“I want to be a lawyer.”
That may have worked when you were 16. But once you decide to attend law school, you need to know where you want to specialize. Let’s face it: There isn’t much of a market for “generalists” in any field these days. So if you want to squeeze the most out of law school—and position yourself to land a job in the process—it only helps to know the type of law you want to practice.
To start, consider looking at resources like the U.S. News and World Report law school rankings. Aside from ranking law schools overall, US News also evaluates them by specific specialties. Thinking about protecting the environment? Then you’ll want to look at Vermont Law School or the University of California at Berkeley. Hoping to rake in the dough by setting up trusts and showing people how to best protect their money? I have three names for you: NYU, Georgetown, and Northwestern. Looking to ship off to Silicon Valley? Well, Stanford and Santa Clara University have distinguished intellectual property programs.
Of course, most students only know they want to be rich attorneys—or the underdogs that fight for people. And that’s okay. You have plenty of time to make a decision. Better yet, you have plenty of resources available to make the right one.
According to Shawn O’Connor, CEO of Veritas Prep, you can better identify your interests by meeting with lawyers who already work in the field. They can share their experiences, or even open some doors for you and serve as mentors.
O’Connor also recommends that students keep an open mind. If you’re in law school, your foundational courses will expose you to various specialties. Take note of where you excel and what stirs your passion. From there, you can narrow down your options during your first- and second-year electives. The same applies if you’re an undergraduate. Take courses in fields where you might want to work.
One more piece of advice from O’Connor: Don’t focus on just one specialty as an undergraduate. In O’Connor’s words, “Many college students mistakenly believe following a prelaw track will position them strategically for law school admissions. However, exploring many academic opportunities often looks better to admissions committees and provides you with the benefit of knowing where your interests lie.”
Source: US News and World Report
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