Researching Areas of Law [Part 3]


It can be very difficult to decide what area of law you want to specialise in. There is an array of choice when it comes to practising law from corporate to planning and infrastructure, no two layers are the same. This is the third and final instalment in a three-part thread aiming to provide an insight into the vast world of legal sectors.

Personal Injury

Plans are afoot that affect whiplash claims and small claims related to road traffic accidents.

Choose this if you have…

  • Empathy with injured people.

  • Good organisational skills.

  • A keen analytical mind.

  • A proactive attitude.

Personal injury is the law applying to compensation claims for people injured as a result of an accident or exposure to an industrial disease.

There are many types of personal injury claim, for example:

  • Motor claims (car, push-bike and motorcycle accidents);

  • Public liability claims (such as claims against the council for slips and trips);

  • Employers’ liability claims (accidents at work) and;

  • Industrial disease claims (such as exposure to hazardous products).

Cases can range in value from £1,000 to multi-million-pound claims for catastrophic injuries, and since anyone can suffer an injury you will deal with people from all walks of life.

There’s a lot of variety in case length. Fast-track cases are typically concluded within 24 months and are normally handled by one lawyer. On the other hand, catastrophic injury claims may take five years to complete; such claims will be led by a partner, who is supported by other legal advisers conducting different parts of the case. Legal advisers conducting fast-track cases tend to spend their time in the office, while catastrophic injury lawyers spend time out of the office, meeting clients and attending meetings with medical and other experts, barristers, other parties to litigation and attending court.

The best part of the job is that you get to know the injures person and their families very well during the course of the case, so helping them feels great.

As a trainee

Trainees are likely to assist a partner dealing with cases and attend meetings with clients. They are given the opportunity to draft documents and prepare instructions to experts and barristers.

Types of law practised

  • Tort.

Private Client

This area is less deadline-driven than transactional areas of practice – but always busy.

Choose this if you have…

  • Empathy – clients are more likely to be lay people than professionals, possibly coming to you at an emotional time.

  • An ability to build rapport.

  • Technical ability.

  • Organisational skills – being able to multitask is essential when juggling ten matters at once.

A typical private client workload involves: estate, succession and tax planning; structuring wealth to pass down the generations; elements of trust management; and aspects of probate and charity work – often for high-net-worth private individuals.

Private client work differs from the transactional work that private equity or banking lawyers carry out. Expect to juggle ten different matters in a day rather than one or two big deals.

This area is less deadline driven, and therefore more controllable than transactional work.

The best part of the job is the variety of work and the clients. Private client lawyers travel fairly regularly to see clients.

Private client has a highly international, and often entrepreneurial, aspect.

Typically, teams are made up of a partner, one or two associates, and a trainee. Private client lawyers work with colleagues within a law firm, such as corporate tax specialists, regulatory lawyers etc.

As a trainee

Trainees can expect to be called into a client meeting at the drop of a hat, where they’ll take notes and carry out follow-up work afterwards.

Trainees are often asked to prepare the first draft of a will, draft trust deeds or prepare immigration visa applications. Researching a gritty tax or trust law point is another typical task. Sometimes a law firm may ask trainees to get involved in writing articles for legal publications or the firm’s website.

Types of law practised

  • Trusts.

  • Tax.

Private Equity

Private equity funds invest across a broad range of sectors.

Choose this if you are…

  • Hard-working and a self-starter.

  • Curious.

  • A good communicator: you will be challenged by smart, confident clients about the law and your advice.

  • Organised and have good attention to detail.

  • Someone who enjoys working in a team environment.

A private equity fund is a type of investment fund set up by a private equity firm, which invests other people’s money by buying, owning and selling businesses. Clients include private equity funds, investors in those private equity funds or banks.

Private equity is a multidisciplinary transactional practice area: in addition to the core principles of contract, equity and trusts and company law, lawyers use banking law when structuring debt financing; tax law when structuring funds and investments; and competition and regulatory law when making new investments.

Private equity is also often a cross-border practice area, as private equity owned businesses frequently have international operations and private equity lawyers will therefore be exposed to the legal systems and processed of different jurisdictions around the world as part of their practice.

In some firms, private equity is a separate practice area; in others, it forms part of the broader corporate offering. As a trainee, therefore, you might have the option of undertaking a private equity seat or be exposed to private equity deals during a broader corporate seat, as well as in a finance, tax, competition or regulatory seat.

