Everything Law Students Need to Know About Choosing a Practice Area

 

Introduction:

So, you’re in law school – congratulations! However, you have no idea where your life is going. You don’t know where you’re going to work, what area of law you’re going to practice, what size law firm you’re going to work for, what your future career looks like… basically, you have no idea what your future entails. Sound familiar? If that sounds like you, don’t worry! Everyone goes through this difficult period of trying to plan out a career path; you’re not alone. The first step to figuring out your future is simply becoming informed about what your choices are. What opportunities are available out there? At this point, you may be throwing your hands in the air and yelling, “I don’t know!” Don’t panic. That’s what we’re here to help with!

You may already have some idea of what opportunities exist in the world of law. Or, perhaps your parents just instructed you to go to law school, and you have no idea what you’re going to do with your degree. Either way, this resource is meant to be a guide to help you pick an area of law that is best suited to you. Everyone is unique. We all have different backgrounds, skill sets, personalities, likes, dislikes, and pet peeves. What area of law you decide to practice should depend on a variety of factors unique to you. It’s not just about which area of law makes the most money or which area of law your parents, professors, or school advisors tell you would be good to practice. Choose something that will make you love what you get up and do every day.

 

A couple of notes before we begin looking at practice areas:

 

  1. If you’re not in law school yet and are just thinking about your future very early, great! This guide will still be helpful to you.

 

  1. It may be difficult to choose an area. Don’t get discouraged. Seek advice from your family and friends, but at the end of the day remember that this is the rest of your life that you are talking about. Take every opportunity to learn more about various areas of law and realize that you don’t have to have all of the answers immediately. Sometimes, it takes a while before you find exactly what is best suited to you. That’s why the earlier you read through this guide and start researching what you can do with your degree after you graduate, the better.

 

  1. It may also be difficult to choose one area. The world of law is complex and far-reaching. You probably have multiple interests (it would be quite concerning if there’s only one thing in life that interests you!). A lot of lawyers practice more than one area. Keep that in mind as you read through this guide and realize that you are not necessarily limited to choosing one. (Note that we are not suggesting you choose fifteen! But two would be fine.)

 

  1. There are many practice areas available that people don’t know about. Have you always loved horses? Did you know equine law is its own niche area? “Yes, you can get a job in that!” is almost always going to be an answer as you consider what you want to do. There’s no doubt, however, that some jobs are particularly difficult to acquire.

 

  1. Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses. Never been a good writer? Maybe don’t go into a practice area that requires constant document drafting. Get nervous speaking in front of people? Maybe don’t be a litigator. Love dealing with emotionally-charged situations and calming people down? Consider divorce or family law. How do you know what strengths and weaknesses correlate with which practice areas? That’s just one of the many things this guide will help you with!

 

  1. Keep in mind what classes you enjoyed and what classes you hated. By the end of law school, you’ll not only know what your strengths and weaknesses are but also what your likes and dislikes are.

 

  1. “What makes this guide different from others?” In addition to offering a much more comprehensive breakdown of practice areas all in one easy-to-read, enjoyable resource, we have interview answers from lawyers practicing the various areas to give you real-life tips!

 

  1. Finally, the most daunting question for law students struggling to decide on a practice area. At what point should you know what area of law is perfect for you? Here’s a typical lawyer-type answer for you: it depends. Of course, it would be great if you knew exactly what you wanted to do before you graduated and then secured your dream job in that area of law and lived out the rest of your life practicing that and loving it the whole time. However, everyone is different. You may think you know by the time you finish this guide. Or, you may find your favorite practice area by just “falling into it” later in life.

 

 

General notes about the guide:

 

  • This is probably the most comprehensive guide you will find. However, it does not take the place of on-the-job shadowing, internships, classes, clinics, or hands-on, real-life experiences to help you decide on a practice area!
  • The information in this guide is accurate and complete to the best of our knowledge, but there is a potential for inaccuracies or incomplete information. Please note that the information may not have been updated since the publication date.
  • Lawyer interviews were conducted by email or by phone. Please note that these lawyers were not otherwise involved in the writing of this resource; the information contained in the interviews is accurate to the best of our ability.
  • If you find this guide helpful, please pass it along!

Administrative

Law

The government’s power has expanded rapidly in the past several decades. The area of law related to government agency action is called administrative law. Because within administrative law there are many sub-areas such as health, immigration, and transportation, we will keep this section of the guide brief. You may refer to other sections of this guide to find a practice area well suited to you, while keeping in mind that you have the opportunity to work as an administrative lawyer and deal with government agencies. For example, if communications law as a practice area interests you, you might enjoy administrative law related to the FCC.

As an administrative lawyer, you could work for the government to promulgate and enforce policies and regulations. Another option is to work at a private lobbying firm to represent clients, or you could work for a public interest organization.

For a list of some of the main federal regulatory agencies, see this page.

For a comprehensive guide to administrative law, check out this Harvard resource.

Admirality/

Maritime Law

Are you looking for big cases? Do you want something complex? Are you looking for something unique where each case is completely different? Maritime law governs nautical matters. If it has to do with the ocean or the sea, it probably falls under this area of law.

That being said, there is a lot that relates to the ocean and the sea! That’s what makes maritime law so fascinating to some people because cases are complex and vastly different. Unlike newer areas of law such as fashion law or gaming law, maritime law has been popular for centuries. Alexander Hamilton and John Adams were both admiralty lawyers, in fact!

 

Education and Background:

A background in the US Navy or US Coast Guard may give you valuable insights into the matters that maritime lawyers deal with.

Most maritime attorneys learn their skills “on the job,” so this is an area where it is incredibly important to get an internship to see if you like it.

 

Getting a job:

The importance of trade by sea cannot be underestimated. Furthermore, the U.S. Naval Institute estimates that, “about 70 percent of the world’s population lives within 100 miles of the coastline, and most maritime activity such as shipping, fishing, and natural resource exploitation takes place within 200 miles of the shore” (Howell).

In addition to a job with a firm that specializes in admiralty law, there may be opportunities with a government agency, cruise line, or insurance company.

The Maritime Law Association of the United States (MLAUS) may be a useful organization to join, and you can even join it as a law student! Visit their website to learn more about their nine classes of membership.

You may want to consider geographical constraints if you are thinking about this area of law. Yes, you probably can find “maritime” law jobs in Kansas, but they will be few and far between compared to jobs available on the coast.

 

Average salary:

A current search on Law Crossing indicates an average salary of $118,596. However, Maritime Attorney Tom Bond points out that this is an area of law when money really “ebbs and flows” because cases are so large and each one is worth a lot of money (see interview below).

 

Would you like this practice area?

Strengths/Weaknesses: You must be strong in a variety of areas such as reading, writing, speaking, and researching. This is an area that requires organizational skills to deal with complex issues.

Likes/dislikes: If you like having flexibility in your schedule and in what you do, this is a great area for you. If you prefer a routine, you will not enjoy this area of law as much.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbour’s Continental Shelf: Australia’s Timor Sea Maritime Boundary (Forbes)

“Coveting a neighbour’s continental shelf is a trend that has caused diplomatic rifts and become a contentious issue since the early 1960s. There are some recent cases where coastal and/or island States have experienced the problem in regional seas, for example, in the Arctic Ocean, the East and South China Seas, the Falklands Basin and the Timor Sea. Perhaps this ruffling of diplomatic feathers relating to the continental shelf may be partially attributed to select provisions contained in the Third United Nations Law of the Sea Convention 1982…” Read more

Two Year Old Child Dies After Falling From Freedom of the Seas (Walker)

“A two year old child reportedly died today after falling from deck 11 while the Royal Caribbean cruise ship was in port in San Juan. The ship was reportedly docked at the Pan American dock II in San Juan. There are conflicting information regarding the circumstances of the tragedy. One source (translated) states that the child “peeked into one of the windows that was open and fell,” and another newspaper reports that the child “was in the arms of his grandfather who slipped and fell.”” Read more

The Jones Act Is About Protecting America (Istook)

“In recent weeks, opinion writers in a number of leading agriculture industry publications have been encouraging American farmers to ship their products in foreign vessels, arguing that it’s cheaper. They have also been urging repeal of the American law that is the last thin lifeline of the once-robust shipbuilding industry in the United States. Unfortunately, this line of thinking reflects the blindly globalist agenda that has been the bane of America’s economy for the last 50-years.” Read more

 

Maritime Attorney Spotlight:

Thomas M. Bond is the founder of the Kaplan/Bond Group, a firm specializing in maritime injury law and construction site injury law. He says you can be a happy and successful maritime lawyer if you don’t take yourself too seriously and try to have fun along the way while still working hard.

 

Tom’s interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  34 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  Suffolk University

Q: In what practice area(s) do you practice?  If more than one, what’s the percentage of each?

A:   Maritime injury law makes up about 20% of what I do, but some are really big cases so it might make up half of my income. The rest (80%) is construction site injury law.

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  Just me! I have one legal assistant and my wife comes in 3 days a week to help out.

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  I try to do reading, researching, writing, phone calls, and speaking. I find a balance. I really do whatever I’m in the mood to do. I have the flexibility because I’m working for myself.

Q: Do you deal with difficult people?

A:  There’s a right way and a wrong way to handle people. If you listen to everyone and try to understand where they come from… there’s no such thing as a difficult person.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  The autonomy and flexibility in my day to day activities. I like to negotiate, speak in front of crowds, do research, and more. There are certainly ups and downs with the money flow. It comes in waves because some of the cases are so large, so you need to budget.

Q: Did you practice any other practice areas before deciding on this one?

A:  No. Right out of school I just sent a guy who did this kind of law my resume. He said he wanted 2-3 years worth of experience. I told him I had 2-3 years experience, and he asked how that was possible since I just graduated. I told him that I worked my way through college so I had “work experience.” Of course that wasn’t what he was looking for! So, he said no, but I called him again and again and again. Finally, he agreed to let me work there. Later, he told me he hired me because I simply wouldn’t listen to the word no! He said if I didn’t listen when he said no, I wouldn’t listen when “no” came up in the course of work. If you want something, be persistent!

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A:  45-50 in the office but I would say I work 60-65 total

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A:  I enjoy the flexibility; I like helping people; I enjoy that the cases aren’t routine; I like that sometimes I’m in federal court; and I like that I handle bigger cases, so they are more complex.

Q: What do you like least about your job/practice area?

A:  Well, there aren’t enough hours in the day!

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a lawyer in your practice area?

A:  Find someone who does that kind of law and intern with them.

 

I always put my family first. And I think if you are happy at home it transitions to your professional life.

– Tom Bond

 

Conclusion:

Maritime lawyers take big risks by dealing with large, complex cases. However, there are often big rewards that come with it.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

In the words of an Alternative Dispute Resolution lawyer, ADR is, “the more appropriate way to resolve disputes, rather than going to war in the courtroom where there are just winners and losers. Alternative dispute resolution should result in a win-win.”

There are many forms of dispute resolution available other than litigation. For a full list, see this page. The most commonly practiced alternative forms, however, are mediation and arbitration.

Mediation entails having a neutral third-party mediator listen to the facts of the case and assist in negotiations between the parties; the procedures are non-binding. Mediators may hold joint sessions where all the parties and their representatives are in one room to discuss the facts; they may also hold private meetings with each party to hear confidential issues and to determine the willingness to settle. Most mediation cases result in parties coming to settlement, in which case settlement documents should be signed; these become as binding as any other agreement.

Arbitration entails an out-of-court hearing in which an impartial arbitrator makes a decision (arbitration may be binding or non-binding). Arbitration is a less costly and less time-consuming option than going to court, but arbitration does resemble trial.

 

Education and Background:

You should not try to go directly into dispute resolution right out of law school. Rather, you should find another practice area (or multiple practice areas) to gain experience first. You may want to be a general civil litigator so that you handle all sorts of cases. Mediation and arbitration are alternatives. What that means is you should probably understand the original process before attempting to practice an alternative.

Each state has different requirements for the training required to work in alternative dispute resolution. For mediation, courts will refer cases to those listed on an approved “roster”. To be on the roster you must meet your state’s requirements. More training may be required depending on the area a mediator intends to practice in. A law degree is also not always required for being a mediator, but this will certainly help you attract clients. If you are interested in state-by-state court mediator certification requirements, visit this page and click on your state. States also vary on the educational background, experience, training, and license requirements for arbitration and other ADR forms. You should look up your State’s requirements if you are interested in this area of law. For a comprehensive list of ADR Training Providers by state, see the ABA’s list. Even if coursework or certification is not required, you may want training so that you can tell clients you have the necessary knowledge to succeed, particularly if you don’t already have a lot of legal experience.

What is most important for working in ADR is the interpersonal and communication skills you possess, for without those you will not be successful.

 

Getting a job:

The career outlook for mediators is good; job growth for mediation is predicted to grow faster than for the average job through 2024 (McKay).

You will find small, local ADR practices located across the country. If you are thinking of opening a law firm later in life, this is a good area to focus on.

If you want to work for a bigger organization, an association like the American Arbitration Association or the International Centre for Dispute Resolution might be for you.

Finally, there are offices all across the country where ADR providers are employed by the federal government. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service focuses on five areas: collective bargaining mediation; grievance mediation; relationship development training; ADR services to government entities; and education, outreach, and advocacy. To learn more, visit their page.

 

Average salary:

According to the Balance Careers, in 2015 mediators earned $58,020 on average (McKay). Your salary will depend in large part on the form(s) of ADR you offer, in what practice areas you practice, what clientele you are attracting, and how much legal experience you previously had.

 

Would you like this practice area?

There are several important skills you must have to succeed in this area. You should be open, honest, and good at giving suggestions to parties while at the same time refraining from expressing personal opinions about the case. You must have strong teamwork skills, be able to handle extremely emotional situations, and be able to help build trust between the parties. If your friends describe you as a good communicator and always come to you with their problems because you are a good listener, this may be a good area of law for you. If you are the type of person who likes to constantly interrupt and give your own thoughts and find it hard to remain neutral when people you know are in a fight, this might not be a good area for you to practice.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Jay-Z’s ADR problems: Mogul’s case spotlights lack of diverse arbitrators (Ricker)

“The lack of diversity in arbitration and mediation has drawn increasing attention in legal circles, but it took someone with a huge audience and a lot of money at stake to propel the issue into the headlines. In a dispute stemming from the $200 million sale of his clothing line, rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z (whose real name is Shawn Carter) in November challenged an arbitration clause as discriminatory, stating it would force him to select an arbitrator from a list nearly devoid of his ethnic group. Only three of 200 arbitrators on the large and complex case roster provided by the American Arbitration Association identified themselves as African-American, and one of them had a conflict, he argued.” Read more

Google ends mandatory arbitration of workplace disputes and ban on employee class actions (Weiss)

“Google will end mandatory arbitration of employment disputes beginning March 21, expanding its previous decision to end forced arbitration only in cases of alleged sexual harassment or assault. Google announced the policy change last week…” Read more

Divorce Mediation: Handling the Stubborn Spouse (Turco Legal)

“A stubborn spouse can derail a divorce mediation. Besides self-reflection on one’s own conduct, a cooperative spouse should try to understand the reasons underlying the stubborn spouse’s intransigence. This post explores how to handle a difficult party in a contentious divorce mediation. The role mediators and experienced family law attorneys play in overcoming a stubborn spouse to attain a successful resolution will also be examined.” Read more

 

Alternative Dispute Resolution Attorney Spotlight:

Brian Jerome is the founder of  Massachusetts Dispute Resolution Services, a firm focusing on mediation and arbitration services. In addition to working as the head mediator, Brian has a team of over 30 mediators and arbitrators. He has experience in dozens of areas and has handled thousands of cases.

Brian’s Interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  Since 1980

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  New England School of Law

Q: In what practice area(s) do you practice?  If more than one, what’s the percentage of each?

A:   For the last 30 years I’ve worked exclusively as a mediator and an arbitrator. I handle a wide variety of practice areas, though, pretty much any law cases that can be subject to civil litigation.

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  I’m the head mediator, and I have a panel of 34 other mediators and arbitrators who work along with me.

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  It’s spent serving as a mediator or an arbitrator. Either I do one full day case, which is scheduled to take the entirety of the day, or I do two half-day cases if they think they can settle the case or do the arbitration hearing in that time. I go in every day and each case is different. There are usually a lot of people there. I’m also the owner of my company, so I spend some time just doing business operations.

Q: Do you deal with difficult people?

A:  Yes, pretty much every day because all the people I work with are involved in disputes amongst themselves. There is often a lot of anger and emotions involved. Also, there may be unrealistic expectations that can make people difficult. As a mediator, I need them to show flexibility in order to come to a resolution. For arbitration, it is somewhat contentious like court so that is difficult.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  I’m the neutral, not the advocate. My day is very different because I’m not prosecuting or defending for one side or the other. I’m trying to use my powers of persuasion to convince people to settle their cases rather than go to trial.

Q: Did you practice any other practice areas before deciding on this one?

A:  For the first 9-10 years I was a civil litigation trial attorney.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A:  60

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A:  Every day is completely different; I don’t have to represent the same person over and over again. I’m involved only for a day, and I get new people every day. I have cases that are very dynamic and all the people involved are there. It’s interesting to deal with people’s emotions and prejudices; there is a little bit of psychology every day in addition to law.

Q: What do you like least about your job/practice area?

A:  I like pretty much everything about it, but marketing or having to “schmooze” is my least favorite part

Q: You would be a happy and successful lawyer in this practice area if you…

A:  … were very honest and patient

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a lawyer in your practice area?

A:  It’s hard to begin to be a mediator and arbitrator because most of the people who are being hired have some experience behind them in a substantive prior background. There has to be a reason why people hire you to be the mediator or arbitrator. If you are just coming out of law school, you don’t have that track of knowledge. People will hire those who have a lot of prior experience. Call a mediator or arbitrator and talk to them, do an informational interview, and maybe observe a session to see if you are interested for later in life. For those coming out of law school with debt on their shoulders and no experience, becoming a mediator is not the best path.

It’s the more appropriate way to resolve disputes, rather than going to war in the courtroom where there are just winners and losers. Alternative dispute resolution should result in a win-win.

– Brian Jerome

 

Conclusion:

This is an area of law where soft skills are key. You must be an excellent listener and communicator, or you will never succeed in ADR.

Animal Law

The animal protection movement has been growing, but in terms of law, this is still a relatively small area because it is so new. You might not want to solely practice animal law but instead incorporate it into your practice. Any type of legal dispute involving animals, whether that is veterinary malpractice or animal cruelty, could be handled by animal lawyers. Thus, animal lawyers often represent veterinarians, people who own pets, or animal rights organizations.

Education and Background:

Many law schools now offer animal law classes, which would be essential to take if you are thinking about this area of law. To show a genuine interest in this area of law to potential future employers, it would be best if you have some kind of background helping animals, even if that is just volunteering at the local animal shelter.

The Lewis and Clark Law School is particularly well known for having a complete program in Animal Law, but if you don’t go there, probably the best thing you can do is get a position with the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) or another similar organization. The ALDF lists internships, clerkships, and fellowships on their website.

 

Getting a job:

The Animal Legal Defense Fund says that it has three main focuses: filing lawsuits, helping prosecutors charge animal abusers, and animal law education. If you want to read more about the opportunities available, we recommend reading the ALDF’s guide to Opportunities in Animal Law.

 

Average salary:

For a new lawyer starting in animal law, expect to make about $50,000 (Animal Legal Defense Fund). This is a niche area, so you will have to work hard to build your practice and gain experience to make more money.

 

Would you like this practice area?

You must have a genuine passion for helping animals; that is the reason you should want to practice this area after all! You may sometimes be working with tragic circumstances related to animals. If you are the type of person who has to turn away at animal shelter commercials with dogs shivering out in the cold, this area of law may not be for you. On the other hand, this could be the igniting spark that makes you so passionate about what you do.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Animal Legal Defense Fund Offers $5,000 Reward in Case of Kittens Thrown from Vehicles in Craven County (ALDF)

“The Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s preeminent legal advocacy organization for animals, is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for throwing kittens out of moving cars and abandoning them near Neuse River Bridge over the course of the last month. Since early June there have been several kittens found near Neuse River Bridge and the intersection near Highway 70 with injuries consistent with road rash. There have also been eye witness reports of kittens being thrown from moving vehicles in this area.” Read more

An Avoidable Tragedy: Dogs in Hot Cars (ALDF)

“Every summer, as temperatures rise, so does the danger of companion animals dying because they are carelessly left in a hot car. While humans cool themselves by relying on an extensive system of sweat glands and evaporation, dogs and other animals have a harder time staying cool, leaving them extremely vulnerable to heatstroke. Parked cars quickly trap the sun’s heat. Even on a day when it’s 70 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car with all the windows closed can hit 89 degrees in just 10 minutes, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.Read more

Court Rules Gray Wolves With Some Dog Genes are Protected by Endangered Species Act (ALDF)

“Today the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota issued a critical ruling in favor of wolves’ legal protection — determining that gray wolves are not excluded from the Endangered Species Act even if they have some detectable dog genes. The Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center filed the lawsuit in 2017 against Fur-Ever Wild, a Minnesota-based business, alleging that the facility displays wolf pups in a petting zoo and later skins them for their fur.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

While this is certainly not the most profitable area of law, it can be very rewarding and there are a variety of interesting opportunities out there!

Antitrust Law

Antitrust cases are front-page news. Antitrust laws are designed to protect competition in the marketplace and to protect consumers. The Sherman Anti-trust Act and the Clayton Act are “the Bible” for antitrust lawyers. There are a lot of documents that antitrust lawyers must review and prepare, and there is a lot of information to take in. Mostly, antitrust lawyers will be focusing on litigation, mergers and joint ventures, counseling, or some combination of the three.

Thus, antitrust law varies a lot. For example, if you focus a lot on mergers and acquisitions within antitrust law, you might be working with documents about market share. You may sometimes be providing counseling to companies in order to avoid litigation while other times you may be directly involved in litigation. You might be collaborating with an expert to prepare reports to support your side (often an economist). Young lawyers will likely be taking care of a lot of the paperwork while more experienced attorneys deal with the clients. It’s also likely that you will be involved with class actions. This is an area of law that varies a great deal from case to case, and the law is not always clear cut which creates a lot of confusion.

Some of the issues you may deal with are monopolization, price-fixing, bid-rigging, vertical pricing, and unfair competition, to name a few. How much regulation of our economy should exist is always a hotly debated topic, but whether you want to defend companies accused of violations or work for the government to regulate more forcefully if you are interested in a job where you can constantly gain new knowledge about the way industries operate, read on.

 

Education and Background:

You should have a very strong understanding of economics before attempting to enter this practice area. Antitrust law involves complex issues; government experience is recommended, particularly if you plan to get a job anywhere near D.C.

If you did not major in economics (or at least a related field) in college, you should perhaps think more carefully about this as your career path. However, if you have an understanding of economics concepts and a strong willingness to learn, do not let the numbers-orientation scare you away.

 

Getting a job:

There are opportunities with law firms, companies, and the government available, and often antitrust lawyers will spend a couple of years in each. Working at the DOJ, FTC, or even state attorney general’s offices is possible, but outside of the D.C. area more people choose to work for law firms. There are some large companies in certain industries that will hire in-house counsel, which may be a very profitable way to go for a seasoned anti-trust lawyer.

Antitrust law is growing as more and more companies become “giants” and as more countries enforce antitrust laws. As international operations expand, expect to see more of an overlap between antitrust law and international law.

Average salary:

A current search on Law Crossing reveals an average salary of $114,521. Salaries in large cities are dramatically higher.

Would you like this practice area?

If you enjoyed economics or politics classes, antitrust law might be up your alley. You not only need to be numbers-oriented, but you must also be a quick learner. Each case will require you to learn the ins and outs of an industry that you previously may not have known anything about. Therefore, if you love constantly learning new things and are the type of person who wanted to stay in school forever, this might be the area for you. You need to enjoy working with massive amounts of documents and be willing to devote a large portion of your time to reviewing and producing more.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Predatory Pricing: Limiting Brooke Groupe to Monopolies and Sound Implementation of Price-Cost Comparison (Edlin)

“C. Scott Hemphill and Philip Weiser point out several infirmities of the Brooke Group predatory pricing decision, including the fact that the Supreme Court laid down the below-cost pricing and recoupment requirements without hearing either party present counterarguments to them. In light of this fact and complex market realities, they argue for flexibility in satisfying these requirements. In this Response, I go further, arguing that in monopoly cases the greatest competitive danger likely results from above-cost pricing, so the Brooke Group safe harbor for above-cost pricing should not have been extended to monopolies. When price-cost tests are implemented, I show that many cost measures other than average variable cost can be appropriate to demonstrate profit sacrifice.” Read more

U.S. FTC probes Facebook’s acquisition practices – WSJ (Paul and Wolfe)

“The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Facebook Inc acquisitions were aimed at buying up potential rivals before they could become a threat to the social media company, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter. The company’s acquisition practices are the main focus of the probe, as the FTC looks into Facebook buying technology-based startups to keep them from challenging it, the report said.” Read more

Trump DOJ Escalates Big Tech Scrutiny With New Antitrust Probe (McLaughlin, Nix, and Wagner)

“The U.S. Justice Department sent the strongest signal yet that it’s prepared to take on technology giants like Facebook and Google, announcing a broad antitrust review into whether the companies are using their power to thwart competition. The department’s antitrust division disclosed plans Tuesday to scrutinize tech platforms following mounting criticism across Washington that the companies have become too big and too powerful.” Read more

Conclusion:

If you are comfortable with economics and interested in learning more about industries through extensive research and documentation, you might like this area of law.

Appellate

Do you love to research? Appellate lawyers serve as a second set of eyes on a case that has already been through trial. It may seem like they are fighting a losing battle since they represent clients who lost the first time around, but Appellate lawyers use their strong research skills to find the legal questions at issue and utilize a new angle to argue the case. The ability to appeal a case is an important part of our justice system, and if you are good at crafting persuasive arguments and love to take on a challenge, appellate law might be for you.

As an appellate lawyer, you will get to focus your time more on reading, writing, researching, and arguing than on dealing with other people. Those who like to be more in the background and prefer a less fast-paced environment will enjoy taking the time to dive deep into complex issues and come up with well-thought-out strategies to argue.

Rather than focusing on the facts of the case like a trial lawyer, you will get to focus on the legal issues of the case. Therefore, you should be comfortable analyzing precedent cases to craft persuasive arguments. You should also be an extremely strong writer because your briefs will be thoroughly scrutinized. One of the major pluses of appellate work is that you don’t have to build the record and do discovery – that’s already been done for you!

If you are interested in the differences between being a trial and appellate lawyer, check out this article.

Aviation and Aerospace Law

Have you ever wondered who “owns” air space? What will happen someday when we start consistently traveling in outer space and colonizing other planets? Who would take care of laws relating to this air travel? If you’re the type of person who enjoys thinking about theoretical questions in constantly evolving areas, aviation and aerospace law may be for you.

Two hundred years ago, no one would have imagined that we would need aviation lawyers to help with disputes about air travel. So, what might be going on up in the air two hundred years from now? The United States could look like a scene straight out of The Jetsons for all we know!

It is important to realize the extent to which aviation and aerospace law involves international matters. If you have no interest in dealing with other countries, you may find it harder to get a job in this practice area. However, there is certainly something to be said for working with a more local group to keep noisy airports from disturbing the slumber of residential areas.

Did you always want to be an astronaut growing up? You may find it slightly easier to use your law degree to work in the aerospace area instead. However, with the rather limited opportunities available in it now, you will still likely have to have a top-notch scientific background to land one of these jobs.

 

Education and Background:

Because this is such a niche area, you probably should take some courses in this area of law if your school offers them.

If you are not already enrolled in a law school and are interested in this area, you may want to consider going to the University of Mississippi School of Law. According to the school’s website, “The National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law at the University of Mississippi School of Law, is the nation’s leading – and only – law school for the study of both air and space law. The Center offers a concentration in Air and Space Law” (Air and Space Law Concentration).

If you are already enrolled in a law school, your best chance to get into this practice area may be to go to the University of Mississippi Law School to get an LL.M. in Air and Space Law. The website states, “It is the first and only LL.M. program in the U.S. offering a combined air and space law postgraduate law degree at an ABA accredited law school” (Air and Space Law Program Overview). So, unless you want to go to one of the schools outside of the US with such a program, this looks like your best option.

The other alternative, particularly if you want to focus on the even newer and rapidly developing area of space law, is to get an LL.M. degree in space, cyber, and telecommunications from the Nebraska College of Law. If you want to work for SpaceX, this is the way to go! Note: they only enroll 8-10 students in the program per year (Prospective LL.M. Students). Your previous academic, extracurricular, and work experience must have shown you to be an absolute star (pun intended) for you to get into their space program.

If you want to continue your education even further to rise to the absolute top of the space law practice area, Nebraska Law also offers a J.S.D. in space law. Note that there are very strict entrance requirements into this program – to learn more, visit their website.

One final consideration about entering this practice area is that already having a military background or having an intention to go into the military may correlate well with the type of work you may be performing.

 

Getting a job:

If you want to focus on aviation law, you may consider getting a job with an airline or working for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). You could also work for a law firm that represents pilots in FAA enforcement actions. Although a niche area, there are sufficient jobs in this area if you have a strong background. Airplanes have been around for a while, so it isn’t as newly developing as space law is! Currently, job opportunities in space law are extremely scarce. If working for SpaceX is a dream of yours, note that at the time this was written, not a single legal position was open for the company (though plenty of engineering, programming, management, and other various positions were open). Market demand for this type of legal work will likely increase dramatically in the next few years, however. In a Tweet on July 18, 2019, Elon Musk reported that Starhopper, a prototype of the SpaceX Mars-colonizing spacecraft, came out fine after being engulfed in flames. He said, “Yeah, big advantage of being made of high strength stainless steel: not bothered by a little heat!” (@elonmusk)

With the likelihood of us inhabiting Mars increasing every day with more and more sophisticated technology, there will probably be a need in the very near future for many more aviation and aerospace lawyers.

 

Average salary:

Flying Magazine states that the salary of an aviation attorney is, “in line with other fields of law,” but also notes that pay varies widely with geography; it says in Washington D.C., aviation attorneys earn a yearly total of about $219,000 on average (Wynbrandt).

There is not enough data about space law to give an average.

 

Would you like this practice area?

Strengths/weaknesses: You need to be strong in science for this practice area. You also need to be able to think outside the box about new problems and considerations that no one may have ever had to address before. If focusing on technical aspects and small details have never been your best skills, this may not be the area for you. If STEM was always your strong suit growing up, this may be the perfect area for you.

Likes/dislikes: If you like analyzing complex problems, figuring out the way things work, and using a theoretical perspective, aviation and aerospace may be a good choice. If you dislike routine and rules, great! If you are the type of person who likes to follow a more predictable pattern and gets stressed out when thinking about “outside of the box” theorizing, don’t choose this practice area.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Coercive Diplomacy in the Skies (Almond and Garcia)

“The world is experiencing a gradual yet decisive shift toward a new paradigm in international relations—one that is based on muscular sovereignty and assertive nationalism. International trade is increasingly subject to geopolitics. In the realm of international air transport, this shift has come in the form of coercive diplomacy involving civil aviation.” Read more

DOT’s Regulation of “Unfair or Deceptive Practices”: Reform Is Urgently Needed (Kneisley)

“In the fall of 2017, Southwest Airlines was locked in an intense battle for the patronage of California air travelers. The stakes were high: California is the nation’s largest air travel market, generating 134 million domestic passengers annually, more than a quarter of the total U.S. market.” Read more

Everybody Wants to Rule the World: Federal vs. State Power to Regulate Drones (Connot and Zummo)

“The U.S. Constitution established a unique form of government involving a division of powers between the federal government and the states. The advent of new technologies, however, has challenged the allocation of regulatory power between federal and state governments. A litany of groundbreaking technologies—steamboats, railroads, airplanes, automobiles, telecommunications, the Internet—has raised tough questions about a long-standing debate: whether a single national body of federal law or a mix of differing state laws would better advance the public interest. Now, drone technology is poised to be one of the fastest growing industries in U.S. history, with the potential to revolutionize commercial activity as well as the public’s perspective of robotics and autonomous systems. In doing so, drones raise similar questions about the appropriate balance between federal and state regulation.” Read more

 

Aviation and Aerospace Attorney Spotlight:

Abby Bried is the co-chair of the Aviation and Aerospace practice for Jenner & Block. Before working for Jenner & Block, she worked for a couple of different airline companies. Overall, her advice for law students thinking about working in this practice area is to read about the issues in the industry news. She also says get involved in the ABA Air & Space Forum; they offer scholarships.

