Prior to beginning law school, many students only have a passing familiarity with the range of attorney career paths that are available. Students are often drawn to litigation based on trial attorneys who are glamorized on popular TV shows or who are profiled in the news when representing celebrity clients. However, there is a wide range of types of attorneys to consider other than litigators, such as real estate, family, entertainment, immigration, tax, employment, employee benefits, corporate, bankruptcy, personal injury, and environmental attorneys to name just a few. In addition to the more traditional lawyer career paths, a law degree can pave the way to career opportunities in teaching, business, entrepreneurship, community service, and politics. While it is not imperative for a student to know his or her exact career path upon entering law school, it is a good idea for students to begin the process of exploring career paths early on.
One of the best ways to learn about the different types of attorneys is to speak to practicing attorneys. Practicing attorneys will be able to provide an insider’s perspective as to how to enter a particular area of law and the day-to-day realities of the job. Students should check with their schools’ career offices for opportunities to meet with practicing attorneys. Law schools’ career offices typically schedule panel discussions featuring attorneys from different practice areas and offer other resources about selecting a career path in law. Law school student organizations are also great sources of information about specific practice areas. For example, a student entertainment law group will have information beyond what the school’s career office might have that is specific to careers in entertainment law, and that will help students navigate career path decisions.
Even after meticulously researching and exploring a myriad of attorney career path options, a student’s decision may ultimately be informed by his or her background, interests, and perhaps monetary goals. For example, a student with a background in technology may find a career in intellectual property law intriguing. Whereas a student who lives in the southwest United States may find a lot of opportunity in immigration law. Students seeking positions with immediate high pay might want to focus on opportunities in metropolitan corporate law firms.
Law students should not become overly anxious if they begin law school without a specific attorney career path in mind. Being flexible and willing to research different types of career paths will ultimately lead to a well-informed decision about the right law school career path to follow.