One of the most common questions for law school applicants is, “Do I need to know what type of law I want to practice before I start law school?”

The short answer is: no.

Whether you are starting law school next semester or planning to apply, we are here to answer this common law school question and offer you the guidance and resources needed to confidently choose which area of law to study.

Choosing A Legal Practice Area – When Do Law Students Need to Decide?

western state choosing a legal practiceWhile some individuals decide to pursue a JD degree to practice in a specific area of law. Others  have a strong desire to make a difference and see the pursuit of a legal degree as an avenue to reach that goal. In fact, at Western State, many incoming students begin their journey without knowing what type of law they want to practice. Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for some first-year law students to initially enter with a particular practice area in mind, only to later pivot their focus after being exposed to a variety of legal disciplines.

Simply put, it is okay to enter law school regardless of whether you have decided on what type of law you want to practice.

Flexible Opportunities Provided by Law School Curriculum

western state joining student organizationsOne of the factors that provides flexibility within the timeline of choosing which area of law to study has to do with how law school curriculum is structured. The curriculum for legal studies is focused on providing students with general courses for the first year and a majority of the second year, with the option for some electives along the way. This was designed to ensure incoming students could develop and finesse fundamental skills like case reading and briefing, writing and legal analysis. It also introduces multiple subject areas, including civil procedure, contracts, criminal, property, torts and constitutional law courses. After year one, many students have a better grasp on what type of law they are interested in.

At Western State, our faculty and staff serve as resources with the ability to provide individual guidance and access to a wide range of exciting opportunities in the field to help you find your legal niche. This can include joining a student organization based on an area of interest, attending events to hear from alumni in the legal field or participating in an internship or externship to gain hands-on experience.

Pursuing Your Legal Niche at Western State

western state pursuing your legal nicheOnce students have identified a specific area of law they are interested in, they can choose from several elective courses to dive deeper into that subject. At Western State, individuals also have the opportunity to pursue a certificate within the formal JD degree across five specific practice areas:

  • Business law
  • Criminal law
  • Immigration law
  • Family law
  • Real estate law

To receive a certificate, students complete a rigorous course of study, including both required and elective courses, in addition to an experiential learning or pro bono/public service opportunity. Beyond allowing students with a passion for a specific area of law to earn a certificate, this can help set them apart after graduation when pursuing jobs in that field.

Interested in pursuing a JD degree? Download our guide to learn more about the many opportunities available to law students at Western State!