 

Abby’s interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A: 26 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A: William Mitchell College of Law – Minnesota

Q: What practice area(s) have you practiced?

A: I practice regulatory now, but previously I was general counsel for international operations of a major airline and I practiced all areas of the law.

Q: What size is your firm?

A: 500+

Q/A: Describe an average day at work…

Do you go to court? No – but I often go to government agencies

Do you work with others?  Yes

Do you talk on the phone or write emails?  Both

Do you draft documents? Yes

Do you manage others?  Yes

Do you deal with difficult people? On occasion

Q: Did you practice in any other practice areas before deciding on this one?

A: I wanted to be an aviation lawyer since I was 16.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A: 50-60

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A: Always new issues – often high profile

Q: What do you least like about your job/practice area?

A: Challenging economics sometimes as the aviation business is tough; also regulatory work is difficult to put a value on – you often can solve a million-dollar issue with one hour of work, but you are paid only for an hour, and the value you provide to the client is so much more.

 

You will be a happy and successful aviation and aerospace lawyer if you work for an aviation company with good people and help build it into a successful global company.

– Abby Bried

 

Conclusion:

Did you know that no one can own the moon, and no one can militarize it? If the thought of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 and the Moon Agreement of 1979 fascinates you, you should be an aviation and aerospace lawyer!

Banking

(and Finance)

Law

There are many regulations that banks must follow; these help ensure fair and transparent banking practices. Banks have come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, creating more of a need for banking lawyers. Banking lawyers represent either a bank (the one lending money) or the borrower. The goal is to ensure fair and well-negotiated contracts for both parties; this means banking lawyers must be excellent communicators.

Some important banking laws you should read are:

  • Banking Act of 1933
  • Right to Privacy Act
  • Dodd-Frank Act of 2010
  • USA Patriot Act
  • Bank Secrecy Act
  • Community Reinvestment Act of 1977

If you can’t get through these acts without falling asleep, you might want to consider an area of law other than banking law. If, however, regulations that reduce risk for banking customers is a fascinating area to you, read on.

 

Education and Background:

Having a background in finance or a related field (accounting, business, tax, actuarial, economics, math) may help you better understand the day-to-day work that a banking lawyer does. However, on-the-job experience is the most important thing!

Many schools offer an LL.M. degree in banking/finance law. If you are looking to focus your practice area, this may be a smart option to accelerate your career.

 

Getting a job:

Most large banks hire in-house counsel, but you can also work for a law firm that provides services to banks. Another option is to work for the government creating banking laws. This is also an area of law that correlates well with lobbying if you want to represent an organization advocating for change.

 

Average salary:

Banking law is an extremely profitable area but varies dramatically depending on the bank/company you work for. Working for a large bank will yield a salary far above the average lawyer’s salary.

 

Would you like this practice area?

You should be very detail-oriented so that you pick up on the fine print. You should also be good at communication and negotiation; you will have to frequently talk to clients and the other side. If you are the type of person who likes pro/con lists and weighing benefits and drawbacks, you will find this useful in advising your clients about whether a deal is in their best interests. There is also a massive amount of banking information and regulations out there, so the better you are at memorizing and analyzing large quantities of information, the better suited you are for banking law. If you prefer to be more behind-the-scenes, banking law is a good alternative to other areas of law that require more court appearances.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

$480M settlement with Wells Fargo shareholders OK’d by judge (Ward)

“A San Francisco federal judge late Tuesday granted preliminary approval to a $480 million class action settlement between Wells Fargo and shareholders who alleged they were harmed by the bank’s unauthorized accounts scandal. Plaintiffs alleged securities fraud, claiming that Wells Fargo executives inflated stock prices by claiming it had great success convincing clients to sign up for additional accounts and services. In fact, the bank created millions of accounts without customer authorization, the Los Angeles Times reports.” Read more

Congress Needs to Sync Banking Laws, Legal Pot Financing (Hagedorn)

“On Tuesday, the Senate Banking Committee is hearing testimony around the question of whether the federal government should give legally operating cannabis businesses access to the banking system. Because pot is still illegal at the federal level, most banks will not offer services to legitimate, professionally run companies that operate in compliance with state and local cannabis laws. As a result, most of these businesses operate on a cash-only basis, creating significant business challenges, public safety concerns and incentives to circumvent tax laws as well.” Read more

Federal banking law preemption in the post-Dodd Frank world: A review of significant developments (Omer)

“Federal preemption has long been a battleground in U.S. banking law. In the years leading to the financial crisis of 2008, federal and state bank regulators regularly sparred over preemption issues, particularly with regard to various interpretive letters and regulations in which the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (the “OCC”) and the Office of Thrift Supervision (the “OTS”) asserted that federal law preempted state legal requirements. The financial crisis led to criticisms of the broad preemption approach taken by the OCC and OTS and to changes in the statutes permitting federal banking law preemption via the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd Frank”) of 2010.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

If you are good at picking out details while sorting through massive amounts of information, and if you don’t mind dealing with constantly changing regulations in a highly regulated environment, banking law may be a good fit for you.

Bankruptcy Law

With a downturn in the economy comes more people forced to file for bankruptcy. Thus, the people who actually do better when the economy is bad are bankruptcy lawyers. A bankruptcy lawyer may represent a person (consumer bankruptcy lawyer) or a corporation (commercial bankruptcy lawyer); often, lawyers choose to specialize with one or the other, but they can do both. A bankruptcy lawyer might work for a client filing for bankruptcy and assist with reducing debt load. Or, a bankruptcy lawyer may work for a creditor; in that case, the lawyer would try to get as much of the money owed as possible for the client.

To read some bankruptcy laws and see whether they interest you, visit this website.

 

Education and Background:

Having a strong financial background is helpful for bankruptcy law. Related backgrounds such as accounting, business, tax, actuarial, or math may also transition well.

If you take a class in law school on bankruptcy, you will quickly find out whether the extensive paperwork and number-crunching involved is for you.

After you finish law school and start working in bankruptcy law, if you focus on representing people rather than companies you might want to join the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA).

If you represent companies, you may want to consider joining the Commercial Law League of America.

 

Getting a job:

You should look to the economy to determine whether working in bankruptcy law right out of school will be profitable. Bankruptcy lawyers are in particular demand in periods of economic decline, but there is always some demand for them. Many bankruptcy lawyers are “generalists” and bankruptcy is just one area that they practice. If you are a consumer bankruptcy attorney (you help people, not businesses), you may end up working in a “bankruptcy mill”. This is a small bankruptcy firm with just a couple of lawyers but many more support staff (who deal with the majority of the paperwork). In that case, you may be mainly supervising a fleet of paralegals, since they are the ones primarily working with the clients to gather necessary information for filing a case.

 

Average salary:

Bankruptcy lawyers make $113,000 on average, but the private sector is higher paying than the public sector (Bankruptcy Lawyer Careers).

 

Would you like this practice area?

Because a bankruptcy lawyer’s main task is gathering relevant paperwork to file, you must be extremely organized. You must be able to understand what your client needs and represent that accordingly. If you a quick reader and are good at picking out what information is important and what is not, you may be well suited to this area. However, if you prefer more interpersonal relationship building and communication in your job, you may get bored going through financial document after financial document. This is also a very fast-paced area, so if you prefer larger, more complex cases you may not enjoy the speed at which cases proceed.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Will Filing a Business Bankruptcy Get Rid of a Personal Guarantee? (O’Neill)

“When you agree to sign a personal guarantee, you become personally responsible for a company debt and must pay it if the company isn’t able to. Because it’s your obligation—not that of the organization—a business bankruptcy brought in the name of the company won’t get rid of the personal guarantee (at least not in most cases—read about how it works with sole proprietors below).” Read more

Impounded vehicles can’t be held after drivers file for bankruptcy, court says (Sanchez)

Thousands of Chicago motorists may be able to get their cars and trucks out of city impound lots immediately after filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy following a federal appeals court ruling that the city could no longer hold onto the vehicles. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the city’s aggressive strategy, aimed at discouraging motorists whose vehicles had been impounded over unpaid tickets from filing under Chapter 13, violated the basic protections of bankruptcy, and the city was doing so mostly to generate revenue.” Read more

Possible $30B tab for California wildfires spurs utility company to elevate GC, prepare for bankruptcy filing (Weiss)

“The Pacific Gas & Electric Co. announced plans to file for bankruptcy protection Monday as it informed the Securities and Exchange Commission that its possible liability for California wildfires in the last two years could exceed $30 billion. The announcement came hours after PG&E announced that its CEO, Geisha Williams, was stepping down…” Read more

 

Conclusion:

This area of law primarily involves paperwork. You need to know whether you are the kind of person who prefers paper or people.

Business Litigation (General)

Dustin Dodgin works for Klein DeNatale Golder practicing, “all fields that involve business.” He says he is a “general practitioner” because he works in a very broad practice area helping businesses with any legal problems they have, but he also is a “specialist” in each of these areas. Those who want to work in many practice areas listed in this guide may want to be general Business and Commercial Litigators like Dustin.

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  Since 2006

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  University of San Diego Law School

Q: In what practice area(s) do you practice?  If more than one, what’s the percentage of each?

A:   I have a broad practice area; I practice all fields that involve business. I practice anywhere from small matters to class actions for litigation. I practice in front of state agencies. I also do transactional work and business counseling.

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  35

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  No day is the same, but I typically start with emails and phone calls around 7 am. I’m not necessarily at the office until 10 because I’m “in the field”. Depending on the day, I might also start in court or on a court call. Most days are filled with meetings with clients and associates. I’m also on the phone a lot. I’m usually home by 5:30-6 and then spend time with my family. 9pm-1am is like my second shift where I do my drafting and transactional work.

Q: Do you deal with difficult people?

A:  Not necessarily. I usually can tell from the consults whether it is someone I want to work with. Sometimes business owners are upset by how employees take down their company with ridiculous claims, though.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  The variety; being a generalist requires that you provide a specialist approach in many different areas. That makes it intellectually challenging and exhausting. It is also very interesting, and no day is the same.

Q: Did you practice any other practice areas before deciding on this one?

A:  No. A lawyer in my firm was my mentor; I was a summer law clerk for this firm. He took me under his wing pretty early.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A:  I have no idea; it’s kind of a lifestyle! It’s a lot of hours, but it’s also somewhat social for me (like when I talk to clients). If I had to guess… about 80 hours.

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A:  Helping people. I work with people every day and I like helping people solve their problems.

Q: What do you like least about your job/practice area?

A:  I’m one of maybe a few lawyers who loves everything about my job.

Q: You would be a happy and successful lawyer in this practice area if you…

A:  … put in all the hard work upfront and don’t coast in the first couple of years.

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a lawyer in your practice area?

A:  You should contact lawyers and have lunch with them. Just see what their day is like. It can sort of serve as networking, but really it is just finding out more information, and people like to talk about themselves.

 

My practice area isn’t for everybody, but it is extremely interesting and intellectually challenging. It is stimulating when you are jumping from project to project. If you get bored easily, you would love this work.

– Dustin Dodgin

Business/

Corporate Law

Businesses are what keep our economy going. The area of law dealing with businesses is thus as important as it is profitable. Corporate law is everything that has to do with the “formation”, “operation”, and “death” of a corporation. Academics identified five elements that are the basic legal characteristics of a corporation: legal personality, limited liability, transferable shares, delegated management under a board structure, and investor ownership.

  • Legal personality: a corporation owner forms a separate legal entity that acts on its own
  • Limited liability: someone who sues a corporation can’t go after the personal assets of whoever owns the corporation
  • Transferable shares: ownership can be transferred, so even if the original owner no longer wants to operate, the corporation does not have to shut down
  • Delegated management: shareholders elect a board of directors and the board members hire officers. Each of these groups has defined power and responsibilities.
  • Investor ownership: investors may participate in the control of the corporation and in sharing profits, usually in proportion to the financial contribution

Academics also identified three main conflicts that corporate law deals with: “conflicts between managers and shareholders, between controlling and minority shareholders, and between shareholders as a class and non-shareholder constituencies of the firm such as creditors and employees” (Armour, Hansmann, and Kraakman).

Corporate law intersects with many other areas of law, such as international law, employment law, and sometimes even family law. That is because corporations are a huge part of our lives and touch every aspect of how we operate day-to-day.

An important sub-area of business law that some lawyers choose to specialize in is closely-held business law. If a business’s shares are held by only a small number of stockholders, it is a closely held business. The main difference between public corporations and closely-held companies is that public corporations have their shares traded publicly, whereas closely-held businesses do not usually have public shares. The main disadvantage of a closely-held business is that personal factors may often influence what the company does. Internal conflicts can complicate matters for lawyers who specialize in this area. However, if you are interested in helping family businesses with their day-to-day legal issues, this might be the area for you.

 

Education and Background:

A background in business or any business-related area (such as marketing, accounting, finance, or economics) may be helpful because it means you are already used to working with businesses. However, any background will allow you to succeed at corporate law so long as you like to read and write — you will need to have an expansive knowledge of all of the rules and regulations concerning corporations and be able to properly advise corporations about these matters.

Additionally, there is no shortage of classes or internship opportunities in this area of law. It is considered a “main” area of law, and you will be able to find plenty of opportunities to learn more about it and engage in it both while you are in law school and after.

 

Getting a job:

Many corporations will choose to have lawyers in-house to reduce hassle and to meet their everyday needs. Large corporations may employ several corporate lawyers, and even smaller businesses often find it helpful to have at least one. This is a “safe” area of law that will never go away.

You may also be able to start your own firm quite successfully in this area since there will be no shortage of clients. There are plenty of small firms that employ corporate lawyers. Big Law corporate lawyers make the big bucks. If you are looking for a more flexible work schedule after gaining Big Law experience, check out InCloudCounsel, which utilizes new technologies to help lawyers choose their own hours and pick their own homebase.

In sum, there is no shortage of opportunities available in corporate law. Do a quick Indeed search and you will find plenty of results that catch your interest.

 

Average salary:

Although the average salary of a corporate lawyer in 2014 was only $98,823, those who graduate top of their class and/or from a prestigious law school can receive much higher salaries; for example, Columbia law school graduates can expect starting salaries of $165,000 (Lawyer Salary – Top 10 Law Careers). Big Law pays well in exchange for rough hours; law firms in usually pay better than in-house.

 

Would you like this practice area?

Problem-solving is the number one skill you should have if you work as a corporate lawyer. Realize that there will be a lot of pressure on you, as you are the one expected to help a business thrive by keeping it out of legal trouble. The ability to recognize potential problems before they actually occur or to quickly mitigate issues when they arise is essential. You should have “sound business judgement” and not be afraid to make important decisions at the drop of a hat. You will have your fair share of reading and writing as a corporate lawyer, but you will seldom be in a courtroom. After all, your goal is to keep businesses out of the courtroom! If you love business or finance, this will be the area for you; you will be dealing with large amounts of money and complicated business transactions every day.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Can suing a company’s board lead to more accountability for workplace misconduct? (Rikleen)

When leaders behave badly, their conduct is often hidden in plain sight and insulated by enablers. So, it’s only fair to ask: When a corporate executive misbehaves, what did the board of directors know and when did they know it? Even in the face of hundreds of #MeToo headlines revealing negative behaviors in the workplace, there has been little focus on those who have a fiduciary duty to the organizations that they oversee—the members of their board of directors. It is possible that a lawsuit filed by a Lululemon shareholder…” Read more

Ritchie v. Rupe and the Future of Shareholder Oppression (Dawson)

“In 1988, the Texas Court of Appeals held in Davis v. Sheerin that minority shareholders in close corporations are entitled to a buy-out of their shares if they are “oppressed” by the majority shareholders.1 Davis synthesized other states’ case law in order to arrive at a two-part test for shareholder oppression. Under this test, actions of majority shareholders are oppressive when they either (1) substantially defeat a minority shareholder’s reasonable expectations or (2) constitute harsh or wrongful conduct that departs from the standards of fair dealing.” Read more

Hobby Lobby, Corporate Law, and the Theory of the Firm (Meese and Oman)

“Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. is shaping up to be the blockbuster case of the Supreme Court’s October 2013 Term. The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) requires most companies with fifty or more employees to provide such workers health insurance, including women’s “preventive care and screenings.” In August 2011, the Health Resources and Services Administration determined that such care includes “[a]ll Food and Drug Administration approved contraceptive methods [and] sterilization procedures,” including medications that some consider abortifacients. Over 300 plaintiffs who object to artificial contraception, abortion, or both have filed dozens of lawsuits challenging the contraception mandate under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (“RFRA”). Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., is one such plaintiff.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

If one of your potential career paths was to be an entrepreneur or work in a business-related field, your skills can be put to good use as a corporate lawyer.

Civil Litigation

“Litigation” is a pretty all-encompassing term. Litigation attorneys are also known as litigators or trial attorneys. They represent the plaintiff or defendant the whole way through the lawsuit process. There are many different areas on which you can focus litigation. Thus, you should look to other practice areas to determine what area you want to litigate. Civil litigation encompasses all litigation that does not have criminal charges or penalties.

The main reason we listed this as a practice area is that often lawyers become general litigators and will take cases in several areas. They are really good at the whole process, from researching, to investigating, to negotiating, but they especially excel in the courtroom. If you get a thrill at being in the courtroom and want to argue before a judge frequently, you may want to consider becoming a litigator.

If you’ve ever watched a TV lawyer drama, this is the type of lawyer you will have seen. It might not be as glamorous as the TV makes it appear, however! Litigators are known for being lawyers who work around the clock. It’s a litigation attorney’s job to know all the ins and outs of how the court system works. Litigators actually spend most of their time doing discovery work.

If you would like a good article about what it means to be a litigator, you should read this article. It gives an excellent distinction between what transactional attorneys and litigation attorneys do.

 

Attorney Spotlight:

Carmen Ortiz currently works for Anderson & Kreiger, where she focuses on internal investigations, white collar litigation, civil litigation, and employment litigation. She has an impressive background as former U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, where she managed over 200 people and oversaw the litigation of many complex cases. Carmen implemented the District’s first Civil Rights Unit, and she even directed the prosecution of the Boston Marathon bomber.

Carmen’s interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  Over 35 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  George Washington University Law School

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  It’s a small firm – about 35 lawyers (and a total of 50 staff)

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  My days vary. Sometimes I’m meeting with clients or working on an investigation, sometimes I’m interviewing witnesses and reviewing documents, and sometimes I’m conferring with colleagues on the development of investigations and cases and planning what strategies we should follow to get the best outcomes. I also do a bit of business development and networking because that is part of private practice. I sit on non-profit organization boards outside of work. Sometimes my days are very client-oriented, and sometimes my days are more business-oriented. I will often speak at events I get invited to and on panels.

Q: Do you deal with difficult people?

A:  No, but I deal with people who may be involved in challenging situations and who are looking to me to resolve those situations.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  I think for me right now, my day-to-day work is interesting, challenging, and a new adventure. It’s very rewarding being able to help people who might not have done anything wrong or were in the wrong place at the wrong time. I see myself as a problem solver.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A:  I would say on average anywhere between 40-50 hours a week, but it really varies. When I’m doing a lot of business development and marketing it’s actually longer because I’m out in the evenings. Right now, I’m trying to grow the business.

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A:  I like my ability to help people resolve challenging situations. Trying to figure out how to best address a legal situation is challenging and interesting.

Q: You would be a happy and successful lawyer in this practice area if you…

A:  … have a genuine interest in this type of work, are passionate about it, and are committed to give it all you’ve got. You get out of it what you put into it, so there must be a genuine interest.

Q: What other comments do you have to add about your practice area?

A: Litigation is an interesting area because you need to have a certain degree of confidence and ease in public speaking and also a “presence” that lets you make compelling arguments in court. Students should be prepared for research and document drafting. As lawyers gain more experience, especially in litigation, they will get to do more of the witness interviewing, client meetings, and lawyer strategy meetings. Law students, though, play a more supportive role as they become lawyers. They should look for opportunities to get better hands-on experience – working for a government lawyer or a small firm will result in more hands-on tasks. Particularly in a small firm that doesn’t have the luxury of a lot of associates students can gain better experience.

 

In many ways, you can only do your best with what you have. Many times you are just mitigating the consequences of someone’s behavior or situation. I have to remind people that I’m a lawyer, and a good lawyer, but not a magician.

– Carmen Ortiz

Civil Rights Law

A civil rights attorney primarily protects people from discrimination based on gender, religion, color, and many other protected statuses. He or she may also help protect certain rights outlined in the Bill of Rights such as freedom of speech, but note that this is constitutional law, though these two areas of law often overlap and intertwine. Usually, a lawyer picks a more specific area of focus. For example, a civil rights lawyer could work mainly with the disabled, or fight for women’s rights, or represent LGBTQ+ clients.

There are many civil rights laws to be aware of, from the Civil Rights Act to Title IX and everything in between, and there are also many important cases that set legal precedent. This is an area of law that is focused on past precedent while at the same time evolving with society’s understanding of civil rights.

Civil rights are the rights to be free from unequal treatment due to protected characteristics. Civil rights lawyers deal with situations where individuals are discriminated against. Civil liberties, on the other hand, are basic rights and freedoms that were either explicitly identified in the Bill of Rights or have otherwise been determined by courts in the past couple of centuries. These rights are guaranteed, and when there is a violation of these civil liberties, Constitutional lawyers will step in. For more information, see the section on Constitutional law.

 

Education and Background:

Take as many classes in civil rights law as you can and join a clinic if your school has one or find a local clinic to volunteer at.

Civil rights law is such a broad area that you should try to narrow it down by taking classes in areas such as disability law or housing discrimination. Try to secure an internship within that sub-area of civil rights law.

With a passion for civil rights or civil liberties, you should consider joining the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). There are over 4 million members nationwide who care about our rights and protecting our freedom.

You may also want to join the NAACP.

The more civil rights organizations you join and volunteer experience you have, the better your network of connections will be and the higher your chance of securing a job in the competitive civil rights law market.

 

Getting a job:

There are a variety of opportunities in civil rights law. In addition to working for a law firm (large or small and as the only area of focus or just one of many) you could work for a non-profit organization or the government. Within the government, there are many departments that focus on various forms of discrimination. For example, the DOJ Americans with Disabilities division takes care of those who were discriminated against for their disabilities. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights deals with discrimination in school systems. For more information, read our section about schools and education. The U.S. Department of Labor, Civil Rights Enforcement deals with discrimination in the workplace. Read our section on employment law to see if you like this area.  The FBI even has a civil rights division!

Additionally, if you have a passion to fight for a certain group, you could consider working for a non-profit related to that. For example, if you have an interest in LGBTQ+ rights, you could work for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Certain jobs within civil rights law are very competitive, but overall there is a wide array of opportunities that exist.

For more information about job opportunities in civil rights law, visit this site.

 

Average salary:

In 2017, the average salary for a civil rights lawyer was anywhere between $65,000 and $200,000 (Content Team). Working for a government agency yields a much lower salary than private practice.

 

Would you like this practice area?

You should be passionate about working with a certain group of people or focusing on a particular issue. You should also recognize that a large portion of job opportunities are with the government. As a civil rights attorney, you will have a balance of reading, writing, researching, and speaking, but you must be capable of handling high profile cases; some civil rights cases involve a lot of publicity so you should be able to handle that with ease.

For all the information you are seeking about civil rights law, check out this guide.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Bias In, Bias Out (Mayson)

“Police, prosecutors, judges, and other criminal justice actors increasingly use algorithmic risk assessment to estimate the likelihood that a person will commit future crime. As many scholars have noted, these algorithms tend to have disparate racial impacts. In response, critics advocate three strategies of resistance: (1) the exclusion of input factors that correlate closely with race; (2) adjustments to algorithmic design to equalize predictions across racial lines; and (3) rejection of algorithmic methods altogether. This Article’s central claim is that these strategies are at best superficial and at worst counterproductive because the source of racial inequality in risk assessment lies neither in the input data, nor in a particular algorithm, nor in algorithmic methodology per se.” Read more

“Religious Freedom” Laws Are Unraveling Civil Rights as We Know It (Guilloud)

“What if firemen decided not to hose down certain buildings or go to certain neighborhoods based on their personal beliefs? What if paramedics could legally choose not to give someone life support because they are trans or using drugs in a way that offends their moral code? These scenarios are possible and protected under new bills that declare individual morality and personal convictions paramount to federal and state regulations, local governance decisions and basic human rights.” Read more

Can algorithms be racist? Trump’s housing department says no (Glantz and Martinez)

“The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is circulating new rules that would make it nearly impossible for banks – or landlords or homeowners insurance companies – to be sued when their algorithms result in people of color being disproportionately denied housing. The rule would overturn 50 years of precedent, upheld by the Supreme Court in 2015, that permit the use of statistical analysis to identify patterns of discrimination.” Read more

Conclusion:

If you are passionate about protecting a certain group, civil rights law might be for you.

Class Action/Mass Torts

In a mass tort or class action, a large group of people with the same complaint of harm by the defendant are the plaintiffs. This helps to cut down on the number of court cases because it consolidates people who have been harmed by the same problem into one lawsuit instead of many. In a mass tort, each of the individuals must prove how the defendant harmed them. In a class action, the plaintiffs are considered a group and have a class representative representing the group as a whole. There are certain criteria required for lawsuits to be considered class actions, and when cases fail to meet those criteria, mass torts often are used instead.

Some lawyers specialize in representing those in a mass tort or class action, which is why this is being listed in this guide. However, these mass tort and class actions still revolve around the subject of other practice areas so you must know what area(s) you want to practice before deciding whether to advertise that you specialize in class actions and mass torts.

Communications Law

Communication has only gotten more complicated over the years. No longer do we just have printed newspapers telling people what is happening and mailed letters as the way to communicate with each other. Attorneys specializing in communications law get to work with the ever-changing methods we use to communicate with each other, which includes radio, tv, phone, email, text, and the internet. Whenever information is exchanged using technology, there are rules and regulations to govern that use. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the main agency involved in this area of law.

The FCC has hundreds of millions of dollars each year in its budget and has several bureaus within the agency: Consumer & Governmental Affairs, Enforcement, International, Media, Public Safety & Homeland Security, Wireless Telecommunications, and Wireline Competition.

There are regulations having to do with what content is displayed, particularly to children. There are regulations on market share for telecommunications companies. There are regulations on how to obtain licenses to practice. There are regulations on everything you can imagine related to communication. If you are not working for the FCC, you are probably trying to help your clients navigate the FCC rules.

 

Getting a job:

Communications law is very technical. If you have a background in information technologies, computer science, data technologies, communication, politics, or marketing, you may do well in communications law.

The FCC employs more than 1200 employees (Legal Career Path). Some attorneys at the FCC write regulations, while others litigate. Administrative law judges at the FCC hear communications law cases.

If you are looking for a job with the FCC, visit this page. There are also part-time and full-time internships available for students (you don’t have to be a law student), although most positions are unpaid.

If you have graduated from law school and want to get into communications law, consider joining the FCC Attorney Honors Program, a two-year program that will train you in all aspects of communications law.

There are also opportunities with private law firms because someone has to go up against the FCC and help clients understand the FCC’s plethora of rules!

As a communications lawyer, you may want to join the Federal Communications Bar Association (FCBA).

 

Average salary:

A current search on Law Crossing reveals that communication lawyers make about $104,000 on average.

 

Would you like this practice area?

The First Amendment protects our freedom of speech, but the FCC regulates communication in America to a large extent. If you want to work in a constantly changing area where new technology brings a multitude of legal issues, communications law might be for you. You must have a passion for learning about new forms of technology and how these impact our everyday communications. If you are working for the FCC, you need to have a solid understanding of why the government regulates communication, and if you don’t work for the FCC, you need to be able to understand how the FCC’s regulation negatively impacted your client.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

FCC Adopts Rules to Help Americans Reach 911 and Receive Help From First Responders More Quickly (Cohen)

“The Federal Communications Commission today adopted rules to help ensure that people who call 911 from multi-line telephone systems—which commonly serve hotels, office buildings, and campuses—can reach 911 and be quickly located by first responders.  The new rules will also improve emergency response for people who call 911 from other calling platforms.  Today’s action implements two laws enacted last year that are designed to strengthen emergency calling.”

FCC Takes Action to Improve Broadband Service Mapping (MeriTalk)

“The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on August 1 voted to approve reports, orders, and notices of propose rulemaking that taken together aim to improve mapping the availability of “fixed” broadband service – the type generally provided by cable and phone companies – in the U.S. The newly established Digital Opportunity Data Collection will collect geospatial broadband service coverage maps…” Read more

The FCC’s Sponsorship Identification Rules: Ineffective Regulation of Embedded Advertising in Today’s Media Marketplace (Fujawa)

“In the contemporary media landscape, the advertising industry is increasingly relying on embedded advertising to reach consumers. The scope of embedded advertising in today’s marketplace raises significant concerns and complicated First Amendment questions regarding the type of regulation needed to suit the interests of all parties concerned. In 2008, the FCC released a joint Notice of Intent/Notice of Proposed Rulemaking entitled Sponsorship Identification Rules & Embedded Advertising, which requested comments on the FCC’s proposed changes to its sponsorship identification rules in light of this growing prevalence of embedded advertising. Yet, four years later, the FCC’s sponsorship identification rules are exactly the same.” Read more

Constitutional

Law

As you might expect, Constitutional law concerns how to interpret and implement the US Constitution. The Constitution is what the country was built on, so this is arguably the most important area of law. It deals with the balance of power and the fundamental rights of citizens, and the Supreme Court plays an important role in shaping Constitutional law. If reading, memorizing, and applying Supreme Court cases is a favorite hobby of yours, read on.

This might sound silly… but if you want to know what you would be working with in Constitutional Law, READ THE CONSTITUTION!!!

Seriously, you should read it, read it again, and then memorize it. The Constitution is your bible if you work in Constitutional law.

 

Education and Background:

There are generally two ways of interpreting the Constitution – sticking to its “original” meaning or considering it to be a “living document”. If you want to be a Constitutional lawyer, you should have a strong understanding of English law as well as what the Framers intended when they drafted the Constitution and founded America. You need to be able to argue what the Constitution “really means”.

While in law school, you should join a Supreme Court litigation clinic if your school offers one. You should also join law review and do any other activity your school offers that will help set you apart.

You may want to become a member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). It has over 4 million members who want to protect our fundamental rights. The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) also is dedicated to protecting civil liberties; there may be positions available to work there.

If you have a background in history or politics, this will transition well into constitutional law. What is most important, however, is a desire to analyze issues from the unique perspective of what this country was founded on. Realize that not all cases will be high stakes and fundamentally change the shape of the law forever, like Miranda v. Arizona or Roe v. Wade. Many cases are in lower courts and are just everyday legal disputes but still involve constitutional issues. That being said, if you Google the biggest legal cases ever, you will be seeing Constitutional law cases. So, if you are the type of person looking for high-profile, life-changing cases that will put intense pressure on you, Constitutional law is an area that could take you there.

 

Getting a job:

Constitutional law is an area that most attorneys will encounter at least once because it touches on most aspects of our lives, but it is an area that not a ton of attorneys practice exclusively. That is because it is a highly-sought-after and very competitive. Think your chances of getting a Supreme Court clerkship are slim? Well, your chances of arguing before the Supreme Court or even practicing Constitutional law are pretty slim as well. You need to be the very top of your law school class and have an outstanding background if you want high-profile Supreme Court cases. However, some areas of law intersect with Constitutional law to a large extent, such as criminal law. Thus, having a strong understanding of Constitutional law and a willingness to practice it alongside another area can be a huge plus, since trying to go into Constitutional law exclusively can be extremely risky. If you identify what areas of the Constitution interest you the most, you can focus on those instead. For example, if the First Amendment interests you, consider Communications law. Or, if you want to focus on the balance of power because you love politics, consider administrative law and work for a government agency.

Still think you want to focus exclusively on Constitutional law and someday will argue before the Supreme Court? There are opportunities with organizations such as the North Caroline Institute for Constitutional Law or with law schools, in addition to working for a law firm. Attorneys at the Office of Legal Counsel in the DOJ provide advice about the Constitutionality of pending litigation. There are also public-interest organizations such as the ACLU or ACLJ.

 

Average salary:

A current search on Law Crossing revealed an average salary of $117,709.

 

Would you like this practice area?

What is perhaps most interesting about Constitutional law is seeing the intersection of past and present; as social issues change and as technology gets better, we see new problems appear before the Supreme Court and get interpreted by using a document that is over two hundred years old. The key to succeeding at Constitutional law is that you must be both “detail-oriented” and “big picture.” You need to be able to pick out tiny distinguishing factors in cases, but at the same time, you can never forget that your overarching goal is to protect the rights of the people from excessive governmental power as the Framers intended, which brings in some historical analysis. What exactly are the rights of the people? What exactly is too much government power? Back to tiny details again!

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Faithful Execution and Article II (Kent, Leib, and Shugerman)

“Article II of the U.S. Constitution twice imposes a duty of faithful execution on the President, who must “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” and take an oath or affirmation to “faithfully execute the Office of President.” These Faithful Execution Clauses are cited often, but their background and original meaning have never been fully explored. Courts, the executive branch, and many scholars rely on one or both clauses as support for expansive views of presidential power, for example, to go beyond standing law to defend the nation in emergencies; to withhold documents from Congress or the courts; or to refuse to fully execute statutes on grounds of unconstitutionality or for policy reasons.” Read more

Are Foreign Nationals Entitled to the Same Constitutional Rights As Citizens? (Cole)

“Are foreign nationals entitled only to reduced rights and freedoms? The difficulty of the question is reflected in the deeply ambivalent approach of the Supreme Court, an ambivalence matched only by the alternately xenophobic and xenophilic attitude of the American public toward immigrants. On the one hand, the Court has insisted for more than a century that foreign nationals living among us are “persons” within the meaning of the Constitution, and are protected by those rights that the Constitution does not expressly reserve to citizens. Because the Constitution expressly limits to citizens only the rights to vote and to run for federal elective office, equality between non-nationals and citizens would appear to be the constitutional rule.” Read more

The Fourth Amendment Rights of Children at Home: When Parental Authority Goes Too Far (Henning)

“Although it is virtually undisputed that children have some Fourth Amendment rights independent of their parents, it is equally clear that youth generally receive less constitutional protection than adults. In a search for continuity and coherence in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence involving minors, Professor Henning identifies three guiding principles—context, parental authority, and the minor’s capacity—that weave together children’s rights cases.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

If you want to have a huge impact on society and what laws and freedoms we have, Constitutional law is a good area for you. You must also be an extremely competitive candidate to work in this area of law.

Construction Litigation

According to OSHA, there are almost 6.5 million people in the US working at construction sites on a given day (Worker Safety Series – Construction). There are many potential hazards for construction workers. They could fall from a great height, get electrocuted, get stuck between two objects, get crushed underneath an object, and more. Anyone who has ever been to a construction site has seen the large equipment, hanging objects, and dangerous machinery.

However, in addition to all of this danger, there is the potential for disputes to arise over significant construction projects. There may be disputes about contracts, workmanship claims, negligence, defects or delays, and more. A construction litigator is either prosecuting or defending these claims. Because construction is such a huge industry in the US, there are construction attorneys who are there to help when something related to construction goes wrong. There are many stakeholders involved in construction companies, whether it is the owner, contractor, architect, insurer, or many more. Construction cases may involve huge projects and massive amounts of money, so although they don’t necessarily receive a lot of publicity, the cases are incredibly high-stake.

Note that some private contracts may contain a clause requiring arbitration instead of litigation, or there may be mandatory mediation before continuing to arbitration or litigation.

 

Education and Background:

Construction law involves many related areas. You must be knowledgeable about contract law, employment law, property law, worker’s compensation, and more. This is a good area to go into if you are extremely well-rounded.

The American Bar Associate has a Construction Litigation Committee for people who primarily practice construction law.

Many students volunteer in the construction industry or find a part-time job or internship to learn more about construction law before they enter the field.

Because you need to be knowledgeable about so many areas to be a construction lawyer, rather than have a certain background, the most important skill is a willingness and desire to learn and the ability to learn quickly. However, if you do have a background in construction, architecture, or engineering because of a family business or a prior job, this will be a natural transition for you.

 

Getting a job:

Large construction and engineering companies will often hire in-house counsel, which will benefit you if you are interested in serving just one client and helping that business develop while keeping it out of hot water.

This is also a great area of law to open up a practice in because you can help such a wide variety of clients on a variety of issues, making it very feasible to find clients.

Finally, there are plenty of opportunities available with both large and small law firms across the country. A quick Google search will reveal plenty of opportunities in this area of law. One important thing to note, however, is that construction jobs tend to be less prevalent when the economy is in a downturn. This is an area of law where money may ebb and flow, particularly if you have a solo practice or work for a very small firm. You may also want to consider geography and choose an area of the country that is rapidly developing and has a lot of construction projects. While you may not be able to find data on the employment of construction lawyers specifically, looking at state data on general construction workers will indicate where the most construction projects are taking place. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has 2017 data showing the states with the most construction workers employed:

  1. California – 622,290
  2. Texas – 596,630
  3. Florida – 376,890
  4. New York – 332,420
  5. Pennsylvania – 217,180
  6. Ohio – 185,480
  7. Illinois – 176,110
  8. North Carolina – 157,810
  9. Virginia – 156,390
  10. Washington – 152,150

(CONEXPO-CON/AGG 2020)

 

Average salary:

A current search on Law Crossing revealed an average salary of $114,448. However, salaries vary widely based on location.

 

Would you like this practice area?

If you are looking for variety and balance in what you do, construction law might be a good area for you; many construction lawyers get to handle both litigation and transactional law. They also serve a wide variety of clients on a wide variety of issues. Overall, construction lawyers serve as problem solvers; when something goes wrong with a big project, they are there to help. If you want to be a construction lawyer, you will need strong negotiation skills, and you need to be good at working with others. Because alternative dispute resolution is often used in construction law, you must be able to see both sides of a story, but because litigation is also sometimes used, you need to be a fierce competitor in the courtroom. Overall, you must be well-rounded. Construction lawyers are specialists in one sense because they work in a specific industry, but they are also generalists because they need to be well-versed in many areas of law.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Legally Speaking: Construction Contracts – Verbal Agreements (Stark)

“Verbal agreements and oral representations made during negotiations for an agreement, when later reduced to writing, are unenforceable. Under the law, when the agreement of the parties is later reduced to writing and verbal agreements and/or representations are not contained in the original written agreement, such omitted terms are NOT ENFORCEABLE! The Parol Evidence Rule, a rule of common law in most jurisdictions, excludes such representations made prior to the writing and/or not contained in the written agreement.” Read more

The Tenth Circuit’s Prediction: New York State Likely to Follow Trend Recognizing Damages Caused by Subcontractor’s Faulty Work is a Covered “Occurrence” (Giordano and Gomez)

“The United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit recently issued a favorable decision for policyholders finding property damage arising from a subcontractor’s faulty work arose from an accidental “occurrence” under New York law.  In Black & Veatch Corp. v. Aspen Ins. (UK) Ltd, a 2–1 Tenth Circuit panel agreed with Black & Veatch Corp. (“B&V”) that its excess policy — which contained a New York choice-of-law provision — covered claims for property damage to a third party caused by its subcontractor’s faulty work. The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court’s ruling that B&V’s subcontractor’s faulty work caused damage to only B&V’s own work and, therefore, was not a covered “occurrence.”” Read more

Resolving Construction Disputes through Baseball Arbitration (Samples)

“Professional baseball has successfully implemented a dispute-resolution procedure that has both decreased the costs of arbitration and expedited resolution of disputes.  The construction industry would benefit from the incorporation and adaptation of the “baseball arbitration” procedure in construction disputes.  This article is not theoretical; it is based on experience adapting baseball arbitration concepts to construction disputes.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

When there is a big project involved, something always goes wrong. If you like many different areas of law and want a wide variety of issues included in your day-to-day work, construction law may be for you.

Consumer Law

Consumer law encompasses several areas of law. Consumer law has to do with protecting buyers from unfair selling tactics. Most consumer protection laws have been passed somewhat recently, and as the government takes more of an active role in protecting consumers, the number of regulations will likely increase.

Consumer protection laws protect customers from fraud and other deceptive practices. Consumers are individuals, not businesses, who buy or lease goods for personal use. Each state has consumer protection laws, and there are several federal laws as well.

There are state attorneys who enforce state consumer laws, although an individual may use “private attorneys general statutes” to enforce the law on behalf of the state (the state can decide to take it over). A consumer can also bear the costs of a lawsuit personally. The FTC, DOJ, and CPSC enforce federal consumer law. Consumers should report violations of consumer protection statutes to the relevant state or federal agency.

According to the National Association of Consumer Advocates, the main areas that consumer lawyers handle are automobiles, bankruptcy, class actions, credit reporting, debt collection, mortgage, real estate, and housing, small-dollar loans, student loans, telemarketing and recorded calls, and other similar issues (NACA).

For information about careers with the FTC, visit this page. To see current openings, visit this page.

If you think you may be interested in consumer law, consider the FTC’s summer law clerk program.

The FTC has eight divisions:

If you prefer to work for the other side and defend businesses from FTC actions, there are law firms that specialize in FTC defense.

Here are some statistics about the pay at the FTC in 2017 (FederalPay.org):

  • The FTC had 1,135 employees
  • The average salary was $131,717.28
  • The most common occupation was general attorney (633)
  • The top ten percent of employees at the FTC earn 13% of the total income

Contract Law

Considered one of the “main” areas of law, contract law has to do with creating agreements, carrying them out, enforcing them, and securing a remedy if there is a breach. You will learn the elements of a valid contract in your contract law class. There are changing issues in contract law with advancements in technology. For example, the emergence of electronic signatures has raised questions of validity for contracts.

While contract law is often practiced exclusively, it is a good area to practice alongside another. This is an area it is useful to be well versed in no matter what area of law you practice because contract law intersects at least a little with almost all others.

There are a variety of opportunities available in contract law because it is so common, so useful, and impacts such a wide variety of other areas. There are job opportunities in solo practice, small firms, mid-sized firms, large firms, and huge global firms. You can practice contract law exclusively, alongside another area, or just as part of a general practice. Corporations also need contract lawyers as in-house counsel. If you are looking for a “safe” area of law that has plenty of jobs available, contract law is it.

To practice contract law, you need to be able to draft documents with terms that are valuable to your client and that are also enforceable. When there are disputes, you may need to be aggressive in getting the other side to work towards a resolution.

No special background is crucial to success in contract law, but you should be detail-oriented and a strong writer.

Creditor and Debtor Law

Debtor-creditor lawyers don’t want their clients to need bankruptcy lawyers; they want to do everything possible to keep their clients out of bankruptcy court. Any other legal issues related to the relationship between creditors and debtors fall under debtor-creditor law. For example, a dispute over credit card debt would fall under this area of law. Debtor-creditor lawyers may help individual consumers or businesses. Although a debtor-creditor lawyer may be helpful to businesses, many companies hire more generalized lawyers who can help with a variety of legal issues.

Most of the law in this area is state statutory and common law. However, there is also the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act enacted by Congress.

This is likely an area of law that you will practice along with another, such as consumer law or bankruptcy law.

Criminal Defense

Criminal defense is one of those areas of law that your grandfather would be horrified to find out that you practice. “You’re representing criminals? Just what do you think you are doing, young lady?” Nevertheless, those who practice this area of law know its importance as well as its difficulties.

If those accused of crimes were not afforded legal protections, all the power in the world would be in the hands of the government. This would be a horribly skewed (or nonexistent) legal system. Imagine if the government could just come into your house and seize your belongings without repercussion. Thankfully it cannot, thanks to the Fourth Amendment and the criminal defense lawyers who would use it to defend you. Criminal defense lawyers know that it is possible their clients committed horrible crimes, but they also know that the accused have many rights worth defending.

Here are a few of the important things that criminal defense lawyers do:

  • Securing release from jail on bail
  • Negotiating with opposing counsel to secure an acceptable plea bargain
  • Creative thinking and problem solving used to formulate a theory as to why the defendant was falsely accused
  • Investigating and researching
  • Interviewing witnesses
  • Drafting documents

A criminal defense lawyer might argue that his or her client was justified in the action, did not understand the significance of the action, that another person committed the crime, or that there wasn’t actually a “crime”. There are a variety of creative solutions to keep the prosecutor from proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, in a rape case, the lawyer might argue that there actually was consent, or that the accused was mentally incompetent, or that evidence pointed to another person being the rapist.

Criminal defense lawyers may get to handle extremely violent crimes such as sexual assault, rape, or murder, and they may also handle drug-related crimes, DUI violations, and other “lesser” crimes. At any rate, criminal defense lawyers certainly have fast-paced and unpredictable jobs.

Getting a job:

Due to the stigma of this being a very undesirable job, not many people choose to take it, but there are constantly people charged with crimes who need defense lawyers. Thus, this is an area of law in which people are highly sought. According to the Balance Careers, “the number of people sentenced to prison has risen nearly threefold over the past 30 years” (What Does a Criminal Lawyer Do). Public defenders and those working for non-profits do not make very much – only $30,000 to $50,000 (What Does a Criminal Lawyer Do). Experience and working high up in a law firm can mean six-digit figures, a number much closer to the average for lawyers in all practice areas.

 

Would you like this practice area?

If you are thinking about criminal defense law, you were probably the kid in elementary school who stood up to a bully to defend the bully’s victim. If you’ve made a habit out of defending people and are always capable of seeing the best in people, you will probably like this area of law. You must be good at coming up with creative arguments and good at dealing with others. You must enjoy working in a fast-paced environment and always thinking on your feet. If you prefer to be behind the scenes and like taking your time to carefully plan out everything you do, you will probably not enjoy this atmosphere where you will constantly be put on the spot.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

The Defenses and Penalties for a Probation Violation (Oliva)

“Although probation is considered by some people to be a “get out jail free” card, in reality, it is a serious sanction for criminal behavior. When a Tennessee court sentences a defendant to probation, that person is required to strictly comply with a number of conditions. Any failure to comply may serve as grounds to revoke probation and send the defendant to jail to serve the remainder of their sentence.” Read more

Do I Have to Consent to a Police Search of my Car? (Mentes)

“An officer asking to search your vehicle can be a confusing question, especially if they ask it during what appears to be a routine traffic stop. Many people don’t understand what their rights are in this situation, and whether they should cooperate with the officer’s request. “Many honest, hard-working people have this belief that if they comply—and give the officer this and give him that—this officer is going to be my friend. It just doesn’t work out that way,” says Stephen Hébert, a Louisiana criminal defense attorney. “The officer is looking for some reason to arrest you, and it’s just that plain and simple.”” Read more

California Domestic Violence Charges: The Best Legal Defenses (Chudnovsky)

“Domestic Violence charges can have a devastating effect on your life. The life-long consequences of a domestic violence abuse conviction cannot be overstated. Getting arrested and having your personal life examined in criminal courts is embarrassing and nerve racking. No one wants the government involved in their personal relationship.” Read more

 

Attorney Spotlight:

Emily Amara Gordon works for Amara Law, a firm specializing in Green Cards & Residency, Deportation & Removal Hearings, and Immigration Bond & Criminal Offenses. She spends about half her time doing criminal defense.

Emily’s interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  5 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  New England Law

Q: In what practice area(s) do you practice?  If more than one, what’s the percentage of each?

A:  Criminal Defense and Immigration (50/50)

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  2 lawyers and some support staff

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  Every day is different. However, I most often meet with clients, send emails, go to court, and have USCIS interviews. I don’t spend too much time on the phone (maybe 2 hours a day max); most of my communication is through other methods of messaging. I write some motions and occasionally a memo. I collaborate for criminal cases to strategize, and I talk to experts, like an investigator.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A:  It varies depending on whether I am on trial that week, but I would say I average 60. Since it is my practice, the advantage is I can control my schedule to some degree, and I enjoy that flexibility.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  It’s hard because I’ve never done anything else, but I would say that I’m in the courtroom a lot and not behind my desk very much. Criminal law is very fast-paced, unpredictable, and last minute; you need to be able to think on your feet.

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A:  There’s nothing like a jury trial! Trying a case is a lot of responsibility (and terrifying), but in my opinion, it is one of the greatest experiences I’ve had practicing law. I think especially in criminal law there is a lot of collaboration and the people are wonderful! The state employees are pleasant and always go out of their way to help people.

Q: What do you like least about your job/practice area?

A: The unpredictability can be difficult. You also literally have someone’s life in your hands; I don’t dislike that, but it is certainly very challenging!

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more?

A:  Talk to as many lawyers as you can and get as many opinions as you can, so that you can make an informed decision. For criminal or immigration law, go to court and watch a case! Volunteer at citizenship clinics, help with communities in need, and see what it is really like to help people.

You want to make money and do well, but you also want to enjoy what you do – that’s always the goal!

– Emily Amara Gordon

Conclusion:

If you have a passion for helping others and want to work in a fast-paced and unpredictable environment where you must think on your feet, you will love the adrenaline rush of criminal defense law.

Criminal Prosecution

Criminal defenders thrive on helping the accused; on the other side of the coin, criminal prosecutors get a rush from upholding justice by convicting wrongdoers. If you’ve ever seen a TV lawyer show, you’ve probably noticed these two very different personality types clashing.

 

Education and Background

Getting a position as a criminal prosecutor is very competitive. You need to have something in your background that makes you stand out, whether that is relevant work experience and extracurriculars or a valuable internship you completed.

 

Getting a job:

Prosecutors work for the government. Here are the options:

  • Local or state level: District Attorneys’ Offices; Attorney Generals’ Offices
  • Federal: U.S. Department of Justice, including the U.S. Attorney’s Offices

 

Average salary:

This varies too dramatically by location and experience level to give a defined number. It is certainly not one of the most lucrative areas of law even if it is one of the more prestigious. There are excellent loan repayment services available for prosecuting attorneys, however, since they don’t make huge salaries.

 

Would you like this practice area?

If you have a passion for justice and your personality is considered more “competitive” or “aggressive”, this may be a good area for you. You will have to be comfortable on your feet, have strong research skills and be good at analyzing the facts of a case, and be good at organizing your strategy. In some sense, the entire trial revolves around you and what you are accusing the defendant of. Initially, you are the one with all the power. However, you have to be comfortable with a lot of pressure being placed on you and only one shot at a conviction (since there can’t be double jeopardy).

For more information and to see a helpful attorney interview, go to “Litigation” and look at the answers of Carmen Ortiz, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts (note that she practices civil litigation now).

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Prosecuting Corporate Crime when Firms Are Too Big to Jail: Investigation, Deterrence, and Judicial Review (Werle)

“Some corporations have become so large or so systemically important that when they violate the law, the government cannot credibly threaten “efficient” criminal sanctions. By introducing political-economy constraints into a standard microeconomic model of corporate liability, this Note shows how this Too-Big-to-Jail (TBTJ) problem reduces prosecutors’ ability to deter corporate crime by simply fining a defendant corporation without the accompanying prosecution of culpable individuals and mandatory structural reforms. Prosecutors often lack the ability to charge culpable individuals or enforce structural reforms.” Read more

Criminal Justice Legislation Will Force New York Prosecutors to Disclose More Evidence, Sooner (Sapien)

“The New York state legislature has passed a reform package aimed at increasing fairness in the criminal justice system. The new law requires prosecutors to share evidence against criminal defendants within 15 days of arraignment, a major shift for a state that previously had no such deadlines and maintained a notably restrictive approach toward disclosure. New York defense lawyers have long complained of “trial by ambush,” where prosecutors were allowed to deliver crucial evidence at late stages of criminal proceedings…” Read more

Are Prosecutors Born or Made? (Smith)

Like a lot of prosecutors, I possess a zeal that can border on the bloodthirsty …. I put a lot of people in prison, and I had a great time doing it … [N]ow I describe myself as a recovering prosecutor – “recovering” because one never quite gets over it. I still like to point my finger at the bad guy. – Paul Butler, former prosecutor…. One of the most important prosecutorial decisions is the charging function. This “formidable” prosecutorial power sets everything else in motion. As one former federal prosecutor put it, “The power to … prosecute is the power to destroy.” When prosecutors consider whether to pursue a criminal prosecution, they are supposed to ask not only whether they can prove an offense has occurred, but also whether it would be just to do so.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

If you like power and don’t mind stress, you can be a formidable prosecutor. Just make sure you think ahead and network with the right people so you can secure one of the competitively sought positions.

Divorce Law

Divorce law is a subset of family law and involves complex emotional issues. Family lawyers may choose to focus mainly on divorce but will often deal with other related issues, such as child support. For additional information, see the Family Law section.

Consider whether these articles by Turco Legal interest you:

 Uncontested Divorce: The Process in Massachusetts

“In Massachusetts, an uncontested divorce means both parties are in alignment with the major issues that often appear in a contested divorce. The typical areas where issues may be present include topics such as property, alimony, child custody, child support, and more. If the major issues regarding these topics do not exist, both parties may begin the divorce process together. To obtain a divorce in Massachusetts, the first step is to determine that the parties live in Massachusetts.” Read more

Special Considerations When Doctors Divorce

“According to recent studies, divorce among doctors is not as common as one would expect. If you are a doctor who is considering getting a divorce in spite of the positive statistics, there will likely be special considerations that you may need to address with a family law attorney. In general, the divorce process can be a complicated process; when one or both spouses are doctors, a divorce may be even more complex. The heightened complexity of the divorce could stem from various reasons, such as increased earning potential; the existence of a private practice; or the amount of financial support contributed by the non-doctor spouse.” Read more

Social Security and Retirement in Divorce

“A pension earned during the marriage generally counts as a joint asset of both parties; likely, a qualified domestic relations order would equitably divide it. This is an order that is filed with the Massachusetts Family Court and if approved is given to the administrator of the pension, so that the pension may be divided between the parties. The division of a pension may be a complex issue because pensions, also including IRA or 401(k) accounts, are not always equal in a dollar for dollar manner; there may be penalties and taxes associated with them. A family law attorney can help evaluate and value the numerical amounts to handle this complexity on your behalf.” Read more

E-discovery

Obtaining electronic data to be used as evidence for a civil or criminal legal case is e-discovery. It is extremely difficult to completely get rid of information stored electronically, and it is easy to search through information stored electronically (in comparison to boxes of hard copy files). This therefore makes electronic information perfect for evidence. All types of data can be used as evidence, and e-discovery is rapidly evolving as technology changes. Such searches raise many security and privacy issues, however.

E-discovery specialists identify relevant documents needed, place them in legal hold, collect and process the data, and then review and produce the data. If you have a background in information technologies, you may want to put this to good use after law school by focusing on e-discovery. E-discovery professionals are often considered more of a “support staff” for litigators. You don’t necessarily need to have gone to law school to focus on e-discovery, but it helps. Paralegals used to make up the majority of e-discovery specialists, but attorneys are finding this to be an increasingly profitable and important area of law. Until e-discovery further evolves, most skills will be learned in IT backgrounds, “on the job,” and through CLE classes.

To learn more information, visit the ABA’s page on e-discovery.

Elder Law

As you may have guessed, elder law attorneys focus on the legal problems of the elderly. Thus, although they deal with a wide array of issues from retirement, to Social Security, to what to do with an estate, they are also specialized because they only deal with the elderly. There are several common issues that elder law attorneys deal with:

  • Wills and estate planning
  • Health care
  • Financial representation
  • Appointing a legal guardian
  • Nursing home issues
  • Drafting long term planning documents

Not every elder law attorney is skilled in all of these areas, but even small elder law firms will likely have attorneys who can collaborate to take care of any issue that may arise for a senior citizen. It is important to note that to be successful, elder law attorneys must build a network of resources with other professionals involved in the care of the elderly, such as social workers or mental health professionals.

 

Education and Background:

To truly know if you enjoy working with the elderly, some kind of a volunteer background working with senior citizens is crucial. Particularly if you are still in high school or an undergraduate program, spend as much time as you can helping out at nursing homes, community centers, and assisted living facilities.

In 1985, the Association of American Law Schools formed a section on aging and the law, so law schools across the country now offer classes in elder law (What Does an Elder Attorney Do?).

After graduation, you may want to consider joining the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA). It offers resources to members and sponsors CLE programs.

You may want to get your NELF certification after you have been practicing law for a few years. This is considered the “gold standard” of elder law, and NELF is the only national organization to certify elder attorneys. There are specific requirements to qualify for being certified, including having practiced law for at least five years; the certification process itself then involves rigorous testing, and you must undergo a review (Why You Need a CELA). This may be worthwhile, however, if you intend to focus the rest of your career on elder law.

 

Getting a job:

According to the U.S. Census, there were about 48 million people over the age of 65 in 2015, a number predicted to increase to 98 million by 2060 (What Does an Elder Attorney Do?). Elder law continues to grow because the average life span is increasing and the number of elderly people keeps increasing. Thus, this may be a good area to get into; in a decade or two, this may be one of the most in-demand areas of law.

 

Average salary:

A current Google search reveals an average of about $75,000, but this varies widely by experience level. Expect the salary to go up in the coming years as demand for elder law attorneys skyrockets.

 

Would you like this practice area?

Overall, you must be able to help the elderly while displaying compassion, professionalism, and honesty. You need to be a resource they can trust. Because the elderly can be extremely vulnerable, NAELA created guidelines called Aspirational Standards that elder law members pledge to uphold.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Study: Home-delivered meals could save money for Medicare (Alonso-Zaldivar)

 “Medicare could save $1.57 for every dollar spent delivering free healthy meals to frail seniors after a hospitalization, according to a new study that comes as lawmakers look to restrain costs by promoting patients’ well-being. The report Thursday from the Bipartisan Policy Center addresses ways that Medicare can do a better job coordinating care for chronically ill patients, who account for most of the program’s $650 billion annual cost. There’s a growing recognition that practical services like meal delivery can make a difference helping older people avoid health flare-ups that can send them to the hospital.” Read more

A Family Meeting as Part of Effective Estate Planning (Weber)

“Effective estate planning takes time and evolves over the various seasons of life.  Often, a family meeting is one of the final steps in the estate planning process.  There seems to be a trend among baby boomers to want to make sure there is transparency and understanding regarding their decisions so that when they pass away, their wishes are known and family conflict is minimized, if not avoided altogether.  A family meeting is very helpful when there is an uneven distribution of assets (actual or perceived), a blended family, a beneficiary with substance abuse or gambling issues, or when there have been gifts that have been made during lifetime.” Read more

Why a Letter of Competency Should Be Part of Every Senior’s Legal File (Huntsberry-Lett)

“Dementia and other health issues that affect one’s mental capacity are devastating in many ways, but they can also complicate the basic legal planning that is recommended for all seniors. Countless members of the AgingCare Caregiver Forum have shared stories about bitter disputes between family members over whether an aging loved one’s will, powers of attorney and other legal documents were valid.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

This is an area of law where you will see yourself making a difference. Additionally, you will learn a great deal from the elderly, who always have great stories to tell. You must know about a broad array of areas to help seniors with any legal problems they have, and this area of law thus often involves a great deal of teamwork.

Eminent Domain

The 5th Amendment states that the government can exercise the right to take private property for public use only if they provide just compensation. Does the thought of what constitutes “just compensation” interest you? Do you wonder what constitutes public use or public necessity?

There are of course benefits and drawbacks to the government being able to take private property. A road may be beneficial to the public good, but even “just compensation” may not feel like enough to someone whose land gets seized. If you want to fight for the rights of property owners, eminent domain might be the right practice area for you.

A case analysis from Biersdorf & Associates illustrates a problem you could face as an eminent domain lawyer:

“The property: A small car dealership is located along a busy highway that is being widened. Cars can only be displayed to the highway in a single row along the highway in front of the building. All other inventory must be stored behind the building.

“The taking: A strip of land across the entire front of the property. The strip of land is all of the display area for cars.

“Obvious damages: Direct damages will equal the value of the land being taken.

“Hidden damages: The ability to view vehicles from a fronting roadway is critical to the operation of a car dealership. Severance damage occurs to the property because the remaining dealership can no longer display vehicles for motorists to see from the highway. The loss of this feature makes the remainder parcel much less valuable than the mere loss of the value of the land being taken” (Eminent Domain Case Studies).

Does this type of problem interest you? If you want to fight to keep government intrusion to a minimum, you might like this area of law.

 

Education and Background:

The best way to find out if you would like this area is to take a class in it! Law schools may offer eminent domain as a smaller subsection of a general property law class, or it might be offered as a class itself.

 

Getting a job:

It is hard to find eminent domain law at a large law firm, and if it exists, it is not the firm’s primary focus. Smaller “boutique” style firms may focus more exclusively on this area. According to Dan Biersdorf, “Most law firms that practice eminent domain just do it as a subset of a much larger area with eminent domain only making up about 20% of what they do, and they are state-limited or limited to 2-3 states. Road projects are most common for eminent domain, so it really varies how busy firms are with practicing eminent domain based on what projects are going on.” See interview below.

Certain geographical areas may be better suited to eminent domain law. For example, a 2016 article stated Texas, “is home to eight of the nation’s 15 fastest-growing cities and five of the country’s 10 largest cities overall. This kind of growth generally requires additional infrastructure such as roads, power lines and pipelines, and these projects often require privately owned land held by individuals or businesses” (Johns Marrs Ellis & Hodge LLP). This prompted two Texas law schools to begin offering courses focused entirely on eminent domain, and Texas is certainly a great geographical area to practice in. If you live in an area that is already extremely settled and that will not likely have government projects occurring on a frequent basis, realize that you may either have to move or practice a different area of law.

 

Average salary:

According to Law Crossing, the average salary of an eminent domain attorney is $117,667. Again, geographical location comes into play a lot with this. The top cities posting eminent domain attorney job listings were: Dallas, TX; Austin, TX; San Diego, CA; Houston, TX; Miami, FL; Minneapolis, MN; and Raleigh, NC.

 

Would you like this practice area?

Strengths/Weaknesses: Are you good at analyzing situations and advising people based on your results, using logic rather than emotion to appeal to them? Are you good at crunching numbers? Great! Are you artsy and have always struggled to think with the logical, “left side” of your brain? Maybe not the area for you.

