An ongoing debate within the legal profession is whether a lawyer should focus on one specialty (e.g., copyright law, tax law, DUI defense, etc.), as opposed to serving as a general practitioner. The questions around specialization start as early as law school and they continue throughout the career of most attorneys. In many cases, the focus on one aspect of the law, or practicing within a certain niche, is definitely a good thing.
More Enjoyable Work
Typically, when a lawyer chooses a specialty, he does so because he enjoys that particular area of the law. This means specialization can create a more enjoyable career, with lawyers finding pleasure and interest within working in a particular area of the law that they actually like. If a legal professional chooses to go the generalist route, and practice across a wide variety of legal areas, then the odds are greater that he will run into issues of disinterest more so than the specialist.
If an attorney likes options, then specialization is a great thing. Today’s lawyer has hundreds of options when deciding on which area of the law to focus on. This is largely because specialization has been a growing trend within the legal industry for years; and, the trend has created finer and finer segmentations of the practice.
As segmentations increase, attorneys find that they can focus on narrower and narrower areas of the law. For example, while medical malpractice may have been a credible specialty in the past, today’s practitioner can focus on such things as OBGYN malpractice or the defense of heart surgeons. Similarly, corporate legal departments are now recruiting, not only for transactional attorneys, but transactional folks with experience in specific nuances of financial dealings.
Education Allows for It
Educational institutions have responded nicely to the trend towards specialization. In comparison to just a decade ago, law schools and CLE providers are now offering lessons and instruction on more tapered practice areas. This means attorneys have more educational routes to choose from in order to focus their practice on smaller niches. Large law firms as well often provide their lawyers with training on targeted areas of the law.
Lawyers can Respond to their Communities
This is an often-over-looked benefit of centering on one area of the law. Some attorneys decide to practice in certain geographic regions that present unique legal issues. For example, some rural areas might see many legal opportunities that relate to oil and gas production. Large college towns might see issues related to zoning, hazing of students, or sports. For those attorneys practicing in such areas, they can often gain the sense of giving back to their community by specializing in those legal issues that are special to their area.
Please don’t get us wrong. There is nothing bad with a lawyer wanting to be a general practitioner. There are very real benefits for those that decide this path. But, do know that attorneys specializing in a given practice area do have certain benefits as well – and the four above are but just a few.
Please know that if you are thinking about narrowing your practice and have question on the matter, you can always contact us for help. We have been assisting legal professionals for almost 30 years now, and specialization is a constant topic that generates questions and concerns. We have answers to help and information to guide. Please take advantage of both!