The law field is massive. More and more people are getting their law degree every year and going into a diverse range of fields from family concerns to food service to massive international businesses.
If you are working toward a law degree, it might seem daunting to narrow down your focus to just one field of study. However, having a clear goal in mind while you’re still in school can set you up for later success in your career as a lawyer.
There’s a lot of competition out there if you’re trying to become a lawyer. Between 2014 and 2024, it’s predicted that employment for lawyers will grow by 6 percent. That’s roughly average for all occupation, but still represents a lot of new people entering the field.
Give yourself an edge by having a clear goal in mind while you’re still working toward your law degree. Here are 5 fields within law you might try working toward. See which one sounds the most exciting to you so you can craft your education toward entering that field.
1. Family Law
If you are concerned with families and the individuals who make them up, family law might be a good field for you. Lawyers practicing family law deal with issues such as:
- Prenuptial agreements
- Maritial property
- Child custody
Just because you go into family law, it doesn’t mean you will deal with all of these issues. There may also be other concerns you find yourself confronting depending on where you end up practicing. Different areas will have different concerns and legal hurdles.
Still, if you are thinking of getting a law degree to go into family law, you will probably want to study up on divorce law. Divorce is one of the biggest reasons a family law attorney is hired, along with child custody/child support, paternity and adoption/foster care.
No area of the law is an island in and of itself. If you practice family law, you will probably also encounter issues related to estate planning, immigration and mediation. Your law degree and education should be broad enough that you have at least some expertise in all these fields.
2. Business Law
Business law is an incredibly large field. It span everything from taxes to international regulations to security and fraud. If you have an interest in business law, you will need to study a broad array of topics while getting your law degree and become an expert in many subjects.
In basic terms, business law is about laws that govern the relationships between people and commercial entities, like businesses. Here are just a few of the fields you might be interested in if you want to get a law degree in business law:
- Business formation
- Sales of consumer goods
- Contracts and negotiations
- Anti-trust laws
- Intellectual property
Obviously, this is a pretty broad range. There will certainly be overlap with other fields of law. For example, if you were the lawyer for a coffee shop, you might have to deal with international regulations based on where they sourced their beans. Or you could work for them to help settle employee disputes over contracts and the like. Or they may seek a lawyer when they’re first getting started and trying to set up shop.
That’s just one quick, small-scale example of the type of range you could encourage as a business law attorney. You might also find yourself at the other end of the scale, helping out a business going through bankruptcy.
While getting your law degree, consider the peculiarities of going into business law. For example, much of business law happens outside a courtroom. You will focus on transactions rather than courtroom battles. In fact, you might never set foot inside a courtroom at all.
A good business lawyer has a keen eye for detail. You should be able to detect fraud and shady business practices to keep your clients safe. Whether you’re helping a company create policies and best practices or advising them while they write up a contract, you need to be there advocating for the smallest of details. If that kind of nuance excites you, you might be a great fit as a business lawyer.
3. Estate Planning Lawyer
An estate planning lawyer helps clients with wills, property and estate planning issues. It can be a tough field because often people will delay writing up their wills, especially if the economy is in a slump. So the ups and downs of the economy can definitely impact your income as an estate planning lawyer.
As an estate planning lawyer, you need a good range of schooling and education. Your law degree will have to be pretty extensive to cover all the things you need to know as an estate planning lawyer. While earning your degree, you may take classes on things like:
- Asset management
- Estate planning
- Family law
- Real estate law
It’s important if you want to go into this field of law that you have a well-rounded education in law. Your work can touch so many aspects of law and life that your focus needs to be pretty broad.
You will also need to be able to communicate well and sympathetically with clients. Often, your clients are coming to you to finalize some of the most intimate details of their lives. Your work could touch many aspects of their lives, from their families to their fondest memories and most prized possessions.
Going into estate law is about more than coldly divvying up property. You are helping someone put their final wishes into a permanent and legally binding form. You are protecting not just your client, but often their family as well.
As an estate planning lawyer, you may be tasked with setting up trust accounts or naming a guardian for minor children. Other responsibilities could include: Identifying beneficiaries, creating people’s wills, setting up power of attorney, helping people set up funeral arrangements, advising people life insurance, disability or final care instructions.
