What’s your opinion about a third year joining niche practice area?

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Allison Wottawa
Summary: I am not sure it's time for me to specialize in one area at this point in my career. Should I join a niche practice area as a third year attorney?


I'm a 3rd year associate with a general corporate background. I received an offer from a firm for a leveraged finance position. I have some finance experience and the firm seems to value my general corporate background, but I am not sure it's time for me to specialize in one area at this point in my career. What's your opinion about a third year joining niche practice area?


It's terrific that you are considering your long-term options and future goals when considering this offer. This is a big move at a pretty crucial time in your career. I would need a bit more information, but let's start with this - do you like leveraged finance? Do you like it enough to do primarily this for the rest of your law firm career? Specializing certainly has its advantages, but anyone looking to focus their practice in one area needs to determine if they can be happy doing this type of work in the long-term.

Being a third year with a general corporate background, you've had the advantage of gaining exposure to a variety of matters. How does finance rank when compared to other corporate areas? If, out of those matters, you enjoy your finance related work, then this may be the best possible opportunity for your legal career.

Some things to consider - what is this firm's reputation in this specialty? Perhaps more importantly, what is the partner's (for whom you will be primarily working) reputation within this area? If the partner is well established with major clients in this field (financial institutions and the like), he/she could potentially open significant doors for you now and down the road.

Specializing is a terrific way to "make a name for yourself" and increase your future marketability to particular clients and potential future employers (whether other firms or in-house). Your varied background is certainly valuable, but as your rise in seniority, clients and future employers generally prefer an expert in one field as opposed to a "jack of all trades."

As a third year, you should already be thinking about how to market yourself to clients and create relationships that will lead to business generation for your firm. By specializing, you focus in on your client base and can aim your business developing efforts toward this particular audience. As you grow into your specialty, it becomes more likely to be considered a "go to" person for that certain area. This absolutely increases your potential client base (through repeat business, referrals, and reputation) while elevating your value and clout within your firm.

Essentially, no, you are not too junior to specialize. The sooner you realize that you want to focus on a certain area and begin courting the appropriate clients, the better for your career in the long-term.

That being said, if you don't love it, it's probably better to take a pass. If all goes well, you will be doing finance related work for the better part of your law firm career. So, if your cringe at that thought … move on. Once you specialize, it can be difficult to extricate yourself. If you're not happy with your work, that will most definitely affect your future success.

Popular tags

Third Year Attorney      Specialize      Niche Area      Leveraged Finance      Finance     

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