Private equity transactions are fast-moving, and private equity lawyers generally enjoy the rush of adrenaline during the transaction process.

Private equity firms are small and the external legal team mirrors that, with expertise drawn in from around the law firm where needed.

Good private equity lawyers are able to deploy their skills and experience in any industry. Private equity funds often invest across a broad range of sectors. Hence private equity layers will have a good working knowledge across a range of practice areas that are relevant across multiple sectors.

This field is client-driven but there isn’t much socialising with clients – they are too busy to want to be wined and dined.

As a trainee

Ideally, trainees get the chance to see an entire deal from start to finish. Trainees are also often involved in the due diligence process at the start of the transaction, which involves learning about how the target business operates from a contractual perspective and identifying the risks of the business.

Trainees are also given non-disclosure agreements to drafts and asked to organise the signings and closing of a deal – and everything that goes in between. One of the pulls towards private equity work is the early responsibility firms can give trainees in this area.

Types of law practised

  • Contract.

  • Company.

  • Competition and regulatory.

  • Equity and trusts.

Professional Negligence

You need to be robust enough to make difficult decisions and stick by them.

Choose this if you are…

  • Robust enough to make difficult decisions and stick by them.

  • Strong in dealing with people at a difficult time in their professional career.

  • Empathetic and tactful.

  • Resilient.

  • A good project manager.

  • Efficient at jugging different cases for various partners or associates.

Solicitors with a specialisation in professional negligence work tend to act either for defendant professional firms or for claimants.

Solicitors represent all types of professionals who are being sued and their insurers. Clients include regulators, solicitors, barristers, accountants, architects, engineers, building contractors, surveyors, insurance brokers, estate agents and auctioneers.

Professional negligence work is hugely varied and having 20 to 25 cases on the go at any one time is typical. The length of a case is influenced by the process and procedures in this field. An average-case that goes through the protocol and then to litigation takes about two years from beginning to end.

The size of the team will depend on the complexity of the case but will include at least one partner, an associate, a trainee and a paralegal.

Although a substantial amount of time is office based, professional negligence solicitors get out and about to meetings with clients, witnesses, experts and counsel (barristers), and to court.

Some legal practice areas involve more case law than others; if you like analysing the law, this is a fulfilling area of commercial litigation with a rich body of case law behind it.

As a trainee

There is plenty of early responsibility for trainees. They are asked to write first drafts of letters, reports to insurers, witness statements and to take notes during meetings and conferences with counsel.

Trainees need to be personable and able to talk to clients easily, as they attend lots of client meetings, and with their team.

Types of law practised

  • Tort.

  • Contract.

  • Corporate.

  • Pensions.

  • Tax.

  • Commercial conveyancing.

  • Commercial property.

Real Estate

There are plenty of opportunities for trainees to take on early responsibility in this practice area.

Choose this if you…

  • Have business acumen.

  • Have team working, drafting and negotiation skills.

  • Can be passionate about the sector your clients operate in and deliver on your client’s ambitions.

Real estate lawyers assist retail and leisure businesses in their acquisition, occupation, ongoing management and disposal of their trading premises. They help landlords to secure their income streams by letting premises to occupiers.

Typical transactions range from the acquisition of a flagship retail store on Oxford Street or small pop-up restraint in Shoreditch to the investment sale or purchase of a mixed-use building.

Lawyers have many transactions running at any one time – sometimes as many as 15 to 20.

Teams are quite small: typically, as small as just two lawyers.

The length of a typical transaction ranges from a couple of weeks to a number of months. Lawyers are involved at all stages of the transaction.

Plenty of time is spent meeting and socialising with clients, real estate brokers and other people in the industry.

The best part about being a real estate lawyer is seeing the outcome of your work – the trading businesses in the high street, shopping centre or city centre – every day.

As a trainee

You would be involved in assisting with all aspects of the transaction as a trainee. This could be reviewing the landlord’s title to the property and replies to standard enquiries giving information about the property, assisting with the negotiation and drafting of documentation, reporting to the client, taking instructions and meeting with clients.

There is plenty of opportunity for early responsibility. Trainees are given files that are theirs to manage from start to finish on general real estate matters – for example, obtaining landlord’s consent to alterations to the property for a refit or varying a lease to reflect revised terms the parties have agreed.

