As a law student, you can take electives that will prepare you to practice in any number of legal fields. Our list highlights some of the most popular specializations so you can become acquainted with options you may not have previously considered and choose your electives accordingly.
Also referred to as maritime law, admiralty law covers such topics as shipping, navigation, waters, insurance, canals — and even piracy.
Unlike many other law specialties, admiralty law has a very distinctive niche. It is now under the jurisdiction of the federal district courts. The courts state that the ship's flag determines the source country of the law, which means each country is allowed to rule over their own ships and seamen, regardless of the waters (although U.S. courts may refuse to honor another country's law).
Business law deals with any aspect of the law having to do with industry and commerce — from taxes and liability to licensing and trademarking. This extremely wide section of the law forks off into numerous areas of expertise.
Often considered one of the most broad and involved branches of law, constitutional law requires a deep understanding of the U.S. Constitution in order to understand its every possible interpretation and implementation.
This topic of law is designed to preserve the relationships between state and federal governments (as well as the internal relationships) and protect the rights of the individual as well. Constitutional law draws heavily from rulings made in the Supreme Court.
Criminal law revolves around governmental prosecution of anyone who is purported to have committed a criminal act, as defined by public law. An act cannot be classified as a crime if no precedent has been set by either governmental statute or common law, and suits between two individuals or organizations are considered to be civil, rather than criminal cases.
Environmental law mostly stems from a group of federal enactments passed in 1970 that forced agencies and businesses to take into account the effect of their practices on the environment. The enactments set into effect laws and standards that would protect the environment from public and private actions.
First Amendment law focuses on protecting citizens' rights to freedom of speech, religion, press, and assembly against law enacted by Congress.
Litigation is made possible by the First Amendment's right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. First Amendment cases have covered everything from book burning to prayer in schools to Internet pornography.
Since it is primarily the state's duty to maintain public health, most heath laws and regulations are state-based. Federal health law centers on the Department of Health and Human Services, which is ultimately in charge of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Health care law practice can also cover medical malpractice, licensure, patient rights and bio-ethical policy.
Intellectual property (IP) law has seen tremendous growth in the past decade. It is a general category of law that deals with the acquisition and enforcement of patents, trademarks and copyrights. IP law can traditionally be broken down into three subdivisions:
Intellectual property encompasses the exclusive rights to a registered idea, product, or name, and includes anything from words and symbols to Internet domain names. IP law not only deals with unauthorized use of property and plagiarism, but also with the protection of image and personality through use of registered property.
In addition to offering specialized areas of study, many law schools have instituted formal dual-degree programs that offer students the opportunity to pursue a JD while also working toward a Master's degree. Although the JD/MB.A combination is the most popular joint-degree sought, many universities offer a JD program combined with Masters' degrees in public policy, public administration and social work, among others. Although they take more work, dual degrees may make some students more marketable for certain positions come job time.
Patents grant an inventor a limited period of exclusive rights to a human-made invention or an improvement on an existing invention, providing the United States Patent and Trademark Office deems it worthy of both technical and legal merit. Patent law allows for the protection of every aspect of a discovery, from the ornamental design to the processing methods.
In order to become a patent attorney, you must be admitted to practice before the courts of at least one state in the United States, and must pass the patent bar exam which allows you to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The patent bar exam has a much lower pass rate than most bar exams, and requires that examinees possess strong technical backgrounds. Because of this, many patent lawyers have undergraduate (or even graduate) degrees in science or engineering.