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Deciding What Type of Law to Practice

Making the Most of Pepperdine Law Resources

So, you're considering law school, but you don't know what type of lawyer you want to be. Or you came to Pepperdine Law to be the next Elle Woods or Atticus Finch, but now you're having second thoughts (like "the courtroom is scary"), and you want to explore other areas of the law. Maybe you want to clerk for the Supreme Court of the United States like several of the school's most distinguished alumni. Whatever path you're contemplating, Pepperdine Law has almost 12,000 alumni all over the world who practice in areas of the law you might not even know existed. What kind of #PeppLawyer will you be?

Get to Know Your Pepperdine Mentor

Before you set foot in beautiful Malibu, the Parris Institute for Professional Formation will assign you a preceptor to help guide you through your 1L year. #PeppLaw is one of a handful of schools in the nation to have a Preceptor Program that pairs each incoming 1L with an alumnus or friend of the law school. Preceptors come in all shapes and sizes—and they practice in all different areas of the law. Some are judicial officers, and some have taken a nontraditional career path with their JD. This is your first resource on your way to determining what type of law you want to practice.

Use Your Global Alumni Network | #FindYourTribe

In addition to the Preceptor Program, #PeppLaw students have access to one of the most robust alumni networks in the country. As a student, you're welcome to attend alumni events such as our annual Trial Lawyers Conference, you will receive alumni communications, and we will inspire you to be an involved alumnus when you graduate. You are part of the Waves family from day one! You can also join student organizations and local professional bar associations based on your desired practice area or your affinity. Certificate offerings from the #1-ranked Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, the Palmer Center for Entrepreneurship and the Law, the Sudreau Global Justice Program, and the Entertainment, Media and Sports Program (to name a few) are great programs to join to guide your career path. Given Pepperdine Law's convenient geographic location, students have easy access to bar associations in three local counties: Ventura County, Los Angeles County, and Orange County. But bear in mind that the #PeppLaw alumni network extends across the country, in all 50 states, and in 60 countries globally.

Know Your Strengths | #KnowThyself

It is also important to know your strengths and passions and to consider them as you determine your future practice areas. Completing tests like StrengthFinders (which we cover in the Parris Institute), reading books like Roadmap, taking personality tests, evaluating your passions as an undergraduate, and looking at your previous work experience can help you select your practice area. For example, if you majored in computer science, you might become an amazing patent attorney because you speak the language of patent law. Or if you worked with youth in connection with a program like Teach for America prior to law school, you might be a great education, family law, or juvenile attorney. Perhaps you might parlay your habit of binge-watching Law & Order episodes into a successful career as a district attorney, public defender, private criminal defense attorney, or even a judge.

Professional Development | #Learnit & #Workit

It is critically important to take classes and gain work experience in areas of the law in which you have an interest. Prior year class catalogs can give you an idea of the classes we offer at #PeppLaw. Many of our adjunct professors are #PeppLawAlum attorneys or judges practicing in the area of law they teach.

During your 1L and 2L summers, and during your 2L and 3L semesters, you have the option of externing, interning, or working in legal positions in the L.A. area and across the world. In addition to placing students in the Los Angeles, Orange, and Ventura County legal markets, we also place a great number of them in positions in our DC program, our London program, and our Global Justice Program for real-world experience in the practice area of their choice. We also have a huge number of students that extern for state or federal judges and work in the nonprofit/government sector to gain insight into a day in the life of an attorney. Students work in small, medium, and large law firms, at in-house positions, for entertainment companies, and for many other types of employers. Practical experience is the best way to determine if the practice area is the right fit for your goals, dreams, and skills.

What Type of Lawyer Can I Be?

Martindale's areas of law resource is one of the most widely used lists of law practice areas available. However, the majority of Pepperdine Law lawyers (and most lawyers nationwide) decide to practice civil litigation. It is known as the bread and butter of legal practice, and you get to learn all about it in Civil Procedure during your first year with one of our stellar professors. In addition to civil litigation, our alumni practice in a myriad of fields, and the spectrum continues to expand. Below is a list of the areas of law Pepperdine alumni have chosen post-graduation:

  • Adoption law
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution (Mediation, Arbitration)
  • Animal law
  • Antitrust
  • Appellate practice
  • Aviation law
  • Bankruptcy
  • Business/Corporate (In-house counsel)
  • Civil litigation/General practice
  • Civil rights
  • Criminal defense
  • Criminal prosecution
  • Education law
  • Energy/Oil and Gas
  • Entertainment/Media/Sports law
  • Environmental law
  • Estate/Probate law
  • Ethics/Malpractice
  • Family law
  • Finance
  • Government
  • Healthcare law
  • Housing rights law
  • Human rights
  • Judicial practice
  • Immigration law and asylum
  • Intellectual property
  • International law
  • Internet law
  • Juvenile law
  • Labor/Employment law
  • Marijuana law
  • Maritime law
  • Medical malpractice
  • Military
  • Municipal
  • Personal injury
  • Public interest
  • Real estate
  • Securities
  • Tax law
  • Toxic torts
  • Workers compensation
  • Zoning/Planning/Land use


Keep Your Law Specialization Options Open

Are you thinking that selecting a practice feels overwhelming and limiting? Do you like to keep your options open rather than commit to one thing? We have many #PeppLawAlums who have ended up in practices they didn't foresee in law school and who absolutely love their careers. Remember, this is a learning experience, and the quest for the perfect job can often take you down an unforeseen road, so it is best to consider several areas of practice instead of just one.

Careers Outside Legal Practice

If you're thinking that you might want a career outside of legal practice, you are in the same boat as an ever-increasing number of law school graduates! A Pepperdine University Juris Doctor is a huge asset in applying for jobs in a competitive market because employers recognize the difficulty of the degree and the excellent problem-solving skills it provides. Many applicants to competitive jobs have post-graduate degrees and the #PeppLaw Juris Doctor signals that you're a hard worker from an excellent university. Employers specifically advertise for what are called JD-advantage positions—jobs for which they prefer to hire someone with a JD. That could mean you! Law Crossing suggests a number of JD-advantage jobs. Here are some JD-advantage careers for you to consider:

  • Actor (ex: Gerard Butler)
  • Agent
  • Arbitrator
  • Author (ex: John Grisham)
  • Entrepreneur
  • Financial consultant
  • Fundraiser
  • Higher education administrator
  • In-house counsel
  • Journalist (ex: Megyn Kelly)
  • Jury consultant
  • Law clerk (permanent and research)
  • Life coach/career coach
  • Mediator
  • News commentator
  • Nonprofit management
  • Planned-giving officer
  • Policy analyst
  • Political office and politics
  • Preacher
  • President (ex: Barack Obama)
  • Professor/teacher
  • Real estate developer
  • Sales
  • Stockbroker