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Why do you practice in the area you do, and how did you get there?

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Inevitably, no one gets to try out every area of law that piques their curiosity as a student or a young associate. I always like hearing about how someone ended up in their practice area, and what drew them to that kind of law in particular over others. For us students, hearing from seasoned lawyered is a helpful way to narrow down our interests. Do you do tax law? L&E? Criminal law? What do you love about it? 

I haven't seen a recent thread about this, but pardon if it's a repeat.

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Probably a repeat, but I doubt that lawyers will object to talking about themselves again.  

I don't practice anymore, but when I did it was in Labour and Employment (with more of a focus on labour than employment).  I can pinpoint the pathway pretty easily: 

1. Go through the employment law section of 1L Contracts.  Enjoy the material.

2. Apply to Labour and Employment boutiques along with full service firms (with a focus on litigation) for 2L summer. 

3. Snag a 2L summer job at a boutique firm.  

4. Get exposed to more labour files than employment files during summer and articling.  

5. Decide to try and focus on support the firms broader public sector clients, which generally meant more labour than employment work given the higher rates of unionization. 

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So I don't work in a law firm, but everything I do is pretty directly transferable to firm work in my area.

I work in tax law, specifically sales tax. I had been interested in tax law from my first day of law school because, among other things, I had read on this very forum how weird it and opaque it can be and I was like:

Dat me.

So I went through law school, took every tax course I could, loved every single one of them, failed to get a 2L job, eventually got an articling position at a tax litigation boutique, and then hopped over to an accounting firm to do planning/advisory work. 

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I was one of those weird law students who knew what area of law (labour and employment) I wanted to get into before I started, based on some previous experience. I still started off at a full service firm so that I could try out other areas, but my preference was quickly confirmed.

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I also knew what I wanted to do before going to law school--in my case, criminal law, with emphasis on police accountability and wrongful conviction advocacy. I had zero interest in any other area of law and would rather kill myself than work at Blakes (no disrespect to my very intelligent, interesting, and kind-hearted friends who are inexplicably interested in wasting their lives there).

I had prior relevant work experience, which allowed me to easily get into relevant volunteer experience, which allowed me to easily get into relevant clinics and jobs.

What I love about it is that I get to help people very directly, the files I work are almost always interesting, the criminal bar is full of mavericks and weirdos with great senses of humour, and I get exposure to the extremes of the human condition and therefore I get perspective on everything. With that said, as you may have noticed above, I'm extremely biased, my interests are quite narrow, and I would never have gone to law school without a specific practice area in mind, so your mileage may vary and I'm probably not a great person to guide lost law students.

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Disclaimer: I’m a student, and thus I’m not at all qualified to talk about different practice areas with authority. But I do have advice regarding how to get where you want to go, at least at the early stages of your career. 

I’m not sure what year you’re in, and what I’m about to say is largely inactionable anyways, but the number one thing I’ve learned in law school is that having good grades will open essentially every door for you.

Law school is, often, a situation where the rich get richer. My grades allowed me to interview for nearly every job I applied for post-1L (the sole exception being Wachtell in NY). They allowed me to do whatever clinic I wanted in law school, even if I had absolutely no relevant volunteer or academic experience. 

As long as you can craft a halfway compelling narrative for your interest in an area, having strong grades will open nearly every door. 

There are other ways to get into specific practice areas, such as volunteering and taking relevant classes and other ways of demonstrating interest. But the easiest route is to just have very strong grades. 

Edited by BlockedQuebecois
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Employment and labour - have many contacts in that area so I chose it for practical reasons, but I am glad I did. 

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I have a fairly broad commercial litigation practice. 

How I got here: It's an annoying response, but I kind of fell into it. I didn't know what I wanted to do when I started law school. By halfway through 2L, I knew I liked litigation (thanks to mooting), but didn't know what kind; I thought I was leaning toward labour & employment. Ended up with a 2L summer job in securities litigation (don't ask me how, I have zero idea), and was surprised to really enjoy it. But I didn't want to pigeonhole myself in the area, so I did the articling recruit and wound up at a broader litigation boutique. Quickly knew I liked commercial litigation best, so I shmoozed with the commercial lit lawyers and managed to make my articling year mostly filled with commercial lit work. Got hired back, and went on my way.

Why I love it (and I do love it): Lots of reasons. I always loved contract law in school, and most of my work is contract-based. I prefer working with relatively sophisticated, corporate clients. I prefer working on cases where money is what's at stake, rather than someone's health or family or freedom. I like cases that let me make complex, nuanced legal arguments and challenge me intellectually, which my work does (of course, different people will feel challenged or inspired by different things). I like doing arguments in court that are heavily document-based. I like variety in my work/files, which my practice provides. I like having freedom and opportunity to do business development in whatever style I like best.

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I'm a solicitor in an industry-specific business law practice. I don't want to get any more detailed than that for anonymity sake, sorry.

Like several posters above, I'm practicing in exactly the area I went to law school for. I had relevant undergrad, work, and volunteer experience, including throughout law school, so I would have still been in the industry if I wasn't a lawyer. But, it's a fairly niche practice. I articled at a corporate firm focusing on small businesses, and then leveraged that hands-on and entrepreneurial experience, as well as my industry connections, to land at my dream job.

A lot of my work ends up being project-management, and I get a deep sense of fulfillment guiding the file from conception to completion. I have to be innovative and creative when it comes to problem-solving. We work with many stakeholders, including internationally, and have to operate within industry standards and regulations that differ by jurisdiction. The puzzle is very fun to me (kinda like it is for the tax people).

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Civil Litigation. Civ pro came most naturally to me in law school so it was an easy choice. 

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1) start working at a solicitor firm before law school

2) go back to working there during my 1L summer

3) do a 2L summer with the same firm

4) get offered articles

5) get told halfway through 3L the firm can no longer take on an articling student

6) panic

7) get hired at a litigation firm

Edited by lawstudent20202020
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1 minute ago, lawstudent20202020 said:

1) start working at a solicitor firm before law school

2) go back to working there during my 1L summer

3) do a 2L summer with the same firm

4) get offered articles

5) get told halfway through 3L the firm can no longer take on an articling student

6) panic

7) get hired at a litigation firm

I think you'll realize your life is for the better. Welcome to the fun side of the law ;)

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30 minutes ago, pzabbythesecond said:

I think you'll realize your life is for the better. Welcome to the fun side of the law ;)

it worked out for the best, its a great firm and interesting work.

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Hated litigation when I was a student because there were tons of procedural rules which I couldn't remember or understand.

Ended up in litigation.  

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Solicitor in industry specific area. (Borrowed that phrase from above; good description.) How did I get there? A mix of luck and jumping at opportunities when they arose.

Also, deciding on corporate law instead of litigation when being hired back; I wasn't sure at the time, but that was one of the best decisions I've ever made for myself. 

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Thank you kindly to everyone that answered! I enjoyed reading through all the answers and advice. I’m currently working in litigation for the summer and it seems to me that it’s a pretty polarizing area of law -love it or hate it. Thank you for aiding in the soul-searching.

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I am a general practitioner in a rural prairie town. 

Started out thinking I'd be cut out for big city practice, and during law school I quickly realized that my priorities were better served by the work/life balance out here. I work in an office of less than 5 lawyers and (with proper organization/planning), can make time for things that are personally important to me. 

While articling and the first year of practice have been terrifying in terms of the learning curve, I'm very happy with my choice so far. I particularly like the variety - no two days are ever the same. 

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