Which Kind of Law is For Me? A Law Student’s Guide
If you are currently pursuing your LL.M. in tax with a focus in tax law or have already graduated from one of the other LL.M. programs offered today, then you may be feeling ready to put your newfound and hard won knowledge to good use by going to work in the legal profession. The obvious question then becomes what kind of law to practice.
Not all students of law go to work as a litigator, while this is certainly the most visible and documented form of law (watch any law-related TV show and see this for yourself). There is such a range of different facets of the legal profession where you can dig in and build a rewarding career for yourself, whether you prefer to work on the front lines or you would rather bring up the rear in a supportive, research or administrative capacity. Learn about some different popular branches of law and decide which kind of law is for you.
General Practice Law
In general practice law you may see a great variety of different types of cases every day throughout your career. Like a medical doctor who can choose to become a general practitioner or to specialize in a certain area of medicine such as cancer research or geriatric care, a general practice lawyer applies their legal skills to a range of different types of cases, which might mean handling a divorce case one day and a car accident case the next day. The American Bar Association, which is the regulation body for the legal profession in the United States, specifies that before you take on a new case, you be able to show a “reasonable competence” in the area of the law that case focuses on. What this means is that you might choose to take on a bankruptcy case, but refer a complicated case in a certain specific area of bankruptcy taxation to a tax law specialist.
Special Practice Law
As the name suggests, a special practice lawyer is a specialist. As a special practice lawyer, you have chosen to delve in deep to a specific, sometimes highly technical or little known branch of the legal profession and you are building a reputation for yourself as the go-to lawyer in that branch of law. Often new law school graduates may start out as generalists with the ultimate intention to go into a specialist field of the law after gathering additional education, training or experience. There are many different areas where you might choose to specialize, including environmental law, human rights law, intellectual property law, family law, wills and trusts, insurance law, personal injury law, defense law, immigration law and the application of tax laws and many other areas of specialization as well.
Litigation can cover a great many different areas of law, but this is the aspect of law that will call upon you to use all of your powers of persuasion and oration to convince a jury or a judge to prevail on behalf of the client you are representing. Litigation law actually represents a fairly low number of the overall number of attorneys working in the legal profession today. For instance, if you have earned your LL.M. from one of the many respected tax LL.M. programs available today, and you decide to focus on litigation law, you may represent just 10 percent or fewer of all the graduates in your specialized field of law in the nation. Litigation law can cover civil or criminal law.
Transactional attorneys are the behind-the-scenes attorneys that may not stand up in front of a judge and jury, but are ultimately just as responsible for the verdict that is ultimately returned. Preferring to shy away from the limelight, transactional lawyers engage in research, contract writing, business incorporation and risk minimization across a wide range of general and specialized fields. Some transactional lawyers may serve in academia or advisory roles in nonprofit or corporate settings as well. As a transactional lawyer, the goal is always to keep clients out of the courtroom. Should this prove impossible, a transactional lawyer will then work with a litigation attorney to address any in-court issues.
This article was written by Maggie Norton-Perry. Maggie has been a lawyer for the past six years, specializing in copyright law in Charlotte, North Carolina.