The ultimate guide to areas of law careers
25th February 2015
If you’re about to enter the field of law and begin your career, there is often a lot to consider regarding the choice of role you wish to pursue. It may be that you were already aware of which profession you would prefer to work in before you embarked on your law education and training, although we expect many of you may have been keeping your options open about which specific sector of lawyer jobs you will eventually work in.
Here, we take a brief look at the different areas of law available to those both newly trained and with years of experience.
What different areas of law can I specialise in?
Banking and Finance Law
As a lawyer in this sector, you will either represent a borrower or lender, with the majority of work being transactional based, ensuring necessary documentation is completed. People working in this field often specify in a particular class of financing due to the broad spectrum, which includes acquisition, asset, and capital markets. Roles often mean that you get to travel, but are likely to go hand in hand with lots of paperwork and long working hours.
Those working in commercial law will deal with issues that arise when running a business, and are often expected to settle disputes. Each case is reviewed thoroughly, with the lawyer preparing pleadings and arguments, in order to hopefully arrange a settlement before a court hearing. Qualities required in commercial lawyers include time and people management, negotiation and commercial awareness.
This is an area that is often integrated with other sectors of law, including commercial. Cases are often worked on by the same individual from beginning to end, as they can take months and even years to complete; and will involve contractual agreements such as loan agreements, mortgages and terms and conditions. Attention to detail is the most important trait desired for contract law roles, which is needed for tasks such as filing cases and pleas, undertaking investigations and conducting the eventual trial.
From minor wrongdoings to heinous crimes, criminal law is often controversial, which can be stressful but also rewarding. There are opportunities in both private and public practice, which mean you can either work as a defence lawyer or represent services such as the Crown Prosecution. Performing well under pressure and communication skills are both desired, with honesty and trustworthiness being of upmost importance.
This sector covers everything that happens in the workplace, from hiring right through to termination of employment. Both employees and employers’ rights are dealt with, although laywers usually specialise in one of these. It may be that you represent a firm in-house and provide advice or assist individuals or a group of employees. Lawyers working in employment are expected to be able to adapt to a constantly changing environment with a friendly and empathetic nature.
Still considered a relatively new and niche area, environmental law often crosses over into property and construction, but is a currently growing at a fast pace. Environmental lawyers often deal with matters such as waste disposal, disaster management and health and safety. Many of these roles are in-house and ensure the completion of due diligence. If this interests you, you should be able to multi-task, have strong analytical skills and be very flexible.
Covering a whole range of different disputes and claims, family law can include cases such as divorce and child custody settlements, to domestic violence and child abuse. Family lawyers will often work with the most vulnerable members of society, such as children and the elderly, which will require a supportive attitude and an organised approach to work. A large part of the role will also include liaising with professionals in order to provide a seamless argument.
Human Rights Law
As a human rights lawyer you will be expected to cover aspects such as public justice, freedom of speech and laws against discrimination. Cases can include anything from discrimination of age, race or gender to issues in education and community welfare. Patience will be required in those seeking a role in the human rights sector, alongside fair and judicious opinions and integrity.
Defamation, libel, slander and encroachment on privacy are just a small selection of cases that those in media law will have to deal with. Often considered an attractive area to work in, due to the possibility of working with celebrity clients and attending high profile events, much of the job actually involves dealing with the legal nitty-gritty. Networking skills will be beneficial to a role in media law, as will an outgoing and enthusiastic personality.
Personal Injury Law
This sector helps to claim compensation for clients who have experienced injuries from accidents and acts of negligence that could have been avoided. Many misconceptions are made about this area, due to the large amount of advertising claiming ‘no win, no fee’, although the reality is much different. You may be asked to work for individuals, employers or local authorities, which requires excellent people management skills, patience and a genuine interest in resolving problems.
Property-based transactions are often the basis of work in this sector, with options to work in either commercial or residential. Property lawyers may work with individuals, groups, investors, developers or the government, to mention just a few, and can either choose to specify or remain as a general practitioner. Daily tasks can include drafting contracts and related documents, as well as assisting negotiations, meaning attention to detail and a logical approach is essential.