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
_______2 -10 Attorneys
_______11 -25 Attorneys
_______26 -50 Attorneys
_______51 -100 Attorneys
_______101 -250 Attorneys
_______251 -500 Attorneys
_______500 + Attorneys
_______Businesses with significant pro bono opportunities
_______Businesses and individuals
County or Regional
_______Law School Professor
_______Law School Administrator
_______Other School Professor
_______Other School Administrator
D. Public Interest/Human Services
_______Legal Services Programs
_______Class Action, Law Reform
_______Public Defender (Trials/Appeals)
_______Public Interest Law Centers
_______Class Action, Law Reform
_______Social Action Organizations
E. Corporation In-house Counsel (Profit/Non-Profit)
_______College and University
_______Real Estate Development
_______Delivery of Legal Services Systems
_______Pre-Paid Legal Services
_______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
Art, Entertainment and Media
_______TV and Radio
_______Art and Theater
_______Admiralty & Maritime
_______Oil & Gas
_______Practice and Procedure before Administrative Agencies
_______Personal Injury and Negligence
_______Trial Practice and Procedure
Consumer Goods and Services
_______Criminal Law Trial
_______Criminal Law Appeals
_______Probation and Parole
_______Settlement of Estates
_______Parent Custody Rights
_______Neglect and Abuse
_______Health Care Systems
_______Law Office Economics
_______Prepaid Legal Services
_______Law Research Materials
Property Law and Real Estate
Public Interest/Human Services
_______International Human Rights
_______Community Organizing/Citizen Action
_______Small Farm Owners
Science and Technology
_______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:
- Always trust your own instincts.
- Try not to let money completely rule your life.
- Motivate yourself.
Excerpted from Jobs for Lawyers by Hillary Jane Mantis & Kathleen Brady (Impact Publications 1996).