Today’s Question: Career Change


This question was posed by one of the members.

“Is it possible to begin your practice in one area and later switch to another without too great a cost to your career?”

I know many lawyers who began practice as commercial litigators and eventually became very successful commercial or banking lawyers. Whether or not you enjoy litigating or getting on your feet in court, it provides a wonderful foundation for other skills you may develop later in your career. I began my career as a tax litigator and it was fantastic experience in understanding what can go wrong and how the court appreciates the way documents or transactions are set up and the importance of the motivations of the parties when planning  a transaction. I don’t think I would have been nearly as good a lawyer as I became, without that prior experience and the insights it gave me , that I only appreciated many years later.

So the short answer is that you become more valuable with variation in your experiences. The longer you spend doing the one or two things you are very good at, the deeper the rut you dig for yourself.

It’s almost counter -intuitive. We think the longer we do something, the more expert we become. In fact the opposite is true. The more variety you take on, the more new areas you learn about, the more you are able to garner new insights from the variations. Each one fertilizes the other.

As for those of you who find you don’t actually like what you are doing, get over your fear and move on to something that might excite you.

A young fifth year lawyer in my firm approached me many years ago and said to me, “I hate doing these commercial transactions. I’m thinking of leaving the firm.” I asked him what he wanted to do. It was the early days of technology and he thought he might like to study technology law. I told him to go ahead and become the firm expert on the subject. I knew nothing about the subject myself. It was the early 90’s. That lawyer has been a leader in the field of Privacy Law for fifteen years: a pioneer in the area and in the way to deliver service to clients.

The world keeps changing at an incredible pace. Find the niche that interests you and grow with it! Change is good.

Have a great day.


Advice, Career, Development