Practice of Law

The Big Switch: Answers to Questions about Changing Practice Areas

164916141The following is a guest blog post by Laura Boysen-Aragon, a former practicing attorney and now a legal recruiter at Solutus Legal Search, LLC. This blog entry is the second of a two-part series, in response to questions submitted by our readers after our first installment.

So you’ve decided it’s time to make a change in your practice area, but change can be hard and you still have a lot of work to do. You’re not alone! Here are responses to questions we got from your colleagues in the same boat.

I’m a litigator, but I want to transition to commercial/transactional work. Is this possible? Yes! Here are a few things for you to consider:

  • The earlier in your career that you decide to make this change the better. If you’re working for a large firm, they may be more receptive to a transition if you’re junior; if you’re more senior they may still allow the transition, but you may need to take a cut in seniority. If you work for a smaller firm with more flexible billing rates, it may be easier to make this transition regardless of seniority.
  • Find a mentor to supervise your work, provide feedback, and give you opportunities for transactional experience.
  • If you’re looking for a role with a new firm or company as a transactional attorney be able to explain clearly why you want to make the transition and why you believe you’ll be successful in the practice. For example, explain that as a litigator you’re already trained to think strategically, advocate for your position, and identify key issues and liability risks. Also leverage your experience in counseling and advocacy. Emphasize that litigation requires you to quickly get up to speed on new concepts, making you ready for this new challenge.

I am a solo practitioner. I’ve noticed demand for e-Discovery attorneys. How can I get this experience and what sort of job options will I have in this practice area? As the rest of the world advances technologically, so does the legal profession. You’re right, e-Discovery opportunities are much more widely available than even a few years ago. The first step is educating yourself on e-Discovery practices and becoming familiar with common software. Assuming that you’re a litigator, you have a few different options:

  • Look for firms dedicated to e-Discovery work where you can get the necessary experience. You may have to start at a lower level or billing rate, but you’ll get training and new marketable skills.
  • Apply to project-/contract-based firms that staff attorneys for several months to a year on a temporary basis. They may bring you in at a junior level, but it’s an opportunity to cut your teeth and learn the issues.
  • Incorporate e-Discovery work into your current practice and begin to offer e-Discovery services as a solo practitioner.

I’m an employment attorney for a government agency. I will qualify for retirement soon, but my pension won’t be enough to cover my expenses. What are my options? Employment law remains a hot practice area, and what I’m seeing in the market suggests that there aren’t enough good employment attorneys to go around. But, if you like your current role or at least are content enough, why not stay for the extra few years to earn the money you need to retire comfortably? A job search takes time and effort; at the very least, you could take the extra time to look for something that’s very appealing to you.

If staying isn’t an option, you could become a solo practitioner and offer employment counseling or consulting services. Given your experience in government, you would have a hook with public entities and could seek them out as clients. But a solo practice requires a lot of hustle to build business as well as do the actual work. If that’s not appealing to you, look for opportunities with an established law firm or in-house opportunities in employment law or human resources.

CEB’s California Basic Practice Handbook is a great resource for new practitioners in a wide variety of practice areas.

Other CEBblog™ posts you may find helpful:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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