When a non-legal person asks what kind of law you want to do, they are typically satisfied with hearing you want to be either a solicitor or a barrister. However, from the student’s perspective, there is a whole lot more to it than this answer. Unsurprisingly, when you work for a firm, or in a set of chambers, your title is more than just solicitor/barrister. From data protection to probates, the legal framework is unbelievably broad. With this broadness, comes the question of how an aspiring solicitor can decide which sector is the one for them. After all, if you are working for 40+ years, you should try and pursue something which you are at least semi-interested in. This blog will offer three suggestions which may help you decide the sector of law you want to end up practising.
Find something you are genuinely interested in
With the legal system being so vast and all-encompassing, it is inevitable that every interest someone can have will be legally catered for. No matter how niche the subject matter, it is always subject to the law. Therefore, you will always be able to find work which relates to something you are interested in. It is common for people to specialise in an area as their career progresses - make this specialism your interest! Focusing your legal research on a topic you are intrigued by will make it easier, more enjoyable and mean that you are more likely to find the area of law you want to go into. Furthermore, graduate recruitment can see when people have forced an interest upon themselves, something which makes the candidate come off as disingenuous. Realistically, a small minority of people will truly be interested in the inner workings of tax law. If you are talking to graduate recruitment, they will be impressed when you show off your knowledge of a niche subject area and how this relates to the law and potentially their firm. As most students are in the same boat, a key skill recruiters look for is passion - which you can demonstrate by the further research of your interests.
Talk to people in that sector
A second method which can help you decide which area of law you want to go into is talking to solicitors or barrister who are currently working in that area. By talking to these people, you will get a sense of what their daily life is like, and how much this fits in with what you want to be doing in your professional life. If you want to work in their sector but then find out that they spend all their time doing something completely different to what you envisioned, that is a good way of deciding that a certain career path is not particularly for you. Talking to these people also has the secondary benefit of increasing your commercial awareness. For example, if an associate says how their sector is facing problems XYZ, you can use this in interviews and applications to show off that you are a dedicated, committed applicant who has researched around the area.
Good ways to meet people in your desired sector is through firm events, university careers fairs and open days (if you are able to get one). These are all excellent opportunities to network - if you are lucky, one lawyer may be able to give you the contact details of another, giving you more opportunity to learn more about your desired sector.
Do not close off your mind
The final method of deciding which area of law you want to go into comes more via advice to not do something. Namely, when considering where you want your future to go, always keep an open mind. Even if you believe you have found your interest, you should always be open to new ideas. If an applicant puts down that they want to pursue work in sector A, then graduate recruiters may be worried that they will not perform well when faced with other challenges. For example, in training contracts, you will undertake work in at least four completely different sectors. Graduate recruiters will hence be worried that you will perform worse than a candidate who says that they have one interest amongst many others and is always looking for new ways to challenge themselves.
Another reason why you should not blindly follow one area is because working in a sector is very different from just researching it. An internal experience of something will be very different to the external experience. On the flip side, I have talked to a trainee who said that coming into the firm they were extremely uninterested in the area they ended up qualifying into (real estate). All of this is support for the suggestion that closing off your mind is a bad method of deciding which area of law interests you, as it may result in you being seen as a worse candidate, and may lead to disappointment if you do end up working in that sector.