How to Choose a Law School Specialization

It’s perfectly fine for college students to arrive on campus with only fuzzy ideas about their careers. Many U.S. colleges provide a liberal arts education that promotes and rewards intellectual curiosity and versatility. College students often change their major, try out a wide range of courses and deepen their intellect through the cross-fertilization of different disciplines.

In contrast, law school is a professional school. The first-year curriculum is mostly fixed, and the requirements for graduation limit the number of classes that students can take in other schools or departments. Law school is not a rigid path, but there is less room for experimentation than at the undergraduate level.

Thus, it is best for students to come to law school with some sense of their career interests and goals. Expressing clear career goals, even if they are broad or subject to change, is one way to show admissions officers your commitment to law school.

Some applicants, like those with experience in the legal field, may find it easy to explain what they want to do with their law degree. Others may not even be aware of the range of legal specializations beyond those portrayed frequently in popular media, like criminal law, family law and entertainment law.

Law school applicants seeking to choose a legal career path can consider these four tips:

  • Look beyond legal topics.
  • Try out different courses.
  • Stay open-minded.
  • Explore extracurricular activities.

Look Beyond Legal Topics

It’s tempting to think of specializations in terms of their topical focus, like environmental law, labor law or constitutional law. However, a more salient distinction between legal careers is the lifestyle differences across different fields.

Consider the day-to-day tasks and challenges common to each legal specialty. For example, a criminal lawyer may need to think quickly and handle a hectic and unpredictable schedule.

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