Q: I am working in one practice area. However, I really want to work in another. Is it possible to change?
A: Often when starting out as a lawyer, many people are unclear about the specific practice area they want to specialise in. Sometimes lawyers are pigeonholed right from the commencement of their careers into working within an area that they are allocated after rotations. Jobs for junior lawyers can be scarce and therefore some lawyers take on whatever roles they can find, only to discover a few years into their career that their true passion lays in another area.
Transitioning between some areas can be more challenging than others. For example, it may be difficult to change from a commercial area to a non-commercial area. Attempting to move between corporate law and family law may result in having to start from a very low year of admission - some law firms won't take into consideration any of your post-admission experience at all.
However, taking the opposing side can be a more seamless way to change practice areas. Candidates often move between plaintiff to defendant roles in criminal law and personal injury fields. Moving between specialisations such as property, employment, construction, banking and intellectual property can be difficult, but it is possible.
When applying for roles outside your practice area, make sure you use any relevant experience that you may have obtained incidentally throughout your career. The sooner you try to move the better, and the longer you leave the change, the harder it will be because you will be considered to be more specialised. For junior lawyers, it is recommended that you think about your interest in detail at university, and choose subjects that will guide you into the right place.
Renata Braukamper, senior consultant, Randstad Legal