Types of law practised

  • Contract.

  • Property.

  • Landlord and tenant.

  • Employment.

  • Property litigation.

Shipping & Admiralty

There’s plenty of opportunity to travel abroad as English law is the preferred choice for global shipping contracts.

Choose this if you have…

  • The ability to think clearly under pressure.

  • Excellent analytical.

  • The ability to provide clear and succinct advice on complex issues.

Shipping solicitors are an integral part of the global shipping industry. Shipping solicitors are involved in every aspect of shipping and international trade: from the construction of vessels, through the disputes that arise during trading, to the point at which they are recycled at the end of their working lives.

Shipping solicitors have around 50 open cases of which 20 to 30 will be active at any given time. The clients are usually the owners and charterers of vessels, the cargo interests and their respective insurers.

The caseload is extremely varied. The cases invariably have an international element and shipping solicitors regularly act alongside lawyers from other jurisdictions. Most cases will require the involvement of a partner, an associate and a trainee – but larger teams will be engaged on significant matters.

It has been said that shipping is the industry that brings you 80 per cent of what you have but that you know nothing about. The reality is that shipping only attracts the attention of the mainstream media when there is a significant casualty.

Developing strong personal relationships is very important in the shipping industry. Given that the vast majority of clients are based overseas, this necessarily involves international travel. Shipping firms can also offer overseas secondments.

Shipping solicitors are able to maintain a relatively good work/life balance.

The best aspect of being a shipping solicitor is being able to resolve real-time problems for clients – knowing that a vessel somewhere in the world will do (or not do) something depending on your advice.

The nature of the shipping industry means that there will always be disputes over contracts, damage to cargoes and, unfortunately, casualties that necessitate the involvement of solicitors.

As a trainee

On larger cases, trainees are asked to conduct legal research and to take responsibility for matters such as the administrative aspects of disclosure, particularly in document-heavy cases.

However, the varied nature of the caseload means that it is possible for more experienced trainees to be given a significant degree of responsibility for the conduct of smaller cases under the supervision of more senior fee-earners.

Types of law practised

  • Contract.

  • Tort.

  • Private international law.


Seeing the results of your work on TV is one of the highlights of the job.

Choose this if you have…

  • A knowledge of, and passion for, the industry.

  • Good attention to detail – deals can involve contracts 100+ pages long.

  • Strong drafting, negotiation and analytical skills.

  • The ability to network and bring in clients.

Sports law combines a number of different practice areas. It involved commercial contracts, employment contracts, litigation, regulatory and tax issues. Lawyers will generally train in one particular discipline; litigators get involved with disciplinary and regulatory issues, employment lawyers deal with athletes’ contracts, and commercial contract lawyers handle media rights and sponsorship deals.

When working on sports media rights agreements, clients are mainly either sport’s governing bodies or broadcasters. Sports governing bodies hold the rights to particular events, while broadcasters bid for the rights to that content.

Being able to see the results of your work on TV is one of the best parts of the job. It is also great to see the fruits of your labour in the public eye.

With bigger deals, we could have one partner, two associates and one trainee working on the transaction, but smaller deals are usually conducted with an associate doing most of the work under a partner’s supervision – although there is often scope for trainees to help out on these too.

Most of the international deals are carried out from London, but there are some opportunities to travel. Even if you don’t travel, however, work can be international in nature.

As a trainee

With smaller sponsorship agreements, we sometimes ask trainees to draw up a first draft of a contract. With bigger deals, trainees are charged with updating and managing certain sections of a document under associate or partner supervision.

They also attend meetings, take notes, and get involved with research and marketing tasks. There are also good opportunities for client contact, with trainees often lending a hand throughout media rights bidding days.

Types of law practised

  • Contract.

  • Intellectual property.

  • Litigation.

  • Employment.

  • Regulatory.

  • Tax.


It is a misconception that tax is all about maths and number crunching.

Choose this if you have…

  • The ability to understand, analyse and apply difficult areas of law in a commercial context.

  • The ability to stand back and see the wider commercial picture.

  • Strong communication skills for giving clear commercial advice.

A firm’s tax practise provides clients with tax advice in a wide variety of areas.

