So, you’re working to way to a budding career is a legal professional. You’re a summer or first-year associate ready to prove yourself. Excellent! Now, it’s time for you to find a law firm and select your area of practice. Before diving into the first job you can find, take these factors into consideration.
The Big Picture
Most lawyers switch firms within their first four years of work, but switching your practice is ten times as difficult. While it isn’t impossible, the odds are slim. You might get lucky enough to find a firm that allows you to experiment in various practice areas, but you’ll probably need to decide what law practice you want to pursue as a career now.
If you are searching for that mythical land of freedom, a firm where you can be free to explore as you find your niche, then there are factors and key signs that can aid you in your hunt. With the following in mind, you might just find the perfect law firm.
Factor one should always be prestige. The more prestigious the law firm, the more doors you’ll find opening down the road. Working for Joe Schmoe Attorney at Law vs. the well-known Law Office of Daniel H Rose makes a big difference in available opportunity. Keep in mind, of course, that more prestige means more complex work.
Sure, you can get the same hands-on work at most firms. However, prospective future employers are going to favor prestige over a smaller firm. With prestige, you should also consider opportunities for advancement as well as exit opportunities. Both of those should come with the territory simply through connections, though.
Practice and Personality
Picking a practice within the firm is challenging, but there’s a method to the madness. Rule number one is to make sure it’s something you will enjoy doing instead of eyeing up perks like international travel. All areas have their own perks, but you’ll have a miserable and short-lived career if you don’t enjoy the work you’re doing.
Second, consider the workflow and how that might fit into your lifestyle. Some people enjoy constant, some enjoy occasional, and others prefer the hectic life of unpredictability. Finally, consider the personality types drawn to various practices. Litigation is more aggressive than taxes, for instances. Just make sure the practice you choose meshes well with your personality.
Your marketability often depends on your academic background, making some areas easier for you to access than others. You can still enter other fields as long as you’re ready for an uphill battle, but your previous studies should help point you to the kind of work you would enjoy doing and excel at.
Consider where you might like to live in the future. A city, a small town, maybe even overseas? You can always change firms to accommodate future locations, but you need to consider whether the practice area you choose is feasible there as well. Finance or executive compensation, for instance, is probably going to leave you in a bustling city for decades to come.
Future Career Goals
Finally, make sure the practice area you choose is a steppingstone to your future career goals. Never select a niche that won’t allow you to grow into the lawyer you want to become. Map out career shifts and opportunities that align with your goals and choose from there.