Where Do You Fit Best in the Legal Market?


“I thought I wanted to be a lawyer. I went to law school and am now in my first job…but something seems amiss.  Do I even want to practice law? Why did I go to law school?!”

Sound familiar?

Slow down. We encounter this a lot. Sometimes these thoughts start occurring in the first year, but for many we see it happen in the first five years. Nine times out of ten, you’re just in the wrong practice area. You may have taken a job due to other factors like compensation, location, or because you were familiar with the firm and already knew some of their attorneys. Few attorneys are allowed to cherry pick exactly what they practice right out of law school. Where you fit best in the legal market is a process of discovery.

Start by asking yourself: Litigation or Transactional? Sometimes I hear attorneys call this the “front end of the deal” (transactional) verses “the aftermath” (litigation). Transactional lawyers tend to get satisfaction from watching deals come together, working on teams, and helping their clients achieve business goals.  Litigation attorneys tend to enjoy solving complex problems and don’t mind when things get really stressful. They like debate and enjoy competition. I have also seen attorneys who find that they like both. Litigators who start handling transactional work once they go in-house will tell you that their litigation experience serves them well in drafting contracts and other deal work. Once attorneys see things come apart, they understand the fault lines and can avoid them from the beginning.

Here’s the good news: there are steps you can take to work towards a legal career that is fulfilling and right for you!

  •  Start by asking yourself what you like about your practice and research areas of law that allow you to do more of that   work. Then, start seeking out attorneys in those practice areas.  Take them to lunch and pick their brain. That way, when they hear about opportunities, they will likely reach out.
  • Communicate your desires to your firm. Most firms need that feedback! Lawyers who aren’t enjoying their work likely won’t stay and develop their practice into partnership.  This is your leverage, so look long-term and use it by communicating with your firm.
  • Consider obtaining an LLM to direct your education in a specialty that will give you better exposure to that area.
  • Set alerts on your job feed to look for keywords that will help you identify new opportunities in your desired practice.
  • Reach out to recruiters and let them know what you’re looking for. A good recruiter might help you get a foot in the door even when there is no job posted – we’re here to help you find your path and navigate it too!

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