Discerning Your Path

Today's law students want—and need—useful information about the legal profession, about alternative career paths, and about law school options. The historical law school model was something like, "take a broad array of courses, do as well as you can, and figure out the rest later." That approach may not always be the optimal one in today's highly competitive legal economy. Some employers, to be sure, want well-rounded and versatile law graduates who bring flexibility and adaptability and are willing to be assigned a broad array of assignments. Other employers are looking for more specificity. They want to see a demonstrated interest and enthusiasm for one or more specific practice areas. They may want practice area knowledge and skills that would allow a new lawyer to work effectively with less supervision. There is no "one size fits all" answer. Still, the best approach to law school is a thoughtful approach. To get started, you should explore different areas of the law, different practice styles, and different work settings and should be alert to specialties that interest, challenge, and inspire you.

What Style of Law Practice Interests You?

There are different styles of law practice from which you might choose. Transactional lawyers create the contracts, financing agreements, and other documents that help clients start a new enterprise or undertake a new initiative. Litigators and other lawyers who work in dispute resolution, by contrast, help parties sort out responsibility for the failure of a project, the end of an employment relationship, or the alleged commission of a crime. Legislative/Regulatory lawyers represent government agencies or private entities in designing, implementing, or challenging relevant legislation and adminstrative regulations. Academic lawyers teach and research questions of law and legal policy. Some lawyers, finally, choose not to practice law at all, opting instead for alternative careers.

Depending on which practice style resonates best with your interests and skills, you might consider distinct areas of practice.

Transactional techniques are commonly used in the following substantive areas of practice:

  • Antitrust Law
  • Banking and Financial Institutions
  • Communications/Media Law
  • Corporate and Business Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Estate Planning
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Law
  • Labor and Employment Law
  • Real Estate Law
  • Sports and Entertainment Law
  • Tax Law

Litigation/dispute resolution techniques are commonly used in the following substantive areas of practice:

  • Antitrust Law
  • Banking and Financial Institutions
  • Bankruptcy and Debtor/Creditor Law
  • Child and Family Law
  • Civil Litigation
  • Communications/Media Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Environmental Law
  • Estate Planning
  • Health Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Law
  • Labor and Employment Law
  • Public Interest
  • Real Estate Law
  • Tax Law
  • Tort and Insurance Law

Legislative and regulatory techniques are commonly used in the following substantive areas of practice:

  • Antitrust Law
  • Banking and Financial Institutions
  • Child and Family Law
  • Communications/Media Law
  • Corporate and Business Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Health Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Law
  • Labor and Employment Law
  • Public Interest
  • Real Estate Law
  • Tax Law

Law school graduates pursue careers in higher education in various ways, including becoming a doctrinal professor, clinical or professional skills professor, legal writing instructor, or administrator/staff member in a law school, or becoming a professor in a related discipline, elsewhere in a university.

If you are interested in this career path, please see Professor Levine for more specific advice about how to structure your studies at Emory.

If you are considering the academic career path, you may want to consider a one- or two-year Fellowship Program which can provide the opportunity to research, write, receive mentoring from senior faculty, and soak up the atmosphere of law faculty.

Non-legal careers are an attractive option for some law school graduates. Many students pursue opportunities outside the law, given a passion for business, education, the arts, or another field to which their legal training can be usefully applied. Yet others turn to non-law careers after starting in the legal profession, given challenges they encounter in pursuit of their particular interests and goals. Some fall in the middle, pursuing a non-law career after practicing for several years and gaining valuable legal experience and networking contacts. Given the wide variety of non-legal careers and paths to them, your career advisor can be a valuable resource in exploring your specific interests and situation. 

Law and legal regulations reflect, affect, reinforce, and broadly connect to many other areas of life. Which of these relationships most interest you?

If you are interested in the connections between law and Business/Finance, you might develop an expertise in:

  • Antitrust Law
  • Banking and Financial Institutions
  • Bankruptcy and Debtor/Creditor Law
  • Civil Litigation
  • Communications/Media Law
  • Corporate and Business Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Health Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Law
  • Labor and Employment Law
  • Real Estate Law
  • Sports and Entertainment Law
  • Tax Law

If you are interested in issues of Government Regulation, Politics, and Public Policy, you might develop an expertise in:

  • Antitrust Law
  • Banking and Financial Institutions
  • Communications/Media Law
  • Corporate and Business Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Health Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Law
  • Public Interest
  • Tax Law

If you are interested in the connections between law and Social Policy, you might develop an expertise in:

  • Banking and Financial Institutions
  • Bankruptcy and Debtor/Creditor Law
  • Child and Family Law
  • Communications/Media Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Environmental Law
  • Estate Planning
  • Health Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • Labor and Employment Law
  • Military/National Security Law
  • Public Interest
  • Tax Law
  • Tort and Insurance Law

If you are interested the role of law in Dispute Resolution, you might develop an expertise in:

  • Antitrust Law
  • Bankruptcy and Debtor/Creditor Law
  • Child and Family Law
  • Civil Litigation
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Environmental Law
  • Estate Planning
  • Health Law
  • Immigration Law
  • International Law
  • Labor and Employment Law
  • Public Interest
  • Tort and Insurance Law

If you are interested in Crime and its Regulation, you might develop an expertise in:

  • Antitrust Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Immigration Law
  • International Law
  • Labor and Employment Law
  • Military/National Security Law
  • Public Interest

If you are interested in the challenges of International Politics and Relations, you might develop an expertise in:

  • Banking and Financial Institutions
  • Corporate and Business Law
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Environmental Law
  • Immigration Law
  • International Law
  • Military/National Security Law
  • Public Interest

If you are interested in questions of Information, Knowledge, Science & Technology, you might develop an expertise in:

  • Communications/Media Law
  • Environmental Law
  • Health Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • Sports and Entertainment Law
What types of clients would you like to represent?

If you would like to help individuals or families with their legal problems, you might take courses in

  • Bankruptcy and Debtor/Creditor Law
  • Child and Family Law
  • Civil Litigation
  • Criminal Law
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Estate Planning
  • Health Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • Labor and Employment Law
  • Public Interest
  • Real Estate Law
  • Sports and Entertainment Law
  • Tax Law

If you would like to help businesses and other private or non-profit organizations with their legal problems, you might take courses in

  • Antitrust Law
  • Banking and Financial Institutions
  • Bankruptcy and Debtor/Creditor Law
  • Civil Litigation
  • Communications/Media Law
  • Corporate and Business Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Environmental Law
  • Health Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Law
  • Labor and Employment Law
  • Tax Law
  • Tort and Insurance Law

If you would like to help government agencies, you might take courses in

  • Antitrust Law
  • Banking and Financial Institutions
  • Bankruptcy and Debtor/Creditor Law
  • Civil Litigation
  • Communications/Media Law
  • Corporate and Business Law
  • Criminal Law
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Environmental Law
  • Health Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Law
  • Labor and Employment Law
  • Tax Law
  • Tort and Insurance Law