An unfortunate fact about legal professions is that the higher the paycheck, the less fulfilling the work is. For instance, if you want to do meaningful work with a non-profit or public defense attorney, you are likely to be overworked and underpaid.
There are many different types of law you can practice, including contract, family and criminal law. When looking into an area of practice before, during or after law school, it is essential to ask yourself some questions to narrow down your options. These questions can be as broad as what tasks you like to do or as specific as how much the paycheck is motivating you.
What Do You Like to Do?
One of the newest sales metrics companies are looking at is employee retention. You are more likely to find a long-term job if you focus on your preferences in daily tasks such as litigation, paperwork and public speaking. If you are interested in corporate law, for instance, then knowing you will have to litigate, negotiate and spend a lot of time on paperwork can help you sell yourself to potential employers and clients. Focus on whether you prefer meeting and working with new clients, diving deep into paperwork and writing briefs, or even speaking and arguing in public. Many people think a small percentage of legal work is research and paperwork, but that is far from reality. So, knowing whether you thrive at those tasks or dread them will help you decide between litigation-heavy areas of practice like criminal or family law and paperwork-heavy areas such as corporate and publication law.
How Much Control Do You Want Over Your Job?
Many legal practice areas require long hours, schedules set by court appearances and even a limited choice of clients. If you want more control over these aspects, you can open a private practice, choose a legal job without litigation or work for a government agency that has more predictable hours. Not everyone will thrive in the same work environment, so it is crucial to know whether routine or new challenges is the best fit for your personality and goals. When looking at how much control you want over your job, consider the personalities of practice partners, corporate branding and management, and even criminal defendants. These personalities will affect how fulfilled you feel in your career, what hours you are likely to work and even which cases you will handle.
How Do You Prefer to Work?
Do you prefer to work your own or in a competitive environment? Are you at your best when churning out work alone in your office or when you can regularly get out and work with a team or appear in court? A lot of legal work you see done in the media glosses over the fact that a large portion of your daily tasks will be researching cases and writing briefs on your own. For more extroverted experiences in a legal field, you will have to actively seek out jobs that put you in court regularly or have you working with a team. For instance, if you would rather network for new clients than work in the legal department of one corporation, then private practice is a better option than big business.
How Much are You Motivated by the Paycheck?
An unfortunate fact about legal professions is that the higher the paycheck, the less fulfilling the work is. For instance, if you want to do meaningful work with a non-profit or public defense attorney, you are likely to be overworked and underpaid. If you define meaningful work as making your way up a corporate ladder for a higher paycheck or becoming a senior partner one day, then you can find higher-stress work with more benefits. Changing from one option to another after beginning your professional career is not impossible, but it can mean putting in extra time and acquiring new skills.
When looking at the future of your current career path or one you are taking classes for, it is essential to know which jobs best fit your personality and skill set. For law-related careers, this means determining whether you like writing briefs or arguing cases, prefer to work alone or on a team, and even what balance of paycheck and meaningful work you are looking for.