Picking a specialty

LegalJob is constantly asked how one goes about picking a legal specialty.  There are at least four items to consider.  It will be helpful if your specialty area:  (i) is one in which you have more than a passing interest; (ii) matches your experience, education, or particular skill set (i.e., photographic memory is helpful in litigation and many other areas), or some combination of all three; (iii) is considered a growth area (both now and in the foreseeable future); and (iv) provides multiple possibilities for obtaining a job outside traditional routes.

An example of a specialty area that meets these criteria is tax law.  The opportunities in tax law are strong --- most practitioners are older and on the way to retirement and the tax law changes all the time and these new laws add to its complexity.  So, it is a short and long term growth area.  This high demand means that smart candidates with relevant experience or education (i.e., some demonstration they will be successful in the area) will have an opportunity to make their case (through effective networking and other tools discussed on this blog) outside the traditional process of waiting for a job posting and submitting a resume.  More detail on each of these considerations is provided below.

► More than a passing interest in the particular area

● This thought is fairly obvious but deserves mention

● The stronger the interest level, the easier it will be to

◉ work all of the hours required to satisfy clients (including partners) and become an expert in your niche area

◉ sell your services (to partners, colleagues, clients, other lawyers in the industry)

◉ distinguish yourself from the competition (including writing and speaking about your niche)

► It should match your experience/education/skill set

● Having just one of these things will likely separate you from the competition

● Employers look for commitment to the practice area.  Experience, education, or demonstration of a particular skill set will help demonstrate this commitment.

● One of these items may also help you to predict whether you will excel in the particular practice area

► Growing area

● Now.  What is the average age of most of the lawyers in this practice area?  What is happening in the world (current events, Congress, Courts, Executive Branch, agencies) that affect this practice area?

● Foreseeable future.  Job security is good.

► Multiple possibilities for obtaining a job

● Few skilled practitioners in the area mean that employers will cast wide net.

● Law schools and overall grades matter but grades in practice area and substantive experience are particularly important

● Certain specialty areas are growing and becoming more complicated every day so demand is rising and supply may not match this demand

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