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The Different Law Specialties & How to Choose the Right One for You

May 23, 2024
5 min read


Reviewed by:

Former Head of Pre-Law Office, Northeastern University, & Admissions Officer, Brown University

Reviewed: 5/23/24

If you’re an aspiring lawyer and aren’t sure which area of law to specialize in, this guide has got you covered!

Many law students enter the legal field chasing an idealized version of what it means to be an attorney. Based on the media’s portrayal of the profession, students expect glamorous, high-paying careers where they solve high-profile cases and put the most prolific criminals behind bars.

In reality, not all lawyers work with or against high-profile criminals. Many deal with day-to-day cases that don’t make headlines but still have life-changing impacts on clients. As such, there are several types of law that students pursue, each having its own benefits and drawbacks!

Read on to learn more about the different law specialties and how to choose the right one.

The Most Common Law Specialities

There are about 15 common law specialties. Here’s a breakdown of what each specialty focuses on and involves. 

Civil Rights Law

Civil rights lawyers fight for human rights and freedoms and maintain the balance between governmental power and individual liberties. While this job is highly rewarding, it is a small and competitive field. Many civil rights lawyers also regularly take on pro bono cases, which can impact their pay. 

Animal Law

This legal specialty is self-explanatory—it is the practice of laws pertaining to animal rights. These lawyers speak on behalf of animals and sometimes their owners. Many animal lawyers fight for policy and status change and work alongside animal activists to prevent animal exploitation. 

This specialty is less common because it isn’t exactly in high demand; there are few animal rights law firms. Most lawyers pursue this legal specialty because they have a strong passion for animal welfare as it is not a particularly high-paying career.

Corporate Law 

Corporate law ensures clients conduct their businesses according to local, state, and federal laws. This legal specialty is high-paying but also extremely high-pressure! 

In these cases, businesses’ reputations and credibility are on the line, and large sums of money are often at stake, which can mean big payouts for you or large losses for the companies you represent.

Education Law

These lawyers are in charge of counselling education institutions and systems or parents who want to file motions against school districts. 

Education lawyers ensure children receive the most equitable education, but finding jobs within the field can be challenging. Many lawyers only incorporate a few cases involving this type of law into their own private sector practice.

Criminal Law

One of the most common law specialties is criminal law. Criminal lawyers either defend or prosecute people accused of committing crimes. This specialty can land lawyers high-profile cases but tends to also be physically and emotionally draining!

Employment and Labor Law

Employment and labor lawyers focus on upholding worker and employer rights. This is another common legal specialty that is competitive but growing in demand, especially since thousands of employees were laid off during and after the pandemic.

Environmental Law

Environmental lawyers focus on regulatory policies and issues regarding natural resources. Like animal law, this field is typically pursued out of passion.

These lawyers are becoming increasingly important as more environmental crises arise, but this field of law is meticulous and involves a lot of policies and paper paperwork! It can also be frustrating as even minimal environmental advances take time and significant effort!

Family Law

Family law focuses on the relationships and interactions between family members. They often deal with child support cases, divorce, adoptions, and domestic abuse, meaning this specialty can be emotionally taxing.

Tax Law

Speaking of tax, another common specialty is tax law which focuses on protecting the regulations stipulated by the federal Internal Revenue Code. While tax lawyers typically have high salaries, their jobs are considered to be relatively uneventful in comparison to other specialties!

Health Law

Health lawyers protect and advise the healthcare industry and its patients. They have a high degree of flexibility as they can represent hospitals, clinics, nurses, doctors, patients, and health organizations, but they generally require some medical knowledge or training to join the field. 

Intellectual Property Law

Inventors require intellectual property lawyers to protect their creations. One highly coveted subspecialty within intellectual property law is patent law. Only a small percentage of lawyers are able to become certified patent attorneys. 

Many intellectual property lawyers also focus solely on copyright law, as it is a complex subspecialty itself. 

International Law

International law involves the body of rules that govern the relationships between sovereign states and other countries. To thrive in this field, attorneys should know multiple languages. 

These lawyers can practice private international law, working with law firms, corporations, banks, or telecommunication firms. They can also practice public international law, working with national governments, public interest groups, and other international institutions. 

Immigration Law

Another field that foreign language proficiency would benefit is immigration law. This legal specialty protects the rights of immigrants and ensures they receive accessible opportunities and sanctuary.

Sports Law

Sports lawyers typically work with teams, players, or leagues to negotiate contracts and protect clients from criminal accusations or personal property infringements. This field is highly competitive, and successful sports lawyers typically have established connections in the sports industry.

