For Students – What area of practice should I choose?


As a law school professor for over 15 years, I frequently encounter students who say, “what area of law should I choose? How do I know what to concentrate in while in law school?”

I tell them, unless they have prior experience in specialized area of experience which easily translate in to a practice concentration, they should not worry about it. Ask any lawyer you meet about their current area of specialization and if they planned on that while in law school – I would venture a guess that the vast majority of them, over 90% will say that they didn’t have a clue. So I tell many of those student, “enjoy the ride” and don’t worry about it. “Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but won’t get you anywhere”. (Anonymous)

Where I teach, students have little choice in their curriculum for the first two years. They must take evidence, tax, Wills, Trusts and Estates, business organizations, and many other classes which frankly, they don’t enjoy as they are difficult and not electives that give them much choice. However, those fundamental areas of practice and procedure will give them the ability to take them wherever they choose to practice.

But even if you are not restricted, there are so many practice aids available for lawyers that most areas of practice that you choose have what I call “legal recipe books” that help you understand the “A” to “Z” for most areas of law. In law school, you are taught how to research and construct paradigms from scratch. But, in the field, lawyers employ those foundational skills only after tapping into work that has already been summarized and consolidated to increase their efficiency. If it has been done before, they will seek it out and modify it with appropriate updates and changes. There is no need to “reinvent the wheel” when you are attempting to be efficient in practice. As a result, commercial resources and often, ironically, other solo practitioners are willing to share information, sources, forms and tactical suggestions as they are in charge of their own timekeeping and not beholden to a partner to account for their time.

As a result, today it is much easier to practice as an independent practitioner. This is due to available resources on the internet and the ability to communicate with others through email, from wherever you are with smart phones, tablets and other linking devices in ways never envisioned even 10 years ago.

So, I tell students to choose and area of practice that they can be passionate about. First, be yourself and follow the path that allows you to grow as a person and one that you find interesting and enjoyable. As they say, “if you find something that you love to do, you will never work a day in your life”.

“There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don’t like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn’t that a little like saving up sex for your old age?” (Warren Buffet)

Take a lesson from those who had struggled and learned to hate the law. In my earlier post, I told you to distinguish your self from the rest. How do you do that? Watch what is going on around you!

Over a year ago on my way in to teach a class, I was listened to National Public Radio as the host was interviewing someone concerning drones. Not the big military versions, but the ones being used by hobbyists. As I listened, I thought, there it is – an opportunity for someone to recognize and act upon.

I entered my classroom of estate planning students and said, “Drone Law”! They looked at me like I was crazy. I went on to explain how the development and implementation of drones in daily life had legal implications which opened the door to lawyers for the provision of services to others concerning the use of drones and the legal implications of their use in business, municipalities, farming, criminal surveillance, and for private use.

I asked them to think about the current state of the law and how might it evolve? I offered all of them a gift – an idea, and an opportunity. I told them, even a year ago, to write about drones and the potential impact and application of existing laws in their usage. You can publish in law review, but also consider copy that could be printed in a newspaper, on-line or elsewhere. “Do that, and you will find that people will contact you for legal advice even while you are in law school. Advice which you cannot provide until you graduate and pass the Bar”, I told them.   “But, you can refer those cases to someone who has passed the Bar and work under their credentials.” You can become a “rain-maker” before you graduate.

Think about it, you are lounging by you swimming pool on a beautiful summer afternoon. Out of the corner of your eye, you spot something moving toward you overhead – it is a drone. You hear the high-pitched buzz of its propellers. In addition, as it is overhead you hear “click, click, click”. You are not fully clothed! What are your rights to your image and the airspace overhead? Amazon revealed recently that they might be employing drones to make deliveries. Local law enforcement organizations are using them to search for missing persons and in drug enforcement. Just a few days ago, one landed on the White House lawn and everyone went ballistic concerned about terrorist threats, as they should.

What is the state of the law? What legislative initiatives may be pending? What does the FAA have to say about them and are there rules concerning their use for private purposes? Commercial purposes? Drones are just one of thousands of developments in technology. There are new cases decided in the courts which have the potential for impacting consumers, businesses, non-profit institutions, and governmental agencies. Every law that is passed is an opportunity to develop a practice in line with that development. The Affordable Care Act, 3D Printers, Same Sex Marriage, . . . the list is exhaustive. It is up to you to look about you and find what interests you and write about it.


Posted in For Law Students.