Nationwide, there are as many as 1,338,678 men and women currently licensed to practice law. That is an increase of 15.2% over the last decade, according to the American Bar Association (ABA).
What explains this increase? A growing number of people are catching on to the perks of practicing law. Becoming an attorney comes along with the promise of high earning potential, the opportunity to help others, and the near-guarantee of work that will continue to challenge you on a day-to-day basis. Further, lawyers have options and flexibility that other professions simply do not.
Many lawyers experience some flexibility in their work schedules and high-class employee benefits, like catered box seats for viewing sports events. Lawyers can start their own private practice or work as a public defender for a government agency or office. Plus, becoming an attorney is unique in that you can specialize in a number of different areas of law. It is possible to become a lawyer specialized in personal injury, medical malpractice, automobile accidents, tax law, criminal law, family law, and more.
If those perks appeal to you and you are interested in entering the field of law, find out what it takes to become a lawyer specialized in your preferred field. Learn more below.
Personal Injury Law: The Basics
One of the most popular areas of law is personal injury. In fact, it is so popular that there are several subsets or sub-specialties of this particular field. Let’s start with the basics.
In general, “Personal injury cases are legal disputes that arise when one person suffers harm from an accident or injury, and someone else might be legally responsible for that harm,” FindLaw writes. That means you may have a personal injury case if you are bit by a neighbor’s dog and can reasonably demonstrate that they did not take appropriate actions to prevent that injury (e.g., putting their dog on a leash or fencing in their yard).
If you wish to specialize in this area of law, here is your step-by-step guide to make it happen.
- Your first step to becoming a personal injury attorney is to earn a Bachelor’s degree. Getting a Bachelor’s that is relevant to law or securing an undergraduate education in pre-law is a good idea, but it is not mandatory.
- Pass the LSAT and get a degree from a law school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA). The LSAT “measures a student’s aptitude for the skills normally used by lawyers, such as critical reading, research, task management, and logic,” according to Study.com. After passing the LSAT and getting into law school, students can begin taking courses specializing in their fields during their second and third years of study.
- Take and pass the bar exam in the state where you wish to practice.
- Find out if your state requires the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination (MPRE). If it does, take the exam to advance your career.
- Pursue relevant experience. Representing a reliable dentist with safe practices may otherwise be good for your career, but not if you wish to become a lawyer specialized in personal injury law. If personal injury is your preferred field, seek out experience representing injured patients or parties harmed by someone else’s negligence.
Building up years of experience will lead to greater opportunities. For example, it is possible for actively practicing junior lawyers to become partners at a law firm over time.
Personal Injury Law: Car Accidents
A lawyer specialized in personal injury law can easily narrow their focus even further, opting for a specific area of personal injury law, like becoming a car accident attorney. The road to becoming a car accident attorney looks like this:
- Once again, complete the general requirements for becoming a lawyer and continuing your education in the legal field. You can take electives that hone in on car accident laws during your second and third years. You will need to pass required tests, like the bar exam and the MPRE.
- Establish an in. Find a means to break into this specific area of law any way that you can. If that means representing a roadside assistance company or assisting them with their legal matters, do it. As you enter the field, you want to prove that you have the hands-on knowledge and experience to take your career even further.
- Prove that you are worth your salt. There is some good news about becoming a lawyer specialized in auto accidents and personal injury law. Many people who have recently been in an accident are looking for free or low-cost litigators to take on their case. While that may not be sustainable for years on end, these are certainly valuable opportunities to give you a leg up in your field, especially when you are fresh out of law school.
To increase your chances of becoming a lawyer specialized in your chosen field, it is important to get hands-on experience and to demonstrate competency, or even excellence, in your field.
Personal Injury Law: Medical Malpractice
When it comes to focusing on personal injury, that is not all. Students also have the opportunity to become a lawyer specialized in medical malpractice as well.
Hofstra University (HU) “estimates that between 44,000 and 98,000 patients die in hospitals annually” owing to medical malpractice. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that medical malpractice “is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.—right behind heart disease and cancer,” according to Forbes. In other words, it is a field with a lot of opportunities. Medical malpractice lawyers have very real and tangible potential to help a lot of people and make a tremendous difference. Here are some tactics to break into this area of law.
- Medical malpractice is a high-risk, high-reward sub-specialty of law. As with other areas of personal injury law, if you want to be a lawyer specialized in medical malpractice, start with the basics. Follow the familiar path to become a lawyer and then narrow your focus as your education and career proceed. Narrowing your focus is well worth it. Not only does this sub-specialty offer tremendous potential to help others, but it also comes with a markedly higher earning potential.
