Most lawyers, especially those who have been practicing law for some time, tend to be naturally drawn to one particular type of law over another. And for many, such a preference has been determined early on in their profession, or possibly even earlier, during their educational years.
Legally speaking, there is nothing to stop a lawyer from practicing in more than one area of law, but this approach can come with some significant side effects.
In short, the benefits of a lawyer choosing to focus in on only one type of law include:
- Maintaining a sense of autonomy away from their law firm’s daily grind
- Simplifying their workflow and processes, allowing for more work/life balance
- Allowing them more time to concentrate on fostering expertise
- Granting them the opportunity of finding and billing their own clients with little-to-no effort required by their law firm, leading to a greater sense of trust between colleagues and clients
How are lawyers with multiple practice fields regarded by their peers and recruiters?
A lawyer who holds interests in multiple areas of law can respectfully be considered as a true student of the philosophy of law. However, those who opt to devote themselves to one particular area are often found to be far more pragmatic and held in generally higher regard than those who split their attention across multiple fields of law.
While a first or second-year associate may have an interest in several areas of law, sooner or later, it is generally considered time to get down to business and pick a specialty.
So, just how are multiple-practice lawyers regarded by other lawyers?
Not committed – other lawyers in your firm may lack confidence in the extent of your commitment to any one area of law, and as such may feel that you:
- Lack sufficient interest in the task at hand
- Lack the proper expertise required
- Will put in an inferior level of effort
- Overall cannot be fully trusted to do an exceptional job
Undecided – Lawyers are required to uphold the very opposite nature to that of indecisiveness. They need to present as strong-willed and dedicated, with a staunch conviction in their opinions and approaches when it comes to the resolution of a case.
To this end, a lawyer who has yet to ‘pick a lane’ may wind up left out of client or team meetings and proceedings, generally considered as an unessential member of the team on account of a lack of laser-focused expertise.
Distracted – When given the opportunity to join a team of lawyers working on an important legal case, you can’t afford to be distracted, or even be considered as such.
Marc J Shuman, who specialises in personal injury law, comments on this, saying, “Even if you firmly believe that there is nothing essentially wrong with practicing more than one area of law, it’s imperative to commit yourself fully to a case and ensure your peers and senior associates that they have no reason to doubt your commitment or focus.”
Legal firms are increasingly focused on finding professionals who specialise, so recruiters will often feel some ambiguity when it comes to confidently stating that they can place you with a firm. A recruiter will undoubtedly have a much easier time placing you with a new firm should you specialise in one area of law – plus, it makes presenting you as a potential candidate much more straightforward for them.