3.    Real Estate Law – (Transactional type)

4.    Personal Injury Law – (Litigation type)

5.    Corporate Law - (Transactional type)

6.    Business Law - (Transactional type)

7.    Entertainment Law - (Transactional type)

Some of the other, more concentrated options you could consider include, intellectual property law, international contracting law, and much more. Some of the choices will put you in a position to pick very unique jobs.

Sub-Niche legal career paths.

Now each of the above different law career paths have sub niches.  For example let’s take a look at Family Law.  The category of family law encompasses several different sub niches such as:

1) Divorce work – These lawyers primarily represent married couples who want to get divorced.

2) Children & Family Services – These lawyers primarily work for governmental entities in serving the best interest of children, and protecting children.

3) Adoption work – These lawyers primarily handle adoptions and finalizing same.

So if I was starting out in law school and I really liked children and wanted a job focusing on protecting children, I would take the following steps to achieve that end.

i.  I would immediately go on  the internet for the website of the state or county governmental agency in my area that handles this work. 

ii.  I would contact them via the phone number from their website and simply tell them I am a law student and wanted to talk to someone about volunteering.  If they said they don’t take volunteers ask them for the names of agencies that do similar work where you could volunteer.

iii.  Volunteer during the school year and work there during the summer. 

This process lays the foundation for obtaining work in this field.  It really is simple to do, but you to have the guts to ask… and the above process really can be repeated for any type of law, but the key is to start early in law school and get INVOLVED in real legal work.

Miscellaneous thoughts regarding the law career path.

Obviously, there are times when different career paths will overlap. For example, you may become a divorce attorney but also handle other types of family law cases.

Further, having a thought about what you want to do is also helpful when choosing classes.  This way, you can take targeted classes that will help you study specifically for your goals while volunteering at related agencies or law firms to actually get some experience.

Alternative law career paths.

Of course, the law career path doesn’t have to be limited to practicing law. There are many marketable skills provided by having a law degree.   

It is a good idea to note that you do have different options. This can come in handy should you choose to change careers down the road or if you finish law school and determine you want to explore other choices. Some of the alternative law career path options you could consider include the following:

·         Real Estate – Real estate jobs do require negotiation, structured transactions, finances, and risk management. This can be a lucrative career and has been for numerous different law school graduates.

·         Journalism – Law studies can give a person a leg up in the journalism world. Proof of this can be seen in the sheer number of broadcast journalists and reporters who began their career in just this way.

·         Charity Director or Manager – Nonprofit organizations require extremely specific skills and education. Law school offers leadership training that can be very helpful in the management of such an organization.

·         Legal Recruiting – This job will allow you to go beyond just practicing as a lawyer and actually contact potential candidates while they are still in school to determine if they are a right fit for the law firm.

·         Entrepreneurship – Owning your own business requires a great deal of legal knowledge. It can be hard on a regular citizen and they often have to hire an attorney to work out the details. If you already have a law education, then this can be extremely useful for choosing to open your own business.

·         Marketing – A law career path could keep you at the actual law firm, but you could do other jobs besides work as an attorney. For example, a marketing director is a job offered by more and more law firms because they want someone who will be able to pitch their business in a professional way.

It is always a good idea to know you have other options. You certainly will not be limited to just one choice when you complete law school, and there is a diversity of careers that may appeal to you.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that, by going to law school, you are not stuck with just one career choice. In fact, this type of degree will open a wide variety of doors for you. Just in the realm of attorneys, you will find there are different types of "lawyer" you can become.

However, a law career path can lead in other directions as well. You could get into journalism, marketing, business ownership, and much more. You could become a manager of a charity, work with the law firm to find new prospects, or work in real estate. Choosing to graduate from law school means choosing a very versatile degree.  However, REMEMBER THAT USUALLY YOU WILL HAVE TO ACTUALLY WORK AS A LAWYER FOR A FEW YEARS BEFORE MAKING THE SWITCH TO AN ALTERNATIVE CAREER.  (This is a general rule, I do know some people who went straight form law school to successful non legal careers.)

Before you start law school, it is a very good idea to evaluate your options. Do you know which type of law you are most passionate about? If you do, then you may choose to concentrate on that more while in school so that you will graduate with the proper skills to jump right in.  If you don’t you better look for it real soon so you can start gaining real experience in that area.

In conclusion, if you start thinking about your law career path right now and put some real time and effort into analyzing the right niche of law for you, you will be light years ahead of other law students.

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