Legal practice areas: how do I choose what to specialise in?

Securing your NQ legal job:

How do I choose which of the legal practice areas to specialise in?

Choosing which of the legal practice areas to specialise in is one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make in your legal career.

The choices you make now will have a direct impact on your options in the years to come. For some, it will be a 25 year career, so it is clearly worth spending some time on, in a considered way.

For some people the choice is easy – it will simply come down to which seat you’ve enjoyed the most, assuming there is a clear leader. If there isn’t one, or you liked all your seats then you may need some guidance.

Sometimes trainees come to us and it’s clear they feel they either picked the ‘wrong’ firm to train with or have perhaps been deployed unfairly, or not given enough variety in their training contract. It does happen, but thankfully not too often. No experience you gain is ever wasted, since it might be able to be channelled in a slightly different direction. Your recruiter should be able to help you come up with a plan.

Very often, the decision making process starts with whether you want to be a contentious lawyer, a non-contentious lawyer – or both. Beyond that, it needs to be something that sustains your interest and which you will enjoy for the long term.

You should never pick a department because of the people. Whilst it’s obvious that it’s going to influence you to some extent, please remember that people frequently move on to advance their careers, and the camaraderie changes. Also, try not to be too influenced by the working environment and the glass and steel high rise office, it’s location and the technology. Successful growing firms move offices.

There are other considerations you should endeavour not to be swayed by. For example, you shouldn’t pick a discipline because the money is better. It’s better to be happy and to steer your career towards better earnings gradually than to take an inflated NQ rate now, and regret it later because you end up not liking the work. Also, it’s best never to fall into what you perceive is the easiest option, or to take the line of least resistance and accept an NQ job, just to avoid looking at the market. It’s better to take the active step of finding the right role for you in the long term than to be passive. Most people only get this opportunity once. If you make a mistake, it can sometimes be difficult to rectify.

It’s best to have a very long term view and consider the future realistically. Where will you want to live in a few years’ time? What lifestyle changes and shifts in priorities might you anticipate? Be as objective in your thinking as you can, and remember that if you do make a mistake, things can be corrected later, but there is usually a trade-off to be had to alleviate the effects of any career choices you make now which then appear wrong with hindsight.

Bespoke career advice is something that is second nature to us. So, if you are unclear on the best way forward we can help you get things straight in your mind.

Share this: