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Making a Move to a Different Practice Area

Making a Move to a Different Practice Area

Many attorneys — over the course of their career — will at least consider a major practice area transition, whether categorical (i.e., from corporate transactional work to litigation) or more specific in nature (i.e., from employment law to intellectual property law).  This move is quite often made in conjunction with a shift to a new position at a firm or in-house legal department that is willing to take on the additional risk and cost of retraining an attorney-candidate for such work.

Though shifting practice areas is not entirely uncommon, it can be quite difficult, particularly in the high-stakes, competitive “upper crust” of the legal industry — Biglaw and in-house legal departments — where inexperience in a particular area can be a significant mark against your overall candidacy.

You’re not without options, however.  Skilled legal recruiters can assist you in developing an application that makes you an attractive candidate, despite your shift to a different practice area.  You’ll also want to keep certain tips in mind as you begin to contemplate your various options.

Consider the following.

Keep Apprised of Legal Industry Trends

Though many practice area transitions are passion-oriented, it’s worth keeping in mind legal industry trends — if there is an expected crunch in demand in a particular practice area, then you may want to reconsider your decision to shift to that specialty.  Predicting growth is anything but an exact science, however.  As such, you’ll likely want to consult with a qualified legal recruiter for guidance on the various trends in the legal industry and how they might affect your transition.

Continued Education is a Possibility

If you are committed to shifting into a different practice area, but are concerned about your qualifications (and potential) on the job market, then continued education is always a possibility.  Though at the top-end, you can re-attend law school and obtain your L.L.M. in a given specialty, you can — alternatively — attend various conferences, certificate-training programs, and MCLE classes to strengthen your overall application (despite lacking real-world experience in that particular practice area).

First Consider Internal Moves

Internal moves are a great option to experiment with a transition before testing yourself against the job market.  Depending on the employer, some will be willing to allow you to take on projects (typically in a downsized role) that are in a different practice area, and that will give you an opportunity to gain the experience you need to evaluate your interest and whether you are capable of making a successful transition to that specialty.

Highly Specialized Attorneys May Encounter Additional Challenges

Making the shift to another practice area can be a challenge for any attorney-candidate, but the difficulty is further raised for those who are highly-specialized in a given practice area.  For example, those who have been involved in patent prosecution for several years (and who have passed the patent bar) are so specialized that they will likely encounter additional barriers when it comes to convincing employers to give them a chance to “spread their wings,” so to speak, and test the waters in a different area of practice.  When presenting yourself as an applicant with pre-existing, specialized training, it’s critical that you have reasonable justifications for why you want to move into a different practice area — you should make it clear to the employer that you are truly committed to this shift.  

Pro Bono Work May Provide an Opportunity to Test the Waters

If you do not have internal opportunities to take on different projects, then you may be able to attach yourself to various pro bono opportunities that give you a chance to test the waters with regard to other specialties.  For example, if you’re looking to get involved with transactional work in the copyright and trademark context, then you may want to look for non-profits that consult with early-stage startups that require free legal assistance.  These are fantastic options for attorneys looking to give back to their communities and build out their resume.

Speak to a Skilled Los Angeles Legal Recruiter for Comprehensive Assistance

If you are an attorney considering a move to a different firm or in-house legal department and would also like to explore another practice area, then we encourage you to get in touch with one of the experienced Los Angeles legal recruiters here at Garb Jaffe & Associates.  With the aid of a legal recruiter, you will be equipped to identify and evaluate potential opportunities with various employers, particularly those who are willing to take on attorneys making the transition over to a new practice area.

Here at Garb Jaffe, our legal recruiters have decades of experience providing comprehensive assisting to attorney-candidates throughout California, helping them secure their ideal placements with prestigious Biglaw firms and in-house legal departments.  We understand the unique factors that employers are looking for in the legal industry, and how best to position candidates so as to maximize their prospects during the hiring process.  This includes difficult situations, such as a specialized attorney looking to break into a different practice area than what they may have been working in for some time.

Call (310) 207-0727 to schedule a consultation with a legal recruiter at Garb Jaffe.  We look forward to working with you from beginning-to-end of the recruitment process!

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