“More than 80% of [medical malpractice] lawsuits end with no payment whatsoever to the injured patient or their survivors,” Forbes writes. Even more importantly, the cases that do payout pay well. While it may feel like cases are on a looser footing, winning one case promises a much greater reward than other comparative personal injury lawsuits.
- Choose where you would like to practice very carefully. If you want to maximize your chances in this field, consider practicing where medical malpractice lawyers are most needed. Those states are Florida, New York, California, and Texas, according to HU. Keep in mind that, in many cases, you must take the bar exam in the state you wish to practice in.
- Consider getting even more specific. Medical malpractice itself is a large field. Consider narrowing your focus even further and truly finding a niche. Hone in on failed surgical procedures or neurosurgical services, for example. That expertise will give you an even greater edge when breaking into your field.
Criminal law is another lucrative field. If you endeavor to be a lawyer specialized in criminal law, here are the top tips to do so.
Criminal law involves representing anyone who has been accused of a crime. While that can — and certainly does — run the gamut, the majority of criminal defense cases tend to involve drunk or impaired drivers. Crimes may also include drug possession, alleged theft, libel, and more.
Criminal law is a good area of law for those who wish to ascertain that justice is served. Unfortunately, in the past, some jurisdictions have doled out sentences that were markedly disproportionate to the crime. As a criminal defense attorney, you have the power to ensure that sentencing is fair and appropriate. Here is what to expect as you enter the field.
- Be prepared to hustle. In contrast to other areas of practice, criminal law is extremely competitive. There is a high demand for criminal defense attorneys. Breaking into this field and staying in this field will require even more effort on your part. Be prepared for it.
- Build a strong and diverse skillset. A criminal defense attorney must be well-organized as they are responsible for coordinating several things at once. For example, a criminal defense lawyer may conduct interviews, conduct their own investigations, gather and evaluate evidence, and provide ongoing legal counsel to their client throughout the entire process. In other words, criminal defense lawyers can easily end up as a jack-of-all-trades. For that reason, it is important to gain experience whenever and wherever possible.
- Learn how to negotiate and strike a deal. “Only 2% of federal criminal defendants go to trial,” the Pew Research Center reveals. That means many criminal defense cases are not about winning per se, but rather about striking a deal that is amenable to the courts and to your client. If you wish to specialize in this area of law, focus on these skills.
Tax law can be a surprisingly captivating and prolific field with thousands — or even tens of thousands — of Americans needing legal counsel regarding their taxes every year. According to Fortunly, “The US tax code is more than 10 million words long” and a shocking “44% of taxpayers are worried about tax system complexity.”
Those who choose to become a lawyer specializing in tax law perform a public service by helping people nationwide navigate the tricky waters of the U.S. tax code. If tax law is your preferred field, optimize your chances of success by doing the following:
- Choose the right law school. Just about all legal careers begin the same way. These tracks begin to diverge when students start taking electives in their preferred area or areas of practice. A word on that: some law schools are better known for tax law — or other sub-specialties — than others. Do your research. Know what schools have the best reputation for tax law programs and apply for admission at these schools if possible.
- Gain experience while you’re still learning. To increase your chances of success, why not gain experience in your field while you’re still at school? College Basics recommends clerking for law firms or lawyers specializing in tax law as you continue to pursue your education.
- Know your stuff. As previously alluded to, tax law is an incredibly dense and nuanced field. Income tax law is markedly different from property tax history, for example. As with medical malpractice, you may want to narrow your focus even further. If you know what jobs you want to apply to, narrow your focus to those particular areas of tax law.
If you wish to truly have an impact, consider becoming a lawyer specialized in family law. Divorce is a fact of life. Plus, studies show that the COVID-19 pandemic may be driving even more couples to divorce than usual. “The number of people looking for divorces was 34% higher from March through June compared to 2019,” The New York Post writes.
With divorce rates on the rise, family law may become an increasingly popular field. Here is what to do to succeed as a divorce lawyer.
- Approach your work with kindness. Perhaps more than in any other area of law, divorce lawyers, child custody lawyers, and family lawyers must be kind. To practice successfully, you will need to establish a rapport with your clients — and you will need to do it when emotions are running especially high.
- Expect to do more work. Again, emotions are typically running high in family law. That means divorce lawyers tend to do more paperwork than their counterparts. While clients may be more heavily relied upon to gather appropriate paperwork in other fields, the bulk of family law — or at least a large chunk of it — typically involves gathering and filing paperwork.
- Know your sub-specialties. Family law isn’t all about marriage and divorce. There are several other areas that fall under family law. For example, if you want to become an adoption attorney, you will be practicing family law.
Law is a great profession to get into, but it’s not that simple. There are many different subsets and sub-specialties of law to explore. To decide whether you will be a lawyer specialized in tax law or criminal defense, use these resources as well as your own research to help you determine what field of law best suits you.