These are only a few of the duties you could be tasked with. While getting your law degree, things like a last will and testament might sound remote, but as an estate planning lawyer, such things will be part of your routine job experience. If you are not comfortable advising people on their end-of-life decisions and care, becoming an estate planning attorney may not be right for you.
In general, those who go into estate planning law are long-term thinkers who can see the big picture. You will more often be asked to think about long-term implications of a decision than day-to-day, immediate concerns.
Obviously, it is helpful if you are an estate planning lawyer to actually enjoy dealing with both financial issues and people. You will come across a lot of taxation and trust issues. Clients are trusting you with their money, even after they are long gone, so they want to feel like you really know your stuff and they can trust you.
If you find in the course of your law degree that working directly with individual clients appeals to you, this can be a great field to explore. Writing a will can be an emotional process for many. End of life decisions are hard and often unpleasant. So being the type of person who has empathy for their clients and genuinely enjoys helping people is a must for an estate planning lawyer.
4. Tax Lawyer
Does tax law excite you? Do you have a keen interest in how taxes work in this country and how people or companies can fight back when the IRS hits them with an unforseen bill? You might enjoy becoming a tax lawyer.
Tax law is a broad field, but tax lawyers specialize in understanding all rules and policies related to taxation and tax liability: federal, state and municipal. That’s a ton of law to understand and be able to advise others on. Getting a law degree related to taxation requires an intense amount of study, but you will put all that knowledge and more to good use in your career as a tax lawyer.
Often, tax lawyers will work on retainer. That is when a company, non-profit, organization or person keeps lawyers on hand to represent them. This is very common when it comes to corporations, who may have frequent need for tax lawyers to represent them. In such a situation, having a lawyer or firm on retainer is a convenient way to get tax law services when they need them.
As a tax lawyer, you would work with local and federal governments frequently, as well as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Therefore, your law degree would need to be about government as well as just the law itself. You will probably have to go up against the IRS fairly regularly, so you’ll need to be very familiar with how that organization operates.
As a tax lawyer, your clients will rely on you to know everything there is to know about tax law. You are there security system when it comes to dealing with the complicated and often confusing twists and turns of the U.S. tax code. What might come easily to you or seem obvious may very well be completely inscrutable to your clients.
Some of your duties as a tax lawyer would include negotiating on behalf of clients. You need to be their voice when the IRS comes knocking looking for fines and trying to place liens on them. You also should be able to help your clients reduce or eliminate part or all of their tax burden.
Many clients will also go to a tax lawyer if they get audited. This can be a frightening process for many people. They will need help navigating the process with the IRS and getting free of it with minimal hassle and worry.
5. Criminal Defense Lawyer
There are many, many fields of law, but the last one we’ll suggest is criminal law. A criminal defense lawyer is a vital part of the justice system, representing those accused of crimes.
Most of the time, a criminal defense lawyer will deal with state crimes. State crimes make up the majority of crimes. Plus, each state has its own laws, definitions, punishments and codes. While there are federal crimes that are uniform throughout the country, it is more common as a criminal defense lawyer to deal with state-level crimes.
Criminal defense lawyers could deal with anything from misdemeanors to major felonies. In both cases, though, it is the lawyer’s job to guide their client through the legal process. This could start early, while a crime is still under investigation. Or you could come in later on, after someone has been charged with a crime.
Before a trial, a criminal defense lawyer can help get charges reduced or dropped altogether. You might also help a client enter a plea and avoid trial entirely.
If you end up representing a client at trial, you as the criminal defense lawyer will need a defense strategy. There may be more negotiations during a trial, as well as opening statements and witnesses to question. Even in the aftermath, you may be asked to argue appeals for your client.
The duties of a criminal defense lawyer are wide ranging. While getting a law degree, if you notice you are most interested in getting into a courtroom and arguing your case before a judge and jury, criminal defense might be for you.
Which Field Is Right For You?
As you can see, there is a huge range of fields within law that you can pursue as your career. Getting a law degree isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal. You should think about specializing down the line so that you give yourself the best opportunity for future career success.
The fields listed here are just a few. There are even more aspects of law you can specialize in. Think about where your strengths and weaknesses lie, as well as what aspect of law interests you most. That will allow you to make the most of your law degree.
Don’t let all that hard work and study go to waste. Think about how you can get the most from your law degree. It’s more than just a certificate from your school or a job. Law is an incredibly demanding field. You should also have a passion for this work.