While it helps to specialise, exploring other areas of law will be a great career advantage, writes Ben Carter.
Lawyers usually become very specialised soon after they start their careers. Although there are a number of advantages to this, such as being an expert in the area and one's advice being highly regarded and valued, it is usually best to have at least some skills and understanding of other areas of the law.
This is easier in some areas than others. For example, often an IP specialist will have litigation experience as well as non-contentious advisory experience. Such an IP lawyer could have strong skills in commercial litigation and also general corporate advisory, likewise an insolvency or employment lawyer.
However, some lawyers may find themselves practising in a very specialised area that does not have any easy crossover into other areas. This can be problematic as it greatly limits the options in the employment market with other firms and businesses, and it is reliant on the particular area of the law remaining an area that will continue to generate legal work. For example, some of the changes to insurance and personal injury law over the past 10 years has affected lawyers working in those areas.
So if at all possible, it is a good idea to keep in touch with other areas of the law. This can also be beneficial if you are considering working in-house, as many in-house roles demand an all-round skill-set that can handle legal issues across 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 keep up-to-speed on major 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 that it can - and can't - lead to.
Ben Carter is a senior recruitment consultant at EJ Legal