Lawyers in Transition: Consider Your Options

In order to help you establish the focus of your job search, lawyers in transition ought to decide whether they wish to consider opportunities in different practice settings or areas of practice.

Different Practice Settings

Although this may seem obvious, switching practice settings has made a world of difference for many attorneys. It is also the least drastic, and easiest change to make. Choices include:

  • Move from the private sector to the public sector or vice-versa.
  • Move from a large firm to a small firm.
  • Move from an urban environment to a suburban environment, or from a firm's main office to a branch office.
  • Move to a different environment while utilizing the same skills; i.e., from insurance defense litigation in a law firm to a similar position in an insurance company.
  • Change to a firm with different types of clients.

 

A good way to deal with this issue is to take an inventory of your most desired work settings and options. Complete the following checklist by indicating which options most interest you:

A. Law Firm

_______Solo Practice

_______2 -10 Attorneys

_______11 -25 Attorneys

_______26 -50 Attorneys

_______51 -100 Attorneys

_______101 -250 Attorneys

_______251 -500 Attorneys

_______500 + Attorneys

Representing

_______Businesses

_______Businesses with significant pro bono opportunities

_______Businesses and individuals

_______Individuals (defense/plaintiff)

_______Individuals (non-litigation)

_______Public Interest

_______Other (specify)

B. Government

Federal

_______Executive

_______Legislative

_______Judicial (trial/appellate)

_______US Attorney

_______Armed Forces

State

_______Executive

_______Legislative

_______Judicial (trial/appellate)

_______Attorney General

County or Regional

_______Executive

_______Legislative

_______Judicial (trial/appellate)

_______District Attorney

Municipal

_______Executive

_______Legislative

_______Judicial (trial/appellate)

_______City Solicitor

C. Academic

_______Law School Professor

_______Law School Administrator

_______Other School Professor

_______Other School Administrator

_______Librarian

D. Public Interest/Human Services

_______Legal Services Programs

_______Individual Representation

_______Class Action, Law Reform

_______Policy, Research

_______Litigation

_______Public Defender (Trials/Appeals)

_______Public Interest Law Centers

_______Individual Representation

_______Class Action, Law Reform

_______Policy, Research

_______Litigation

_______Social Action Organizations

_______Citizen/Community Organizations

_______Nonprofit Organizations

E. Corporation In-house Counsel (Profit/Non-Profit)

_______Business

_______Foundation

_______Non-Profit

_______Labor Union

_______Hospital/Health Organization

_______Trade Association

_______Banking/Financial Services

_______College and University

_______Real Estate Development

_______Museum

_______Insurance

_______Professional Society

_______Accounting

_______Religious Organization

_______Management Consulting

F. Other

_______Delivery of Legal Services Systems

_______Pre-Paid Legal Services

_______Private Foundations

_______Elective Politics

_______Legal Clinics

_______Non-traditional Legal Career

Different Practice Areas

Many attorneys are upset to discover that, having chosen the real estate department as a first year associate, they are forever condemned to practice real estate law. Moving to a different area of practice involves a substantive change, which can be much more difficult to make than moving to a different practice setting. Here are some good ways to start:

  • Attend continuing legal education courses offered by the American Bar Association, state and local bar associations, Law Institutes, and private companies.
  • Join the relevant section of the American Bar Association and your state or local bar association. Membership often includes a subscription to a publication that provides information on new developments in the field and upcoming programs. Volunteer to work as an active member. This will provide excellent opportunities for networking and learning about the subject, as well as establishing credibility.
  • Take courses at a local university related to your area of interest. You do not have to commit to getting a degree. Many schools have certificate or visiting professional programs.
  • Enroll in an LL.M. program.
  • Do volunteer work for an organization in your area of interest.
  • If you want to remain with the same employer but in a different area of practice, talk to the head of the department you would like to work in and ask for an opportunity to work on a case in that area. Try to bring in a client in the area you want to work in and ask to co-counsel the case. Bolster your credibility by availing yourself of the aforementioned courses.

