Can lawyers move into different practice areas without experience?

While it is possible for lawyers to move into different practice areas without prior experience, it can be a challenge.  The reasons for this include:

A lack of legal knowledge regarding the nuances of the new practice area. 

This can be addressed through training and study, but this could prove time intensive.  It could even require earning new qualifications.

A need for additional skills. 

While a lot of a lawyer’s skills are transferable (legal research, drafting, analysis), moving into a new practice area could require learning new skills which again would need probably need to be formally taught.

The need to establish a new professional network. 

Some of this can be done by leveraging existing relationships but there will still be a requirement to invest time into expanding your network so that it generates a regular stream of referrals in your new practice area.

Practical Experience.  

While a lawyer may not have direct experience in a particular practice area, practical experience can be beneficial. This can include volunteering, pro bono work, or taking on cases within the desired area to gain exposure and develop relevant skills.

Understand market demand. 

Demand for lawyers in some practice areas is always higher than in others and this picture can swing either way over time.  Before you make a move, make sure there are realistic and attractive opportunities within the area you are interested in.

This list is not meant to put you off moving from one practice area into another!  It is designed to highlight the various challenges that may lay ahead if you are considering a change.

Many lawyers successfully transition into different practice areas during their careers.  They do so because they have a clear plan and are prepared to invest the necessary time and effort into building their skillsets, gaining the specialist knowledge they’ll need  and even, in some cases, give their time pro bono to gain invaluable experience within the areas they are interested in.

If you are considering moving to another practice area, please contact our specialist legal recruiters.  They will discuss your plans in total confidence and will be able to give you some practical pointers based on their own experience of working with clients in similar situations.

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