When it comes to mapping out your career path, a common question is: when should I start looking to specialise? Gail Greener, senior consultant with Dolman Legal Search & Recruitment
It is not uncommon for lawyers to simply fall into certain practice areas and stay there. And the further into your career you are, the more difficult it is to change practice areas, so it is essential to make the right change early on.
You should consider choosing an area of specialty in which you have a real interest as you could very well be working in that field of law for many years to come. Then, make a conscious effort to move into the area.
This can be done by enrolling in educational units that relate to your particular interest and by focusing on gaining exposure to as many different areas within that specialty so as possible.
If your grand-plan is to work overseas or to move in-house, then it is worth taking into consideration that there is generally more opportunity for lawyers with experience in transactional areas. If there is a particular industry sector you are interested in, then make it known to the partners and senior lawyers and put your hand up for any work that arises with clients in that area.
Networking, discussions and obtaining advice from the partners and other senior colleagues will help you get a feel of what your future career in that area will look like.
As an associate-level lawyer it is important to keep your experience broad as this versatility within your practice area will enable you to apply your skills across the range of work available and ultimately keep more opportunity open.
As you start to reach the senior associate level, and especially if partnership is sought, it's important to become more specialised as this will allow you to differentiate yourself and be known in the industry as the go to expert. Ultimately, this will raise your profile and develop your client base.