Real Estate Law

Real estate lawyers handle cases involving the buying, selling, or renting of land. They have high pay potential, but their caseloads tend to fluctuate with the housing market. 

Other Notable Law Specialties

The list of law specialties doesn’t end there, however! If you’re interested in practicing a law specialty that’s a bit more niche, you can consider one of these fields. 

Constitutional Law

If you’re interested in all things related to the United States Constitution, then constitutional law might be for you. Lawyers in this specialty handle cases that relate to the interpretation or amendment of the Constitution, as well as issues related to following the constitutional laws. 

Entertainment Law

Entertainment lawyers deal with cases involving royalties and the rights of artists and their work, often related to contracts and employment. You can choose to specialize further in film, television, music, or other areas of law practice. 

Bankruptcy Law

You can choose to specialize as a bankruptcy lawyer and represent people involved in or owing debts. If you’re interested in finances, this might be the role for you!

Securities Law

Securities lawyers are mainly involved in cases that relate to stocks, bonds, and other financial assets. As a securities lawyer, you may end up working on cases that involve fraud. 

Elder Law

Elder law protects the rights of older adults and the elderly. Lawyers commonly deal with issues involving wills or estates, as well as health care and disability cases. 

Municipal Law

Municipal lawyers deal with issues within municipalities, cities, and counties. As a municipal lawyer, you’ll likely handle cases related to property taxes, policing, small businesses, and other such issues. 

Discover Your Legal Calling

You might be overwhelmed by all the different law specialties you could pursue, but don’t worry! Our ‘What Type of Lawyer Should I Be?’ quiz can help you decide which one is right for you. 

Now that you have a better idea of the types of legal specialties there, you may still be asking yourself, “What type of law should I practice?”

While it may be difficult to pick one law specialty, you should be able to eliminate the majority of specialties by following these steps:

Consider Your Passions

When you pick a law specialty, you’ll have to spend several years building rapport and experience in it to truly thrive. Lawyers are known for having long hours, so it’s important you have a genuine interest in the specialty you pursue to ensure your happiness

If you know you want an exciting career where you’re spending more time in the courtroom than outside of it, you may want to eliminate options like tax law, which involves a significant amount of paperwork and little to no time in front of a jury.

Consider Your Career Priorities

Are you interested in joining the highest-paying law specialty? Do you have large student loans from law school that you want to pay off as soon as possible? Do you want to work for a BigLaw firm? Or are you most concerned with the work you do and the impact you have?

Take your priorities into account when you decide on your top legal specialties. Maybe you have a passion for civil rights but want the paycheck that comes with corporate law. Decide which priority comes first and take it from there.

On the other hand, if you’ve always been an avid animal activist and are more concerned about making a difference than your salary, you should pursue animal law. While animal lawyers are typically paid significantly less than other law specialties, around $50,000 a year, you’ll have high career satisfaction.

Gain Useful Experience

The best way to decide which law specialty to pursue is to gain experience in it! Your law school will have several resources for you to take advantage of to decide which law specialty you like. Law schools typically have diverse course offerings and legal clinics in several specialties. 

Hands-on experience will give you better insight into the day-to-day tasks of each specialty. Coursework will also help you understand the types of laws you’ll be working with every day and can help you gauge your interest!

Consider Your Application

For certain competitive legal fields that involve large law firms, like criminal law, corporate law, and patent law, employers will expect you to have graduated from a top-ranking law school, likely one of the T14, and be at the top of your class.

If you do not have a competitive application to join one of these prestigious specialties, you should consider your other options. 

While you should still try your best to get into your top choice, ensure you also have fallback options. It's crucial to craft your application narrative to reflect your goals and match what potential employers are looking for in these specialties. 

    FAQs: Choosing a Law Specialty

    Below, you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions about choosing a law specialty.

    1. What Is the Best Field of Law to Go Into?

    The best field of law depends entirely on your passions, career goals, priorities, and application. Consider these factors when deciding which law specialty to pursue.

    2. What Field of Law Is Most in Demand?

    Intellectual property law is considered to be one of the most in-demand legal specialties currently, a trend that is predicted to only increase in the near future.

    3. What Is the Least Stressful Law Practice?

    Unfortunately, every legal specialty comes with its fair share of stress. The least stressful law practice will be one that lets you follow your passion, has job security, and offers you abundant opportunities to reach your career goals.

    Final Thoughts

    There will be many monumental decisions you make throughout your legal career. This guide should help you make the most informed decision about the law specialty you pursue!

    While most lawyers stick to one practice, with a JD, you’re qualified to pursue any specialty! If you’re torn between a few specialties, you have the option to gain experience in all of them! Carefully consider all of your options and ensure you prioritize your interests and goals.

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