QI just read a post on Lawyerist on the Future of Law Practice and am trying to research the best areas of law for a future law practice and where in the country they will be centered. Although I have been out of school for almost ten years and have ten years experience in business and as an entrepreneur, I am considering law school. As such, I am trying to get a feel for what the next top five booming industries will be, and where they will be centered, so that I may consider applying to law schools with that expertise or regional location. Or perhaps I should be seeking which fields of law practice (as opposed to general industry) will be the most prolific. In any case, I’m doing my due diligence to match my life experience with the right school in the right region for the right reason.
I currently live in California. I have a B.S. in economics and practiced commercial real estate for three years (and still have the license). For the past six years I have been working with an aviation start-up company, so I’m interested in real estate, aviation, M&A work, entertainment law, and possibly aerospace law. I’d appreciate any thoughts you would be willing to share.
ATwo cities and one question. First, the two cities: Delhi and Miami. If the future of law is outsourcing everything but the stapler, then get to know Delhi, one of the centers of outsourcing in India. At least be familiar, very familiar, with the entire LPO industry so that you know what trends may be developing and what jobs are being off-shored so that you don’t pursue anything roughly related to those (unless, of course, you want to be an LPO magnate). But, now you ask, Miami? Yes, Miami. It’s an incredible international city, vibrant, and growing. It has every conceivable industry, from aviation to shipping to tourism and immigration. If I look into my crystal ball, I’d consider Miami over New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Seattle is a close second.
Oh, my question, which is this: why? As in why go to law school? The profession is coming off its worst performance in years, more and more law grads cannot find legal jobs, and, despite some whispering to the contrary, law school admissions are fairly steady. Which means it’s not getting better. So I question the current value of law school and whether it’s a decent investment. In your case, however, the more upfront work you do to figure out the focus of your future legal practice the better. It used to be (and I’m a prime example) that you just went to law school because you didn’t know what else to do. That attitude today is now a $100,000 debt ticket that cannot be redeemed anywhere. If you are about to spend six figures on continued education, do what you are doing now: investigate, research, and network. And don’t go to law school if, after you do your due diligence, your gut tells you it’s the wrong direction.
My final advice? Think of the future of law as one dominated by what I call “floating solos.” These are lawyers who can either practice on their own in a niche area or who can successfully patch together contract work from a number of sources, even from big firms (just don’t expect an equity stake in a big firm as a result of doing work for it). Though some folks may sneer at this concept because it inexplicably seems “unprofessional,” those critics are stuck in the old country and refusing to see the changes that are already rocking the industry. In your case, use your experience in aviation to find out what legal needs exist in the industry and whether those legal needs will continue or change. My guess is, in a highly regulated industry like aviation, it will, and you may have a nice career as a “flying solo,” provided you like the work. Which brings me to my final piece of advice: don’t go into an area or niche for which you have no experience unless you feel, in your gut, it is right for you. Even though barratry may suddenly be the next big thing (which it won’t), it won’t mean a thing to you if you have no real interest or passion for it. Seriously. Don’t do it. Too many big firm attorneys go into a big firm only to hate the work later. Know the work first before you jump.