Studying law is one of the most challenging and demanding career paths one can travel down, which is why it’s among the university degrees with the highest dropout rates, especially in the first year.
Beyond those first-year blues, law school tends to get a little easier and somewhat more enjoyable, as students have a general grasp of the nature of law and can begin to hone in on an area of study. It’s a task which shouldn’t be undertaken lightly, as it can be difficult to change course down the line.
That’s why New Jersey lawyer Isadore H. May says that finding the right area of law to focus on could be the primary difference between having a successful career and a failed one. May practiced both real estate law and commercial law before launching his own law firm in 1987 and remains a lawyer to this day.
He suggests aspiring lawyers consider a number of different questions before settling on the area of law that seems to best align with their personality and goals.
What is Your Personality Type?
This is undoubtedly the most important consideration in the eyes of Isadore H. May, who says that different areas of law are more clearly aligned with certain personality types.
A 1993 study of lawyer personality types based on the MBTI assessment found that of the 16 possible outcomes, six of them accounted for about 70% of all lawyers. The largest split came in the thinking/feeling category, with the overwhelming majority of lawyers falling under the latter, which prioritizes logic and rationality over emotional considerations.
Lawyers can be introverted or extroverted, with areas like tax law and real estate law being well suited to introverted types, while labor law could be a good fit for extroverts. Tax and real estate law are also good for sensory personalities, while intuition types would likely excel in criminal law or litigation, giving them room to flex their creativity.
What Do You Like to Do?
While our personalities play a role in what we like, it’s not a cut-and-dry situation, so it’s also important to analyze your individual likes and dislikes.
If you enjoy researching, writing, developing strategies, and arguing your positions, then litigation definitely sounds like a good fit. If you’re interested in the business world and have keen attention to detail that you like to utilize, then becoming a corporate or transactional lawyer would make a lot of sense.
Where Do You Want to Live?
Some areas of law are practiced across the nation, while some specialized forms like securitization and structured finance law are primarily or solely practiced in major hubs like New York City. If you have some idea of where you’d like to live ahead of time, it’s worth considering what lawyers are in demand there.
That said, Isadore H. May recommends putting your career first and ensuring you’ve settled on a practice you’ll love and thrive in rather than one that’s conveniently available where you want to live.
How Much Money Do You Want to Make?
You’re paying a lot for that law degree, so it’s certainly fair to factor in how much money you’re likely to make in any given discipline. Among the top paying members of the legal profession are medical lawyers, IP lawyers, and patent lawyers, with average annual salaries topping $100,000.
Tax lawyers, real estate lawyers, and corporate lawyers don’t quite average six figures annually, but they’re tantalizingly close. Further down the list are civil rights lawyers, family lawyers, and criminal lawyers, which cluster around the $50,000-$70,000 range.