If you are attending law school, you may be considering which fields of law you want to focus on in your practice. Not all are created equal; some are more competitive than others, and some have better pay than others. If your law school allows for law specialization, you will want to consider these different facets of law to determine which one fits your interest and career goals best. Here is a guide to help you explore your options to see which is right for you.
What Field of Law Should I Go Into?
Determining your field of law depends on several factors. First, you need to decide what passion or purpose interests you. Second, you need to consider pay, job opportunities, and demand. Finally, you need to consider what law school specialties are available from the law schools you are considering. These three considerations will guide you toward a field of law. Keep in mind that you are able to change your mind because most law programs are general enough in focus that they can apply to most areas with a bit of additional training.
What Are the Most Popular Law Fields?
According to Indeed, the most popular fields of law include:
- Bankruptcy law
- Corporate law
- Employment and labor law
- Family and juvenile law
- Immigration law
- Intellectual property law
- Personal injury law
Not surprisingly, some of these popular fields of law overlap with the higher-paying areas.
Do You Have to Specialize in Law School?
No, lawyers in the United States do not have to specialize in law school. You can take a generic program that prepares you to practice in most areas. However, you can choose to pursue a specialization if you wish, depending on the school and its programs. Some schools offer law school concentrations or specialties that prepare you to focus on a particular field of law.
Different Fields of Law
So, what law specialties should you consider? There are numerous options, but here are some that are worth looking into based on your goals and interests.
In America, animals have some legal rights, such as the right to be protected from cruelty and improper treatment. Animal law covers these regulations, as well as laws relating to pets, farming, animals in entertainment, and exotic animals. For those lawyers interested in animal rights and activism, they may find this a good specialization to consider.
Bankruptcy law helps people and businesses that are struggling financially file and manage their bankruptcy. Because there are so many types of bankruptcy for both individuals and companies, and these are all under the auspices of federal bankruptcy law, they often require legal help to go through.
Civil Rights Law
The United States Constitution provides all Americans with basic human rights, and those rights are also protected through statutes, administrative regulations, state laws, and federal laws passed since the inception of the United States. Civil rights law focuses on protecting those rights and fighting for those who have had them violated. These legal professionals work to keep a balance of power between the government and individual liberties, while also protecting individuals from discrimination.
Corporations must follow a large number of rules and regulations to operate in the United States. Corporate law specialists are familiar with these laws and help companies stay in compliance with the laws that affect them. They also help with contracts, mergers, acquisitions, and other business transactions.
Criminal lawyers prosecute or defend people who face criminal accusations. Criminal prosecutors represent plaintiffs to build cases against the accused – the defendant. Criminal defense attorneys build defenses and help the defendant choose the right plea deals when facing these accusations. In America, the accused are innocent until proven guilty, so both prosecutors and defense attorneys must work through the criminal legal system to ensure a fair trial.
Advancing technology and the rise of the digital age have increased the need for an area of law around data privacy, compliance, policies, and regulations. Both the public and private sector store and share massive quantities of electronic data that can be personal, sensitive, proprietary, or classified. Cybersecurity law protects the data and infrastructure from inappropriate and malicious use.
Education law contains legal issues in all levels of education and often incorporates broader areas of the law. Some education lawyers ensure that children receive fair, equal access to primary and secondary education, while other education lawyers focus on higher education settings. Lawyers may work with students who have special educational needs and their families to ensure their educational plans are followed appropriately so they can learn. These attorneys may also provide advice and counsel to school districts regarding current education law and how it applies to their student body. Higher education lawyers work at an institution or university system where legal matters may include the civil rights of students, intellectual property of research, information security, issues in intercollegiate athletics, and academic freedom.
Employment and Labor Law
When a company hires employees, it must follow a long list of employment and labor laws to legally have those employees at its location. As a law specialty, employment and labor law focuses on understanding and applying the laws that relate to hiring and paying employees and ensuring fair treatment, no discrimination, and accurate pay.
