Most lawyers have a practice area they are considered specialised in, but asking for varied work can boost employment, promotion opportunities or facilitate a career change in-house, writes Ben Carter.
Lawyers usually become specialised soon after they start their careers. This has many advantages, such as being an expert in the area and having your advice highly regarded and valued.
However, it is usually best to have at least some skills and understanding of other areas of the law. But this is easier in some areas than others. For example, often an intellectual property (IP) specialist will have litigation experience and non-contentious advisory experience. Such an IP lawyer could have strong skills in commercial litigation and also general corporate advisory. Likewise, the same skills can be found with an insolvency or employment lawyer.
Conversely, some lawyers may find themselves practising in a specialised field that does not have any easy crossover into other areas.
This can be problematic as it greatly limits options in the employment market with other firms and businesses. It also means a lawyer must be reliant on that particular area of the law remaining busy and continuing to generate legal work.
An example of this is some of the changes to insurance and personal injury law over the past 10 years, which severely limited the scope of practice and put many lawyers out of work.
So, if at all possible, it is a good idea to keep in touch with other areas of the law. This can be beneficial if you are considering working in-house because many roles demand an all-round skill set that can handle legal issues from many different areas.
A good way to gain experience in other areas is to ask for work from different partners or to keep a varied client base and to
keep up to speed on big developments in the law - no matter what the area.
In many ways all lawyers use the same essential core skills, such as close analysis, an eye for detail, exceptional communication skills and the ability to work under pressure.
However it is important for lawyers to bear in mind their current practice area and the future options it can and can't lead to.
Ben Carter is a senior recruitment consultant at EJ Legal