Last Updated at: Oct 30, 2020
In July 2020, the Bombay High Court dismissed a petition seeking exemption for legal practitioners/service providers from lockdown restrictions. The petitioner sought a direction to include such practices/services in the category of “essential services” under the Maharashtra Essential Services Maintenance Act, 2017. The Court said that it was for the State to decide if legal practitioners are ‘Essential Services Providers’ or not.


You have finally got through with Law school and can’t wait to enter the workforce. But as soon as you start contemplating on which firm you are going to start your practice with, you realize there are so many types of firms with so many varied practices and the burning question is if you should choose a general practice or specialized practice.

General Practice

General practice typically encompasses a broad range of practice areas for you. It means you do not have to limit your practice or specialty to one particular area instead practice varied areas of law. You could handle matters involving business planning, estate planning, civil litigation, real estate, criminal law, as well as family law. Each day and case offers you a new opportunity to expand your knowledge. Just because you are a general practitioner, it does not mean that the services you offer are any less effective than the service offered by a specialized practitioner. By choosing general practice you provide for specialized support in varied fields, continuity and a stronger relationship with the clients. Apart from this, you have an edge of gaining more potential clients by meeting with a wide range of community need.

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Apart from having an edge with the clients and having knowledge on varied aspects of law, being a general practitioner, you might face a few obstacles. You might not necessarily be able to take on highly complicated cases, which require an in-depth knowledge or experience of a particular area and thereby lose clients in the process. The Law being very dynamic and diverse, as a general practitioner, you might find it difficult to update yourself from time to time. As a general practitioner, you might need to hire and retain more staff, to be able to manage and track the different cases.

Specialized Practice

Lawyers are qualified to practice any area of the law, however, you may choose to specialize in a particular subject. By specializing in a particular field, you would develop expertise which is more effective. Different specializations have different requirements, which play a significant role in the way a case is handled. It is always a good idea to practice in a field in which you would excel, thus ensuring professional development and growth. Being a specialized practitioner, you have the advantage of having a better understanding of the subject, better credibility, and increased efficiency. Having a niche background is advantageous when it comes to understanding clients.

Apart from being advantageous, there are many challenges you might face. Your clientele would most definitely be limited to a particular segment of people and thereby you might attract fewer clientele or have a short-term relationship with them. The recruitment and retention of staff might become challenging.  Being specialized in a particular area, you would be required to invest in focused tools and an extensive library on the subject. For instance, an IP specialist needs a library with books on IP and would need a tool to quickly search for any TM.

General or specialized practice? What should you choose?

The Legal field is very vast, it is often very hard or even impossible to have a grasp on all the elements of this field. For many young lawyers starting out in the profession today, one of the first things, you must address is whether to specialize in a particular field of law or not.

If you are unsure of where to start with, it is usually best to start with general practice.  Wanting to practice in a particular area of law is not wrong, but you should have an open mind and should not get locked into one area. You may be more likely to excel at things you enjoy, but in reality, it might be difficult to practice the same field. To close your mind before you have done it is a little short-sighted.

Being a general practitioner would make you feel like you have more options, more potential clients and thus an increased chance of success. As a general practitioner, you might be able to help your clients through many life events.

Law firms today often specialize, providing their clients with expertise in one area. Most clients need a combination of legal services throughout their lives. Unusual or highly specialized practice areas that consistently present new and interesting challenges can be handled only by specialization. The specialist has more experience and probably may be at the forefront of the current laws and trends. Specialization sure does make you better at selling your services as a lawyer.

In a dynamic industry like the legal industry, where the demand for efficiency is important, you should choose to handle some legal work and decline or refer other work. The threshold of competence has increased in specialized practice and it is simply not easy to compete with specialized experts. Refining focus and narrowing in on a specialized area of practice can help lawyers gain a competitive edge, along with greater efficiency and credibility.

The more you narrow your area of practice, the easier it is to establish yourself as the authority in that specialized area of law. Also, the easier it is for your clients, potential clients, and referral sources, including other lawyers, to know and more easily remember exactly what it is, that you do.

The divergence in views over whether to specialize or not might be very confusing. Ultimately, the decision on whether to specialize is yours. The bottom line is that you should enjoy your work, so choose a practice area that you actually like so you’ll be excited and passionate about it. Your passion will help drive demand!