Dear LiL: Junior Lawyer here – how do I determine which area of law I am interested in. I didn’t love where I articled, but I have no idea how to determine my next steps in terms of what practice area to go into (since the study of law in law school is so different from the actual practice of law).
Navigating Your Legal Career:
Finding Your Passion in Law
Dear Junior Lawyer,
The legal profession offers a vast array of specialties, and finding a practice area you are passionate about can be an exciting—and overwhelming—task. Everyone’s journey will be different, but thinking critically about what you are interested in, gaining diverse hands-on experience, and leveraging the support and experience of your friends and colleagues can help you find your path forward.
1. Define Your Interests
Identifying your genuine interests will provide a solid foundation for exploring specific legal areas. Take a moment to reflect on the aspects of law that genuinely interest you. Consider the courses you enjoyed in law school, the type of cases that intrigued you, and the legal issues that sparked your curiosity. What specific subjects or legal challenges that truly captivated you during your first year of practice? Pinpoint the details – was it the intricate details of contract law, the complexities of family disputes, or the regulatory dance of environmental law? The more granular you can get, the better.
As well, reflect on the type of clients and industries you enjoy working with. The legal challenges faced by clients in different sectors can vary significantly. Identifying industries or clients you are passionate about can guide you toward practice areas that align with your interests.
2. Seek Diverse Experiences
Embracing opportunities to work on diverse cases and projects will allow you to assess your strengths, weaknesses, and preferences, helping you make informed decisions about your future specialization.
Seek out assignments that expose you to different areas of law within your firm or practice group. Request shadowing opportunities with senior colleagues across various legal domains; observe their daily tasks, interactions with clients, and the challenges they face.
Volunteer for pro bono projects with legal aid organizations, nonprofit groups, or community service programs. This provides an opportunity to work on cases and with clients that may differ significantly from your usual workload and allows you to contribute to the community.
Attend conferences, workshops, and Continuing Legal Education (CLE) seminars focused on issues and industries you find intriguing. Participating in legal seminars and conferences can be an excellent way to explore various legal fields. These sessions often delve deep into the nuances of a practice area, allowing you to assess your interest and compatibility with the subject matter.
3. Evaluate Work-Life Balance
Consider the work-life balance associated with different legal fields. Some areas of law may demand long hours and tight deadlines, while others may offer a more predictable schedule. Assessing your personal priorities and lifestyle preferences will contribute to finding a legal specialization that aligns with your overall well-being.
4. Connect with Colleagues
Having a network of individuals who understand your professional journey can be crucial for personal and career development.
Establishing connections with experienced lawyers can provide valuable guidance and help you envision yourself in different legal roles. Leverage your law school alumni network to connect with lawyers in various fields. Schedule informational interviews with senior colleagues from various practice areas to gain insights into their work. Discuss your aspirations and concerns with them. Ask about the challenges, rewards, and day-to-day responsibilities associated with their practice.
However, don’t discount the value of connecting with your peers. Networking with peers helps create a support system where you can discuss shared experiences, seek advice, and provide encouragement. Peers and mid-level lawyers have recently navigated the transition from law school to practice and are likely experiencing similar challenges and opportunities as you are. Often, they can provide practical advice on career development, including tips on securing interesting assignments, handling workload, and building a strong professional reputation.
5. Trust the Process
Discovering your passion in law is a process that takes time and patience. Navigating the legal landscape is a learning curve, and it’s okay not to have all the answers right away. Be open to exploration and understand that your career will likely evolve as you gain more experience, your interests shift, and new opportunities may arise. Trust the journey and embrace the learning experiences that come your way.
Finding your niche in law requires a combination of self-reflection, practical experience, mentorship, trust, and a little bit of perseverance. Identify what areas of law excite you, try things that scare you, seek out opportunities that align with your interests, talk to friends, chat with mentors, stay curious, and remember that your unique perspective and contribution are invaluable to the legal profession. Good luck.
About the Author
Emma Sydora is an associate at Harper Grey. She maintains a broad civil litigation practice, representing clients across a number of areas including professional liability, fraud, construction negligence claims, and commercial disputes. Emma is passionate about empowering young lawyers and supporting her community.