So you want to change practice areas. I wish there was a simple easy solution… but changing areas is complex and it is worth considering the following;
1. Recruitment can be understood if you know anything about the principals of Supply and Demand.
Any type of recruitment, be it legal or otherwise, graduate or partner level is directly linked to Supply and Demand.
In the context of changing practice areas, if you are seeking to move into an area which is ‘popular’ or where the supply of suitable applicants outstrips the demand it may be difficult to change (think moving into IP, Employment or Commercial litigation).
The counter point to this is that if you are seeking to move to an area that may be deemed as ‘less popular’ by the market or where there are more roles than applicants you will have greater success (think Property, Banking or Corporate).
2. If you have something exceptional on your cv (think First Class Honours, University Medal etc) it will be easier to change and the principals of Supply and Demand may not necessarily apply. Your chances of changing areas increase dramatically if there is something about you that is deemed by the market to be rare or desirable, even if you want to move to a 'popular' area.
3. If you have no practical experience and no demonstrated volunteer experience in an area, it might be difficult to change areas. To counter that, consider volunteering, joining an association or club, or asking your current firm if you can get some experience in the area so you can build your network and get to know the key players in the space.
4. If you are changing areas and the areas are somewhat related i.e. professional indemnity to construction litigation, corporate to funds, front end construction to back end construction, it should be easier to make the switch.
5. If you manage to get an interview for a role in another area, people will want to know why you want to move into that area. Make sure you really think about this. Stating that you are really interested in the subject matter, on its own is not going to be enough. I (and any future employer) will want to know why you have the interest. What was it that sparked the passion? Is it because you read a case and then dove down the rabbit hole? Is it because of a family situation? The fact that the area you want to move to is more complicated and will challenge you more? Think about it and then think some more.
6. Know that sometimes it is best to apply for roles directly. In the main I think agents add a lot of value to the recruitment process but when changing practice areas by using an agent, you could be doing yourself a disservice if you are trying to move into a ‘popular’ area. A good agent will be honest and tell you this and they will offer you practical advice to help you get the role that you want and sometimes that will mean they suggest making a direct application.
7. Be open minded about the firms that you will consider joining. If you are currently at a top tier or global firm moving areas may mean moving to a mid tier or boutique firm.
8. Be positive but realistic. If you can’t change areas now (because the market won't support the move), remember that there are lots of ways to be involved in a particular area even if you are not directly working in that space. Know that there are organisations and groups that you can join. There is always pro bono or volunteer work that you can do to satisfy a curiosity. Failing that you could make the area your very own passion project and it could be something you enjoy reading about in your spare time.
Good luck with the move.
If you ever want to chat about the market, changing areas or when to use an agent and when not to- please give me a call on +61 413 823 687. I am always happy to discuss your situation.