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Pick a Practice Area You Love, Not Just One That Pays

By William Peacock, Esq. on February 28, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

What type of law do you want to practice?

Anything by anyone who'll hire me.

Ask me that question three years ago, when I was couch-surfing and unemployed, and that would've been my answer. We're willing to bet that nearly every recent grad will give that same answer because, well, the job market is miserable. Take what you can get, because anything beats your momma's couch.

That's all true, and taking an "until I find something better" gig, especially with a firm that has a variety of practice areas, is a good way to figure out what you don't like. Then, once you have a paycheck and an idea of what you hate, you can turn your attention to finding something better.

Here are a few considerations for figuring out what "better" might be:

What Are Your Hobbies?

What do you love to do when you're not working or applying for jobs? Making music? There's Entertainment Law (yes, we know, that's nearly impossible to get in to). Shooting? There are lawyers who practice Second Amendment law, including the former Virginia Attorney General, who started a gun law retainer service this week.

Take your favorite hobbies. See if you can turn one of them into a practice area.

You read a lot of cases in law school. And you're, of course, reading our law blogs now.

What type of cases trigger an emotional response when you read them? Are you infuriated by the trampling of First Amendment rights in the Ninth Circuit? (Teaser alert: that's this afternoon's post.) Do death penalty injustices stir the fires in your heart? How about prosecutorial misconduct? Or does talk of Silicon Valley deals and disruption captivate you?

The practice of law is far less miserable when you're dealing with issues that you can't wait to dig into.

What Are Your Limitations?

Are you an extrovert? Do you have problems with public speaking? Are you a terrible writer?

Everyone has faults and limitations. Some of those can be overcome, but some can't. You may never be social enough to be Clarence Darrow, or a good enough writer to write compelling appellate briefs.

Try to avoid a practice area that requires skills which you do not possess and cannot develop. Being asked to be something that you are not, every single day, will get old quick.

Getting where you want to be, especially in this market, isn't going to be easy, nor will it be quick. But the first step is figuring out the what. After that, make a plan to get there.

How did you pick your practice area? Passion, pay, or just fell into it? Tell us about it on Facebook.

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