Diversity and diversification is rarely a negative thing. This is true in the field of law and legal studies too. While it's important for lawyers to find a specialty, being able to practice multiple areas of law will benefit you and your clients in the long term for a number of reasons.
Why Diversity Matters
Options — a simple enough word, being able to practice multiple types of law gives both you and your clients more options. No different than that barista menu, there will be times when you need more skills and tools than the basics of your chosen specialty area.
For instance, Malliha Wilson, a talented Canadian attorney is a great example of a lawyer able to manage cross specialties to make an impact. Specializing in human rights, indigenous, constitutional, corporate, labor law, and other complex law; she was the first minority woman to hold special office in Ontario and spent her career dedicated to legal services to help improve people's quality of life.
While it might be more difficult to get to know multiple levels of law and some would not think to put together corporate law with civil litigation, Malliah Wilson's legacy of using a combination of skills and specialties demonstrates exactly how this can be done and what the benefits can be. From establishing trust to making a huge change in government agencies, this is the kind of impactful work many law students fantasize about before earning law degrees.
Maybe you hope to study medical malpractice law and can't see where intellectual property law would apply to your specialty. Of course, you'll take any mandatory IP law classes, but if you step back and think about ways IP paperwork law could help your clients in your chosen specialty you might quickly be able to see where IP law crosses into medicine. Consider research and the legal situations intellectual property lawyers face when it comes to how that information is shared. This could easily come into a malpractice case where a doctor was given the wrong kind of clinical information. You offering legal advice about both types of law will make you a better attorney.
Types of Legal Crossovers
Collaborating with other lawyers in different specialties can help with more than just networking and legal tips. It might just be the push you need to learn more specialties in the legal field too. A personal injury attorney, for example, may be interested in bankruptcy law after losing a case and seeing his client go bankrupt. Criminal law, corporate law, and even family law might make you a better personal injury attorney because of how cases might cross over. Consider the family who now has a lifetime of care ahead of them because of a severely injured loved one. Being able to manage things like next of kin choices and beneficiary statuses will come in handy and save you the call to another attorney.
Even if you only learn about other areas of law but choose not to practice more than your chosen field, there are ways you can make crossover law work for your private practice or public office you work for. Consider the reasons why people move to Florida, for example. For many, it's warm weather and being part of a retirement community. While that seems simple enough on the surface, not all people who retire in the Sunshine State are there for the same reason. Maybe it's the best place for them because they have relatives there, want to be near the golf course, or that they want to get away from high taxes in New England. Your clients will come in with different needs and hire you for different purposes. The same is true here.
There is no doubt different types of lawyers exist for a reason. But in offering many types of legal services, you put yourself in the best financial position to help clients with any legal need. A corporate lawyer could double as a real estate lawyer and labor lawyer too.
In the end, the more law you are able to practice, the likely the better. Between collaborations and just more legal knowledge, taking some extra time each day to learn more will help you become even better at your overall job and specialty. While you don't want to overextend yourself so that you aren't great at the specific types of law you practice, it's important to become an expert in at least a few if you hope to give both yourself and your clients more options.
Whether you work for a private firm, are a partner, an advocate, or in the public defender's office, the more comfortable you are with other areas of law, the better you'll perform for yourself and your clients.