A transactional and advisory tax practice in a City firm, advises founders, management teams and institutional investors on the tax implications of private equity-backed transactions. They advise asset managers and investment funds, and also advise clients on a wide variety of corporate, finance and property tax matters.

Aside from working in the office, tax lawyers regularly go to meetings with clients, attend conferences and seminars and also write articles for tax publications.

The work is extremely varied, interesting and technically challenging but the key is to be able to translate that technical advice into sound, commercial advice that clients can engage with.

Tax is an area that is making the headlines more and more as there is an increasing push from HMRC to clamp down on tax avoidance and ensure that everyone pays their fair share. This makes it an extremely interesting time to be a tax adviser.

As a trainee

Trainees have opportunities to get involved in interesting transactions and advisory work. They take on responsibility for reviewing and drafting documents and notes of tax advice – with support from more senior members of the team, or course.

It is a challenging area of practice, but it is a misconception that tax is all about maths and number crunching; it’s a conceptual and commercial practice area.

Types of law practised

  • Contract law.

  • Property law.

  • Tort law.

  • Tax is relevant in all areas of law.


IT project agreements are starting to anticipate Brexit through the inclusion of ‘Brexit clauses’.

Choose this if you have…

  • Good written and oral communication skills.

  • A sense of humour.

  • The ability to work both independently and as part of a team.

  • Commercial awareness.

IT and communications (ITC) law is a very broad area – it refers to all contracts that deal with how we communicate with people, either on a personal or corporate level. Lawyers in this area might work on cases that deal with the supply and maintenance of IT infrastructure, how people buy IT services or the implications of cloud computing – it’s a massive topic.

The types of clients that lawyers in this field work with is varied – from technology firms to the government, banks and private companies. Everyone needs IT: it builds the infrastructure of all major global corporations, so anyone could be a client.

Lawyers in this practice area typically work on five or six matters at a time – a small transaction in which a company wants to review their social media terms might last a couple of day, but you could work on a major IT replacement programme for six to twelve months.

The number of lawyers working on a case depends on how large and complex it is – one junior lawyer with a few hours of supervision from a partner might work on a single IT agreement, but up to 15 lawyers from various departments may be required for others.

Solicitors in this area are sometimes seconded to the firm’s overseas offices or to a client’s offices. Domestic and international travel can be required for client meetings.

As a trainee

IT and communications is the future and is only becoming more in demand and more sophisticated – just look at the impact of blockchain and fintech. For this reason, this ever-changing sector is popular with trainees.

Initially, trainees are assigned a supervisor as their first port of call, but quickly go on to work with all members of the team. The work may involve tasks such as drafting, contracts and conducting research.

Types of law practised

  • Contract.

White Collar Crime

Larger cases involve international travel and site visits to conduct interviews.

Choose this if you have…

  • Attention to detail.

  • The ability to review and digest large amounts of information.

  • Perseverance.

White collar crime is commercial or business crime. usually, cases involve allegations of fraud, bribery, securities fraud (such as insider trading) or money laundering.

Clients can be from any industry. Solicitors usually act for the company but can act for individuals within the company accused of an offence.

A white collar crime lawyer can be working on one large case or dealing with multiple smaller matters. Smaller matters may only require one solicitor, whereas large-scale investigations can take years to complete and can involve more than 50 lawyers from multiple firms. Larger cases involve international travel and site visits to conduct interviews.

The best thing about being a white collar crime solicitor is the variety of work.

You need to be aware, though, that while at the macro level the cases can be captivating, at the micro-level cases may involve trawling through emails to find incriminating or exculpatory evidence.

As a trainee

Document management is a key skill for trainees to develop as cases can be document heavy. Trainees may request documents from the client, log them when they come in, make sure the requests are complied with and assign the documents to associates to review. They may also review evidence and report back on their findings.

Strong internet research skills are also important as trainees will frequently be asked to find out who a person is (and, sometimes, possible reasons for that person’s recent arrest).

Types of law practised

  • Criminal.

  • European.

  • Contract.

Hopefully, you have found this article and the other two insightful, leaving you more confident to dive into a legal career in a lesser-known area of law.


Hannah Roleston is a final year law student at the University of Dundee. During her time at university she is an active member of the University of Dundee Mooting Society and spends her free time playing hockey. Hannah is an aspiring solicitor with a passion for Commercial Awareness.

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