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3 Tips for Choosing the Best Practice Area for Solo Attorneys

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on May 26, 2016 3:58 PM

It's a question that has dogged young lawyers for generations: How do I choose my area of practice? Some people are lucky in the sense that they knew right from a tender age that they wanted to be a lawyer and knew exactly what area of law they wanted to practice.

But others usually have to wait a little longer and let the iniquities and practicalities of life form their answer. Now that you're a licensed attorney, what are some of the hard choices you have to make?

Go With Your Interest

When you can, you should choose an area that interests you because much of the practice of law is very mundane and can become very dull unless you're steeped in a subject that stimulates your mind. For some people, this is criminal defense (or prosecution). For other attorneys, nothing gets the juices going like child custody issues.

The types of people who knew exactly what kind of law they wanted to practice before they could walk usually are principled hopefuls that seldom go into compliance, taxes, or white collar defense. They usually aim for animal rights, environmental or public interest.

Not everyone will be lucky enough to get into the area of practice that they want, but this is the reality of life. Choose your niche legal practice area quickly and laser in on it. The toughest part is maintaining a positive attitude while an entire year goes by before any significant foot traffic builds. It can be done, but it's hard work.

Consider Your Limitations

Unfortunately, everyone has limited time and limited academic background. If you wanted to become a tax attorney, you should should have already considered tax classes or an LLM.

It used to be the case that people could slide into intellectual property without too much trouble, but trying to do that without a science background today is really difficult. If you want to practice patent law, you're almost required to have a BS, under the category A for patent bar eligibility.

The point is this. If the opportunity cost of getting into a particular field is tremendously high, you may have to accept that you won't be practicing in that particular field. But you can use this to your advantage by focusing on areas that you are already skilled in.

Let Demand Determine Supply

There are down markets and there are up markets. When the economy is doing well, divorce lawyers do well because people are optimistic about finding greener pastures. When the economy is doing poorly, bankruptcy lawyers get overwhelmed.

As a lawyer, you've probably had to taste the reality of making money off of peoples' misfortunes, but don't feel too guilty. The human condition is a fickle thing but also fascinating. Find the strangest and oddest facet about human behavior that tickles your interest and find the market behind it. We think you'll find that once you build up a unique market in that area, your career and your passions will soon start to merge.

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