Likes/Dislikes: Do you like to deal with emotional situations? Well, too bad, you won’t find much emotion involved in eminent domain law (unless you deal with single-family homes). Do you prefer research, mathematics, and document drafting? Great! If you want to work for a small firm and help it grow over time, this is a perfect area to allow you to do so.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

In Property Rights Cases, Justices Sharply Debate Power of Precedent (Liptak)

Overturning a 1985 precedent, the Supreme Court on Friday ruled that plaintiffs may sue in federal court to seek compensation as soon as state and local governments take their property through eminent domain. The earlier ruling had required plaintiffs to sue in state court.” Read more

Property Owners Protest Pipeline Procurement Process (Barakat)

“Much to Gary Erb’s chagrin, a natural gas pipeline now cuts across his 72-acre homestead in Conestoga Township, Pennsylvania. To his even greater chagrin, he remains unpaid for the 6 acres (2.4 hectares) of land that were taken from him under eminent domain to build the pipeline. With the help of a Virginia-based legal group, he is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to end what he and his lawyers say has become a common practice in the pipeline industry: taking the land first, and paying later.” Read more

Rockland May Seize Property to Ensure Park Access (AP News)

“Officials in Rockland, Maine, say they’re prepared to seize a waterfront roadway by eminent domain to preserve one of the two routes that provide access to the city’s Harbor Park. City Manager Tom Luttrell tells the Bangor Daily News that the property owner’s plan to build a new restaurant caught officials by surprise.” Read more

 

Eminent Domain Attorney Spotlight:

Dan Biersdorf is the lead attorney for Biersdorf & Associates, an eminent domain law firm that represents property owners nationwide. They focus on, “challenging the right to take, recovery of additional damages, inverse condemnation claims, regulatory takings, land use issues and constitutional law issues related to real estate” (Biersdorf & Associates). Dan has extensive experience in this area of law and has some great advice for law students!

Dan’s Interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A: 43 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A: University of Minnesota

Q: What practice areas do you practice?

A: I do real estate valuation litigation. This is split between eminent domain, which makes up over 90% of our cases and property tax appeals, which we take on an ‘as requested’ basis.

Q: What size is your firm?

A: We currently have 3 lawyers and 8 support staff

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A: I take care of a lot of office work on the administrative side. On the legal side I’m mostly reviewing appraisals; talking with property owners about potential cases; reviewing briefs, memorandum, motions, etc. (usually I don’t write things anymore but I do edit); reviewing opposing party’s documents; once in a while I spend part of the day in conference with a client and their employees answering questions they have with regards to potential testimony. Probably the biggest portion of my day is reviewing appraisals.

I do sometimes go to court. I’m licensed in a lot of states around the country, so if it’s a state where only I am licensed, I will go. Otherwise, my appearances are usually limited to around 4-5 trials per year. We’re the only law firm I know of that does this on a national basis. Most law firms that practice eminent domain just do it as a subset of a much larger area with eminent domain only making up about 20% of what they do and they are state-limited or limited to 2-3 states. Road projects are most common for eminent domain, so it varies how busy firms are with practicing eminent domain based on what projects are going on.

It’s sporadic how much I collaborate with others. Lawyers at the firm are self-sufficient. All files are assigned to one of the two lawyers, and I act as a resource for them and also do the business development. We collaborate in the sense that we talk about the files when we need to.

I wouldn’t really say I deal with difficult people. Eminent domain and property tax work is not a very emotional area. It’s pretty much just business stuff, so emotions rarely enter into these cases. Rarely is there a single-family residence where there could be more emotional attachment; it’s mostly investment, industrial, and commercial properties. Some clients are difficult if they don’t understand the expectations even when you spell it out to them and sometimes clients think they know more about the case than you.

Q: Did you practice in any other practice areas before deciding on this one?

A: Yes, I kind of fell into eminent domain work. I actually started out as a criminal prosecutor, even though in law school I said the one area I never wanted to work in was criminal law and I never wanted to work for the government. However, I started out working as the assistant prosecuting attorney for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis! I then became a litigator for a private firm. Because of my background in engineering and an element of mathematics that I always gravitated to, I shifted to eminent domain and went out on my own.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A: I work all hours of the day. I’ve been known to send memos at 2 or 3 am. I take a nap if I need to! I work a “full day,” but it isn’t a typical 9-5 day, for sure. I do most of my work at home, but usually go into the office about 3 days a week for about 2 hours each.

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A: I think what I like most is that I’m running a business. This may surprise you, but I never had any intention of being a lawyer, even when I was in law school. I wanted to run for public office and thought law would be a good background. I’ve always wanted to run a business, so I find the challenge of running a business a lot of fun. I also like going to trial. I’ve always done a lot of public speaking, so I find that fun! The other lawyers with me share the same views. Our perspective is that we assume from day one a client’s case is going to trial… unless you want to accept a settlement. So, we probably try a lot more cases than other firms in this area because we like going to trial. We’re not afraid of trying cases or of going on appeal. So that’s another fun part of the practice.”

Q: What do you least like about your job/practice area?

A: Well, I kind of got rid of it for me personally. I never was a very good creative writer, but I had to do it and didn’t enjoy it. Now, I’ve got good writers working for me. They write all the initial stuff, and I do the next steps.

Q: You will be a happy and successful eminent domain lawyer if…

A: …you are able to talk with property owners, analyze their cases for them, and explain to them how they have a good case or don’t have a good case.

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a eminent domain lawyer?

A: Most of the firms that do this to a significant degree tend to be more boutique type firms or smaller firms, so if you really want to get into this area you may need to look to more of a small firm type of practice. If you don’t want to be in a small firm, this area might not be the best for you. If you want to be in large firm, it’s hard to find and as an eminent domain lawyer you won’t be the main “mover and shaker” of the firm. There’s of course pros and cons to large and small. I think it’s a critical question to ask yourself: large or small. I know a lot of people who started working for large firms and quit because it’s not the lifestyle they like. For a smaller firm, you might not make as much money at first, but you can help develop the business.

If you have lawyers who must develop their own ‘book of business’, marketing is a big, big deal (particularly for a boutique firm). Lawyers will do well to have an expansive background in other areas like marketing. Having such a background will really help you grow business. We actually have 40% of our staff devoted to marketing!

– Dan Biersdorf

 

Conclusion:

Although at first glance this area of law may seem more “boring” than others, when it comes down to dealing with individual cases, each one presents a unique, fascinating problem that requires a great deal of analyzing and research to solve.

Employment (Labor) Law

Employment law, also known as labor law, is meant to ensure that workers are treated fairly. Without labor law, we might still have the oppressive work practices of the industrial revolution. There are many employment laws in existence intended to protect workers, and any alleged violation of these laws means an employment lawyer may be needed.

The US Department of Labor website gives details about various employment laws. Some of the employment-related issues and laws that employment lawyers may have to address are:

  • Wages and hours/Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
  • Workplace safety and health/Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act
  • Worker’s compensation/State worker’s compensation programs; Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA); Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA); Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA); Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA)
  • Employee benefit security/Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA); Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC)
  • Health care provisions/Comprehensive Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA); Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Unions and their members/Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA)
  • Employee protection
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act
  • Garnishment of wages/Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA)
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Veteran’s Preference
  • Government Contracts, Grants, or Financial Aid/Davis-Bacon Act; McNara-O’Hara Service Contract Act; Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act
  • Migrant & seasonal agricultural workers/Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA); Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
  • Mine safety and health/Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act)
  • Construction/Executive Order 11246; Copeland Act
  • Transportation/Longshoring and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA)
  • Plant closings and layoffs/Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)
  • Posters/eLaws Poster Advisor

There are also many laws related to discrimination in the workplace that may fall under employment law. Whether a worker should be classified as an employee or an independent contractor is another important issue that employment lawyers may have to deal with.

As you can see, employment lawyers have a lot on their plates! If you don’t enjoy reading federal Acts, this is probably not a good area of law for you. On top of all that, employment lawyers must know state employment and labor laws for their state(s) of practice as well. Anything that has to do with the rights and duties between employers and employees is contained within employment law.

 

Education and Background:

Employment law is a common area of law. It is not one where you should have a particular background. Most law schools offer plenty of courses in employment law, so take as many as you can and then intern with an organization that performs employment law work.

 

Getting a job:

As an employment lawyer you may find work with a:

  • Private firm
  • Government agency (local, state, federal, or international)
  • Nonprofit policy and direct service organization

You will want to choose which side to represent: the employer or the employee. You could also represent unions.

 

Average salary:

Employment law is one of the more profitable areas of law to work in, perhaps because of the vast knowledge these lawyers must have, the stress they undergo, and the long hours they work. The average salary is about $144,000 (Employment Lawyer Job Description).

 

Would you like this practice area?

You should have excellent reading, writing, and researching skills. A strong understanding of interpersonal relationships and work dynamics is essential. You should be good at asking questions and good at listening because learning little details of what happened can make or break a case.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Can You Fire Someone for Their Social Media Complaints About Work? (HG)

“Today, social media is used by most people on many different platforms. Using social media has an instantaneous effect in that the public can read about a situation immediately after it has arisen. This situation can lead to unwanted publicity and attention for a business when the social media post has to do with business practices.” Read more

Labor Board Makes It Easier To Classify Workers As Independent Contractors (Fisher Phillips)

“In a significant ruling which will benefit companies, the National Labor Relations Board today revised the test it uses for determining whether workers are employees or independent contractors by making it easier for entities to classify them as contractors (SuperShuttle DFW, Inc.). The decision throws a roadblock into unionization efforts involving such workers, as federal law does not permit independent contractors to unionize or join forces with employees in organizing efforts.” Read more

As Right to Be Forgotten Evolves in EU, Will It Find Its Way into U.S. Law? (Lally)

“The “right to be forgotten,” a rapidly evolving legal concept in the European Union (EU), may eventually wend its way into U.S. federal law but not in the immediate future, according to several European data-privacy experts. The right to be forgotten allows people to ask that Internet search results for their names that include personal information, such as home addresses or details of criminal convictions, be removed.” Read more

 

Attorney Spotlight:

Meghan Slack is the founder of the Law Office of Meghan Slack. She focuses on advising small businesses, nonprofits, and transitioning employees. The type of employment law issues she handles includes wage and hour, discrimination, and unemployment.

Meghan’s interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  Since 2010

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  Suffolk University Law School

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  1 Attorney

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  The first thing I do in the morning is check my email and send out any emails I may have written after hours the previous day.  I often schedule phone calls at the start of my day.  Late morning and afternoon, I am typically researching, writing and on the phone.  My evenings are often reserved for networking and bar association commitments.

Q: Do you deal with difficult people?

A:  Difficult people cannot be avoided, but I take a lot of care vetting my prospective clients and their cases to ensure I have good working relationships with all my clients.  If a person is difficult from the start, I will not take them on as a client.  After I start representing someone, communication is the most important element in maintaining a good relationship.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A: Most of my clients are not involved in litigation, so my relationship with opposing counsel is usually less adversarial.

Q: Did you practice any other practice areas before deciding on this one?

A:  I started practicing employment law when I opened my practice.  Over the years, I have tried family and probate law.  These were always either pro bono cases or work for a friend of a friend and not really an expansion of my practice areas.  Over the years, I have become more focused on non-litigation services.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A:  30+

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A:  My clients

Q: What do you like least about your job/practice area?

A:  Like a lot of attorneys, I do free consultations for discrimination cases. There are usually a lot of facts involved, and it is very difficult to prove actionable employment discrimination. Often, I will spend 30+ minutes evaluating a case that I will not end up taking.  Because of this, I am currently considering charging for these consultations.

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a lawyer in your practice area?

A:  Take a couple employment/labor law classes.  Reach out to practicing attorneys for informational interviews.

Q: What other comments do you have to add about your practice area?

A: There are a lot of different things you can do as an employment lawyer.  I have colleagues who work for the government, serve as in-house counsel, and do legal aid work.  There are a lot of possibilities within the field.

 

Conclusion:

Most Americans spend more time at their job than at home! Employment law is essential to make sure rights are protected at work, and employment lawyers rightfully have very high paying jobs.

Energy & Natural Resources

According to the USGS, natural resources are “minerals, energy, land, water, and biota” (Wright). Environmental law and natural resources law are not the same thing. According to Arthur J. Wright, Oil and Gas Practice Group Leader at Thompson & Knight, “Environmental law is what you may not do; natural resources law is what you may do and how to do it” (Wright). For the most part, this area of law entails understanding the regulations regarding natural resource industries such as oil and gas, mining, water, and more.

Natural resource lawyers help their clients navigate these regulations and litigate disputes when they arise. This area of law intersects with many other areas because natural resource lawyers need to know how to keep their clients out of hot water when signing contracts, hiring workers, paying taxes, etc.

Natural resource lawyers need to determine who has ownership of a certain resource, which is not always a simple task. They also need to be aware of what benefits may be legally exploited from the resource. Natural resource lawyers may also have to deal with the sale and purchase of natural resources. Energy companies often buy natural resources to turn into energy, so these companies may employ lawyers in this practice area. Energy law is becoming increasingly international, so there is often an overlap with international law.

 

Education and Background:

Having a background in a science field or environment/sustainability field may be a helpful plus towards securing a job in this area of law.

If you want to learn more about the science aspects you would be dealing with, check out the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) website.

The ABA has a Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources. Volunteering is an integral part of the Section’s mission.

Volunteering for a non-profit organization or securing an internship with one is also a good thing to have on your resume. Start looking for opportunities as soon as possible; a good place to start would be the Nation Resources Defense Council page.

Another great opportunity while still in law school is an internship with the Department of Energy’s Office of General Counsel.

There are also LL.M. programs in energy, natural resources, and environmental law available. Here are a few:

You may also want to consider joining the Energy Bar Association. There are even opportunities available to write for the Energy Law Journal.

 

Getting a job:

Businesses are a main source of jobs for energy and natural resource attorneys – particularly energy companies. There are also opportunities with non-profit organizations. Individuals are less likely to hire this sort of attorney because whatever question they have can likely be answered by an attorney in another area.

The DOJ also has an Environment and Natural Resources Division, part of which handles protecting the nation’s natural resources. The Division has ten sections: AppellateEnvironmental CrimesEnvironmental DefenseEnvironmental EnforcementExecutive OfficeIndian ResourcesLand AcquisitionLaw and PolicyNatural ResourcesWildlife and Marine Resources.

Here is what the DOJ says:

“A substantial portion of the Division’s work includes litigation under a plethora of statutes related to the management of public lands and associated natural and cultural resources. All varieties of public lands are affected by the Division’s litigation docket, ranging from entire ecosystems, such as the Nation’s most significant sub-tropical wetlands (the Everglades) and the Nation’s largest rain forest (the Tongass), to individual rangelands or wildlife refuges. The Division represents all the land management agencies of the United States including, for instance, the Forest Service, the Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Defense. The Natural Resources Section is primarily responsible for these cases.” (Environment and Natural Resources Division)

For more information about the Natural Resources Section, visit this page.

There are also employment opportunities in the Department of Energy (even for those right of school!) For more information about those jobs, visit this page.

 

Average salary:

Energy law is one of the most profitable areas of law. In the oil and coal industry, lawyers averaged $207,370 in 2012 (Alyson). Note that other sub-areas may not be as profitable, and salaries vary greatly depending on whether you work as in-house counsel and, if so, what size company you work for. Job-search websites indicated an overall average of closer to $115,000. Also, if you work for the government, your salary will likely be lower than if you are working for a law firm or energy company.

 

Would you like this practice area?

If you have a passion for how our natural resources are used, you might enjoy this area of law. You must be extremely science savvy and tech-savvy to succeed in energy and natural resource law. If you don’t have a background in science and you never enjoyed science growing up, this is probably not the area of law for you.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Rising Above the Storm: Climate Risk Disclosure and Its Current and Future Relevance to the Energy Sector (Nowiski)

“With the growing awareness of the financial consequences caused by the physical impacts of climate change and the need to account for future risks and opportunities of transitioning to a low-carbon economy, institutional investors and stakeholders increasingly are calling on publicly traded companies to provide enhanced climate risk disclosure in their financial reporting. The lack of standardized and mandatory climate risk reporting no longer is regarded solely as an environmental or social governance issue, but one that impacts future global financial stability. The energy sector, for the most part, has resisted calls for enhanced financial regulation of climate risk disclosure…” Read more

New Regulation for the Power Generation and Gas Industries in Mexico: the Possibilities for Foreign Investors (Lopez-Velarde)

“The natural gas and electricity industries represent two of the most important industries in the Mexican economy. These economic sectors were finally opened for private participation either national or foreign. The energy reform initiated with the modifications of the Mexican Constitution in December 2013, and continued with the laws of the congress that implemented the new constitutional mandate in August 2014. Since 1994, Mexico has become one of the largest producers of electricity through natural gas in the world. However, Mexico needs to address various challenges in both the natural gas and the electricity industries, due to lack of infrastructure.” Read more

New York’s Denial of Water Quality Certification for Three FERC-Authorized Pipelines: Flagrant Fiat or Valid Veto (Stanford and Weiler)

“This article examines the legal tension between two federal statutes – the Natural Gas Act (NGA), which vests the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) with exclusive jurisdiction over interstate natural gas pipelines, and the Clean Water Act (CWA), which addresses water pollution and under which states implement federal law. In particular, the FERC regulates pipeline market entry by issuing, under NGA section 7(c), a certificate of public convenience and necessity authorizing the construction of new facilities. But a state regulatory agency, acting under CWA section 401 can effectively “veto” the certificate by refusing to certify that the construction and operation of the permitted project would not violate the state’s water quality standards.” Read more

Entertainment Law

Entertainment law overlaps with many other legal practice areas. While entertainment lawyers get to represent people skilled in artistic pursuits, such as music, acting, and film to name a few, they must have a great deal of knowledge about areas such as employment and labor law, contract law, tax law, and intellectual property law.

While you may want to get into entertainment law if you have always been a creative and artistic person, it is important to realize that this practice area involves a lot of paperwork and negotiation. It might not be as glamorous as it sounds, but you will get to see the important impact law has on the creative and artistic process.

Important note: sports law and entertainment law are often combined.

 

Education and Background:

This is an area of law where it is as much “who you know” as “what you know.” Networking to find opportunities is essential. Having a background in business may be helpful as you will be managing many business aspects of whatever creative pursuits your clients undertake.

As you try to get your foot in the door to the entertainment law industry, you may want to consider joining the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers.

If you are interested in learning more about the problems an entertainment lawyer might have to deal with, try reading “All You Need to Know About the Music Business” by Donald S. Passman. Though this book is geared toward the music industry specifically, it provides valuable information for anyone interested in the business and legal logistics of how entertainment industries operate.

 

Getting a job:

Do not expect to immediately get a job in this area out of law school.

Because entertainment law pertains to, well…entertainment, it is important to realize that most entertainment law jobs will be in entertainment hotspots. So, New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville are common places to find jobs within this area of practice.

  • Large firms may have one or two people who specialize in entertainment law
  • Small firms located in cities considered hotspots for entertainment may specialize in this area
  • Entertainment companies may hire in-house counsel

Because this is a more niche area of the law, you may find yourself working more generally in other areas of law and occasionally getting to focus on entertainment law. If you specialize in entertainment law alone, you will likely pick an “area within an area”. That is, you may choose to focus on music, film, television, video games, or some other area of entertainment. This will depend in large part on the opportunities available in your location. Realize that you probably will not get to specialize in entertainment law right out of school. You will likely practice some other areas first, gain experience and work your way up within a company to build connections and find an opportunity, and then eventually slide into the more niche area. This is not necessarily a bad thing! As an entertainment lawyer, you must be well-versed in many different areas of law anyway, so experience can only benefit you.

 

Average salary:

The average salary of an entertainment lawyer is quite standard for lawyers in general. However, that doesn’t accurately show the HUGE variation in salary possible. You may represent someone in Hollywood and bring in millions each year. Or, you might represent a country artist who sings at the local karaoke bar. Again, being in this area of law all comes down to “who you know”. It is also important to note that some entertainment lawyers may charge clients a percentage-based fee.

 

Would you like this practice area?

Strengths/Weaknesses: If you have strong negotiation skills and are good with people, this will be a worthwhile area for you.

Likes/Dislikes: You must like to work in a unique and fast-paced environment and enjoy collaborating with others. You should enjoy meeting new people and networking.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

10 Questions: Magician-turned-lawyer helps make legal problems disappear (Davis)

“One magician-specific issue involves confidentiality agreements/[nondisclosure agreements]. When a magician decides, for whatever reason, to share a technique or routine with other magicians for a price, the magician often holds workshops. They usually cost more than what you’d pay for a legal conference, and participating requires signing a confidentiality agreement. I draft NDAs that spell out not only what the attendees will learn and receive at the workshop and the price, but also how they must keep the information confidential and precisely where they may use the learned information. The magicians attending have to be able to use the tricks at least in some of their performances because otherwise, what’s the point? But there can be carve-outs—like you can’t post video on the internet, you cannot perform the material on television or in certain geographic regions. You also are forbidden from discussing the material on magician forums or websites.” Read more

In dueling suits, Kanye West alleges contract ‘servitude,’ while music publisher claims deal breach (Weiss)

“Music publisher EMI has sued Kanye West for alleged breach of contract after the rapper filed his own suit referring to the expansive deal as “servitude” and asserting that it could bar his retirement. One of the disputes in the two lawsuits is whether California or New York law governs, report the Hollywood Reporter and USA Today. West says the contract he signed in 2003 is a contract for personal services under California law that can last no more than seven years.” Read more

At least 8 theaters drop ‘Mockingbird’ productions after producer of newer play threatens suit (Weiss)

“At least eight theater companies throughout the United States have canceled productions of To Kill a Mockingbird because of litigation threats from the producer of a newer version of the play on Broadway. The New York Times report includes an interview with 11-year-old Olivia Mongelli, who was cast as Scout in a Dayton production of the play. Mongelli said the actors learned the play would be shut down during a rehearsal. “Everyone onstage was just in shock,” Olivia said. “I just sat there for a second and said, ‘Is this a joke?’ ” Both the old and new versions of the play are based on the book by Harper Lee, who died in 2016. The older version, written by Christopher Sergel, has been staged for decades and was being used by the theater companies receiving the cease-and-desist letters.” Read more

 

Entertainment Lawyer Spotlight:

Patti Jones is an entertainment lawyer for her entertainment law firm, the Law Offices of Patti Jones. She also has an of counsel affiliation with Sennott, Williams & Rogers, a newly formed boutique entertainment law firm. Patti is a go-getter who loves to inspire students.

Patti’s interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  27 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  Suffolk Law School. I was a music teacher before I went to law school. My background is in teaching choral and vocal music and musical theatre. I studied music and French in college. I also worked for a French food company but decided I didn’t want to be in business and wanted to do something else. Even though my background is in the arts, I didn’t go to law school with the intent of becoming an entertainment lawyer. My intent was just to be a lawyer, to improve my overall employability, and then take it from there. I wrote a Master’s thesis on Mose Allison, which got me interested in the music world. I graduated in a recession, so to get my initial clients, I had to go out and find bands.

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  I take care of literary authors, some Indie film, TV, music, and I do a lot of trademark work. I teach at two law schools as well. When I work on trademark applications, I teach my clients how to work with them. I don’t do litigation; I’m typically teaching my clients how to use the trademark so they don’t have to go to an expert. One of my projects is acquiring the rights from a book and publisher to create a musical. I represent the producer, and this has been very challenging because the venues she is looking at are academic/classical environments, not Broadway or something like that. I draft documents, talk to clients, talk with trademark branding people, I talk to the PTO and collect things to send over to them, and it is just really different every day. There is nobody giving me things to do, so I determine what I do when.

Q: Do you deal with difficult/emotional people?

A:  Because my people are all creators, they are by nature emotional people. Their job is to represent emotion in their art forms. A lot of times people come to me when it is too late because they don’t necessarily understand aspects other than the artistic side.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  My job is more about bringing people together with respect to something they love and believe in. Whether it is a TV show or a book deal or protecting characters in a book by trademark, it’s always something they are passionate about. I love being able to help people with their dreams.

I had one client who said “Happy Mother’s Day” to me and I mentioned I wasn’t a mother. And he said, “you are the mother of dreams,” and I almost cried.

I also don’t have to deal with the court system, which I am very thankful for. Before, I had six years on and off going to court, and I hated it. Now, in this work, you don’t feel like you are stepping on people’s toes. We have good relationships and a real community in the entertainment area. It is competitive, however. The only time I go to court now is with minors to discuss their contracts with the judges.

Q: What do you like about your job/practice area?

A: I’ve always had great people to work with. I also love that I have the ability to help young people starting out in this area. I enjoy the flexibility I have.

Q: What do you not like about your job/practice area?

A:  I wish I were busier! Sometimes when you work for yourself, you have to create the work for yourself.

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a lawyer in your practice area?

A:  They first have to have an interest in an area of entertainment and should be passionate about that particular interest. Whether it is from a fan’s perspective or someone who has been actively participating in that art form, involvement helps. Just learn as much as possible about that area that you love. If it’s dance, learn all about dance. If it’s photography, learn all about photography. Then, go online and find out what forums there are for people involved in that area of law. Wherever possible take classes in that area so you can learn as much as you can. Make sure you take negotiations and trial practice too! Those are just incredibly important classes. Realize entertainment law may not be your strength. Find out who you are and what you are good at. Look what your skill sets are and what your background is. Go where you love the topic and just try things.

Q: What other comments do you have to add about your practice area?

A: I love my work, am passionate about it, and have no intention of quitting. I’ve always waited for the Michael Jackson of the industry to walk through my door though… but I’m still waiting, so I can’t quit.

I don’t recommend this area of law for the faint of heart.

– Patti Jones

Conclusion:

Become well-versed in multiple areas of law. Not only will you probably practice something before entertainment law, but you will also appreciate having experience in other areas once you start your job as an entertainment lawyer and need to know all about contracts, IP law, and employment law. You may have to go out and find business as an entertainment lawyer; learn how to create work for yourself!

Environmental Law

According to Arthur J. Wright, Oil and Gas Practice Group Leader at Thompson & Knight, “Environmental law is what you may not do; natural resources law is what you may do and how to do it” (Wright). Environmental law is relatively new; most regulations have been created in the past couple of decades. Originally, environmental law was intended to help someone who was directly harmed by another person’s property use. Now, environmental law is evolving to protect the environment as a whole. There are many, many laws related to the environment, of which the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act are among the most famous.

As an environmental lawyer, you might work in a solo practice, a small or large law firm, or the government. You also may provide services as in-house counsel. Within the government, there are many opportunities.

The EPA creates most federal regulations, though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management contribute. Much of the enforcement is through administrative law. There are also laws at the state level and state agencies that help protect the environment.

For some related organizations in environmental law, see this page. To see a large law firm specializing in environmental law, see this page.

Being able to work with others to negotiate and diplomatically create and enforce reasonable regulations is essential. Strong speaking skills are essential because many environmental lawyers are in court frequently.

For considerations as to whether environmental law is worth pursuing, check out this article.

Equine Law

As you might imagine, those working in equine law deal with horse-related legal matters; this can be quite broad since it is anything, “related to all aspects of horses, horse-related activities and industries, horse businesses, horse organizations, and horse facilities” (Equine Law – Guide to Equestrian Law).

Naturally, if horses have always been a passion of yours, this could be a good area for you. Additionally, if you want to take on emotionally and financially-charged legal situations, this may be the challenging area of law you are seeking. If you know anything about horses, you’ll realize that when there are disputes over them, the disputes can be as intense as child-custody disputes. Moreover, horses are expensive and require special expertise in dealing with them. The equine business continues to grow in popularity, with horse racing attracting particular attention. Knowing a lot about horses is critical to being successful in this area of law. This is an area of law that will always keep you on your toes!

 

Education and Background:

Albany Law School offers a one of a kind program in Equine, Racing, and Gaming Law at The Saratoga Institute for Equine, Racing, and Gaming Law. See their website for more details. If you know equine law is the area of law you would like to someday practice, a degree from Albany Law School can help you achieve that goal.

If you have a background with horses, are enrolled in a law school, and are simply looking to get more involved with equine law, consider becoming a member of the American College of Equine Attorneys. Their website states, “Whether you are a law student interested in Equine law, an experienced business/corporate/tax/estate planning or litigation lawyer practicing in the Equine Law area or a rider, owner, breeder, trainer or other equine participant, you will find valuable resources and on this website tools here to help you grow and develop your career or to simply find a lawyer to represent you in your equine related matters” (A Legal Resource for the Equine Industry).

If you want to read up on equine law case news, check out Horse Authority’s Equine Law Page.

 

Getting a job:

The ease of finding a job in equine law will vary by geography. Yvonne Ocrant (see interview below) says it is sort of like how, “if you want to focus on the ski industry, I don’t think you can be in Florida.” However, she points out that although it may be difficult to find a job in locations where the practice is not as easily accessible, it is still possible if you are willing to travel. For equine law, that might mean living in a city but traveling long distances to visit countryside farms. Yvonne states, “You go where the clients are”.  She says it is important to remain flexible so your clients know they can trust you and know that you are willing to go the extra mile for them (literally).

Further, having a law degree and a love for horses does not automatically mean that you can be an equine lawyer. Often, a law student’s first job after graduation is working for a firm that they interned for during law school. Unless you worked at a large firm that had a specialized equine practice group, and you have such an extensive background working with horses that they want you to work there immediately after graduation, realize that you will probably spend many years working in other areas of law before you can specialize in equine law. During this time, you will have to keep up with the equine industry. Smaller firms often have more generalized lawyers; if you end up working for a small firm, equine law may be a small piece of what you do, which you can focus on more over time.

Statistics show that the horse industry directly contributes around $50 billion to the US economy and results in a total contribution of about $122 billion (American Horse Council). There are estimated to be around 7.2 million horses in the US, with the states having the most being Texas, California, and Florida respectively (American Horse Council). With that in mind, the American College of Equine Attorneys states that they have, “in excess of 100 attorney fellows” as members (A Legal Resource for the Equine Industry). This indicates that the total number of equine attorneys practicing in the US is quite low despite the size of the industry.

Overall, your background really must make you a “horse person” and you must build relationships within the tight-knit horse community. You not only need to know exactly how the industry works, but you must also constantly involve yourself in it. Your clients will ask you about your horses. Don’t have any? Then equine law is probably not for you.

 

Average salary:

Salaries vary widely based on experience. Payscale statistics indicate that the average starting salary for an equine lawyer is $45,433, while an experienced lawyer may earn up to $152,437 (Hills). This is not an area of law that people tend to get into for the money; choose this area if you are passionate about it.

 

Would you like this practice area?

Strengths/Weaknesses: Are you good at dealing with emotional situations? Do you perform well under pressure? Can you handle conflict and calmly resolve high-stakes disputes? Equine law might be for you. Do you not have much background knowledge and experience with horses? Do you struggle with time management? Do you find it difficult to stay focused and organized when your tasks are constantly changing? Maybe consider another area.

Likes/Dislikes: Obviously, you should be extremely passionate about horses. In addition, you must be passionate about researching the horse industry. If you dislike reading the news, networking, or getting out in the community and meeting new people, this might not be the right area for you to practice. If you love to travel, talk with people who have similar interests as you, and have your day-to-day tasks be constantly varied, you might enjoy equine law.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

The Purpose of the Equine Acts (Ocrant)

“Lawsuits are filed before you can ask what happened and who did what to whom. Unfortunately, no one is completely immune from lawsuits, especially in the horse industry. Despite taking all feasible safety measures, there are always “built-in” dangers while working with or around horses. The Illinois and Wisconsin Equine Activity Liability Acts (the “Equine Acts”) encourage horse related activities by protecting those providing equine activities from liability resulting out of horse-related injuries.” Read more

Equestrian helmet laws: Are you in or out? (Ocrant)

“The dangerous nature of equestrian activities and the need for increased safety measures has become a hot topic over the past several years with accidents including crashes on the race track, falls on cross country and, perhaps most notably, the fall of former Olympic dressage rider Courtney King-Dye without wearing a helmet and leaving her permanently brain damaged.” Read more

Absolute Insurer Rule for Trainers Unconstitutional: Kentucky Court (Horse Authority Team)

“A Kentucky court finds that the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission’s absolute insurer rule for trainers is unconstitutional. The totality of the ruling could impact future drug and medication guidelines and due process for horse show association members. Racehorse trainer H. Graham Motion and the owner of Kitten’s Point appealed the Commission’s sanction to the Franklin Circuit Court. The horse tested positive for a trace amount of the muscle relaxant methocarbamol which exceeded the allowable limit. The KHRC suspended Motion for five days, imposed a fine, and ordered the horse’s owner to forfeit a $90,000 purse.” Read more

 

Equine Lawyer Spotlight:

Yvonne C. Ocrant is a partner at Hinshaw & Culbertson where she focuses on equine law. Yvonne is happy she chose a practice area that she is so passionate about, and she recommends that others also find something they truly love. Law students would do well to listen to Yvonne’s words of wisdom; as she says, something you love doesn’t feel like work! When asked what she likes least about her job, she (somewhat) jokingly replied, “Dealing with crazy people! The horses are great; the people are nuts.”

Yvonne’s interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A: 20 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A: DePaul College of Law

Q: In what practice area(s) do you practice?

A:  Primarily equine law, but also some general commercial litigation representing companies in employment matters. Sometimes I outsource to other people at the firm for other areas. Basically, I represent companies.

Q: What size is your firm?

A: 450 lawyers

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A: The underlying theme is that no day scheduled is ever your own. I return client phone calls and emails. I appear in court. I write briefs and do research. Sometimes I have phone conversations with opposing counsel. Then, at the end of the day, I enter time for billing. I usually go to court about twice a week, but it depends on the time of year. Many jurisdictions in Illinois recognize the time constraints we are under and allow us to do telephone appearances in court so long as we have permission ahead of time to call in.

Q: Do you deal with emotional issues or clients?

A: In equine law, horses as a subject matter are a lot like children, so they can create very emotionally charged situations. These situations are also financially charged as well, so they are doubly emotional. Timing is an issue in equine law, unlike many real estate matters or property disputes. With horses, the horse still must be taken care of even during the ownership, care, or treatment dispute, and so everything needs to be timely.

Q: What do you think about practicing in other areas of law before deciding on one?

A: Often, you don’t specialize when you are in law school and right after. Or, you don’t focus on or enjoy what you are practicing. But, sometimes you just take the first job you can get. I think it is very rare that law students focus on an area and then get that as their first job. I always caution students not to turn away an offer. This is for two reasons: 1) you gain experience and 2) the day to day activities may teach you what you don’t want. Especially for students who come into big firms, it is essential to circle around different practice areas. It’s just as important to find out what you don’t want to do as it is to find out what you do want to do.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A: This isn’t really the norm because a lot is out of the office going to farms and seeing the sites where the action happens. On average I probably work 60-70 hours a week, but I maybe only bill 40-50.

Q: What advice would you give to students thinking about becoming an equine lawyer?

A: A lot of it has to do with reading articles, both online and published. Keep up with things in the industry that you are interested in. In equine law, there’s industry trade journals, horse shows, articles about horse-related topics, and cases that you can follow. My number one piece of advice for anyone going into any area is, “love what you do.” And if you love the area, stay on top of what is going on in the area. Be a player in the industry and know what is going on for all of the hot topics!

 

Love what you do! Make sure the subject matter is something you are genuinely interested in. If you don’t like it, it’s not carved in stone. Venture out and find something new that you like!

– Yvonne C. Ocrant

 

Conclusion:

If you love horses, great – but that isn’t enough to be a successful equine lawyer. This area of law requires constant involvement with, and awareness of, the horse industry itself. Your clients will expect you to know not only about the law but what it is like to be a “horse person”. If you’re up for this challenge, equine law might be for you.

Estate Planning, Probate, Trust

Estate planning is the process someone uses to plan for the distribution of property, real and personal, upon his or her death. To dispose of wealth, an individual usually uses a will or trust. Trusts are sometimes preferred because they avoid probate, the legal process related to the distribution of assets for a will. In either case, however, an individual wants to minimize the issues that may arise upon his or her death. That is what estate planning lawyers are intended to help with. In many cases, estate planning lawyers are working with the elderly, so this is an area partly covered by elder law. Estate planning also overlaps with tax law to a great extent. Many of the laws in estate planning are state laws, so they vary widely.

Unfortunately, this is a difficult process and time in someone’s life. Estate planning usually means meeting with many people in addition to lawyers, such as accountants, financial counselors, and life insurance representatives. It can be stressful to decide who will benefit from the estate upon death. In addition to figuring out the distribution of assets, the individual may be taking care of related matters, such as making funeral arrangements. Though someone might have a general idea that he or she wants a brother, daughter, cousin, etc. to benefit from the estate, most people have no idea where to even start when it comes to the actual documents of estate planning.

The main issues estate planning lawyers will be helping with are wills, trust, health care directives (also known as living wills), and financial power of attorney. Attorneys litigate cases if they go to probate court.

 

Education and Background:

Internships, on-the-job experience, and LL.M. programs are all great ways to gain more experience in this area of law.

The University of Miami offers an LL.M. in Estate Planning.

Boston University offers an LL.M. in Tax with an Estate Planning Certificate.

NYLS offers a summer intensive in Estate Planning, and the classes may then be eligible for their LL.M. in Taxation.

Some other schools that offer LL.M. programs in Estate Planning are Golden Gate University, John Marshall Law School, Western New England School of Law, and more.

Having a background in tax, finance, accounting, business, or a related field will make understanding the state and federal laws much easier.

The American Bar Association has a Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section to join.

 

Getting a job:

Because of the large percentage of the population at retirement age, estate planning lawyers are increasingly in demand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be an estimated 15% growth in the financial advising profession between 2016 and 2026 (much faster than average). Estate planning lawyers mostly work in law firms of any size.

 

Average salary:

According to a current search on Law Crossing, estate planning lawyers make about $117,813.

 

Would you like this practice area?

You must be numbers-oriented to understand the financial distribution involved in estate planning. However, you must also be a strong writer and a good communicator. Soft skills are important because your clients are in highly stressful situations, and you need to be able to offer them assurance, professionalism, and a trusting relationship. You also need to be able to think in the long-term.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

4 Reasons Estate Planning Is So Important (Fuscaldo)

“It seems like many people devote more time to planning a vacation, which car to buy, or even where to eat dinner than they do to estate planning—deciding who will inherit their assets after they’re gone. It may not be as fun to think about as booking a trip or checking out restaurant reviews, but without estate planning you can’t choose who gets everything that you worked so hard for.” Read more

Can You Leave Your Social Security to Your Spouse in an Estate Plan? (E.A. Goodman Law, LLC)

“A common concern of many estate planning clients is how their earned Social Security benefits work with their estate plans. Given that these benefits are often a key component of retirement income for many individuals, it is a good question to raise. This article offers a brief overview of how Social Security benefits factor into a comprehensive estate plan.” Read more

Charitable Giving in a Will or Trust – Can Children Contest a Parent’s Wishes? (HG.org)

“A person that leaves charitable funds to an organization may need to utilize the services of an estate planning lawyer to ensure that the funds are inaccessible to heirs of a will or beneficiaries of a trust. These funds are often not contestable as the express wishes of the estate owner, but the children or spouses surviving this person may attempt to acquire them.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

If you are mathematically oriented but also love working with people and seeing the impact you have on their lives, you might like estate planning law.

Family Law

Do you have a genuine desire to help people? Are you looking for an area of law where you can see the direct impact you have on people’s lives? Family law is comprised of many different areas, all of which involve solving problems that families have in order to help them. While divorce law may be practiced separately, it is a subset of family law. Some of the issues family law attorneys may deal with are:

  • Adoption
  • Alimony
  • Child support
  • Child custody
  • Divorce
  • Equitable distribution
  • Guardianship
  • Prenuptial agreements
  • Restraining orders
  • Separation

 

Education and Background:

Take as many family law classes as you can, and then start work for a law firm that specializes in family law while you are still in law school. Volunteering with non-profits that provide family law related services may also be helpful to secure a job in this area, especially if you are still in high school or an undergraduate program but know you want to do family law. Once you become a family lawyer, you may want to network with others in your field. Joining the American Bar Association’s Section of Family Law may help you network with other people in this practice area as well as provide you with valuable resources. You may also want to consider looking into the International Society of Family Law, American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, or the International Academy of Family Lawyers. Additionally, the National Academy of Family Law Attorneys provides helpful resources to look through, and each year it awards the best family law attorneys in each state with an honorable “Top 10” mention. If you want to connect with the best family law attorneys in your state, that’s the resource you need.

Many people don’t realize the extent to which numbers come into play in family law. If you enjoy looking through records and bank statements and are a skilled organizer, you might like this area of law. Backgrounds in accounting or finance could even translate well into this area of law.

 

Getting a job:

Family law requires a high degree of trust. You are much more likely to get a job with a small firm that specializes in family law than a large firm that just has one or two people working in this area. The law varies a lot by state, and clients like to know that their family lawyer has spent years dealing with local cases just like theirs. Luckily, there’s an abundance of small firms practicing family law in almost every city and town in the US. This is a “safe” area of law that will never go away and has steady business. Once you start working as a family law attorney, however, you will find that there is a great deal of local competition. You may struggle more to find clients than to find a job.

In addition to working at a small law firm, you might find work with a nonprofit legal services organization or with the government.

 

Average salary:

At the time this was written, the average salary for a family law attorney was $71,587. Although significantly lower than other areas of law, this is typically not an area a lawyer practices for the money but because they enjoy it.

 

Would you like this practice area?

Strengths/Weaknesses: One of the most important skills you must possess is being a strong listener. If you are good at connecting with others and building interpersonal relationships, you will be a great family law attorney! If you are the type of person whose friends always come to you to discuss their problems, realize that it is because they trust you, which is exactly the kind of personality you need to have to become a family law attorney! Being able to maintain an even temperament and remain calm in stressful situations is essential to this area of law. Your friends likely describe you as “compassionate” and a “communicator” if you are well suited to family law.

Likes/Dislikes: Do you hate drama, dealing with difficult people, and listening to people talk about their feelings? You probably shouldn’t go into family law in that case. If you like working with families, solving problems, and taking on challenging emotional situations, this might be a good area for you to practice.

 

Consider whether these articles by Turco Legal interest you:

Co-Parents Paying for College Expenses

“Planning for college expenses is hard enough, but it gets even more challenging for those who co-parent. Among other expenses related to the maintenance and welfare of a child during a divorce or child support proceeding, the court sometimes orders a party to pay college costs. In a related article, we wrote that in Massachusetts, a party may be required to continue paying child support when his or her child heads off to college. Under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 208, Section 28, parents have an ongoing duty to support a child who is at least 18 but not yet 21 if the child maintains a legal domicile with a parent and is principally dependent upon that parent for support.” Read more

Health Insurance Issues in Divorce and Custody

“Health care coverage is also a concern is when dealing with child custody issues. It is necessary to determine which parent will be responsible for providing the child or children with health insurance. Similar to spousal health insurance, Massachusetts family law in conjunction with the state insurance laws governs the question regarding health insurance coverage for a child. Note that while a judge must make these decisions in conformance with the laws, the judge will also consider several factors in determining which parent should provide the health insurance for the child.” Read more

The Best Interest of the Child Standard

“When embroiled in a divorce, children play an important factor in many decisions such as child custody and child support. As these issues can greatly impact a family, our family law attorneys educate parents and soon-to-be-divorcees on how the court views these important issues. Child custody decisions can create a lot of tension for children, divorcing parents, and the overall family dynamic. Our family law attorneys know how daunting this can be. Possibly, you won’t be seeing your children every day, and the amount of time you have with them is becoming uncertain. In this post, we will be highlighting the “best interest of the child” standard. This is an integral part of the court’s decision and a common standard at the heart of child custody decisions.” Read more

 

Family Law Attorney Spotlight:

Shannon Rand is a divorce and family law attorney for Turco Legal. She is an excellent communicator who is extremely talented at handling emotionally stressful situations.

Shannon’s Interview

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  20 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  Northeastern University School of Law

Q: In what practice area(s) do you practice?  If more than one, what’s the percentage of each?

A:   Family Law 100%. Previously: Child Support, Domestic Violence Family Law, Disability Law and Medical Malpractice.

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  Small

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  Multiple meetings whether in person or on the phone; strategizing; preparing correspondence to clients and opposing counsel; drafting agreements.

Q: Do you deal with difficult/emotional people?

A:  Yes

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  There is a lot of personal interaction with clients.  It is a lot of problem solving and negotiating.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A:  40-50

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A:  The positive work environment in the office and the team mentality.

Q: What do you like least about your job/practice area?

A:   Unreasonable clients that are indecisive.  I also do not like judges that take advantage of wearing the robe and speak condescendingly to litigants and attorneys.

Q: You would be a happy and successful lawyer in this practice area if you…

A:   …are sociable, like helping people, are good at public speaking, and are a problem solver.

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a lawyer in your practice area?

A:  Family law is very fact driven and depends a lot on the judge assigned to the case.  Learn as much as possible about the judges’ preferences and leanings before you decide on a strategy for your case.

Q: What other comments do you have to add about your practice area?

A:  Because it is a highly emotional time for people, if you are not a people person, this is not the area of law for you.

 

Conclusion:

It takes a certain type of person to be a family lawyer – compassionate, good at listening, and skilled at handling dramatic and emotional situations. This is not the most lucrative area of law, but at the end of the day, you can walk away knowing you truly helped families solve their problems.

Fashion Law

Enjoy learning about what’s trending today? Do you like to travel a lot and learn about various cultures? Do you want to help businesses protect their unique designs? Want to be like Elle Woods and be both a successful lawyer and a fashionista? Fashion law might be for you!

It’s not necessarily as glamorous as you think. There certainly is a lot of typical business work that needs to be taken care of from the legal side. Fordham University School of Law has identified four “pillars” of fashion law. These clearly identify the essentials of what this practice area entails (Fashion Law).

  • Intellectual property
  • Business and finance, including areas such as investment, employment law, and real estate
  • International trade and government regulation, including sustainability, privacy, and issues related to wearable technology
  • Consumer culture and civil rights

 

Clearly, fashion lawyers need to have a vast expanse of knowledge in a variety of areas to help their clients.

Have you ever wondered what celebrities do if counterfeits of their products are sold on the Internet? Better call a fashion lawyer! If this interests you, read on.

 

Education and Background:

As previously noted, Fordham Law School has a fantastic fashion law program. You can take J.D., LL.M. or MSL classes from their Fashion Law Institute.

Here are some other schools that offer some sort of fashion curriculum or organization:

Thinking about working in fashion law, but your school doesn’t offer classes in it and you don’t know if you want to get an LL.M.? Try the Fashion Law Institute’s summer intensive bootcamp! Their website states, “Fashion Law Bootcamp is open to lawyers, fashion industry professionals, law students, and others in the U.S. and abroad who are interested in broadening their knowledge of the law and business of fashion” (Fashion Law Boot Camp). The program is eligible for CLE credit.

Loyola Law School also offers a weeklong summer intensive program. They even have an option for live-stream and download instead of actual attendance.

 

Getting a job:

The fashion industry has taken off over the past few years. Technology has led to smaller designers finding a place in the world of fashion, and social media has led to more awareness of the industry. More technology has also led to more rip-offs of legitimate brands and an ever-increasing need for fashion lawyers.

According to The Balance Careers, your clients may include, “designers, fashion houses, distributors, manufacturers, modeling agencies, retailers, and photographers” (Kane). You may be able to find a large law firm with a specialized fashion law team. Fox Rothschild is particularly well known for being such a firm. Apparel brands could also hire you. Under Armour, for example, believes in fiercely protecting its designs and intellectual property, which keeps its fashion lawyers quite busy! Again, although growing, this is a niche area. Do not expect it to be easy to find a job. There are a handful of law firms in the US with fashion lawyers. However, if you have a strong background in fashion, and particularly if you have gotten an LL.M. in it, there will be opportunities open to you.

 

Average salary:

This can be quite varied. However, intellectual property law in general is one of the highest-paying areas of law. Since fashion law is a subset of that, expect your pay to be slightly higher than an average lawyer’s salary.

 

Would you like this practice area?

Strengths/Weaknesses: Ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know”? Well, you need to be strong in both areas to succeed in fashion law. You must have vast knowledge about many different areas, be great at networking, and of course be incredibly creative at problem solving! If you are the type of person without a creative bone in your body, this is probably not the area of law for you.

Likes/Dislikes: If your favorite subject growing up was math or science, you may want to consider a different area. If your favorite subject was art, this is probably a good fit for you. If you want to spend every day in court, you probably should not become a fashion lawyer. If analyzing designs and focusing on nitty-gritty details is something that makes you thrive, this could be the area for you. Always had the travel bug? Many lawyers in this area are constantly traveling, which may be important to take into account!

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Kylie Minogue Cannot Block Eyewear Company from “Kylie” Trademark, Says EUIPO Appeals Board (TFL)

“The Kylie v. Kylie fight has moved on from legal representatives for Kylie Minogue and Kylie Jenner. On the heels of a highly-publicized trademark showdown between the Aussie singer and the 21-year reality star-slash-makeup mogul, Minogue has been waging a fight against Saldum Ventures in an attempt to block the registration of “Kylie” for use of sunglasses by the Spanish company, which owns an growing array of e-commerce brands.” Read more

UGG’s Parent Company Names Target in New Lawsuit for Selling Lookalike Footwear (TFL)

“The litigation spree that UGG’s parent company Deckers has initiated against the makers of lookalike UGG boots has a new case in the mix. Three years after filing suit against Target for allegedly offering up copies of UGG’s Bailey Button boots, Deckers has filed a new suit against Target, accusing the Minneapolis-headquartered retailer of copying the same trade dress and patent-protected boot and selling them in “bad faith.”” Read more

Kanye West’s Inclusion in Yeezy Supplier Lawsuit is “Baseless,” Counsel Argues (TFL)

“Kanye West is angling to get himself out of the lawsuit filed against him by a fabric supplier for his Yeezy brand. Earlier this year, Japanese textile firm Toki Sen-I Co. filed suit against Yeezy Apparel LLC and West for allegedly failing to make good on a $600,000-plus contract they signed, and for operating Yeezy Apparel in a fraudulent way, namely, as “a mere shell and sham without capital, assets, membership interests, or members other than Kanye … intended, conceived [of], and used by Kanye as a device to avoid individual liability.”” Read more

 

Fashion Lawyer Spotlight:

Leonard N. Budow is chair of the Fashion Law Practice Group at Fox Rothschild. He frequently travels to Europe and has a deep knowledge of everything fashion-related. At the end of his interview, when asked what other comments he had to add about his practice area, he simply stated, “It’s great!” Leonard could not have been more positive about fashion law, a promising sign for anyone passionate about working in that area.

Leonard’s interview

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A: 39 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A: Boston University

Q: What practice area(s) have you practiced?

A: Fashion

Q: What size is your firm?

A: Fox is over 950 lawyers

Q/A: Describe an average day at work…

Do you go to court? Never

Do you work with others? Yes

Do you talk on the phone or write emails? Yes

Do you draft documents? Yes

Do you manage others? Yes

Do you deal with difficult people? Yes

Q: Did you practice in any other practice areas before deciding on this one?

A: No

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A: 60-85

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A: Everything

Q: What do you least like about your job/practice area?

A: Not applicable

Treat the law as a métier, work harder than everyone else

– Leonard N. Budow

 

Conclusion:

People might joke that you are trying to be the next Legally Blonde, but fashion law is a growing area that requires expansive knowledge and skill. It’s a much-needed niche area that requires incredible creativity to succeed in.

Food and Drugs

Anyone who had to read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair in high school was probably shocked and horrified at the depiction of meat production a century ago. In fact, Sinclair, who had intended to bring attention to the plight of immigrant workers, famously remarked, “I aimed at the public’s heart and by accident I hit it in the stomach” (Greenspan). Sinclair’s depiction of the stockyards and slaughterhouses was disgusting, and it brought to the public’s attention that it was possible they were eating some combination of toxic chemicals, rat droppings, dirt, and rotten meat. This eventually sparked changes in the food industry that were long needed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted the original investigation, upon which it claimed that Sinclair was lying and exaggerating. President Teddy Roosevelt secretly sent in other people for a more truthful investigation. After finding that Sinclair’s claims were in fact mostly true, and meat was being produced in filthy conditions, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act in 1906. This was the start of consumer protection in the food industry.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is part of the US Department of Health and Human Services. The areas the FDA regulates are:

  • Food
  • Drugs
  • Medical Devices
  • Radiation-Emitting Products
  • Vaccines, Blood, and Biologics
  • Animal and Veterinary
  • Cosmetics
  • Tobacco Products

Perhaps one of the most important public services the FDA provides is a list of recalled products. The FDA is a massive agency and has lots of job opportunities. To see their career page, click here.

Food and Drug Administration law (FDA law) is intended to make consumers safer by providing information and through regulations. The FDA relies on the authority of commerce clause of the US Constitution to regulate commercial activities between states, which includes sales of food and drugs.

 

Education and Background:

If you have a background in medicine, science, or a related field, this may be useful. Do not be intimidated if you do not have such a background, however. The best thing you can do if you think you want to become an FDA lawyer is to obtain one of their summer internships for second-year law students (these are paid!).

 

Getting a job:

Food, drugs, medical devices, cosmetics, etc. make up a huge portion of our economy. Thus, when regulating the sale of these goods is concerned, there is a great demand for lawyers to protect companies from violations of the FDA laws and to help ensure future compliance. FDA lawyers may work for firms that advise companies and litigate for them when necessary. Or, they may work directly for the companies themselves. Many large food and drug manufacturers hire in-house FDA lawyers, as do large medical device companies. Some FDA lawyers work as lobbyists for food and drug companies.

Of course, there are many opportunities within the FDA itself. These lawyers might investigate and enforce regulations or they may help to create new regulations. For more information about attorney positions with the FDA, visit this page.

This is usually not an area where lawyers choose to work by themselves or for a small firm. This is an area of law that has steady business because the industry is so huge; it is also not likely to go away or shrink in size anytime soon, so it is a “safe” area of law.

 

Average salary:

How much you make depends in large part whether you are working for the FDA or against them. Salaries will also vary widely depending on the size of the company if you are working as in-house counsel.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

FDA notifies four companies to remove 44 flavored e-liquid and hookah tobacco products from the market for not having required marketing authorization (FDA News Release)

“Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters notifying four companies that 44 flavored e-liquid and hookah tobacco products do not have the required marketing authorization, and thus cannot be legally sold in the United States. These new actions are part of the FDA’s ongoing, aggressive effort to investigate and take action against illegally marketed tobacco products amid the epidemic of youth e-cigarette use in America.” Read more

FDA clears new indications for existing Lyme disease tests that may help streamline diagnoses (FDA News Release)

“Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared for marketing four previously cleared tests with new indications to aid in the diagnosis of Lyme disease. The tests cleared today are the first time that a test has been indicated to follow a new testing paradigm in which two tests called enzyme immunoassays (EIA) are run concurrently or sequentially, rather than the current two-step process in which a separate protein test called a Western Blot must be run after the initial EIA test.” Read more

FDA suspends facility registration of Texas-based seafood producer after significant, repeated food safety violations (FDA News Release)

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced it has recently suspended the food facility registration of Topway Enterprises Inc., also doing business as Kazy’s Gourmet, of Houston, Texas. Topway now cannot sell or distribute any food into commerce. This action follows inspections conducted by the FDA and Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) earlier this year where serious sanitation issues were observed, including several samples confirming the presence of Listeria and pathogenic Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes).” Read more

 

Conclusion:

If you have a passion for protecting consumers from unsafe foods, drugs, and medical devices, this area of law is for you. Read The Jungle for a better understanding of the importance of food safety laws.

Franchise Law

Franchises are run by independent business owners who legally use a franchiser company’s secrets and intellectual property to make the business look like other franchise locations across the country. The franchisee pays the franchisor, and the franchisor has significant control over the way business is conducted. In return, the franchisee can open a business that has already been proven very successful and that customers know by name. Many large restaurant chains are franchised, for example. This is a great way for a company to grow without actually having to operate across the country. Ultimately, it is up to the individual business owner to make their location successful.

There are federal laws and regulations, state laws, and common laws related to the franchising process that franchise lawyers deal with. Franchise lawyers help their clients navigate complex business issues. There are many business-related areas that franchise lawyers must know, such as contract law and employment law. The FTC implements federal franchise laws. For more information about the FTC, see consumer law.

Franchise lawyers should be skilled at alternative dispute resolution because many business owners prefer not to litigate franchise matters.

 

Education and Background:

A background in business or any business-related area (such as marketing, accounting, finance, or economics) may be helpful because it means you are already used to working with businesses. However, any background will allow you to succeed at franchise law so long as you like to read and write — you will need to have an expansive knowledge of all of the rules and regulations concerning franchises and be able to properly advise franchisors and franchisees about these matters.

 

Getting a job:

Large franchises often employ in-house counsel rather than get help from a law firm. Those who work for law firms primarily represent the franchisee. Franchise lawyers may also work for the government to enforce regulations. For information about why it is better to get a job in-house, read this article titled “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Franchise Lawyers.”

 

Average salary:

A franchise salaries survey revealed that for franchise legal services, the average professional is making $102,822 (Johnson).

 

Would you like this practice area?

Perhaps one of the best things about franchise law is that you get to know your client’s industry very well. You also get to practice a wide variety of business-related areas and help your clients with a wide variety of different issues. You know that you are helping protect the rights of business owners who contribute a lot to our economy, which is a great feeling. This is a very collaborative environment, so while you should be good at negotiating, this is not the area of law to go into if you want aggressive debate and constant pressure from the other side. Overall, if you are looking for a well-rounded area of law, franchise law might be right for you.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Legal Considerations for Franchisors Expanding into Inner-City Markets (Daigle and Iacovino)

“Franchising as a business model largely originated in the suburbs, with companies selling franchises for units to be opened in strip malls, shopping centers, and retail plazas throughout the United States. As markets became saturated, competition grew, and demographics changed, franchisors started exploring new opportunities for growth, which involved considering or reconsidering those inner-city markets that might initially have been thought to be too expensive, too office-focused, too non-traditional, or just too risky.” Read more

The Economic Loss Doctrine: Getting Rid of the Surplusage in Franchise Case Complaints (Sallis)

“Your franchisor client has paid good money for a franchise agreement that expressly and exhaustively defines its rights and obligations and limits its exposure to damages in the event of a breach. A dispute arises under the agreement, and the franchisee sues. Despite the contractual nature of the dispute, you find yourself staring at a bevy of tort claims supposedly arising from your client’s failure to perform under the contract. Worse yet, the complaint seeks not only consequential damages but punitive damages. There may be a doctrine for that.” Read more

Injunctive Relief Pending Arbitration: The Evolving Role of Judicial Action (Conwell, Howard, and Mullin)

“From a franchisor’s perspective, arbitration is a popular means of resolving franchise disputes for many reasons. First, because of the initial cost of filing an arbitration demand, arbitration may serve as a deterrent to legal action. Second, an agreement stating that arbitration must be conducted on an “individual” basis and may not be combined with other franchisee claims is likely to deter collective action by franchisees. Individual arbitration makes it harder to assert and prove claims that the franchisor engaged in a pattern of misconduct or that it treated franchisees differently, which are the types of claims likely to increase the scope of discovery, disrupt the franchise system, and influence arbitrator opinion.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

Franchise law provides a unique way to help business owners while practicing a well-rounded profession.

Gaming Law

Gaming has always been a great way for states to bring in some extra revenue. Are you picturing a noisy, windowless casino with flashing lights and $$$? Well, with the advance of technology, online gaming has also become increasingly popular. However, there are some “gray” areas in the law, and this practice area is constantly changing as technology gets better and better and as politicians craft new legislation concerning gaming. Traditionally, gaming lawyers worked with racetracks, lotteries, and casinos on matters pertaining to gaming operations. What would you do if you wanted to go open a casino down the street? Probably consult a gaming lawyer immediately! If a lawyer chooses to focus on online gaming, however, he or she is certainly in for a bumpy ride as laws constantly shift. Over the next few years, however, expect this to be a growing industry that both boosts the economy and brings with it the need for more gaming attorneys.

For an example of what a gaming attorney might do, see this example from Ifrah Law:

“Jeff Ifrah and his team advise online casino operators, poker and fantasy sports sites, and payment processors on class action lawsuits, mergers and acquisitions, vendor and supplier issues, government investigations and criminal matters. We also serve as Special Internet Counsel for the Delaware State Lottery. The firm is known for representing clients in cases involving progressive areas of the gaming industry, such as sports betting, social gaming, skins betting, iGaming, online sweepstakes and lotteries, peer-to-peer betting and mobile gaming” (Online Gaming & Sports Betting).

If this interests you, read on!

 

Education and Background:

Not surprisingly, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has a gaming program at their William S. Boyd School of Law. It is also, “the only program of its kind offering an LL.M. in Gaming Law and Regulation covering topics in lottery, gaming regulation, sports betting, licensing, employment relations, zoning and other areas” (LL.M. in Gaming Law Program).

Not attending UNLV? The University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law offers an online course to get a certificate in Sports Wagering & Integrity. This is a great option whether or not you already have a law degree. Here’s what their website says: “Our flexible, five-course online program is designed for working professionals, including practicing lawyers, gaming industry professionals, sports industry professionals, lawmakers and regulators, and anyone interested in a career in sports gaming. B.A. is required. You do not need to apply to law school or have a legal background” (Sports Wagering & Integrity Certificate). If you already have a law degree and want to segway into a career of online sports gambling law, this may be a simple solution.

Having a background in gaming may help you understand this area of law better than the average person, especially if you are skilled with technology. A background in gaming is also sure to make this a more enjoyable area of law to practice.

 

Getting a job:

UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law lists several potential career options (Careers in Gaming Law: an Overview). These are extremely helpful to consider for anyone thinking of going into gaming law. Visit their website for more information, but here is a summary of the opportunities available:

  • Working for a casino as in-house counsel
    • A traditionalist handles day-to-day legal responsibilities for the whole casino
    • A specialist takes care of one important aspect for a large casino
    • A compliance/regulatory counsel takes care of government relations
    • Or, you can use a legal background to simply further a business or management role with a casino
  • Working for a gaming company
  • Working for a state government
    • The Governor’s office
    • State regulators; state/local legislatures
    • The Attorney General’s office
  • Working for a law firm
    • Outside counsel
    • Lobbyist
  • Native American Gaming Attorney

The gaming industry contributes $261 billion to the US economy and supports nearly 1.8 million jobs across the country (American Gaming Association). Looking at a chart of consumer spending on casino gaming alone shows a steady increase over the past 15 years, and that doesn’t take into account the rocket growth of online gaming. Thus, it is safe to guess that the number of gaming attorney jobs will increase as the industry keeps growing.

 

Average salary:

Varies widely based on the type of gaming law practiced.

 

Would you like this practice area?

Strengths/Weaknesses: Do you perform well under extreme pressure? Are you good at adapting to rapidly evolving situations? Are you good with technology and have a strong understanding of how gaming works? Great! Work better in a less dynamic, calmer environment? Are you what your friends call “old-fashioned”? This might not be the area for you.