Environmental and Natural Resources Law
Environmental and natural resources law covers all of the statutes, regulations, and laws that protect the environment. This might include help with natural resource management, land disputes, environmental policies, pollution control, and more. This area of law also looks at water rights, public land use, marine resources, gas transportation, and hazardous waste issues. Air and water quality also fall under this type of law. Law students who want to help prevent climate change and protect the environment may appreciate this field as well as those who want to pursue legal careers in real estate development and land policy.
Family and Juvenile Law
Family lawyers help individuals within a family unit with their legal needs. This may include child custody issues, domestic partnership disputes, divorce, child welfare, and similar topics. Juvenile law focuses on protecting the interests and rights of children.
Health care has many laws and regulations that surround it, including how patients are represented and cared for in a medical setting. This area of law also deals with insurance companies and the financial side of the healthcare industry. When mergers and acquisitions take place within the healthcare field, health lawyers may also play a role. This area of law also looks at bioethics and clinical ethics.
Immigration law refers to the laws and regulations that surround the immigration process. These lawyers help people who are trying to immigrate to the United States understand their options. They may help people who are facing hurdles with the immigration process find a way around those issues and concerns. Immigration lawyers also help people who are coming to the United States on a temporary basis do so legally. Finally, these lawyers may prosecute people who traffic or illegally transport foreigners across the border into the United States.
Intellectual Property Law
Intellectual property is the creative property that someone imagines, creates, invents, or discovers, and copyright and intellectual property laws protect those items from being stolen and used by another person. This branch of law also protects a business's rights to its identifying marks, such as trademarked logos and products. Intellectual property lawyers can also assist with negotiating contracts for creative works that an artist or author may wish to sell.
International law covers the rules and regulations that cover international relationships. These lawyers tend to work in government entities or global corporations. They may look into the relations between international organizations, the United Nations, and even international governments.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) outlines a separate legal system and body of law that govern all military personnel. Military law is specialized because of these unique laws, rules, regulations, and courts that do not apply to the general public. Civilians who graduate from law school and pass the bar can enlist in the military and apply to become a Judge Advocate General (JAG) Officer to practice military law. Every year, military branches select soldiers and commissioned officers to participate in the Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP) where the military pays for the legal education of these selected members in return for their commitment of additional years of service as a military lawyer.
Municipal laws are the laws that govern cities and city governments. This might include zoning regulations, the use of police power, property tax regulations, and even education policies within the city.
Personal Injury Law
When someone is injured at the hands of another party, they may be eligible for compensation under personal injury law. With the help of a personal injury lawyer, injured parties can often get paid for their injuries and hold accountable the individual or business that caused the accident.
Real Estate Law
Real estate law involves all of the rules and regulations that surround selling and leasing real estate. This includes real estate taxes, contracts, and commissions. Some states require homebuyers and sellers to use a real estate lawyer as part of the closing process. Many real estate law professionals work with commercial clients as well.
This area of law refers to the laws and regulations that surround financial instruments, including stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The laws prevent fraud and insider trading and work to protect the market against manipulation. Lawyers who study this field may help prosecute fraud and help their clients maintain compliance with reporting and enforcement rules.
Sports and Entertainment Law
The sports industry has a large number of regulations surrounding it. These include contracts, labor laws, laws relating to fair competition, regulations surrounding injuries, and more. Sports laws impact both players and coaches as well as the organizations that run professional and college-level sports organizations. Entertainment law is similar, but it relates to the entertainment industry, not the sports industry.
Finally, tax law refers to the laws and rules that govern federal and state taxation. Tax lawyers work with the government to ensure people are paying their taxes as they should. They also work with businesses to help them ensure they are properly paying their taxes and reporting them as required by law. Law students who are interested in finance may find tax law to be a good specialization to consider.
Reach Out to Texas A&M University School of Law to Learn More
If you are considering a career in law, Texas A&M University School of Law has several law degrees to consider, including online law degrees. In addition to the traditional J.D. program, we offer graduate law degrees for both lawyers and non-lawyers seeking to advance their careers with legal expertise.
To learn more about our flexible law school opportunities, reach out to Texas A&M University School of Law today. Browse our program's offerings, or reach out to an admission counselor to learn how to apply,