Traditionally, law school hopefuls had to focus on two things: getting into law school and staying competitive in arduous classes. It wasn't until after graduating and searching for jobs that most students selected a specialization within the legal field.
Today, however, that's changing. Both prospective and current law students should contemplate their specialization options to be best prepared for their future careers. Review the steps below to select the most appropriate specialization for your interests, needs and goals.
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1. Explore your options: The first step to determining a rewarding specialization is to identify your options and research what working in that field entails. A few examples of legal specializations are tax law, environmental law, entertainment law, intellectual property law and international law.
There are many other specializations for students and professionals to pursue, so be prepared to exert significant effort in researching from credible sources. Lawyers who currently work in the field that appeals to you can be great sources. They can tell you about their day-to-day lives and responsibilities, growth opportunities in the field and potentially even market demand for law school grads who specialized in a certain area.
2. Experiment with course selection: In your first year of law school, you will be exposed to civil procedure, contracts, constitutional law, criminal law, property, torts and legal research and writing. This base alone may give you an idea of your preferences.
Beyond those courses, select a variety of electives in your first and second year so that you can get a taste of as much material as possible and can make an informed decision. Most specializations are pursued in the third year of law school.
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3. Explore law-related university courses: Even if you are not yet enrolled in law school, you can explore subject matter applicable to legal studies in your classes that may help you determine whether or not a specialization is right for you.
If your intellectual curiosity is piqued by a class you took regarding health care, health care law may be an option to consider. Or, if you enjoy environmental studies, you may pursue environmental law. If you like your business classes, consider business law. Those who enjoy political science would likely be apt at constitutional law.
Many college students mistakenly believe following a prelaw track will position them strategically for law school admissions. However, exploring many academic opportunities often looks better to admissions committees and provides you with the benefit of knowing where your interests lie.
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Following these steps will prepare current and prospective law students to select a specialization that will lead to a satisfying legal career. If you have identified a specialization that suits you, be sure that the schools to which you apply offer that specialization and have strong, reputable programs in your area of study.
For example, Vermont Law School has one of the best environmental law programs in the country, and UCLA has an unparalleled entertainment law program. If you are resolved in your specialization, review the rankings of law schools in general and the programs of interest in order to narrow down your school selection.