The Law Student's Gambit: What Kind of Law do You Want to Practice?

As the 2015-16 law school application season approaches an end, this year’s applicants are feverishly awaiting decision letters from the half-dozen or more schools to which they have applied. The roller coaster of hoping for admittance (or even wait listing) to the “reach” school and praying to not be denied by the “safe” school – which absolutely happens in this seemingly Wall Street inspired numbers game played by admissions offices across the country – will soon shift to the all-important dilemma of choosing the school. I was lucky enough to be accepted to my school of choice well before the end of application season which meant I skipped straight to the topic of this week’s blog: the never ending onslaught of being asked “what kind of law do you want to practice?”

Naturally, this question reared its head the moment my desire to be a lawyer became public knowledge. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, friends, friends of friends, friends of family, and the occasional random stranger all got the same answer – “I don’t know.” The more I learned, the more it seemed to make sense to choose an area of study early on. Law students can begin specializing once the first year curriculum is completed by enrolling in a certificate or a dual/joint degree program. For those experienced in particular fields, this perhaps makes more sense. For me, it felt short sighted to resign myself to a particular field of practice. Just because an individual has effectively convinced his or her landlord to perform contractual or legal duties doesn’t mean they would enjoy handling landlord-tenant disputes as a career. I decided to enjoy the 1L required curriculum, take a wide range of electives, and limit myself only to the areas of law I didn’t eliminate.

As explained to me by Memphis Divorce Attorney Larry Rice, the legal field is becoming more and more about specialized areas of law. In fact, there are specialties within those fields. This is self-evident from how Mr. Rice chose to name The Rice Divorce Law. Of course it wasn’t always this simple. When Mr. Rice graduated from law school, such legal specialization was a thing in its infancy. Like many attorneys must do today, Mr. Rice practiced in multiple areas of law because it was how things were done. It wasn’t until the ABA picked up The Complete Guide to Divorce Practice by Mr. Rice that he ultimately specialized his divorce law practice (the 25th Anniversary edition is co-authored by Memphis Family Law Attorney Nick Rice). This has been the trend over the last thirty years.

Today, there is obvious pressure on future attorneys to choose a field and to work towards becoming a proficient practitioner within that area of law. This is the gambit: make the sacrificial move by excluding many potential areas of practice in the hopes of having the advantage of being more competitive in a particular area upon graduation. Quick perusal of the many different online legal forums will show that many current and former lawyers found this to be a mistake. The lucky ones found out while still in law school, and made a change before fully committing. The unlucky attorneys either found out much later or are too stubborn to admit defeat. This inevitably leads to an unhappy lawyer suffering through the years until they change fields, retire, abandon their legal career all together, or worse. As a currently practicing Memphis divorce attorney, Larry Rice is anything but unhappy and suffering through his career.

Switching the gambit around and instead choosing what areas of law I don’t want to do has already shown great promise. I have found that I enjoy many different kinds of law and I am now working in a field I never would have chosen two years ago when I received my acceptance letter to The University of Memphis—Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law. The best part about it is that family law, and even more specifically divorce law, entails so many other areas of law that I enjoy.

This blog is written by the law clerks and interns of the Rice Divorce Law. We document our experience working with Memphis Divorce Lawyer Larry Rice and Memphis Divorce Lawyer Nick Rice, as well as other members of the Rice Divorce Law. The Rice Lawrepresents clients in Tennessee, including Memphis, Nashville, Jackson, Columbia, Johnson City, and Knoxville. We hope these blog posts will be interesting and show the evolution of students as they move towards being divorce and family lawyers and paralegals. The statements in these posts should not be used as legal advice about divorce or family law.

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