Selecting your area of law

Law schools do not expect you to know the type of law you wish to practice before you step foot on campus. No matter what type of law you are interested in, your first year curriculum will equip you with the essential skills you need to become an attorney.

It is important to be able narrow down your interests as soon as possible to help you jumpstart your legal career.

Major areas of law

This list is not intended to be comprehensive. There are many smaller practice areas that can be found within the larger areas of law, including animal law and municipal finance law. This is a brief overview of the most popular law specializations that people choose to pursue during law school.

Bankruptcy law

Bankruptcy lawyers represent creditors and debtors (individuals, businesses or individuals who owe debt). Bankruptcy attorneys spend most of their time reviewing financial documents, drafting motions, and other filings. The majority of bankruptcy lawyers spend very little time in court.

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Students who are interested in bankruptcy law as a subject should enroll in these classes:

  • Bankruptcy law
  • Consumer finance
  • Contracts
  • Tax law
  • Corporations
  • Securities
  • Law for business

Sometimes called “corporate” or “commercial”, business law is a broad term that describes lawyers who deal with issues that affect businesses. This includes managing the subsequent issues that impact the entity and creating a strategic entity. Many business law attorneys work for large law firms or in-house.

The law of business involves a variety of legal areas including:

  • Tax law
  • Intellectual property law
  • Bankruptcy law
  • Real estate law
  • Contract law
  • Employment law

Students who love to work on complex cases that involve multiple parties and develop strategic plans to help others reach their goals will enjoy business law. Although business law is one of the highest-paying practice areas, it can also be very overwhelming.

Civil rights law

Civil rights lawyers specialize in protecting and expanding civil rights. Civil rights lawyers can work for the government (e.g. U.S. Commission on Civil Rights or U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission), or for non-profit organisations (e.g. American Civil Liberties Union and Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund).

Consider these classes if you are interested in a career in civil rights law.

  • Constitutional law
  • Disability law
  • The law and race
  • Housing discrimination
  • Mediation

Advocate for trial

Although the pay is lower than many other areas, civil rights lawyers can qualify for loan forgiveness programs in certain cases. It is a rewarding area of law that can be very satisfying for those who are passionate about human right.

Criminal law

Criminal law is concerned with criminal acts. Criminal lawyers are usually prosecutors or defense lawyers. They tend to be outgoing and aggressive.

You should be ready to spend most of your time in court if you are interested in becoming a criminal lawyer. Criminal law attorneys are often required to handle large cases and be able to think quickly. This area of law is known for its high levels of burnout.

Environmental law

Environmental law is a popular choice for students who love spending time outdoors. You should know that environmental lawyers spend a lot of time reading and analysing complex statutes, regulations, treaties, and conventions that are based in federal, state, or transnational law.

Family law

Family law is concerned with the often difficult relationships between people and their families. This could include adoption, child welfare, and divorce. Family law attorneys work in small law firms. They enjoy helping people navigate the most difficult and emotional moments of their lives.

Health law

The field of health law is rapidly evolving and growing. Health law firms provide legal services to hospitals and health insurance companies, nursing homes, doctor practices, medical device manufacturer, and other entities. In-house lawyers are also employed by many hospitals and state agencies.

Health law may be for you if you are detail-oriented, inquisitive and love change.

Immigration law

Immigration law is generally concerned with the acquisition of citizenship and temporary or long-term relocation of individuals from one nation to another. You can work with immigration attorneys in government agencies, private law firms, and non-profit organizations.

If you are interested in a career as a lawyer in the immigration field, the following areas of law might be helpful:

  • Administrative law
  • Constitutional law
  • Employment discrimination
  • International human rights
  • Policy and law regarding refugees
  • Intellectual property law

Intellectual property law covers the legal rights associated with creative works and inventions. There are 3 subcategories to intellectual property law:

  • The law of copyright governs artistic and literary works, including books, music and movies.
  • Trademark law regulates logos and brand names.
  • Patent law regulates inventions, discoveries.

A background in technology or science is a common requirement for patent lawyers. Patent lawyers must pass a special exam that is considered more difficult than the bar examination.

One of the most lucrative areas of law is intellectual property law. Many lawyers are skilled in math and love to deal with technical, detailed information.

Employment law

Employment law is concerned with the relationship between employees and employers. This field typically represents either employees or employers. Employer and employee lawyers often spend a lot of time with their clients, so they are usually extroverted.

Personal injury law

Plaintiffs who claim psychological or physical injury due to the negligence or intentional actions of another person or entity are represented by personal injury lawyers. Personal injury lawyers must feel comfortable in court and be able to discuss sensitive issues with clients.

  • An average day for a personal injuries attorney could include:
  • Meet with a client/witness
  • Preparation for deposition by a medical doctor: Review of extensive medical records
  • How to handle a motion hearing in court
  • Answering questions or proposing new ideas