Law school doesn’t require you to know what kind of law you want to practice before enrolling. For many who go to law school, the opportunity to study various fields of law and then select a focus is the ideal route. Yet, the concept of specialization permeates the law school experience. Many law schools are now even offering specialized courses and certificates.
So what is a law student to do?
I see this confusion all the time. Take “Jenney,” for example. She’s in her third year and hasn’t landed an articling position yet. In speaking with Jenney to try and diagnose where she might be stuck, she explained that she doesn’t know what area of law she wants to practice in. Because Jenney’s application materials looked great and she said that she interviews well, my hypothesis was that her lack of a job target might be the impediment.
Of course, I’m the one who’s imposing a focus on Jenney, but I wasn’t the first to do so. Jenney’s law school career office had also been encouraging her to target a few practice areas. There’s a few reasons why us career professionals promote the need for a job target:
- Having a specific job target will help produce a more effective résumé. A “general résumé” will not be as successful as a résumé that is written for a specific job target.
- People who say, “I just want a job, any job” will actually have a harder time finding a job than someone who knows what they want.
During our conversation, I learned that Jenney really enjoyed (and performed well in) a few courses revolving around employment law. I, therefore, encouraged Jenney to create a list of employment law firms and lawyers to set up informational interviews so she could learn more about the area and canvass potential opportunities. While employment law is an area where job opportunities do exist, it’s important to understand the job market of the area(s) in which you are interested.
When I get to ghost write a cover letter for a client whose job target is clearly demonstrated in their package, I get really excited. It’s far easier to come up with a compelling story for someone who knows what they want. And, consider the impression it leaves on a recruiter or hiring manager when they read a cover letter that is convincing and corroborated…it probably brightens their day!
Prospective employers want to read about the candidate’s interests. It makes the candidate come alive on paper. When done properly, a job target should be supported in the entire application. Think about it, if a recruiter reads a cover letter for a candidate who expresses an interest in employment law and the rest of their package doesn’t demonstrate that interest, that recruiter may reasonably conclude that the candidate is not serious or worse yet, disingenuous. When you also consider that there will be candidates who have taken the related courses and participated in the associated moots, you may rightfully begin to wonder whether it’s worth your time to apply for practice areas in which you have no real interest.
So, do take the courses that reflect your areas of interest and express your interests through extra-curricular activities and voluntary roles. Balance that with a healthy dose of varying coursework and you will be in the best position to be hired for your targeted area(s).
If you have a sense of which area(s) you want to practice in, but haven’t found a related articling position, then consider opportunities that will build up your skills in that desired area of law. A good way to learn what those skills are is by conducting informational interviews with lawyers practicing in your target market. Many law schools have mentorship programs that match students with alumni, which is a great way to explore and discuss your interests.
When will you start thinking about specializing?
Lawyer Coach Paulette helps law students get ready to begin their careers with confidence. For more information, please visit: http://www.21stcenturylawyer.ca/articling-lpp-students