Today, law students have a wide range of options when it comes to practicing law.
Litigators, known as trial attorneys, are those who work to resolve disputes in a courtroom setting.
“Transactional lawyers, also known as corporate or business attorneys, research, prepare, and review documents for individuals or companies, such as drafting contracts for corporate mergers and acquisitions, closing documents for the purchase of a house, or wills or estate planning documents,” said Nazleen Jiwani, J.D., senior director of the Career Resource Center at South Texas College of Law Houston.
Both types of attorneys will specialize in a specific field, such as oil and gas, real estate, intellectual property, tax, or health, etc.
“Transactional lawyers rarely go to court. However, family and criminal lawyers do see in-court action, yet these specializations can also be highly emotional and difficult, which keeps many students at bay,” said Tiffany J. Tucker, J.D., M.Ed., assistant dean of career development at the University of Houston Law Center.
Sought-after and growing legal fields in 2020, some of which are a sign of the times, include bankruptcy law, health law, labor employment law, privacy law for telehealth and education law.
“Personal injury law remains an in-demand field despite the coronavirus, and government and public interest law is gaining more popularity among new law graduates,” Jiwani said.
Going through law school, students will receive the basics of skill sets for law, which allows them some flexibility.
“For example, small law firms usually handle many different types of cases — general law and personal injury — whereas larger law firms usually have lawyers who are more specialized. Many of the mid-size and larger firms handle business litigation. So, it really depends on what the students’ interests are,” Tucker said.
To plan their path, first-year law students sit down with a career development counselor to try and develop a class schedule to fit their interests.
“With many questions asked, the student can begin to zero in on what type of law they are interested in; what kind and size of firm (where) they would like to work,” Tucker said.
Law students also gain real-life experience during their law studies through volunteering at legal aid clinics, and in internships that can help them identify paths to pursue.
“South Texas professors and staff guide students toward various externships, internships, and specialized institutes at the law school to help them hone their interests, skills, and future career goals,” Jiwani said.