 

Consider the variety of practice areas in which you can work. Check the ones which are of interest to you:

Alternate Dispute Resolution

_______Mediation

_______Negotiation

_______Arbitration

Art, Entertainment and Media

_______Motion Pictures

_______Sports

_______Music

_______Computer Art/Graphics

_______Press

_______TV and Radio

_______Cable television

_______Art and Theater

_______Recreation/Leisure

_______Communication

_______Culture

_______Libel

_______Literary Property

_______First Amendment

_______Video

Business Law

_______Banking

_______Corporations

_______Securities Regulation

_______Bankruptcy

_______Corporate Finance

_______Admiralty & Maritime

_______Energy

_______Investment Banking

_______Utilities

_______Industrial

_______Reorganization

_______Mergers

______Commodities

_______Trade Regulation

_______Unfair Competition

_______Oil & Gas

_______Mining

_______Natural Resources

_______Advertising

_______Insurance

_______Foreign Trade

_______Economic Development

_______Interstate Commerce

_______Agriculture

Civil Litigation

_______Appellate Litigation

_______Practice and Procedure before Administrative Agencies

_______Malpractice

_______Personal Injury and Negligence

_______Trial Practice and Procedure

_______Products Liability

Consumer Goods and Services

_______General Purchasing

_______Debtor's Rights

_______Insurance

_______Transportation

_______Product Liability

_______Energy

_______Food

_______Corporate Responsibility

_______Utilities

_______Pharmaceuticals

Criminal Justice

_______Criminal Law Trial

_______Criminal Law Appeals

_______Prisoner's Rights

_______Probation and Parole

_______Juvenile Justice

_______Rehabilitation Employment

_______Worker Safety

_______Equal

Employment

_______Collective Bargaining

_______Pension/ERISA

_______Worker's Compensation

_______Employee Benefits

_______Civil Service

_______Labor (Management)

_______Labor (Union)

_______Unemployment

Family Law

_______Adoption

_______Conservatorship

_______Foster Parenting

_______Wills, Trusts

_______Marriage

_______Divorce

_______Guardianship

_______Settlement of Estates

_______Parent Custody Rights

_______Children's Rights

_______Surrogate Parenting

_______Neglect and Abuse

Health

_______Physical Health

_______Disabled Persons

_______Abused Persons

_______Mental Health

_______AIDS

_______Health Care Systems

_______Commitment

Law Practice

_______Law Office Economics

_______Paralegal Services

_______Prepaid Legal Services

_______Professional Education

_______Specialization

_______Law Research Materials

_______Advertising

_______Ethics

_______Legal Clinics

_______General Practice

_______Recruitment

_______Management

Property Law and Real Estate

_______Architecture

_______Construction

_______Conveyancing

_______Cooperative

_______Building Codes

_______Condemnation

_______Condominiums

_______Eminent Domain

_______Environmental Law

_______Land Use

_______Shopping Centers

_______Tenant Rights

_______Urban Development

Public Interest/Human Services

_______International Human Rights

_______Civil Rights

_______Civil Liberties

_______Women's Rights

_______Elder Law

_______Minority Rights

_______Community Organizing/Citizen Action

_______Municipal Affairs

_______Education

_______Legislation

_______Election

_______Youth

_______Urban Affairs

_______Welfare

_______Rural Residents

_______Small Farm Owners

_______Military Justice

_______Veterans

_______Immigration

_______Antitrust

_______Poverty

_______Constitutional

_______Government

_______Disarmament/Arms Control

_______Environment

_______Disability Law

Science and Technology

_______Aeronautics

_______Engineering

_______Genetics

_______Patent

_______Copyright

_______Trademark

_______Computers

Taxation

_______Income and Other Taxation

_______Estate and Gift Taxation

_______Practice and Administration

_______Federal and State Liaison

As you explore your options, keep three simple rules in mind:

  1. Always trust your own instincts.
  2. Try not to let money completely rule your life.
  3. Motivate yourself.

Excerpted from Jobs for Lawyers by Hillary Jane Mantis & Kathleen Brady (Impact Publications 1996).