It’s rather ironic that lawyers at a 1000 person mega-firm, with specialized departments galore, apparently have a more difficult time changing practice areas than solos. At least that’s the impression that I gathered from reading this somewhat depressing article, Retooling Strategies by Gail Cutter (NYLJ Feb. 10, 2006), which discusses the difficulties and risks that law firm associates face in transitioning to another practice area.
By contrast, we solos have the luxury of being able to shift into practice areas that appeal to us or which we fall into by accident. As I wrote back in October 2004 in The Accidental Practice, we solos often stumble into new fields and because we answer only to ourselves, we can often pursue these new areas. That was the case with several solos I mentioned in the article, including a general practice solo in Birmingham, Alabama who became a self-taught ERISA and FDCPA and a Baltimore, Maryland small firm attorney who developed a lucrative qui tam practice.
Maybe associates unhappy in their practice area shouldn’t be thinking just about changing practice areas – but changing firms as well.