Likes/Dislikes: You must enjoy working in a fast-paced environment and having your hobbies overlap with your job. You must enjoy industry research, as you will have to spend a great deal of your time keeping up with changes in gaming. If you don’t want to deal with time difference problems, this might not be the area for you since many clients are overseas. Learning new skills also needs to be one of your favorite things.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

New Hampshire Federal Judge Rules Wire Act Only Applies to Sports Betting – Now What? (Haggerty)

“On June 3, 2019, Judge Paul Barbadoro for the District of New Hampshire concluded in a 63-page Memorandum Opinion that the purview of the Wire Act is limited to sports wagering.  The effect of the Court’s opinion, however, may be limited in states other than New Hampshire. After determining that the plaintiffs in the case, the New Hampshire Lottery Commission and NeoPollard Interactive LLC, new Hampshire’s iLottery vendor, have standing to challenge the DOJ’s 2018 Wire Act Opinion because they have established a threat of imminent injury, the Court addresses whether the Wire Act applies beyond sports wagering.” Read more

Will Louisiana Be the Next Southern State to Permit Sports Wagering? (Duncan and Shepherd)

“The 2019 session of the Louisiana Legislature began on April 8. Senator Danny Martiny (R-Metairie) has pre-filed a bill which would authorize sports betting on a parish-by-parish basis in the same way that daily fantasy sports (DFS) was legalized last year. Even though the Louisiana Senate Judiciary B Committee was the only place in the Louisiana Legislature where sports wagering received a positive vote in 2018, things may be different this year. Why? First of all, the US Supreme Court opened the door when it struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in May 2018…” Read more

An Epic Fail: Complaint Against Fortnite Creator Based on Facts as Stale as Fruitcake (Kardell)

“Parents can get angry when their kids spend too much time or money on video games. We get it. But going after a gaming company in retaliation is probably not the best response. And doing so without actually understanding the game can result in, well, a giant waste of time, or, in a recent example, an epic fail. Last week, an angry parent filed a putative class action in California federal court against Epic Games, Inc., the maker of Fortnite. In the complaint, the angry parent alleges that the company has unfairly and deceptively lured young players into buying random features to advance in the game. The angry parent claims that Epic has developed a “predatory scheme.”” Read more

 

Online Gaming Attorney Spotlight:

Jeff Ifrah, the founding member of Ifrah Law, is renowned as an expert on gaming law. He especially enjoys advising start-ups and says it is great to be “business-oriented”.

Jeff’s interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  27 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

Q: In what practice area(s) do you practice?  If more than one, what’s the percentage of each?

A:  50% white collar matters; 50% related to gaming

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  11 lawyers plus some support staff

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  Usually in the early mornings I spend about two hours trying to catch up on news of the day in the industry. We have lots of legal resources and periodicals to read (and I use google alerts); I read blogs; I focus on white collar litigation and gaming news; and we post a blog too, so I work on that for a bit. After that, I try to catch up with what everyone in the office is working on and make sure things are going well and answer questions. We meet twice as a week as a firm so that everyone knows what is going on for all of the cases even those that they are not specifically working on. Currently, we have about 25 cases from across 15 states, and it’s all federal litigation. I review the docket sheet for each of the cases, and then I create tasks and assignments from those. Phone calls usually start around 9 am – they could be from opposing counsel, the court, regulaters, or new matters. For new matters, clients generally reach out to me, but then I refer them to the client manager.

Q: Do you deal with difficult people?

A:  Sometimes the other side can be difficult if there is a communication issue. I try not to take litigation cases personally though and just say, “I view it differently than you do”.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  I worked in a big firm for years, and it is very easy to get siloed into the office, not part of a strong team and not interacting as much with others. In our office, we all work together. For gaming, we get to deal with a lot of startup clients as well as lots of clients from Europe (although more gaming companies are moving to the US as it becomes increasingly legal). Each person at the firm specializes in certain aspects of the gaming law. No matter how young someone is, they get to interact with clients, which is certainly not the case with big firms.

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A:  I get to be business-oriented. I can help with a company’s business strategy as well as representing them in court.

Q: You would be a happy and successful gaming lawyer if you…

A:  … like technology, new frontiers, and participating and growing with a company.

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being an online gaming lawyer?

A:  A lot of people like sports, poker, video games, etc. When you’re an online gaming lawyer, your two worlds kind of collide. You’re personal and professional life are intertwined. Your hobby is now your job. It gives you a bit of an edge when something you like doing on a Sunday is something your clients do every day. It will help you understand what your client is thinking.

Q: What other comments do you have to add about your practice area?

A: You get to work with a fun topic and people who are fun. You get to work in an ever-changing environment, so you should like learning new skills.

There are lots of opportunities unique to the internet that are just starting up and finding a place. Back in the 90s, people would have laughed at you if you said more would be bought online than in-store. They would have laughed to think you would use a computer for anything more than computer programming and computer research. You’ve got to be a pioneer.

– Jeff Ifrah

 

Gaming Attorney Spotlight:

Gregory Giordano works for McDonald Carano practicing gaming law. He says if you enjoy being regularly busy representing gaming clients with respect to obtaining regulatory licenses and approvals and assisting them with regulatory compliance, you will be a happy and successful gaming lawyer.

Greg’s Interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A: 37 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A: Santa Clara University School of Law

Q: What size is your firm?

A: 50 attorneys

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A: Gaming law varies a lot. Generally, you get questions from clients on interpretation and application of gaming law. Then there’s working on gaming applications and reviewing them. I deal with gaming regulators a lot and talk on the phone with clients a lot. Sometimes I attend gaming meetings with a gaming commission.

Q: Do you go to court?

A: Never; I haven’t been in a courtroom since 1985! That’s pretty typical for gaming lawyers; we pretty much practice administrative law.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A: Well, I never do any of the kind of stuff a litigator does. It’s more like administrative and transactional law. You don’t have to be really aggressive or confrontational. It’s a much more cooperative area of the law. You are trying to facilitate and be a deal-worker. You’re not really adversarial per se. There are also very few emotional situations. A client gets upset once in a while, but it is rare.

Q: Did you practice in any other practice areas before deciding on this one?  If so, which one(s)?

A: I was a general practitioner when I first started out, then a government lawyer and a gaming regulator.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A: 50 hours a week

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a lawyer in your practice area?

A: Well, you can read a lot! Learn about it from working for an attorney who does it, or better yet go to work for a regulator and work your way up. Or, go work for the attorney general’s office with people who provide advice to regulators.

Q: What other comments do you have to add about your practice area?

A: I really enjoy it and think it is gratifying. Personal integrity is very important. If the regulators don’t trust you, you are worthless to the clients.

 

I’m helping people realize dreams, I’m a facilitator, I’m helping people with businesses, and I’m helping the US economy. It’s great. I also don’t have to go to court and deal with all that!

– Gregory Giordano

 

Conclusion:

To work in gaming law, you should be the type of person who gets a thrill from a constantly changing environment. You should have an extensive understanding of the industry and enjoy both high-pressure situations and cooperating with others.

Government Contracts

When a business sells something to a government agency, there are special laws and regulations that apply. Government contracts lawyers are there to help clients with any questions when navigating these rules to have the government as a customer. Businesses looking for a contract with the government should visit the U.S. Small Business Administration site.

A government contracts lawyer gets to help with every step of the process, from submitting a “bid,” to negotiating the agreement, to litigating any disputes that arise. Familiarity with contract law is crucial. There are job opportunities with law firms (who represent the businesses) or with the government. Large companies that specialize in products that are sold to the government may hire in-house counsel. While a specific background is not necessary, having worked for the government in the past may give you a step up in entering this career field.

In addition to taking any available classes in government contracts law, you should apply for an internship with U.S. Small Business Administration or an externship or summer associate legal honor’s program with the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The American Bar Association offers a Section of Public Contract Law. For more information about government contract law, you may also want to check out the Library of Congress’s resources.

One final important note: since you are either working for or negotiating with the government, the majority of jobs are in the D.C. area. You may find it harder to work somewhere else in the country, or you may have to travel more.

Government Relations

Government relations lawyers focus on advocacy. They represent a company, organization, or group that has certain interests, and their job is to make sure these interests are known in the government. This may mean appearing before Congress, seeking a policy change from a government agency, making sure a law or regulation includes something or conversely stopping a piece of legislation that hurts the client.

Government relation law jobs vary a lot depending on the client represented. The most important skill is understanding the legislative process involving Congress and the regulatory process with executive branch agencies. Fortune 500 companies need government relations lawyers to represent their interests. Most government relations lawyers work for huge, well-known law firms. If you want to enter this area of law, a major in politics and a job working for the government are a good background to have.

Health Law

The health care industry is incredibly broad; it includes hospitals, insurers, the people who create medical devices, and the people who actually treat patients, to name a few. There is a lot of risk involved in the health industry; correspondingly, there is a lot of regulation. This requires health lawyers to have a vast knowledge of constantly changing health laws.

Some of the important federal laws that affect the health industry are:

  • Social Security Amendments of 1965
  • Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
  • Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA)

The sub-areas of health care law are too expansive to fully explain. However, if you are thinking about becoming a health lawyer you should first and foremost read all of the above laws. If these put you to sleep, this is probably not the area of law for you.

Health care is a hot topic in politics today; if the thought of dealing with all of the new changes and rules makes you cringe, consider another area.

 

Education and Background:

Most people who work in health law have a passion for the health field. This may mean coming from some sort of medical or risk management background. Or, you may just have a passion for dealing with complex and constantly evolving issues.

The American Bar Association has a Health Law Section to join.

Health care is gaining such media coverage that you can expect educational opportunities focusing on this area to increase.

 

Getting a job:

Where you get a job depends in large part on what area of health law you want to focus on. For example, you may ensure the compliance of healthcare providers. Or, you might help a client with a dispute over a health insurance contract. If you work for a government agency, you might be investigating fraud, whereas if you work for a medical manufacturing company, you are trying to protect a company.

According to Georgetown Law, the places you can get a job in the area of law include:

  • Law firms with departments specializing in health care law
  • Government agencies
  • Hospitals
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Insurance companies
  • Medical equipment corporations
  • Other organizations with a focus on health care

(Health Law)

 

Average salary:

Health lawyers are quite well paid. Medical attorneys and health care lawyers earn just over $150,000 on average, though it varies a lot by employer (Lawyer Salary – Top 10 Law Careers).

 

Would you like this practice area?

You need to have a constant desire to learn and a willingness to keep up with complex and ever-changing laws. The health care industry is wide-ranging, so you will have quite the variety of options available to you depending on your preferences. You must be very detail-oriented because this area of law is highly regulated.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Vaccination over Parental Objection — Should Adolescents Be Allowed to Consent to Receiving Vaccines? (Omer, Opel, and Silverman)

“The United States has been experiencing an increasing number of measles outbreaks, and more measles cases were reported in the first 5 months of 2019 than in any full year since 1992, which was 8 years before endemic transmission was interrupted. Parents’ resistance to vaccination is leaving more children vulnerable to measles and various other preventable illnesses. Some of these children have begun to seek opportunities to revisit vaccine-refusal decisions made on their behalf by their parents and are now pursuing vaccination.” Read more

CMS Announces Pilot Program for Clinicians to View Claims Data of Medicare Beneficiaries (The National Law Review)

“On July 30, 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced “Data at the Point of Care” (DPC), a pilot program that will provide clinicians with access to claims data. The pilot program follows on the heels of the recently proposed Interoperability and Patient Access Proposed Rule, which would require regulated health plans to make patient data available through an application programming interface (API). These actions are also part of the MyHealthEData initiative spearheaded by the White House Office of American Innovation.” Read more

Neil Armstrong’s family received $6M in secret settlement with hospital that treated him before death (Weiss)

“Astronaut Neil Armstrong’s relatives obtained a confidential $6 million settlement for alleged medical errors by the Ohio hospital that performed heart bypass surgery on him before his death in August 2012, according to published reports. The New York Times and the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on the secret settlement days after the 50th anniversary of Armstrong’s walk on the moon. The newspapers learned of the wrongful death case from an anonymous person who sent unsolicited documents.” Read more

Conclusion:

If you are looking for a fast-paced and constantly changing area of law, and you enjoy looking at the little details, this may be a good area of law for you.

Immigration Law

If there’s one area of law that has been getting a lot of publicity lately, it’s immigration law. With laws that seemingly change every day, lawyers are up for a challenge if they want to work in this inspiring but often heartbreaking area of law.

Who can come into the country? How long can they stay? How can someone become a US citizen? Congress has the exclusive right to legislate immigration law, a right granted to it by the US Constitution. Thus, the rules on how immigrants can become citizens are constantly changing as Congress changes, and a continuing legal education becomes more important for immigration lawyers than for lawyers in perhaps any other area. This is not an area that would be good to practice as a general practitioner, therefore, because it requires specialized knowledge that must be up to date.

Of course, one of the benefits that comes with practicing immigration law is learning about other countries and cultures. Hotly contested political issues aside, an immigration lawyer has to deal with the many complications that arise when completing a vast amount of forms. The process may seem extremely intimidating to someone who is not familiar with the US process, and thus immigrants are truly at the mercy of the system and dependent on their immigration lawyer to guide them through any problems that may come up.

Some immigration lawyers may supplement their careers with other similar activities they find enjoyable, such as volunteering in the community or helping with human rights movements.

 

Education and Background:

Communication-intensive backgrounds may be useful to this practice area. Knowing many languages, being familiar with a lot of cultures, or having political experience may also be pluses. Most importantly, being involved in public service in some way provides a smooth transition into this area of law. Volunteer activities that correlate well with immigration law are worth pursuing. If you are in law school, consider joining extracurricular activities related to this area of law.

Of course, as with any practice area, take relevant courses if your law school offers them and do your best to secure an internship in that field of law to test it out and see if you like it.

Backgrounds serving people in difficult circumstances will be of great assistance, as you will likely come across some heart-wrenching and traumatic stories in immigration law and may need to assist with domestic violence and abuse situations.

Finally, you may want to connect with other people in immigration law. The American Immigration Lawyers Association offers a lot of useful resources and events as well as a network of people with similar interests.

 

Getting a job:

  • Large law firms might include immigration law as one area of practice
  • Small or boutique law firms may specialize in immigration law
  • There are government agencies that employ immigration lawyers
  • There are nonprofit organizations that employ immigration lawyers
  • You will earn a higher salary working for the federal government than for a state or local government
  • You can practice anywhere in the country – it doesn’t have to be at the border or on the coast
  • With a changing political climate, immigration lawyers are in high demand

 

Average salary:

The median salary is $120,000 according to the US Department of Labor, but it is significantly higher for those employed by the federal government than for those employed by state or local governments (NESL). As expected, working for a small nonprofit will also yield a smaller salary than working for a large firm or company (NESL).

 

Would you like this practice area?

Strengths/Weaknesses: Strong interpersonal relationship-building and communication skills are required for this area of law. Compassion, kindness, and a genuine desire to help are characteristics that often shine through in lawyers who practice this area of law. If “dealing with people” is not your strong suit, you may not enjoy immigration law.

Likes/Dislikes: You must enjoy collaboration and working with others because you will spend a great deal of time working directly with the client to solve problems. If you do not enjoy high-stress, emotional situations and helping people in unfortunate circumstances, this is not the area for you. If you have a love for learning and want to work in a constantly changing area of law that requires constant re-education, however, you may enjoy immigration law.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Strangers in a strange land: ‘Metering’ makes asylum rights meaningless, immigrant advocates say (Laird)

“Metering is the U.S. government’s practice of limiting the number of people who can seek asylum at the border each day—even though the Immigration and Nationality Act says any foreign national “who arrives in the United States” may apply for asylum. In metering, CBP officers simply prevent asylum-seekers from arriving in the United States in the first place, by turning them away when they try to enter legally. Instead, they’re told to put their names on a waiting list and wait weeks in Mexico for their names to be called.” Read more

New rule would make applying for US asylum impossible for most immigrants at the southern border (Weiss)

“Most immigrants at the Southern border won’t be eligible to apply for asylum under an interim final rule published Monday by the Trump administration. Under the new rule, immigrants at the Southern border must apply for asylum in at least one country they enter while on their way to the United States…. The rule effectively ends asylum for any migrant at the Southern border who isn’t from Mexico, according to the Los Angeles Times. The proposal would require migrants to apply for asylum even though the United States hasn’t negotiated a “safe third-country” agreement with the countries they traverse.” Read more

ACLU sues state police, alleging they’re acting as immigration authorities (Couloumbis)

“Pennsylvania State Police troopers have routinely violated the law by stopping and holding people based solely on their Latino appearance, terrifying drivers and passengers while usurping federal authority to investigate supposed immigration violations, the ACLU claims in a federal lawsuit filed recently. The troopers’ conduct, the suit says, has sent a clear message to communities across Pennsylvania: The state police are in the immigration-enforcement business.” Read more

 

Attorney Spotlight:

Emily Amara Gordon works for Amara Law, a firm specializing in Green Cards & Residency, Deportation & Removal Hearings, and Immigration Bond & Criminal Offenses.

Emily’s interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  5 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  New England Law

Q: In what practice area(s) do you practice?  If more than one, what’s the percentage of each?

A:   Immigration and Criminal Defense (50/50)

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  2 lawyers and some support staff

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  Every day is different. However, I most often meet with clients, send emails, go to court, and have USCIS interviews. I don’t spend too much time on the phone (maybe 2 hours a day max); most of my communication is through other methods of messaging. I write some motions and occasionally a memo. For immigration, I spend a lot of time preparing filings.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A:  It varies depending on whether I am on trial that week, but I would say I average 60. Since it is my practice, the advantage is I can control my schedule to some degree, and I enjoy that flexibility.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  It’s hard because I’ve never done anything else, but I would say that I’m in the courtroom a lot and not behind my desk very much. On immigration, it’s a lot of collaboration with clients. There is no opposing counsel and you have to work well with the clients. With immigration, the law changes a lot (as most people know from the news) so you really need to be tuned in to current events. My practice area is very hands-on!

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A: I like being able to know that I have hopefully helped families have a life in the United States and have a future because they are excellent contributions to the country.

Q: What do you like least about your job/practice area?

A: I don’t like seeing the pain and suffering that clients are going through under the current administration, and the law doesn’t always provide a way to help people, which can be heartbreaking.

Q: You would be a happy and successful immigration lawyer if you…

A:  …have a lifetime desire to learn, because it is one of the most challenging areas of law and is constantly changing. You can never learn enough!

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more?

A:  Talk to as many lawyers as you can and get as many opinions as you can, so that you can make an informed decision. For criminal or immigration law, go to court and watch a case! Volunteer at citizenship clinics, help with communities in need, and see what it is really like to help people.

You want to make money and do well, but you also want to enjoy what you do – that’s always the goal!

– Emily Amara Gordon

 

Conclusion:

What you do outside of the classroom will impact your career in immigration law to a great extent. If you are a student, start joining extracurriculars and doing volunteer work in relevant areas.

Insurance Law

The three sub-areas within insurance law are insurance coverage, insurance defense litigation, and insurance compliance.

  • Insurance coverage typically involves an insured person trying to recover through their insurance policy where the issue is whether the policy actually covers the loss or liability. Thus, this area of insurance law requires a focus on understanding and analyzing the minute details of a policy.
  • Insurance defense involves a third party suing someone covered by insurance. The insurer supplies the lawyer to defend the person covered by insurance against the action of the third party. This area of law is focused on the unique facts of a case and although it involves litigation, newer attorneys may be primarily assigned document drafting. Insurance companies often have legal counsel, but for insurance defense the cases are sometimes sent to outside counsel.
  • Insurance compliance involves making sure insurance companies are complying with industry regulations. Insurance companies hire in-house counsel to make sure they are compliant, and outside counsel helps with investigations when needed.

There are many different types of insurance including homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance, and life insurance, to name a few. The insurance industry is huge, with net premiums written totaling $1.2 trillion in 2017 (Insurance Information Institute). The federal government is not very involved in most areas of insurance; most states have an insurance administrator’s office that focuses on creating rules and regulations for insurance companies.

 

Education and Background:

Many law schools offer classes in insurance law. After taking these, try to get an internship with an insurance law firm or work for an insurance company in some capacity. Even if you can’t find a legal internship with an insurance company, working for them in some other way will still expose you to the intricacies of the industry. Try to job shadow an insurance lawyer to see what he or she does day-to-day.

The University of Connecticut School of Law offers an LL.M. in Insurance Law. If you are sure this is the area of law you want to practice, getting an LL.M. might be a good way to jumpstart your career.

 

Getting a job:

Because insurance is a trillion-dollar industry and there are many different jobs available within insurance law, this is a stable and “safe” area of law to practice. In 2017, there were 5,954 insurance companies in the U.S. and there were 2.7 million people employed in the industry (Insurance Information Institute).

Where you work depends on which sub-area of insurance law you specialize in. If you work in compliance, for example, most opportunities are available in-house, though it is possible that companies contract with a law firm. If you work in defense, there are opportunities both in-house and with mid-to-large size law firms. Harrison Barnes, founder of BCG Attorney Search, says that it is more difficult to move upward in defense, whereas coverage attorneys have highly marketable skills and will be able to find spots in top law firms easily. To read more about the marketability of these areas, see his article.

 

Salary and comparison of the sub-areas:

The salary is rather modest for most lawyers in this practice area. If you are looking for a more intense, “fun”, and fast-paced option, you would enjoy insurance defense; this area often doesn’t pay much, however. Compliance lawyers also don’t make much, but the benefit is having a stable career with an insurance company. Insurance coverage attorneys must be extremely detail-oriented and strong writers; they are the ones who tend to be better paid within insurance law. They often handle extremely complex issues and write long reports.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Dirty Secrets of Insurance Defense: Five facts outside counsel hopes you won’t consider (Larimore)

“After 15 years as a lawyer in private practice, I thought I had a pretty good idea about how the insurance defense business worked. That is, until I took an in-house counsel position for an insurance company. I realized then that I had no idea how little I actually understood. From my new perspective, I found things that seemed obvious to me as defense counsel were nearly invisible from the viewpoint of the insurer. I also came to learn that, as outside counsel, I had very little understanding of the business processes that drove decisions for my clients.” Read more

Compliance Issues That Your Insurance Company Should Know (Salomon)

“Navigating regulatory matters in the insurance industry has never involved more challenges than it does today. If you feel like you and your IT team face more scrutiny in compliance issues, it isn’t your imagination. Corporate Compliance Insights reported that, as far back as 2011, “Regulatory scrutiny of the insurance industry has never been more acute. Government regulators from a host of disparate disciplines are intensely focused on making sure we have the controls in place to avoid another financial meltdown.”” Read more

Contract and Claim in Insurance Law (Feinman)

“Every insurance policy is a contract between the policyholder and the insurer. Fundamentally, however, almost every insurance law problem, dispute, or doctrine is really about paying or not paying claims. These two features—contract and claim—are at the heart of most insurance law disputes. The significance of insurance as contract is generally recognized, but the centrality of claims, less so.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

Insurance law is a huge part of the American economy, and insurance lawyers play an important role in keeping the system running smoothly.

Intellectual

Property Law

Artists should be able to benefit from the creative work they contribute to society. This only works if other people can’t copy artistic ideas. Intellectual property is what gives artists, writers, and inventors the legal rights to their creations. Intellectual property law encompasses scientific and creative works. Obtaining legal rights to the work and the ability to enforce these rights vary with the type of work. Intellectual property includes trademarks, patents, copyright, and trade secrets.

Many people do not know what IP law entails and the huge variety of work that exists within IP law. Until you have taken a basic class in IP Law as well as more specialized classes in Copyright Law, Patent Law, and Trademark Law, you do not have enough information to decide if IP law is for you. You need to know what area of IP law you want to focus on. The demand for sub-areas of IP law is strikingly different; read this article for more information.

 

Education and Background:

The demand for patent lawyers is extremely high. However, if you want to become a patent lawyer, you need to have a specialized scientific or technical background. In addition to passing a state bar exam, you need to pass the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Bar Exam. To even sit for this exam, you must have a Bachelor’s degree in a science or engineering field. In recent years, less than half of those who sit for the exam have passed. So, while demand for patent lawyers will likely continue to go up, if you do not already have a science or engineering degree, you should not even consider patent law.

On the other hand, it is not difficult to become a trademark or copyright lawyer. Many corporate lawyers dabble in trademark work and are “generalists”. Even patent attorneys will handle other areas within IP law if they have the time. Because so many people are capable of handling this less specialized area of law, it is harder to find a job. Having a background in business, marketing, writing, or a creative major may be helpful for the other sub-areas of IP law, but it is not essential.

 

Getting a job:

The American Bar Association has a Section of Intellectual Property Law to join. You can also join the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA).

AIPLA has lawyers in it that work for law firms, corporations, in government service, and in the academic community. They have a career center that allows you to search for intellectual property jobs. You can limit it by the type of practice: All, Private, Corporate, Government, Non-profit, and other. You can also limit it by the practice area (trademark, copyright, patent, etc.), by the industry (biotech, chemical, computers, etc.), and by state. This is a great resource for those interested in exploring what opportunities exist in IP law.

A quick look on this career center does confirm that patent law is the main area of law with job opportunities available. If you have a background in science, it is highly recommended that you go into patent law because it is in very high demand.

 

Average salary:

IP law is one of the most profitable areas of law. On average, IP lawyers make $131,728 (Lawyer Salary – Top Ten Law Careers).

 

Would you like this practice area?

Intellectual property law is particularly well suited to those who are curious. If you are inquisitive and creative, you will enjoy seeing new developments and investigating what makes a creative work unique. Regardless of the industry, you must be enthusiastic about how your client’s creation is made and marketed. Having a good understanding of how the industry operates and what competitors there are may also help you understand what sets your client’s creation apart. IP law often overlaps with international law and entertainment law, so see if those areas interest you.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Adidas loses three-stripe trademark battle in European court (Jolly)

“Adidas has been unsuccessful in an attempt to expand its trademark three-stripe design in the EU after a court ruled it was not “distinctive” enough. The company did not “prove that that mark has acquired, throughout the territory of the EU, distinctive character following the use which had been made of it”, the general court of the EU said on Wednesday.” Read more

L’Oreal is Suing Drunk Elephant for Patent Infringement over its Buzzy Vitamin C Serum (TFL)

“Call it a battle of the beauty brands. On Wednesday, the American arm of French giant L’Oreal slapped its much smaller (but rapidly growing) rival, Houston, Texas-based Drunk Elephant with an ugly new lawsuit, alleging that the cult-followed 5-year old brand is infringing one of its patents in connection with an award-winning and highly-buzzed-about $80-per-ounce Vitamin C serum.” Read more

Lady Gaga Sued For ‘Shallow’; Copyright Lawsuit Trend Continues

“Lady Gaga’s song “Shallow” earned the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter her first Academy Award. The song, featured in the 2018 film A Star Is Born, is now the subject of a multi-million-dollar lawsuit. Steve Ronsen, an until-now-unknown songwriter claims Gaga stole a three-note progression from his 2012 song “Almost.”” Read more

 

Conclusion:

Here is an interesting fact about IP law: January 1st is Public Domain Day – the day when copyrights from 95 years ago expire, and creative works enter the public domain. The copyright term used to be 75 years, so because of the 20-year copyright extension, there was no Public Domain Day for 20 years until January 1st, 2019. That was a day to celebrate! Many famous 1923 works entered the public domain; for more information, check out this page.

International Law

International law includes public international law and private international law. Public international law has to do with disputes between or among nations, whereas private international law has to do with disputes between or among people or businesses where the law of more than one nation may apply. Public international law is often derived from treaties between nations. Also, public international law might, “employ principles present in international conventions, customs of the disputing nations, generally accepted community norms, principles of law recognized by civilized nations, and judicial philosophies or theories of jurisprudence in addressing conflicts between nations” (The Business Professor).

Many other areas of law use international law when resolving disputes because trade is becoming increasingly global and trade between nations falls under international law. The main sources of international law are treaties, international customs, and general principles of law. Scholarly writings may also inform and shape international law over time.

 

Education and Background:

If you want to become an international lawyer, you should be the best of the best. Choose a law school that is known for its international law program and take as many classes in international law as you can.

The Office of the Legal Advisor in the U.S. Department of State offers internships and externships each year. These are highly competitive but well worth applying for.

The World Bank also offers legal internships for law students.

A master’s degree in International Affairs is highly recommended, as is knowledge of foreign languages and previous overseas experience.

If your law school has an ISLA Chapter,  you may want to participate in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition.

 

Getting a job:

Private law firms often handle international business transactions. Though most of these firms are located in New York City or D.C., it is possible to find them in other cities.

The U.S. Department of State Office of the Legal Advisor gives advice on international legal issues. The duties of a lawyer there include, “assisting Department principals and policy officers in formulating and implementing the foreign policies of the U.S., and promoting the adherence to, and development of, international law and its institutions as a fundamental element of those policies” (U.S. Department of State).  Note that while most of the Office’s attorneys are based in Washington, they all travel frequently overseas. There are about 200 attorneys working in this office. Only about 13 to 15 of the nearly 1,000 applicants each year are hired. For more information about employment, see this page.

Corporations also hire lawyers who are well-versed in international law. Sometimes, lawyers who specialize in other areas and work for corporations can even “fall into” international law later in life. As corporations increase global trade, their need for in-house international lawyers to advise them about such trade will grow.

Finally, there are a wide variety of other organizations and non-profits that employ international lawyers. Some of the places that employ international lawyers include:

 

Average salary:

Those working in the private sector will make more than those working for the government. Entry-level international attorneys only made about $68,000 per year in 2011, but experience and location make a huge difference (Cohen). Experienced attorneys in the D.C. area make over $150,000 (Cohen).

 

Would you like this practice area?

If you love to travel, this might be the area of law for you.  You should enjoy learning new languages and learning about different cultures. You also must have patience, since you might be working on lengthy cases. You should have strong negotiating skills and be good at interpreting the true meaning of an agreement, since words have different meanings in different languages.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Jair Bolsonaro wants to deforest the Amazon – what powers does the UN have to stop him? (Schnaider)

Deforestation of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil is at its highest rate in a decade, according to new satellite data. This comes after president Jair Bolsonaro has loosened environmental regulations, cut enforcement budgets, and supported further development in the region. Trees absorb carbon dioxide naturally, and are one of best tools we have to help stave off climate catastrophe – and the Amazon itself is a crucial carbon sink. This means responding to deforestation in Brazil has become a matter of international responsibility.” Read more

The world is uniting for international law, against US empire (Flowers and Zeese)

““We oppose the extraterritorial application of unilateral measures.“ That is not Cuba, Nicaragua, Iran, Russia, or China talking about the most recent unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States against Venezuela, i.e. economic sanctions that have become an economic blockade, but the European Union. Even allies who have embarrassed themselves by recognizing the phony “interim president” Juan Guaido are saying the US has gone too far.” Read more

The Principle of Saving Lives at Sea: Just A Fool’s Hope (Papachristodoulou)

“The principle of saving the lives of those in distress at sea is not only a long-standing and fundamental tradition of seafaring, but also incorporated as a legal duty of the search and rescue (‘SAR’) system under international law. Yet, the complex character of the phenomenon of mixed migration by sea exposed the fragmentation of international law whereby the imperative of saving lives at sea is undergoing systematic obstruction in the Mediterranean Sea.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

International law is extremely competitive, but if you have a passion for travel and are up for a challenge, this might be the area of law for you.

Legal Aid/Pro Bono

The right to a fair trial is an indispensable part of our justice system. Legal aid, a form of funding for those who can’t afford their own lawyers, helps ensure that everyone has access to our justice system no matter how rich or poor. In recent news, Trump has been trying to cut the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), a nonprofit funded by Congress.

Pro bono, on the other hand, is where lawyers volunteer to help those who cannot afford to pay for lawyers. Lawyer’s time is not funded like it is for legal aid. Pro bono is done out of a desire to do good and is also a way to bring attention and other business to a firm. Pro bono is a method of practicing other legal practice areas without charging a client; it is not a practice area itself.

If you think you are interested in working in legal services/legal aid, check out this guide published by Harvard.

Mergers & Acquisitions

Mergers & Acquisitions Law (M&A Law) is one of the main branches of corporate law. It is so important that many lawyers focus just on this sub-area. When a company purchases another company or merges with another company, there are many legal issues to address. Some famous mergers and acquisitions include Exxon and Mobil, Disney and Pixar, Sirius and XM Radio, Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, and Coach’s purchase of Kate Spade.

