How Lawyers Choose a Legal Specialty

No two attorneys or law students are exactly the same. The law firm you choose to work for, whether you’ll spend your days handling personal injury claims or working with insurance companies or in a courtroom setting, and the area law that fascinates you the most are all things you’ll need to determine as you begin your first year of legal studies. Whether you’re a transfer student or someone in the beginning stages of exploring law school options, it’s important to think about what type of law you’d like to study ahead of time.

Many lawyers go into their field of law practice for personal reasons, while others are more practical and look at income and location as primary reasons for choosing their areas of focus. Regardless of your personal reasons when choosing the type of law you’ll study, it’s a good idea to understand why attorneys before you made the choices they did. Not only could this help you in your own decision, but it could put you in the position of better career satisfaction down the road. For a few reasons why attorneys choose their legal specialties and some things to think about before making your own decision or applying to law school, read on.

Considering Income Potential


Like in any field, many law students are practical and base their decisions around the area of law they choose to practice on future earning potential. The same way they put time and energy into researching how to transfer law schools or what needs to go into the best letter of recommendation when applying for top law schools, these students devote their attention to overall income earning potential when it comes to choosing their specialty. These students may put aside dreams of becoming an Assistant Deputy Attorney General in favor of a high level career in corporate law involving giving legal advice to corporations and complex litigation.

The truth is that there are no right or wrong ways to decide whether you want to come out of your legal career with years of experience in wrongful death suits or after having represented people accused of crimes. The reality is that by choosing a career path based on what matters to you most, even if what matters is your own future lifestyle, you’ll likely be more satisfied. If an important factor is a job with less stress or time with family, that’s something to consider. If you’re someone more concerned with living in luxury, that’s important to know about yourself, too. The bottom line is that no matter what type of law and law school program you choose, you’re committing to years of education and hard work ahead.

Working Off Personal Experience


For some students, their motivation to choose their specific area of law is born of personal experience. For example, someone who might become a personal injury attorney in Chicago could also have had a family member who once had an unfavorable verdict in a medical malpractice case. Or, they could be friends with an accident victim struggling with medical bills due to someone else’s carelessness. The reality is that our experiences shape us, so it’s not difficult to understand that a lawyer’s life experience would come into play when it comes to the big decision of what type of law to study.

When thinking about the right type of law for you, consider your personal experiences with medical expenses, car accidents, and even any workers’ compensation claim you or a family member might have had experience with. This could help you know what type of law might most interest you.

Working for Change and Causes


If your own life experiences don’t point you in the right direction of a specific type of law that interests you, consider your bigger passions. Think about your beliefs when it comes to politics and social justice. If you’re someone who cares about civil rights, fair workplaces, and policy at the administrative or governmental, someone like Malliha Wilson could be a great example to turn to. In looking at Malliha’s career working for human rights in the Canadian government, you might be able to find an area of interest to you.

For example, maybe you’re someone who spends a certain amount of time on social media reading about the legal rights of the LGBTQ community. If you’re naturally an advocate for human and civil rights, you could be someone who’d enjoy a career as a civil or human rights lawyer and one day make a strong case for more justice in the world. If you’re someone who wants to make a big difference and has a difficult time watching groups in society be marginalized, the best way to help could be using civil rights legal processes as a way to make a change.

Looking at Location and Market Needs


Like the practical law students who look toward income and earning potential, another great way to choose your specialty is to consider location and need. For example, if you’re a person who enjoys living in a big city, you’ll want to take a look at the law firms in the city you hope to live in. From job opportunities and competition to market holes, it’ll be important to know where you’re heading—literally—before making your final decision or even beginning that application process.

In the end, no matter what field of law you choose to study, it’s important to understand your reasons every step of the way. Whether you choose to go into mediation, worker’s compensation, personal injury law, or business law as a trial lawyer, it’s a good idea to pick something of interest that works well with your lifestyle, too. Thinking about things like how much stress one area of law might mean over another is as important as finding a career you’re passionate about for the long term. By taking the time to explore your options before applying to law school or as a first year student, you’ll have less regret later on.