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Three Tips for Adapting to the Brave New World of Law Studies

Three Tips for Adapting to the Brave New World of Law Studies

  • Student Tips
Joanna HughesAug 17, 2016

The field of law is not the same today as it was 50, 25 or even 10 years ago. Perhaps of even greater note? It won’t be the same a decade from now as it is today. Let’s take a closer look at some of the changes impacting the law industry, along with highlighting three tips aimed at helping aspiring lawyers navigate these challenges toward successful, sought-after careers.

A Changing Landscape
Many factors are transforming the face of law. Leading the pack? Technology, which is playing out across everything from the automation of standard legal tasks to disruptive technologies aimed at increasing the efficiency of case management and back-office tasks. Just how significant is the potential impact of technology on the legal sphere? The Boston Consulting Group suggests that legal-technology solutions may perform as much as 50 percent of the work currently being done by junior lawyers.

As if this information isn’t ominous enough, consider the latest law school employment data from the American Bar Association revealing that the legal job rate for 2015 grads is just 59.2 percent. That means more than 40 percent of last year’s law school grads have yet to land full-time gigs a full 10 months after receiving their law degrees. So while law careers are often cited among the most lucrative professions, earning that high paycheck relies on one huge factor: getting a job in the first place.

The good news? Not only have legal job rates been rising at a steady albeit slow rate for the past four years, but job-minded law students can also take some steps to position themselves for success.

Three 21st Century Law Studies Tips
Just because the landscape of law is changing doesn’t mean there’s no room for you. In fact, lawyers who are ready, willing and able to think outside-the-(jury)box may end up with their pick of plum positions. The following tactics can help.

Recommended reading: How to study in law school?

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1. Know the Value of Niche
When it comes to “future-proofing,” equipping yourself with unique experiences and skills can position you not only to land a legal job, but to take on a leadership role in shaping the industry’s future. Adopting a commercially savvy outlook while keeping your own interests in mind can help.

Lawyers Weekly shares the example of business/law student Shaun Chung, who suggests parlaying passion into expertise which is transferrable to law. His advice? “Go out beyond the legal industry. The most important thing is not to silo your perspective to a legal perspective [alone].”

But tech is far from alone in its up-and-coming status. Privacy, environmental and health care are all among the hottest areas of practice for lawyers today.

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2. Count on Connections
In the digital age, it’s easy to overlook the value of human networking. The ability to call on everyone from peers to innovators in the field can help aspiring lawyers both identify growth areas and position themselves to move into them. Says Chung, “If I had an emerging interest in artificial intelligence, I would talk to a technically gifted computer scientist, but also go out and see what people are actually doing to commoditise legal service.” Attending industry events, meanwhile, can yield further insights into upcoming issues in the space.

Don’t wait to start your networking until after graduation, however. From connecting with people on LinkedIn to attending alumni events, there are near-endless ways to rub digital elbows in our social age.

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3. Accept that Flexibility is Marketable
One caveat worth noting about the data shared by the American Bar Association? These figures apply exclusively to full-time work. Willingness to consider other types of positions, such as part-time jobs and temporary gigs, can be a great way to get a foot in the door and/or gain real-world skills until you can land something full-time or permanent.

Geographic flexibility is also key. Law is dynamic; it ebbs and flows across areas of practice as well as areas of the country. Looking for a job in the legal-tech space? You’re more likely to find it in Silicon Valley than in a seaside resort town. Hoping to take over a small, private practice? Casting a wide net and being open to whatever comes your way can lead to the position of your dreams in an unexpected location.

The overall takeaway when it comes to the future of law jobs? While traditional careers may be harder to come by, there are plenty of opportunities for next-generation lawyers who understand the changing market and position themselves to step into critical positions as they arise.

Joanna Hughes

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.