There are five common types of business mergers:

  • Conglomerate: the two companies have nothing in common in terms of their business activities
  • Horizontal: two companies that are in the same industry (combine to increase market share of the industry)
  • Market extension: two companies produce the same products but have separate markets
  • Product extension: two companies have related products and the same market
  • Vertical: two companies produce different goods but both goods go towards one finished product (the companies operate in the same supply chain)

Mergers are when companies combine as equals; mergers happen on friendly terms and come together with a new name. Acquisitions tend to be more common since most companies are “absorbing” another company.

An M&A lawyer may work in-house, but more likely works for a law firm. The lawyer acts as a point of contact for everyone involved in the deal. M&A lawyers draft documents, structure the transition, conduct legal due diligence, provide advice, and more. Day-to-day work may vary depending on whether you are representing the buyer or the seller. No two deals are the same, so you will have varied work. Also, you will learn a lot about a variety of industries as an M&A lawyer. The deals that you help conduct will likely make headlines, which can be a very rewarding experience.

 

Education and Background:

“Business-oriented” people are those most likely to understand the intricacies involved in adding value to a company. Truly understanding the business needs of companies is essential. Thus, a background in a business benefits you if you want to become an M&A lawyer.

In addition to business knowledge, a strong writing background helps with M&A law since you will be drafting agreements.

Much of your education will occur “on-the-job” for M&A work. For your first few years, you will likely be assisting more experienced lawyers with M&A work so that you “learn as you go.”

 

Getting a job:

Because big companies are often involved in mergers and acquisitions, M&A lawyers tend to work for large, established and respected law firms. However, it is possible to work as a solo practitioner or for a smaller firm, especially if you practice business law more generally and M&A is just one of your focus areas. As in-house counsel for a company you may also deal with mergers and acquisitions.

 

Average salary:

M&A law is a very profitable area. The average salary is $175,000; entry level attorneys make about $100,000 and experienced M&A lawyers may make $250,000 per year (Neuvoo).

 

Would you like this practice area?

You need to be extremely business savvy and know what your client is looking for in a deal. You also need to be able to negotiate with the other side to ensure that both parties are satisfied with an agreement. If you have a lot of patience, this area of law might be good for you – M&A lawyers spend months working hard on small details in order to have a brief moment of celebration when a deal gets closed. You need to be able to understand the unique problems relevant to each deal and be a creative problem solver because no two transactions are alike. It is also important to be extremely organized because you must coordinate transaction efforts and present information to the client in an easy to understand way so that the client can make important decisions in an informed manner. You need to be able to see the big picture and stay focused on “why does this matter to my client?”

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

The Brave New World of Cybersecurity Due Diligence in Mergers and Acquisitions: Pitfalls and Opportunities (Markow and Mcthenia)

“Like poorly-behaved school children, new technologies and intellectual property (IP) are increasingly disrupting the M&A establishment. Cybersecurity has become the latest disruptive newcomer to the M&A party.” Read more

M&A Disclosure – Annotated Form 8-K (Lopez)

“Public companies that participate in M&A transactions are subject to a myriad of potential disclosure obligations throughout the transaction process.  These may arise under applicable stock exchange listing rules, federal securities laws, state fiduciary duty and proxy requirements as well as antitrust law and other regulatory regimes. The federal securities laws alone may require various disclosures through an astonishingly long list of possible forms, schedules and registration statements, including, among others, Form 8-K, Form 10-K, Form 10-Q, Schedule 14A, Schedule 14C, Schedule TO, Schedule 14D-9, Schedule 13D, Schedule 13G, Schedule 13E-3, Form 3, Form 4, Form 5, Form S-1, Form S-3, Form S-4 and, of course, several types of prospectuses.” Read more

Anatomy of an Asset Purchase Agreement (Lopez)

“Like the classic game Operation,® asset purchase transactions require parties to take great care in extracting just what they want. However, successful asset sales require quite a bit more than a pair of tweezers and steady hands. Among other things, they require a well-crafted Asset Purchase Agreement (APA). These agreements, at their most basic level, provide for the sale of tangible and intangible assets and liabilities of a seller to a buyer in return for cash or some other form of consideration (i.e., something of value). However, M&A transactions are anything but basic. They’re riddled with substantial risk and potential rewards for both parties, and APAs often become even more complex than Stock Purchase Agreements (SPAs), which govern stock sales, as asset purchase transactions lack the relative simplicity afforded by a transfer of all of the shares of a distinct legal entity.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

M&A lawyers get to work on some of the biggest, high-profile company transactions in existence. If you love business as a career in addition to law, and you want to add value to a company, M&A law might be for you.

Military Law

Members of the military have different duties and receive different treatment than civilian citizens. Thus, there is an area of law that governs those in the armed forces. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) is what establishes the rules and procedures for people in the military (all branches).

 

Education and Background:

If you have a background in the military, you are likely already somewhat familiar with parts of the UCMJ. Thus, a transition into military law may come naturally. Previous military experience is also what will allow you to build a trusting relationship with your clients, who will have similar experiences and will feel comfortable talking to you about their problems. The Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG Corps) is the part of the military focusing on military law. Those who practice it are called Judge Advocates. If you do not already have a background with the military, you will need to be committed to becoming a part of it. Becoming a Judge Advocate will involve intensive training and is a specialized area of law no one should undertake without a genuine interest in serving our country.

 

Getting a job:

All five branches of the military have Judge Advocates (JAG officers). Each branch is different, but during or after law school you must be prepared to enter some sort Officer Training if you want a career in military law.

To see the requirements and career pathways you must follow for each branch of the military, learn more at these pages:

If you want a fantastic overview of the specific training each branch requires, check out the Balance Careers page on Military Law.

 

Average salary (Winston):

The salary for a military lawyer is very low compared to other areas of law. It starts out in the $30,000-40,000 range and then grows with experience. However, you should take into account the other benefits these lawyers receive such as military housing or housing subsidies, free health and dental insurance, life insurance, retirement packages, potential tuition reimbursement, and other military discount perks. Although the average salary for a JAG officer is only about $65,000, the additional benefits may make it worth it.

 

Would you like this practice area?

You need to be:

  • Tough
  • Able to handle intensive training
  • Willing to learn

You need to have a genuine interest in serving your country and a willingness to do whatever that takes.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Thomas dissent says SCOTUS should overrule decision protecting military from tort liability (Weiss)

“U.S. Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented Monday when the high court refused to hear the case of a man whose wife died at a naval hospital because of complications from childbirth. The petitioner, Walter Daniel, had filed a tort suit in the death of his wife, a Navy lieutenant. The lower courts had ruled that Daniel’s suit was barred by the Supreme Court case Feres v. United States. That 1950 decision had held that military personnel injured by the negligence of a federal employee cannot sue the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act.” Read more

CULTURE WARS: The Clash Between Religion and the Rights of Same-Sex Members in the United States Air Force (Becker)

“The Air Force is used to fighting kinetic wars. We’re pretty good at it. We’re maybe not so good, however, at culture wars. The most recent example of this is the April 2018 decision to reverse action against Colonel Leland Bohannon for his refusal, on religious grounds, to sign a certificate of appreciation for the spouse of a retiring member of his command. Colonel Bohannon’s reason? The spouse was the same sex as the retiree. In effectively endorsing Colonel Bohannon’s action, this decision ran counter to the Air Force’s own instruction and controlling case law, and puts Air Force commanders and legal practitioners in a difficult position for future cases.” Read more

Why Should You Become a JAG Officer? (Legal Career Central)

“More and more, new lawyers are becoming JAG officers (aka Judge Advocate Generals Corp), working in all legal matters involving the military, which mirrors almost every aspect of civilian law. JAGs are in each of the five US military branches: army, navy, marines, coast guard, or air force. By becoming a JAG, you are guaranteed a career that has rotating assignments by location and practice area, exposing you to the world and the law in ways you could have never imagined. It provides unrivaled practical and hands-on experience to springboard your career.” Read more

 

Attorney Spotlight:

Donna Price is a security clearance attorney for JAG Defense, a military and security clearance law firm. She has extensive experience with the Navy JAG Corps, and since retiring from the Navy she has continued to do an impressive array of activities.

Donna’s Interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  40+ years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  JD – Mercer University; LLM – George Washington University

Q: In what practice area(s) do you practice?  If more than one, what’s the percentage of each?

A:   Started as your basic criminal attorney – prosecution, defense, Trial Judge; for last 15+ years focused on a Federal Administrative area – the adjudication of security clearances.

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  5-7

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  There is no average day…

Q: Do you deal with difficult people?

A:  All the time…

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  I cannot compare to experiences I do not have.

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A:  Helping people

Q: What do you like least about your job/practice area?

A:  Billing and getting people to pay

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a lawyer in your practice area?

A:  I spent 25 years on active duty in the Navy JAG Corps.  Do that (or something similar) before going into private practice.

 

A better clientele than when I did criminal defense work.

– Donna Price

 

Conclusion:

If you are the type of person who wants to take on the ultimate challenge and push yourself to the limit, military law might be for you.

Municipal/

“City Attorney”

The law of a particular county or city is known as municipal law. If you want to have a direct impact on your community, municipal law is a great way to do so. As a municipal lawyer, you will likely be advising elected officials of city/town boards and commissions on legal issues. You are not creating policy but rather advising officials on the legality of their potential policy ideas. You need to know “a little about a lot” to be a successful municipal lawyer since you will likely deal with many legal practice areas day-to-day. Rather than practice a certain legal area like most lawyers, you handle everything for a given geography. Each town or city operates its own way. Thus, on the job experience is probably the best way to figure out if municipal law is for you. Try to volunteer or find an internship with a city or county. This will allow you to “get your feet wet” very quickly. If you become a local government lawyer, you may want to join the International Municipal Lawyers Association.

Native American

Law

Native American tribes have their own unique customs and culture. Native American law seeks to allow tribes to self-govern in their own way while still defining the relationship tribes have with the government. Tribes are allowed to make and enforce their own laws, but sometimes Native American laws intersect with other legal issues. Thus, there are laws that state how legal disputes are heard when Native Americans are involved. Jurisdictional issues play a primary role in Native American law.

You do not have to be Native American to practice Native American law. However, to practice in some Native American courts there is a requirement to show knowledge of tribal history and culture or other qualifications. There are more than 500 tribes in the US, and each has their own rules for appearing in Native American court. Working for the US Department of the Interior in Indian Affairs may be helpful in understanding legislation and policy concerning Native American tribes.

While a specific background is not necessarily required for Native American law, geography is a large factor in whether this is a good area to practice. If you live in an area where Native American tribes are located, you will have a more robust practice with Native American law issues. Depending on what size law firm you work for, you may focus entirely on Native American issues or you may just come across cases involving such issues occasionally.

While some of the biggest law firms in the country have Native American law teams, there also solo practitioners and small firms in areas highly concentrated with Native American tribes. Within Native American law, there are opportunities to provide advice to tribes, provide advice to companies that do business with tribes, and to litigate disputes that arise. Some of the areas in Native American law you may address are Native American gaming, tribal self-governance policies, and taxation matters. Non-profits such as the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) also hire Native American lawyers.

In recent news, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Personal Injury

Law

When someone gets injured, that person must deal with pain, treatments, and possibly even financial hardship. As if that isn’t bad enough, when the injury is someone else’s fault, the injured must go through a difficult process to receive any compensation. Personal injury lawyers are there to guide their injured clients through this process and make everything easier and less stressful.

Personal injury law may be one of the most comprehensive areas of law – think of all the potential ways someone could get injured at the fault of another! The scenarios are almost endless. Thus, a personal injury lawyer gets to address unique factual scenarios and one case will never look exactly like the next. Some of the most common issues that a personal injury lawyer may deal with are:

  • Motor vehicle accidents: this could involve cell phone use, drunk or distracted driving, hit & runs, and many other interesting scenarios
  • Common carrier accidents: What happens if someone wants to sue the MBTA? Or, what kind of duty of care does a taxi have?
  • Medical malpractice: If a doctor or nurse’s conduct results in a client’s injury, what kind of compensation can he or she recover? What happens if you are diagnosed wrong or diagnosed too late?
  • Slip & Falls: There are many reasons why people fall, but if it was due to a defect or hazard, a property owner may owe the injured party monetary damages.
  • Dog Bites: This is an area few people think of until an unsuspecting victim gets bitten by a dog with an unfriendly temperament. Personal injury lawyers can help.
  • Premises Liability: Slip & fall cases and dog bite cases are contained within premises liability. However, any injury that occurs on a property due to a property owner’s breach of duty can be grounds for a premises liability claim.
  • Product Liability: These cases are usually brought against large corporations, so it is especially important for clients to hire an experienced attorney to handle them.
  • Construction accidents: Construction sites are extremely dangerous and thus often lead to injuries. These injuries most commonly include falls, electrocutions, being struck by an object, and being caught in between objects.
  • Wrongful death: Unfortunately, personal injury attorneys do often have to deal with tragic circumstances involving a person who lost his or her life due to the negligence of another.

Each of these can be further broken down into unique factual circumstances. Working as a personal injury attorney means you will learn something new every day and will always have a new challenge! Some personal injury lawyers may focus on a specific sub-area. For example, an attorney may solely practice medical malpractice personal injury law. Because diving into each of the potential sub-areas would be far too expansive, this guide is limited to personal injury law as a whole. However, realize if you want to go into personal injury law that you have the option to make it as broad or narrow of a practice as you like.

If you are interested in a focus on medical malpractice – scroll to the interview with attorney Michael Harris below.

One of many successful cases handled by Diller Law was against Chuck E Cheese, which was held responsible for the injury of a six year old child because the company did not keep its Sky Tube in safe condition. If the thought of unique cases like that interests you, read on!

 

Education and Background:

Knowledge of the medical field is extremely helpful to this area of law. Whether you come from a medical background or gain on the job knowledge, you will be dealing with injured clients – that’s the very nature of the job! Being able to understand their injuries and reports from medical staff can go a long way in making you successful in this area of law.

If you excelled in your tort law classes in law school, this is probably the area for you. The ability to differentiate the facts of cases and a willingness to learn and stay up to date on changes in precedent are essential components of this area of law, as is being comfortable going to trial.

 

Getting a job:

Anyone with a license to practice law can market themselves as a personal injury lawyer. However, realize that most clients will be referrals. You must gain respect and trust in the industry. This is one of the areas of law where it is absolutely essential to be a good networker. Otherwise, you may have a job but no clients.

Also, many personal injury lawyers have a “no fee unless you win” type policy. This can be a lot of pressure for new attorneys.

There are, of course, two sides to every dispute. While the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of personal injury law is representing the injured party, someone has to represent the other side too. This is equally important, to make sure an injured party isn’t trying to take advantage and claim money that isn’t deserved. Defense attorneys may be hired by an insurance company and may even choose to specialize in that type of case.

Chances are, as long as people keep getting injured they will keep hiring personal injury attorneys. Personal injury law is one of the “main” practice areas and generally considered a safe one to practice. It is possible that future tort reform may reduce the number of cases, however. Also, realize that you will have a lot of local competition.

 

Average salary:

The average salary for personal injury lawyers is $73,000 (Lawyer Salary – Top Ten Law Careers). For most personal injury lawyers, though, there is no set yearly salary since they charge contingency fees. Therefore, paychecks can vary widely based on the cases won and the size of the cases.

 

Would you like this practice area?

You should have strong:

  • Analytical reasoning skills
  • Speaking skills
  • Research skills
  • Ability to distinguish and differentiate the facts of each unique case
  • Compassion for the injured
  • Networking skills, particularly building relationships with doctors and insurance companies

You should enjoy:

  • Doing something different every day
  • Working with the injured and skillfully handling difficult people in emotional situations
  • High risk situations (that may pay out big or not at all)
  • Being competitive, cut-throat, and even aggressive when the cases call for it

 

Consider whether these articles from Mass Injury Firm interest you:

Personal Injury Law and the Recreational Use Statute

“One of the greatest pleasures that a parent can partake in is watching their child do something the child enjoys. That could be sports, art, or another pursuit. Getting injured while being a spectator, however, can certainly put a damper on things. In a recent case, the Massachusetts Appeals Court heard a negligence claim against an indoor sports facility. The mother filed the claim after an injury while watching her son play dekhockey, an organized form of street hockey.” Read more

Food Poisoning Lawsuits

“We often hear news of disturbing stories about foodborne illness. Whether due to contaminated romaine lettuce or mild food poisoning, foodborne illnesses can make people very, very sick. Foodborne illness has affected even major national brands such as Chipotle, who are still working to rebuild their reputation following a norovirus outbreak.” Read more

Negligent Entrustment: Are You Liable for Allowing a Drunk Person to Drive Your Car

“Picture this likely scenario: a group of twenty-somethings is partying at a football game. They’re tailgating before the game, drinking throughout the game, and then having a few more alcoholic beverages after the game at the car. The owner of the vehicle does not feel he’s able to drive safely. Another party asserts that he is well able to operate the vehicle, so the owner gives him the keys. Unfortunately, that driver is also intoxicated and in no shape to operate the vehicle. While driving out of the stadium parking lot, the driver strikes and significantly injures a pedestrian.” Read more

 

Personal Injury Attorney Spotlight:

Marc Diller is a personal injury attorney for Diller Law, P.C. in Boston, MA. Diller Law holds wrongdoers accountable for the pain they’ve caused others and ensure that their clients get the justice they deserve.

Marc’s Interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  20 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  Suffolk Law School

Q: In what practice area do you practice?

A:   Personal Injury, Plaintiffs

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  5 people

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  Speak/meet with clients; depositions; court hearings; trial; drafting pleadings and memoranda… In other words, the days are not average.

Q: Do you deal with difficult people?

A:  Yes

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  Many cases have unique factual scenarios.  I hold wrongdoers accountable and help clients during difficult times.

Q: Did you practice any other practice areas before deciding on this one?

A:  No

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A:  70

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A:  Helping people and holding wrongdoers accountable, which makes everyone safer.

Q: What do you like least about your job/practice area?

A:  The prejudice against our side

Q: You would be a happy and successful lawyer in this practice area if you…

A:  …are hard working and not afraid of a challenge

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a lawyer in your practice area?

A:  I suggest clerking with a plaintiff’s lawyer and observing a civil trial

 

Personal Injury (Focused on Medical Malpractice) Attorney Spotlight

Michael J. Harris is an attorney at Crowe & Mulvey. He practices personal injury law with an emphasis in medical malpractice and catastrophic injuries and has recovered millions of dollars for his clients.

Mike’s Interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  20 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  Suffolk University law School

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  19 people: 5 lawyers; 4 nurses- 2 of whom are lawyers; 3 paralegals- 2 of whom are lawyers; and support staff.

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  Check email and mail; review work done by others in office and provide some direction and supervision; draft motions, discovery requests, subpoenas, motions / oppositions; prepare for depositions or trial; and strategize.

Q: Do you deal with difficult people?

A:  Unfortunately, yes. However, due to the caliber of my practice, it is, thankfully, the exception and not the norm.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  Every case is different. There are uniform rules that obviously govern litigation. And, there are certain events and tasks that will happen in every case. However, every case is different. As a result, each case will call for a different approach or a different manner of persuasion.

Q: Did you practice any other practice areas before deciding on this one?

A:  No, except that I did the other side, insurance defense, for six months before I came to this firm.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A:  40-80

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A:  Flexibility and the adversarial process.

Q: What do you like least about your job/practice area?

A:  It can be exhausting to always be engaged in the adversarial process. You seldom get what you ask for the first time you ask. And so, endeavors often take three or more attempts to achieve a desired result. However, you cannot give up or take no for an answer.

Q: You would be a happy and successful lawyer in this practice area if you…

A:  … Are passionate about helping people, are tirelessly committed and don’t give up, and pay attention to the details.

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a lawyer in your practice area?

A:  Intern at a plaintiff’s PI firm. Every practice of law is different and every firm within that practice is different. Although nothing is perfect, you should pay attention to the character of the firm in addition to the practice area.

Q: What other comments do you have to add about your practice area?

A: It is a great area of the law, but a very difficult area of the law from the Plaintiff’s perspective. You need to be committed to it if you want to be successful. Public perception of lawyers in my area is not great. The phrase ambulance chaser comes to mind. However, people come to us when they are at their lowest, and it is our job to try to put them back together so that they can move on with their lives. It is a noble profession, and I love it.

In many ways, civil litigation is like poker: though it can take minutes to learn, it will take years to master.

– Mike Harris

 

Conclusion:

This is an area where high risk equals high reward. If you enjoy risk and if you want to practice an area of law where two cases will never look alike, this is the area for you.

Public Finance

Law

A public finance lawyer handles anything to do with the financing of entities or projects that borrow tax-exempt, including governmental issuers like municipalities or government agencies and non-profit organizations like hospitals or colleges.

Some of the roles a public finance lawyer could take on are advising a bond issuer on issuance, helping an issuer with disclosure obligations, representing an underwriter, or helping a trustee address legal problems.

You should have a background in finance, accounting, economics, or a related field before attempting to enter finance law as it is an area that requires a great deal of technical knowledge.

Most public finance lawyers work for BigLaw firms that have decades of experience funding entities and projects.

 

Here is an article to introduce you to the bond market:

 

Public Finance Lawyers ‘Keeping the Lights On’ Amid Changed Government Bond Market (Gialanella)

“New Jersey’s government bond market in the first half of 2019 has seen a rebound in activity compared with the first half of last year, but public finance lawyers’ expectations of the market’s baseline have changed now, nearly two years since adjustments to the tax code affected how bond-issuing authorities conduct business. According to data compiled by Refinitiv, there were 110 bonds issued at a combined value of $3.63 billion through June. That’s a 30% increase in volume, but a 33.1% decrease in par amount, over the first half of 2018.” Read more

 

If you can both understand this article and find it interesting, public finance law might be a good area for you.

Real Estate

Law

Title: a term in law describing who officially owns a piece of land.

If you are a real estate lawyer, your life will revolve around that term. Real estate law is an area that impacts us all on a daily basis, even if we don’t realize it. You’ve probably asked a friend, “Want to come over to my house?” Did you think about the rights you have as a homeowner to possess, use, enjoy, and eventually sell that land? Probably not, but that is what real estate lawyers deal with every day. Some states even require a real estate lawyer to be present during any real estate transaction.

Real estate law is also called real property law because it has to do with the purchase, possession, and sale of real property. Note that real estate law does not have to do with personal property/possessions, only real property. Buying a home is a big step, and disputes over real estate can be intense. You can imagine why this area of law involves a great deal of paperwork and research. If you are not comfortable reading and writing all day, you may want to re-consider real estate law as your area of practice.

Real estate law may also be connected to other areas that interest you. If you’ve always cared about land conservation, for example, you may be able to do this through real estate law. If you loved your contract law class in law school, realize that real estate law intertwines with contract law to a great extent, since contracts must be signed during the purchase and sale of land. If you considered family law, but decided it was too emotional of an area for you, issues arising with who keeps a marital home are closely tied to real estate law. Even criminal law concerning someone’s trespass onto a property intersects with real estate law. Zoning laws, estate planning, and municipal law overlap in many instances as well. For that reason, this is one of those areas that lawyers tend to practice alongside one or two others. Thus, if you practice real estate law, you may get to witness a wider array of issues than you initially thought.

 

Education and Background:

Chances are, your school probably offers course electives in this area of law. It also should not be too difficult to get an internship in real estate law or a related area, which will increase your chances of getting a job in this area right after graduation.

Some schools also offer LL.M. or certification programs in real estate law to further your education. If you truly want to focus on this sole area of law instead of a more generalized practice, getting these certifications may help you attract more clients.

For example, Ashworth College offers a Real Estate Law certification course online. They state, “Self-paced, online lessons fit around your busy life and give you the opportunity to complete the Real Estate Law Career Certificate program in as few as three months” (Career Certificate Real Estate Law).

Ed2Go offers a real estate law course with the option for it to be instructor-led or self-paced. This is an inexpensive way to gain more knowledge about the subject matter.

The John Marshall Law School has a great selection of programs in real estate law. They have a joint J.D./LL.M. program in Real Estate Law designed to save law students time and money. They also offer an LL.M. in Real Estate Law and an MJ concentration in Real Estate Law.

 

Getting a job:

If you’re looking for a job in real-estate law, you’re in luck! They aren’t as scarce as some of the more niche areas of law like equine law, fashion law, or aviation law. Also, as real estate lawyer Cynthia Mehnert states, “There aren’t that many real estate attorneys out there these days. If you are interested, you can be successful and rise to the top because there aren’t many people who enjoy it.” A quick Google search reveals that there are indeed many open positions available, so if you are one of the more “unusual” people who loves historical digging and document drafting, there is probably a spot waiting for you!

 

If you do well in your property law classes and secure an internship in that area, you will likely be able to land a real estate job right after graduation. Where you go from there is up to you!

You may want to consider joining an association like the American Bar Association’s Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section. Membership in such an organization can help you network with similar lawyers and move up in the ranks.

 

Average salary:

A real estate lawyer’s average salary is $118,000 (LawyerEdu.org). Note that salaries as well as employment levels for real estate lawyers will vary dramatically with economic upturns and downturns in the US housing market.

 

Would you like this practice area?

Strengths/Weaknesses: You need to have strong analytical and organizational skills to be a lawyer in this area. If you are good at digging through mountains of research, good at focusing on reading and writing for long periods of time, and good at solving problems/logical reasoning, this is an area well suited to you. You must also be an excellent negotiator. If reading, researching, and writing have never been your strong suits, look at some other areas.

Likes/Dislikes: Do you enjoy puzzles? Do you like history? Do you prefer papers to people? Great! Real estate law will allow you to focus more on the analytic aspects you enjoy. Do you dislike having a pile of papers on your desk to sort through and multiple documents to juggle? Maybe not the area for you…

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Challenging the New Development Next Door (Boutzoukas)

“In most county and city governments, the land use process is one that will allow for some basic decisions to be made at staff levels, with higher levels of review in the form of public hearings required for larger scale projects, or proposals that deviate too far from the established standards for a given development.  The public hearings require notice to clearly affected nearby property owners and an opportunity for evidence to be presented by the petitioner, the planning department and defined affected person or groups, so a panel or magistrate can weigh the evidence and make a decision.” Read more

Fractional Investment in Real Estate: What is It? (McBrayer Firm)

“Not everyone has the investment resources of a certain real estate tycoon turned president, and that has often served as a bar to participation. In modern times, as real estate projects seek more and more investment, the solution has been to expand the class of those able to invest, bringing in new capital from investors who might not, as individuals, have the means to invest in high-end real estate. Enter fractional ownership of real estate – smaller investments from larger numbers of investors. This vehicle for investment can make the dream of serious real estate investment a reality.” Read more

Court to Determine Scope of Attorney’s Obligations to Purchasers of Residential Real Estate (McKeown)

“The New Jersey Appellate Division recently heard argument in the case of Bianchi v. Ladjen as to whether an attorney hired to represent a purchaser in a residential real estate closing is obligated to advise his client about purchasing homeowner’s insurance. The issue before the Court is whether it is sufficient for an attorney testifying as an expert in a legal malpractice case to refer only to his years of experience or an observation that such a duty is common practice to establish a standard of care.” Read more

 

Real Estate Attorney Spotlight:

Cynthia Mehnert is a real estate and municipal law attorney at Rudman Winchell. She says real estate law really takes a certain kind of person and recommends it to anyone who enjoys solving puzzles.

Cynthia’s interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  32 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A: Suffolk Law School

Q: In what practice area(s) do you practice?  If more than one, what’s the percentage of each?

A:  Real estate (70%) and municipal (30%)

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  37 attorneys

Q: Describe an average day at work.

A:  In the morning, I usually look at the projects I have. A lot of the work I do is with the probate department, so I draft deeds or do a closing. Sometimes I work with land trusts, and I deal with land sales and purchases by conservation groups. I’m often doing email negotiations, document drafting, and researching title. On the municipal side, I usually work with towns if they have tax acquired property they are trying to sell. I very rarely go to court.

Q: Did you practice in any other practice areas before deciding on this one?

A:  I had my own practice for 25 years that was just a general practice and I did some corporate work.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A:  45

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A: I like to solve puzzles and I find real estate is like that. My husband is a litigator and just doesn’t get it – it really takes a certain kind of person!

Q: What do you least like about your job/practice area?

A:  Sometimes there is just a lot of paper… especially if you are doing a title.

Q:  You’d be a happy and successful real estate lawyer if you…

A:  … like to solve puzzles, enjoy history, or like digging through archives to find answers

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a real estate lawyer?

A: I would say go out and experience it — try and be an intern.

 

There aren’t that many real estate attorneys out there these days. If you are interested, you can be successful and rise to the top because there aren’t many people who enjoy it.

– Cythnia Mehnert

 

 

Housing Attorney Spotlight:

Joel Feldman is a housing lawyer for Heisler, Feldman, & McCormick. His firm helps poor clients with eviction defense. Joel says that if you want to work in his area of practice, you should be a “fearless litigator” and enjoy social justice issues.

Joel’s Interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A:  Since 1988

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A:  Harvard Law School

Q: In what practice area(s) do you practice?

A:   There are four areas: tenant, employee, consumer, and discrimination

Q: What size is your firm?

A:  Currently we have 6 lawyers; soon we will have 8.

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A:  I’m often in court on a hearing or a motion. I also am often supervising someone or meeting about a case. I draft legal documents, deal with endless emails, and have conversations with opposing counsel. We have a staff meeting once a week. I supervise all of the intake. I personally am involved in a bunch of committee work as well.

Q: Do you deal with difficult people?

A:  Yes – we do eviction defense. So, people are about to lose their houses, and our clients are usually very poor and quite desperate. It’s a very stressful situation for them.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A:  I’m in court in a lot; we are very litigation focused (especially as civil goes). We deal with complex issues, like class actions. Sometimes we have an appeal or two. We are always dealing with cutting edge legal issues.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A:  Less than I used to, usually about 40-45

Q: What do you like most about your job/practice area?

A:  With the four areas we work in, it is gratifying to represent people who can’t otherwise get a lawyer (we don’t ever charge anything in advance; we use fee shifting and the other side pays if we win). I also like that we are community-oriented.

Q: What do you like least about your job/practice area?

A:  There’s often a lack of justice, and sometimes our clients are dismissed just because of their poverty.

Q: You would be a happy and successful lawyer in this practice area if you…

A:  … feel motivated by social justice issues and working for poor people; are mission driven; are a fearless litigator; enjoy being in court litigating all the time; and want to help the type of clients we work with.

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a lawyer in your practice area?

A:  Do clinical work/program in housing work

I love my job and can’t imagine retiring from it. The work feels important, and we care a lot about it. All of that adds up to a lot of satisfaction.

– Joel Feldman

 

Schools &

Education Law

Education lawyers deal with many different legal issues pertaining to schools ranging from kindergarten to higher education. Although the Department of Education funds schools and also regulates them to a certain extent, each state has its own system and every school district has unique procedures.

Education lawyers may deal with disability accommodation issues, school discipline issues, bullying and harassment questions, and more. Who you work for mainly determines what area within education you will be focusing on. For example, if you work with a local school district you are more likely to focus on a school’s student discipline than if you are working for an advocacy group trying to reform the educational system.

Education law touches on a variety of different issues related to raising the next generation of educated Americans, anywhere from a state’s curriculum standards to the intersection with constitutional law when it comes to school prayer.

A website you can visit to learn more is the Education Law Association (ELA).

Title IX, the Individuals Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are all important parts of education law. Start by reading about these; if they interest you, continue reading below.

 

Education and Background:

While a background in education is not necessary, it is a plus. There are plenty of other opportunities while in law school that allow you to demonstrate your interest in education law, however. In addition to taking education law classes, joining extracurriculars that help children or schools is an excellent way to express your passion for education.

The Alliance for Excellent Education is a national non-profit organization that aims to make every child a high school graduate prepared for success. You can join their Action Academy to expand your knowledge and communicate with others about education issues.

