Law Firms

Numerous law school graduates follow the traditional path into private practice.  Nonetheless, their work environments, practices, and day-to-day responsibilities vary widely.  Employers range from large multinational firms with offices across the globe, to medium-sized regional firms, to small firms or solo practitioners, as well as legal clinics. Practice areas can range from managing a fast-paced, high volume criminal defense caseload, to representing a single pharmaceutical manufacturer in nationwide product liability litigation, to giving advice on how to structure a start-up company.

If you plan to go into private practice, it’s important to educate yourself on the different practice areas that interest you.  In law school, a division is often made between litigation and transactional work.  As a general rule, litigation deals with matters in the judicial process, while transactional work focuses on corporate deals or mergers, advising clients on how to structure companies and agreements as to avoid litigation.  In practice, you will find that many attorneys have a “hybrid” practice that involves the attorney taking on both an adversarial and an advisory role on behalf of his clients.

Resources to Learn about Different Practice Areas:

The Career Planning Guide, available in the Resource Center, has a useful chart that offers practice area descriptions and the types of jobs available in that area.

Stanford Law recently made its career planning “SLS Navigator’ available to the general public.  Available at, this resource can help you identify skills and coursework relevant to specific practice areas.

The Official Guide to Legal Specialties (Available in the OCPD Library)

Resources on Law Firms:

Martindale - Searchable database containing profile information for over one million lawyers and law firms in the United States, Canada, and 160 other countries.

Vault - Law firm rankings, job search advice, top employers and education programs, salary information.

Chambers Associate - Insight based on surveys of practicing attorneys, salary information and billable hour requirements, practice area summaries.

NALP Directory of Legal Employers - Directory of NALP member employers