How to Choose the Right Law Degree
Studying law and practicing it are two completely different things. As a student, no one expects you to know what area of law you intend to specialize in in the future. But when practicing law, you’ll meet a wide range of clients from individuals to large corporations. You also deal with different aspects of the law. Thus, it helps if know your area of specialization.
This knowledge becomes critical when you apply for a job at a law firm. Keep in mind that different firms deal with different types of legal work and clients. For this reason, recruiters will want to know why you chose their firm in the first place. They will also test your knowledge on what they do. So, how do you choose a practice area?
The best way to choose a practice area is to figure out what you are good at, and then play to your strengths. For instance, if you have good mathematical skills, you could do an online LLM degree specializing in tax law. This field involves handling and deciphering lengthy financial documents. A field like family law, on the other hand, is about the practical application of a few principles. To excel in this area, you need more common sense than mathematical ability.
Some practice areas, such as handling personal injury cases, demand patience from you. According to Sarah Cunliffe, an attorney at Shoosmiths, it can be years before you resolve a case. So, you need to have a patient disposition if you are to sit it out. Others areas, such as environmental law, are ever changing. You have to be able to keep up with the new environmental laws – mainly from Europe – being made every year.
Be Open Minded When Working as a Trainee
When working as a trainee solicitor, you will rotate seats, which can make it hard for you to pick a specialty area. Some areas might capture your imagination quickly. Only later do you realize that this is not the path you wish to follow. Others, though difficult at first, grow on you with time. Either way, think of your training as a learning experience. Even if you have no desire to pursue an area permanently, learn what you can from it such as project management skills, or learning how to work alone.
Mark Everiss of Edwards Wildman Palmer UK, gives an example on how to be open minded. He says that a specialty such as insurance and reinsurance is difficult for trainees at first. It is a highly technical and intricate area. However, he notes that it is intellectually stimulating and varied. Trainees get to love it in time and they learn a lot.
Consider Where You Want to Live
Some specialty areas are rooted in certain regions, which can impact on where you live should you choose to pursue them. For example, an area like tax-exempt practices is largely centered in Washington DC. If you live in Dallas or Atlanta, and decide to pursue this area, you might be forced to move your family to Washington. If you have no intentions of moving, it makes sense for you to pursue another specialty instead.
Another location-specific specialty is investment management. To work as an associate dealing with hedge funds, you must move to New York. There is no way you can work in this field from Denver or Cleveland. So, do your homework well before you do a master of law online. Choose a specialization based on where you see yourself living in the next five years.
How you choose a law degree to pursue depends on the specialty area you intend to pursue. Is it environmental law, family law, tax law, or personal injury law? Once you decide on an area, you need to consider a few things. First, ensure that you play to your strengths. Second, have an open mind, especially when working as a trainee. Third, consider where you want to live in the future. Some specialty areas are rooted in certain geographical areas.