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has internships available for undergraduate students and law students. The Office of the General Counsel for the DOE also has a legal internship program.

 

Getting a job:

  • Working for a non-profit in education can be very fulfilling. You will likely work directly with clients and you will get to address a variety of education law issues. The salary is usually lower than a government agency or private firm lawyer earns, however. Non-profits that may be hiring education lawyers include children’s law centers. Another non-profit is the Center for Law and Education.
  • Law firms of all sizes represent parents and students or work with school districts and higher education institutions. Lawyers working for private law firms in education law usually make fairly high salaries.
  • In the government, there are opportunities with the United States Department of Education in the General Counsel’s Office or the Office for Civil Rights. There are also attorneys at the DOJ Civil Rights Division who may address education law issues related to discrimination. Education law attorneys can work in state departments of education or for a school district general counsel’s office as well.

 

Would you like this practice area?

You should be an excellent communicator and good at working with others. The stronger you are at building interpersonal relationships, the better. You will often be asked to problem-solve in situations involving emotional, frustrated, and difficult people.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Handcuffing of second grader didn’t violate his constitutional rights, 8th Circuit says (Weiss)

“A 7-year-old elementary school student who was handcuffed by a police officer for 20 minutes can’t sue because there was no violation of his constitutional rights, a federal appeals court has ruled. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis tossed the suit filed on behalf of the second grader referred to as “K.W.P.” in the Aug. 1 opinion. Education Week and Slate have coverage noted by How Appealing. The 8th Circuit said the Kansas City, Missouri, police officer and school principal were entitled to qualified immunity because they didn’t violate K.W.P.’s right to be free from unreasonable seizure and excessive force. Chief Judge Lavenski Smith, an appointee of President George W. Bush, wrote the opinion.” Read more

Students of color with disabilities are being pushed into the school-to-prison pipeline, study finds (Laird)

“Exclusionary discipline practices in K-12 schools—suspension, expulsion and other disciplinary actions that take a student away from the classroom—raise the chances that a student will repeat a grade, drop out or end up in the criminal justice system. And students of color who have disabilities are disproportionately likely to face that kind of discipline.

That was part of the findings of a new report released Tuesday from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights…” Read more

Defending All-Male Education: A New Cultural Moment For a Renewed Debate (Webb)

“Although all-female schools still prosper and are defended by members of the academic elite, an all-male college has become a near-extinct species. Many people are surprised such a creature still exists. All-male colleges strike many as vestiges of male privilege. They evoke the traditional bastions of power that precluded women from advancing in public life. Single-sex education is not for everyone, but if our educational system is to be truly pluralistic, such an education should be an option.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

If you have a passion for improving the education of the next generation and are good at working with others, education law might be for you.

Securities Law

The Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Act of 1934 are complex and often difficult for businesses to navigate. It is the job of a securities lawyer to help clients navigate these and other complicated federal and state regulations concerning securities.

Securities lawyers may be involved in the transactional component of the issuance of securities, which are investments in a business. These lawyers negotiate terms and agreements and prepare documents. A public offering of a security requires a disclosure statement with the SEC whereas a private offering only requires a private disclosure statement to be distributed to potential investors. Public offerings also usually require extensive SEC review. The Securities Acts of 1933 and 1934 have many requirements about what reports are necessary. Thus, securities lawyers could be involved with the regulatory component of securities. Sometimes there are lawsuits against the issuer of a security for fraud, a mishandled investment, or for misleading investors during the investment process. In this case, securities lawyers may be involved with the litigation component of securities law. Many broker agreements contain arbitration clauses, so there is sometimes a limited ability to go to court.

These three sub-areas (transactional, regulatory, and litigation) mean that there are a wide variety of job opportunities available within the area of law. Securities lawyers often advise corporations, small businesses, and brokerage houses or represent investors. Some securities lawyers work for the government.

In recent year, securities law has received more attention due to large scandals which harmed shareholders and investors. Securities law is intended to reduce the extent of this harm, and securities lawyers play an important role in protecting investors. The SEC notes that it, “does not evaluate the merits of securities offerings, or determine whether the securities offered are “good” investments or appropriate for a particular type of investor” (“Federal Securities Laws”).

 

Education and Background:

You should have a business background and an interest in business to pursue this area of law. Finance, accounting, tax, or a general business background all could be useful to understand the complicated concepts involved in securities law. Doing something with the stock market, whether that is an extracurricular, job, or internship, can also be a valuable way to learn more about this area.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has a fantastic internship program. You do not have to be enrolled in law school yet to apply, and the internships are paid. The internships are offered in several cities and in a wide variety of specialties including finance, human resources, and technology. Here is what FINRA says about their program:

“FINRA’s Corporate Internship Program—a paid 12-week program—offers practical “hands-on” experience with the largest self-regulatory organization for securities firms doing business in the United States. Our program offers interns opportunities to build their careers—and supplement what they’ve learned in the classroom—by meeting and working with employees throughout our organization” (FINRA).

To learn more, visit their internship page.

FINRA also offers legal externships. For more information, visit their career page.

The SEC offers paid internships in the Pathways Intern Program and Chair’s Attorney Honors Program and unpaid positions through the Student Honors Program.

The CFTC also has an internship program.

 

Getting a job:

The ABA has a section on Securities Litigation to join.

One of the most important things to know about getting a job in securities law is that New York and D.C. are “hotspots” for the practice area. While there certainly are opportunities with law firms in cities across the country, the constant involvement with the SEC means that D.C. the ideal place to operate.

In addition to working for law firms (usually large firms), some securities lawyers work for the government. Many securities lawyers choose to try both options over the course of their career. Some of the government positions available are with FINRA, the SEC, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and with state securities regulators who enforce “blue sky” laws.

Market activity impacts the amount of securities law cases and thus the number of job opportunities available. Where you get a job may depend a lot on what internship opportunities you took advantage of. If you think you want to work for the SEC upon graduation, make sure you get an internship with the SEC while you are in school.

 

Average salary:

Securities law is a very profitable area to work in. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported an average salary of $192,530 in 2015 (“Securities Lawyer: Job Description and Education Requirements”).

 

Would you like this practice area?

You need to be comfortable with the technical aspects of securities law, which is why a business background that allows you to already be familiar with investing is particularly useful. You also need to be organized to coordinate production of all of the documents that are required. Without a genuine interest in financial markets, you will not succeed as a securities lawyer. Because cases are often long and complex, patience and attention to detail are key.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

SEC Charges Securities Lawyer and Microcap Agent with Fraud (SEC Press Release 2019-130)

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged an Arizona-based attorney and a Missouri-based agent of microcap shell companies with securities fraud and registration violations. According to the SEC’s complaint, from February 2015 to April 2017, attorney William Scott Lawler engaged in schemes to fraudulently transfer control over the shares of two publicly-traded shell companies to his client.” Read more

Former SeaWorld corporate lawyer pleads guilty to insider trading (Weiss)

“A former corporate lawyer for SeaWorld has pleaded guilty to one count of insider trading for buying company stock last summer after learning of yet-to-be-announced increases in attendance and revenue.” Read more

Securities Settlements in the Shadows (Velikonja)

“The Dodd-Frank Act authorized the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to bring almost any enforcement action in an administrative proceeding.1 Before Dodd-Frank, the SEC could secure civil fines against registered broker-dealers and investment advisers in administrative proceedings, but had to sue in court non-registered firms and individuals, including public companies and executives charged with accounting fraud, or traders charged with insider trading violations. After the Dodd-Frank amendment, save for a few remedies that can only be obtained in court, the SEC can choose the forum in which it prosecutes enforcement actions.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

If you enjoy finance and want complex cases, this might be a good area of law for you.

Sports Law

There are many clients in the sports industry that need legal representation. Though working in one specific industry, sports lawyers could be exposed to a variety of athletes, stadium owners, clubs, teams, sports organizations, and sports-related businesses. Sports lawyers are also involved in a wide variety of areas of law – from their knowledge of contracts to personal injury law to even immigration law for foreign athletes, there are many overlapping skill sets a sports lawyer must possess.

Some of the issues a sports lawyer might address include banned substances, NCAA regulations on practice schedules, representation of an athlete facing criminal charges, enforcing a team’s trademark rights, an athlete’s personal injury, a venue’s negligent conduct resulting in a fan’s injury, and contract negotiation for a professional athlete. That’s just to name a few! Some lawyers may choose to specialize in a sub-area of sports law; for example, a lawyer may primarily handle contract negotiation.

Contrary to popular belief, sports lawyers are not just representing high-profile athletes and teams. There are plenty of lesser-known but still fascinating clients to work for.

 

Education and Background:

If you are not already enrolled in law school and are considering sports law, check out this ranking of the top sports law programs. If you are already in law school and are hoping to complete an LL.M. in sports law, the University of Miami School of Law offers a Sports Law Track in the LL.M. in Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law.

Professional Leagues such as Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Football League, and the United States Tennis Association offer internships, as do some sports news places like CBS College Sports Network and Fox Sports Network.

Sports law is an area where you just have to “climb the ladder”. Although you may not have a background in sports law other than taking a few classes in law school and potentially securing an internship in the area, starting off with smaller clients and proving your worth will allow you to build your practice over time. Unless you are an outstanding student from a top law school, you will likely not secure a job in BigLaw. However, there are plenty of other opportunities available working for smaller “boutique” firms specializing in sports law.

 

Getting a job:

Working in-house for a sports organization will expose you to a wide variety of issues within sports law; on the other hand, there may also be benefits to working for a law firm and choosing to specialize in one specific sub-area of sports law.

If you work for a certain professional sports team or athlete, you may need to be geographically located where that team operates or person lives.

While there isn’t a shortage of opportunities in sports law, representing the “best of the best” is extremely competitive. For example, read this article to see the outstanding qualifications of Tom Brady’s legal team.

Joining The Sports Lawyers Association may help you network and find opportunities.

 

Average salary:

How much sports lawyers make greatly varies. While many receive a fixed salary, others get a percentage of the value of the contract negotiated. In that case, lawyers just starting out will likely make a low salary. However, working for a well-known sports team or for a star-athlete could mean a salary of up to a million dollars (Trente).

 

Would you like this practice area?

Sports law can be both fun and challenging. For those who have a passion for sports, getting to work in the industry can be a thrilling experience. However, strong reading, writing, researching, and speaking skills are still necessary. One of the most important parts of this area of law is “knowing a little about a lot.”

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Rugby union – is the practice and expression of religious beliefs compatible with professional playing obligations? (Collins)

“The decision by Israel Folau to contest the termination of his employment contract by Rugby Australia and the New South Wales Rugby Union has brought into focus the potential conflict between a professional sportsperson’s right to express and practice their religious beliefs, and the simultaneous obligations they owe to their employer (whether express or implied) to conduct themselves in a manner that does not bring their sport or team into disrepute.” Read more

Former NFL Defensive End Appeals to Third Circuit in Concussion Lawsuit (Hanna)

“Amon Gordon, a 37-year-old former NFL defensive end, appealed to the Third Circuit in his legal battle against the NFL for not alerting its players of the long-term medical impact of concussions. Specifically, Gordon played eight seasons in the NFL and is fighting for his entitlement to a 2015 uncapped settlement of roughly 20,000 players to awards of up to $5 million, depending on the age and severity of their football-related injuries, according to Law360.” Read more

City of Phanatic Love: Phillies Face Lawsuit Over Beloved Mascot (Osborne)

“He’s green, a little mean, and often obscene – it’s the mascot everyone loves to hate, the infamous Phillie Phanatic. After the filing of a new federal lawsuit, however, there’s an ominous question looming of whether the 41-year-old relationship will continue in the city of brotherly love. Back on August 2, 2019, the Philadelphia Phillies filed a copyright lawsuit in federal court against Harrison/Erickson, Inc. (H/E) over the future use of the Phanatic as a mascot.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

If you have a passion for working in the sports industry and also possess a wide array of legal knowledge about various areas, sports law might be for you.

Social Security

Disability Law

Social security disability lawyers are experienced at dealing with the Social Security Administration (SSA). Although a lawyer specializing in social security disability law is not necessary for the disability application process, he or she can serve as a valuable resource to help navigate the complex process. When helping a client with the disability application process, a social security disability lawyer may:

  • Make sure everything about the application is complete
  • Gather relevant medical evidence for the application
  • Communicate with the SSA
  • Appeal a decision if necessary
  • Represent a client at a disability hearing

Lawyers in this practice area play an important role in helping those who are disabled and are unable to work receive disability benefits. Lawyers in this practice area are paid only if the client wins; thus, when deciding which cases to accept, usually only the strongest cases are taken on.

Cases related to social security disability are very fact specific. They also require a lot of collaboration with the medical field to obtain necessary documentation. Having a large network of connections is essential to have good cases referred to you and to efficiently and effectively develop medical evidence.

To read some articles about this area of law, check out this Social Security Disability Lawyer Blog by the Law Offices of Russell J. Goldsmith.

Tax Law

Just the thought of tax as an area of practice is enough to make some people shudder. For others, the idea of dealing with numbers all day sounds appealing.

Tax law is an area that is constantly changing with the political climate. New tax laws can leave tax lawyers scrambling to handle all of the questions and problems that clients come across.

It is important to note that the tax laws themselves may be federal, state, or local. That’s a lot of information to keep track of, especially when it’s frequently changing!

According to Legal Career Path, these are the tax disputes that tax lawyers deal with:

  • Income tax
  • Estate tax
  • Capital gains tax
  • Taxes that promote environmentally sound activities
  • Vice tax or sin tax
  • Business tax
  • Employment and payroll tax
  • Property tax
  • Import tax
  • Taxes on gifts

(What is Tax Law)

As you can see, this really offers a variety of situations that tax lawyers can help out with. What happens if a local business owner gets in trouble for not paying payroll tax? What if a company wants to know what environmentally related taxes apply to it? What if a taxpayer disputes a tax? Better call a tax lawyer!

Note: tax lawyers do not prepare tax returns!

Essentially, tax lawyers help out in these ways:

  • Giving advice about tax implications so that sound business decisions can be made
  • Helping a client who disputes a tax imposed on him or her
  • Helping a client who has been accused of a tax violation
  • They may represent clients on civil or criminal matters

 

Education and Background:

Because tax law is so complicated, having a background in business, accounting, or finance may be useful. Getting an LL.M. may also prepare a lawyer for the complex tax issues he or she will have to deal with.

What if you want to represent clients in front of the IRS? To become an Enrolled Agent, you must either have worked for the IRS before or you must pass a comprehensive IRS test.

Tax is one of those areas that a lot of people are surprised to find they actually like. Taking a tax law class in law school will expose you to the basics, and you will quickly find out whether you enjoy it.

 

Getting a job:

You know what they say about death and taxes! So, don’t worry, you’re not likely to have a hard time finding some sort of employment in this area of law. Reports state that tax is a relatively safe field to work in, and if anything, demand is only increasing with the heated political climate.

In addition to finding a job as a tax lawyer at either a large or a small firm, opportunities are available to work as in-house counsel for large companies or to work for the government.

 

Average salary:

In 2014, the median salary for tax lawyers was $99,690 (Lawyer Salary – Top Ten Law Careers).

 

Would you like this practice area?

If you have a general interest in business and enjoy working with numbers, tax law might be a good area of law for you. Tax law is like solving a puzzle; you must be a creative problem-solver to succeed. If you are looking for an area of law that is “safe,” you don’t have to worry about tax law going away. However, if you are looking for an area of law that is “stable,” tax law is not it! Especially in recent years, tax law has undergone some dramatic changes, leaving taxpayers scrambling to understand new laws.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Section 199A and Choice of Passthrough Entity (Burke)

“In 2017, Congress drastically reduced the corporate tax rate and provided an unprecedented deduction under section 199A for qualifying passthrough business income. Although purportedly necessary to maintain tax parity between income earned in corporate and noncorporate form, section 199A encourages active high-income passthrough owners to misclassify labor income as business profit, thereby reducing both income and employment taxes.” Read more

The Compulsory Tax Constraint for Foreign Tax Credits Post TCJA & Coca-Cola Co. v. Commissioner (Cohen)

“One condition imposed by the Treasury Regulations for a foreign levy to be creditable is that the tax must be a “compulsory payment pursuant to the authority of a foreign country to levy taxes.” This Article focuses on the purpose and application of that prerequisite which serves to prevent taxpayers from “pursuing the path of least resistance in dealing with foreign tax authorities.” This restriction was the subject of recent litigation in the United States Tax Court in Coca-Cola Co. v. Commissioner.” Read more

No Orchard, No Capital Gain (Johnson)

“As a matter of principle, capital gain is the gain from invested capital or basis. If the taxpayer has no basis in something of value it sells, there is no capital gain. The principle that capital gain is gain from capital is embedded in the ordinary English language meaning of “capital gain,” which reflects the long history of the English property system going back into feudal tenures. Property purchased by expenses charged to the income interest remains part of the income interest and does not become capital gain reserved for the next heir.” Read more

 

Conclusion:

Although on the surface tax law may seem “boring,” there are actually a wide variety of issues that tax lawyers deal with, and the constantly changing state of the tax laws is sure to keep tax lawyers on their toes.

Transportation

Law

Transportation law involves the regulations of any form of travel including by air, by water, and by rail. Much of the regulation comes from the federal government because transportation impacts interstate commerce and thus falls under the Commerce Clause.

Some of the issues covered by transportation law include requirements for building transportation vehicles, rules for who can own public transportation networks, and determining who may use limited resources.

States also create their own transportation laws such as requirements to obtain a license.

The use of drones is an emerging issue in airspace transportation law. For more information about lawyers who deal with “in the air” issues, see our Aviation and Aerospace section. For more information about lawyers who deal with “in the water” issues, see our Admiralty/Maritime section. Some of the federal transportation agencies for other areas within transportation law include the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Railroad Administration. The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent federal agency to improve transportation safety.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is the overarching government department that according to their website was created to, “Ensure our nation has the safest, most efficient and modern transportation system in the world; that improves the quality of life for all American people and communities, from rural to urban, and increases the productivity and competitiveness of American workers and businesses.”

You may want a student membership with the Transportation Lawyers Association to stay on top of what is going on in the transportation industry.

There are jobs available with the government as well as in the private sector. In the private sector, some lawyers choose to focus exclusively on transportation while others incorporate it into a more general practice.

Understanding technical details and the science behind transportation is a huge plus for working in this area of law.

White

Collar

Crime

Trying to make some $$$ by deceiving someone? That falls under white collar crime, an area of law in which lawyers either prosecute or defend someone who has illegally gained another’s money. Common examples of white-collar crime include:

  • Money laundering
  • Bribery
  • Embezzlement
  • Tax evasion
  • Insurance fraud
  • Insider trading

 

Often these cases involve business executives. That’s because those are the people who have the amount of power and trust stored in them to be able to commit such crimes. Sometimes, executives drag others into it as well. Ever heard of the Enron scandal? If not, look it up.

Another white-collar criminal, arguably the most famous, was Bernie Madoff; his Ponzi scheme caused billions of dollars of losses to those who placed their trust in him. Lawyers who focus on white collar crime may be working in some of the most publicized, high-profile cases in existence.

The FBI defines white collar crime as crimes, “characterized by deceit, concealment, or violation of trust and are not dependent on the application or threat of physical force or violence” (FBI). These cases are usually complex and sophisticated. Sounds fun, right? For more information check out the FBI’s website on white-collar crime.

 

Education and Background:

There are four good ways to break into white-collar crime as a practice area, according to Matt Kaiser, founder of The Kaiser Law Firm PLLC, in his column for Above the Law.

The first is to work for the United State’s Attorney’s office or Department of Justice. Many AUSAs turn into white-collar crime lawyers later on down the road. Second, Kaiser recommends a job as an Assistant Federal Public Defender as another potential break-through career choice. Third, working your way up to Biglaw through hard work and perseverance can secure you one of the coveted white-collar spots at a large firm. Finally, you can just get good at representing people accused of crimes in general, and if you do a great job, eventually the white-collar clients will come to you and you can focus your practice more (Kaiser).

These pathways to success are crucial to think about as you take classes, meet professors, network, and secure internships. If you meet the right people and can get yourself into a “feeder” job or internship, you will eventually be able to work your way up the ladder into the coveted white-collar crime position you want.

 

Getting a job:

One study that looked at 4837 white collar lawyers in the Am Law 200 reported that 80% of partners who primarily practiced white-collar crime had prior government experience (Li and Weisselberg). Further, the study found that for those people who primarily practiced white-collar crime, the ratio of former prosecutors to public defenders was 33:1 (Li and Weisselberg). Most people had a background as a Federal or State prosecutor or in the US Attorney’s Office (Li and Weisselberg).

Without such a background, it may be extremely difficult to secure a job in white collar crime. It will at least take a great deal of time to be able to work your way up.

In sum, while the end goal for most people who desire a job in white-collar crime is to work for a large law firm (and indeed white-collar crime lawyers are becoming more prevalent in the Am Law 200) working as a federal prosecutor is certainly a crucial start to help you get there (Li and Weisselberg).

For an extremely comprehensive study about white collar crime that includes all of the statistics you may want to know, see the BIG LAW’S SIXTH AMENDMENT: THE RISE OF CORPORATE WHITE-COLLAR PRACTICES IN LARGE U.S. LAW FIRMS.

 

Average salary:

A current search on Law Crossing reveals an average salary of $118,188.

 

Would you like this practice area?

Would your friends describe you as ultra-competitive, cut-throat when necessary, and authoritative? Are you also extremely creative when problem solving, curious, and up for a challenge? White collar crime might be a good area for you to practice, especially if you like analyzing the little details and crunching numbers when necessary. If you are thinking about being a federal prosecutor, later in life you may want to transition into white collar crime.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

Lawyer is accused of creating sham secured creditor to shield client assets (Weiss)

“A former partner with Freeborn & Peters in Chicago has been charged in an alleged scheme to protect a client’s assets by creating a sham secured creditor with a senior lien on assets sought by other creditors. The former partner, Edward Lee Filer, was charged in a July 11 federal indictment with two counts of wire fraud and eight counts of bankruptcy fraud.” Read more

Theranos Founder Elizabeth Holmes Charged With ‘Massive Fraud’ By SEC (Grenoble)

“In a complaint filed Wednesday, the Securities and Exchange Commission leveled charges of “massive fraud” against Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of the Silicon Valley startup Theranos ― charges Holmes has agreed to settle. The SEC also named former Theranos President Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani in its complaint, accusing Holmes and Balwani of raising over $700 million from investors “through an elaborate, years-long fraud in which they exaggerated or made false statements about the company’s technology, business, and financial performance.”” Read more

The U.S. Needs to Crack Down on White-Collar Crime (Editorial Board)

“This has been a banner season for punishing white-collar crime. Guilty pleas by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former longtime personal lawyer, and criminal convictions and additional guilty pleas in the case of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort have drawn enormous attention. Cohen admitted to bank fraud, tax evasion and campaign finance violations. Manafort, after having been convicted of tax fraud, bank fraud and failure to file a report documenting foreign bank and financial accounts, pleaded guilty to additional federal charges. It’s fair to assume, however, that neither man’s crimes would have come to light without the scrutiny drawn by their association with Trump. How many ordinary white-collar criminals expect to be found out?” Read more

 

Conclusion:

Your background is extremely important if you want to get into this area of law. The evidence is clear: 80% of white-collar crime attorneys have government experience.

Worker’s Compensation

You may have laughed at the deep, intoning voice on a commercial asking you, “Injured on the job?” In all seriousness, however, getting hurt on the job is no joke and can cause a lot of frustration and stress. Rather than going through expensive personal injury litigation when an employee is injured on the job, a worker’s compensation lawyer essentially uses the mandatory insurance program (worker’s compensation) that is already in place to get money for their injured clients. The mandated system is financed by employer payments that create a “pool” of money that can be dipped into in the event of an injury. An injured employee may have his or her life falling apart; he or she may be struggling to pay the bills. A worker’s compensation lawyer thus plays a key role in eliminating this stress by helping the employee receive money for medical expenses, lost pay, disability payments, or costs associated with rehabilitation and retraining.

So, if the reason you became a lawyer is to “help people” and make their lives better, worker’s comp law is an area where you will be able to see the direct impact you are making.

 

Education and Background:

Most law schools offer classes in worker’s compensation that you can take if you think you may be interested. Then, secure an internship with a firm that specializes in this area to try it out!

There are also plenty of Worker’s Compensation CLE courses available to learn more.

According to worker’s comp lawyer Ryan Benharris, the best thing you can do is read up on the law – so, for example, in Massachusetts that would be Chapter 152, which he says is “like the Bible” for people who work in his practice area. Look up the law in your state to see if it interests you and to obtain some of the knowledge you would need for working in that practice area! If you just want an overview of the law by state, check out Insureon’s “Workers’ Compensation Laws by State” resource.

A background that includes public speaking may be especially useful to this area of law, since you are likely to be in court every single day and need to be well versed at thinking on the fly when speaking!

 

Getting a job:

There are essentially two options available within this area of law – representing injured workers or representing the insurance companies.

A quick Google search indicates a plentiful amount of worker’s compensation jobs out there. It is an incredibly important area of law that will never disappear – there will always be unfortunate workplace accidents.

You may choose to work at a large law firm. Realize, however, that your area of law will likely not be its main focus. You could also choose to work for a more specialized smaller law firm. Opportunities in this area of law are really quite expansive, and you will not be limited by the size firm you choose. It may also be possible to get a job as in-house counsel for a large company.

 

Average salary:

This varies widely by geography, but the national average is $119,000 (My Career Path). Attorney Ryan Benharris stated that while there is quite a bit of money to be made by going into that area of law, people who practice it are those who love helping others.

 

Would you like this practice area?

Strengths/Weaknesses: Strong public speaking skills are an absolute must for this area of law. Excellent communication skills, particularly in reassuring others, are necessary when speaking with stressed out, anxious clients. If you are not a particularly strong writer, this may be a good area for you to practice since you will mostly be filling out forms, talking to people, and litigating.

Likes/Dislikes: If the main reason you became a lawyer was to help people, and especially if you enjoy reducing the stress and hardship that people face, this is a good area of law for you. If you are the type of person who likes to always be organized, plan things out in advance, extensively do research, and dislikes having to come up with something on the spot, you might not enjoy practicing worker’s compensation law. If dealing with upset or emotional people stresses you out, consider another area.

 

Consider whether these articles interest you:

WV Commissioner: Proposed Workers’ Comp Premium Reduction Would Save Employers Millions (WorkCompWire)

“The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), West Virginia’s rating and statistical agent, has filed a proposed workers’ compensation loss cost decrease of 1.6% effective November 1, 2019. This premium reduction results in a projected $3 million in savings to West Virginia employers. Since the workers’ compensation program was privatized in 2006, the market has experienced approximately $401 million in premium savings.” Read more

Ohio Can’t Ban Workers’ Comp Solicitation, 6th Circ. Rules (Law360)

“Ohio law firm Bevan & Associates LPA Inc. won a challenge to a state law prohibiting solicitation for workers’ compensation claims when the Sixth Circuit said on Monday that the ban “is repugnant to the free speech clause of the First Amendment…” Read more

Georgia Enacts Revised Workers’ Compensation Provisions (Bernal)

“Georgia recently enacted several amendments to its workers’ compensation law.  Effective July 1, 2019, for all injuries occurring on or after July 1, 2019, the state increased payouts on the following benefits:

  • Maximum payout for temporary total disability (TTD) benefits to $675 per week
  • Maximum payout for temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits to $450 per week
  • Maximum death payout to a sole-surviving spouse (no other beneficiaries) to $270,000” Read more

 

Worker’s Compensation Attorney Spotlight:

Ryan Benharris is a worker’s compensation lawyer at The Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl, a firm that specializes in helping employees hurt on the job. Attorney Benharris has a genuine desire to help people, which is what makes his career in worker’s compensation law so fulfilling.

Ryan’s Interview:

Q: How long have you been a lawyer?

A: 14 years

Q: Where did you go to law school?

A: Southern New England Law School, now known as the University of Massachusetts School of Law – Dartmouth

Q: In what practice area(s) do you practice? If more than one, what’s the percentage of each?

A: Worker comp 75%; social security 25%

Q: What size is your firm?

A: 3 attorneys

Q: Describe an average day at work…

A: Worker’s Compensation is different than a lot of other areas. Most of my day is spent talking to people who have been hurt at work, filing claims, and going to The Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) to litigate.

Q: How often are you on the phone or writing emails?

A: I would say it makes up to 65% of my day. Some clients call me every single day. My fees are paid for by the insurance company; they are statutory fees. My clients don’t have to pay me an hourly rate or anything. So, my clients call me all the time.

Q: Do you spend much time drafting documents?

A: Not much; a lot of my work is form based. So, I file a form and accompany it by medical records that we submit. I do have to write motions or briefs sometimes, but I definitely don’t spend a lot of time writing.

Q: Do you deal with difficult people?

A: I shy away from the term difficult. All of my clients have suffered some sort of misfortune – their life is in turmoil, and that creates stress and anxiety and they are dependent on me to help. Yes, clients can be very emotional or frustrated. Like I said, I have clients who call me every single day.

Q: What makes your day-to-day work different from that in other practice areas?

A: I love my type of work for two main reason. 1) For anyone who wants to be a lawyer to “help people” – that’s truly what you do in worker’s compensation law. If I don’t do my job properly, my clients don’t get the money they need, and maybe they can’t pay the bills, eat, take care of children etc. They are dependent on me to navigate the system, so I can really say I get to help families. This differentiates worker’s compensation from other areas of law where you may not directly help people care for their families. 2) I get to go to court almost every single day. There’s basically never a day where I sit in my office. I’m at the Department of Industrial Accidents constantly. This is not a practice area where you get to sit and research and write. This is where you are in the courtroom thinking on the fly, with not a lot of time to prepare. I get to go to court with some of the best people in the world. The other attorneys in this area are my best friends. And the judges in this area of law are wonderful and smart.

Q: How many hours a week do you typically work?

A: Well, I usually get into the office around 8:30 or a little earlier, and I leave a little after 5… but I’m always working, even at home, taking phone calls and getting things ready for the next day. I would call it 50-60 hours a week.

Q: What do you least like about your job/practice area?

A: Worker’s compensation law can be stressful in that you have to go through administrative procedures and can’t always get the results your clients need in a timely fashion. Sometimes you have to deal with (rightfully) cranky people who might not be paid for several months – and that’s not an easy conversation to have. It’s sad and difficult not being able to help people immediately.

Q: Finish this sentence as if you are giving advice to a law student – You’d be a happy and successful worker’s compensation lawyer if you…

A:  …can understand the hardships that a family has and explain difficult things like waiting for money to them while being mindful of people’s lives being upended.

Q: What advice would you give students interested in learning more about being a lawyer in your practice area?

A: Google worker’s compensation to start and find out more about it. I recommend taking a worker’s compensation class if your school offers it; this area of law is different than other types of law, so look for a clerkship at a worker’s compensation firm and get to know The Department of Industrial Accidents. Employees who work there are extremely knowledgeable and can give great advice. Those are the people I learned a lot from. Get to know the worker’s compensation world, find a firm that concentrates in it, and ask those lawyers questions.

Q: What other comments do you have to add about your practice area?

A: You are in court every day! Also, I only represent injured workers. However, there are two types of jobs in this practice area – you can represent injured workers or represent insurance companies. It really comes down to a personal choice. I like to help people, but I know that the insurance company attorney job is very important also because you have to know the statute well. Look into both and figure out which one you prefer!

Just because I don’t write a lot doesn’t mean I don’t write well. Writing well is a skill crucial to any area of law.

– Ryan Benharris

 

Conclusion:

If you want to work in an area of law where you feel like you can truly help people, worker’s compensation is an important area to consider.

 

Thank you for reading our guide! Please pass it along if you found it helpful!

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