How To Find The Area Of Law That’s Right For You

How To Find The Area Of Law That’s Right For YouThis week we welcome back guest writer Hillary Vaillancourt to talk about finding the right fit in a legal practice area.

I am one of those people. You know the kind, the kind that can’t try a new recipe without posting a picture on social media with a lengthy write-up about how the food was prepared, where, and why. The kind that will go to a restaurant and snap copious amounts of pictures of the meal before finally sticking a fork in it. The kind that leaves a #foodie on post after post. I proudly grocery shop like a tourist in a new city. I love scanning the shelves every week for some new product, some new, exotic ingredient I can use to bring my culinary creations to a higher level of deliciousness.

In fact, I love food so much, during my first year of law school I considered leaving to go to culinary school. A fellow classmate did just that and became a pastry chef, and to be honest, I have always been a bit jealous of her path.

I did finish law school, but when it came time for me to decide where I wanted my own career to go, I wasn’t as sure as I thought I was when I first decided to get a law degree. I knew I wanted to help people. I wanted to do something altruistic. I thought I would go to Washington, D.C. and lobby for a nonprofit. But, I wasn’t quite sure what specific road to take after law school.

If you’re unsure of your career path, or what area of law is right for you, here are a few tips for you to find your way.

What are You Passionate About?

As I’ve described, for me, one of my greatest passions is food. It never occurred to me when I went to law school that I could make a career in food law! Imagine my surprise when I realized there are lawyers who represent restaurateurs or food corporations or advise small towns on how to enhance their local food systems. There are lawyers who represent grocers and farmers. There are lawyers who hold manufacturers accountable for food safety violations.

In every step of our food system, there are lawyers practicing food law. How different my career path could have been if I had known this when I was in law school!

Think about the things that really excite you. Maybe it’s video games. Maybe it’s fashion. I went to law school with classmates who aspired to represent video game companies and fashion designers respectively. Who knew fashion law was a thing, either? But it is.

If the area of law you want to practice doesn’t exist, don’t be afraid to create it. Ten years ago when I went to law school, almost nobody really heard of food law, at least not the way it’s framed now. But, others have carved out this niche in the law, and you can blaze your path, too.

Who Do You Want To Serve?

Deciding who it is you want to represent may also influence your choice of career path. For me, I really didn’t want to necessarily represent big corporations. Nothing against them, I just knew I wouldn’t feel excited to get up every morning and go represent “the big guy.” I did, however, want to either represent a cause or an organization that was important to me.

Think about who matters to you. Maybe you already are a member of an organization you could represent. Or maybe it’s not so much an organization but a community. Maybe you love your hometown so much you could get into municipal and government law and become the town attorney. Maybe you love small farmers and could specialize in farming law–advising farmers on everything from estate planning and succession planning to contracts, employment law, and product liability. Do you enjoy analyzing the law? Consider serving as a law clerk to a judge.

Who you represent can be just as important a factor as what area of law you practice. Is there someone or something that you would be proud to represent?

It’s Never Too Late

Ten years ago when I was in law school, it never occurred to me I could practice food law. But, in the last year, I have joined the board of my local food cooperative, another organization that strives to end food insecurity in my community, and a local committee on a mission to end food waste in my town. Despite the fact that I didn’t start out practicing food law, I found my way there and have continued to create opportunities in that field for myself.

Times are uncertain right now, just like they were when I graduated law school in a bad economy. I was fortunate to get any job at that point, and you may be feeling that you don’t have the luxury of choosing the field of law you want. You simply need a job. I’ve been there. I know how you feel.

But, take the time to think about where you want to go anyway and keep working towards that goal. You never know what opportunities may arise when you put effort and passion into your work.


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About Hillary Vaillancourt

Hillary Vaillancourt is a lawyer and writer at The Vaillancourt Law Firm, LLC. She has experience in a wide variety of matters including food law, education law, real estate law, family law, criminal law, contracts, and estate planning. She earned her JD from New England Law|Boston and is licensed in Virginia.

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