Help Me Hillary: Changing Practice Areas

by | March 31, 2009

Dear Hillary:

I am currently an unemployed attorney. For the past three years I have practiced immigration law. However, this is not really a high-paying area (in my experience). I am now undecided about how I should proceed in the future. How do I change to a different area of practice? Should I change careers all together? Should I go back to school for an MBA? These are just some of the questions I am attempting to answer. Please help!

Anonymous Lawyer

Dear Anonymous:

If you want to change to a more lucrative practice area, you can create a bridge by taking CLE courses in the new practice area. That way you can compensate for a lack of substantive knowledge in that area. Feel free to discuss the courses during interviews and mention them in your cover letters. In addition taking CLE courses allows you to network with the other attorneys in the classes. If nothing else, participating in these courses shows a real sign of commitment that you want to move into a new practice area. I have seen this method work for others in your position. If you want to go into litigation, it's not a bad idea to also do some pro bono work to obtain additional litigation experience. If you are a fairly recent graduate, you can also mention specific related courses from law school in your interviews and cover letters. Make sure that you are very familiar with current events in business so that you can determine market trends and try and predict marketable areas in this very volatile economy.

You also mentioned that you were thinking about pursuing an MBA. I would make an appointment with a local university that has an MBA program and find out what their employment statistics and average salaries at graduation are before you go further, so that you can be an informed consumer. You need to get as much information as you can so that you can determine if the move is worth it, and also if you would enjoy the coursework.

Like any other career change, the more time you spend thinking things out up front, the better your plan might ultimately work out. Good luck.

If you have your own question for Hillary send her an e-mail to Help me Hillary.

Hillary Mantis, Esq., is a career counselor and author of career books. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers and Jobs for Lawyers: Effective Techniques for Getting Hired in Today's Legal Marketplace.

Ms. Mantis consults with individuals and corporations on issues including: career transition, career advancement and direction, interviewing skills, leadership development, women in the workplace, and professional growth. She has been affiliated with Fordham University School of Law Career Planning Center for the past six years and has been a career counselor for over ten years. She is a graduate of Brown University and Boston College Law School. For more information about private career counseling, e-mail altcareer@aol.com, or go to www.mynewcareer.net.

Filed Under: Job Search


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