Practice Perspectives, 2024 Edition: Attorney Insights & the New Practice Area Resource Centers

Published: Apr 16, 2024

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Having been in the legal industry for almost 15 years—yes, I’m counting law school—I’ve met a number of lawyers. No matter the circumstances, lawyers always end up discussing work, including whether they’re happy in their jobs. I’ve noticed in those conversations that the attorneys who enter their legal career knowing what area they want to practice in are often happier in their careers.

Understanding what each practice area entails, the difference between what a practice looks like at one firm versus another, and what career paths are available for different practices is crucial for both law students and laterals trying to decide where to take their careers.

This is where Vault’s practice area content shines. The 2024 edition of Practice Perspectives: Vault’s Guide to Legal Practice Areas, published this month, features in-depth Q&As with 150 attorneys from 52 top-ranked law firms, providing insight into the realities of practice across 24 major practice areas.

The Q&As and practice area-related blogs are also available in digital format on the Practice Area Resource Centers.

These Q&As answer questions about the types of matters attorneys handle and the clients they represent, career paths for that practice area, typical tasks, suggested training and skills to succeed in that practice area, and more. The attorneys featured in this guide are from firms ranked among the top in each practice area, as rated by more than 20,000 associates in Vault’s 2023 Annual Associate Survey. We’ve done the work of interviewing these top-in-their-field attorneys, so you have the information to help guide your choices and build your dream legal career.

If you are a law student, this guide can help you gain a deeper understanding of major practice areas, allowing you to focus your search on firms with strong departments in the areas that interest you and preparing you to speak competently about different practice areas at networking events and interviews. If you are heading into your summer associate position, you can use the insight and knowledge in this guide to focus your summer assignments within groups that will be the best fit for you. And those considering a lateral move can use this guide to research and prepare for interviews with an insider look at what different practices are like at individual firms.

Selecting a practice area and choosing the right firm at which to pursue that practice are critical steps in your legal career. We hope the 2024 Attorney Q&As—in the Practice Perspectives Guide and on the Practice Area Resource Centers—assist you in finding the practice and the “work home” that are a good match for your interests, goals, and strengths.

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Here's a sneak peek inside the 2024 Clean Tech & Renewable Q&As.

What misconceptions exist about your practice area?

Roland Estevez and Carolina Walther-Meade, Milbank: In the past, we found that the inclusion of the word “finance” in the name dissuaded candidates without a business background from inquiring into our practice and did not convey the broad scope of what we do. In reality, we are equally as likely to find ourselves negotiating a construction and engineering contract, a guaranty, a political risk insurance policy, or a Mexican fiduciary trust as we are a loan document. Hands-on experience, client interaction, and our professional development programs will give you the finance tools you will need to be successful. We recently changed the name of our practice area to the Global Project, Energy and Infrastructure Group, to signal the breadth of our practice area and the fact that it ranges from clean tech and renewable energy to digital infrastructure and the energy transition, among others. Our practice is concentrated in energy and infrastructure, but associates learn that the work within these industries is extremely broad and affords the added challenges of working in different sectors and jurisdictions and on cross-border transactions.

Connie Gao, Norton Rose Fulbright: One common misconception is that clients look to lawyers only for legal advice. In reality, we’re asked to comment on what we observe in the market as much as we are responsible for our expertise in law. Political and geopolitical changes can impact many aspects of a project and we’re often the first to come across these new issues in deals and be tasked with resolving them. The volume of deals we close each year allows us to watch for common pitfalls and propose solutions that are creative and efficient. These solutions are a combination of legal and commercial and are sometimes as commercial as they are legal.

Walter Alarkon, Orrick: “Energy work is regulatory work.” In reality, it’s finance, corporate/M&A, regulatory, real estate, public policy, and tax all rolled into one.

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If you have questions about the Practice Perspectives guide, Vault’s Summer Resource Center or Regional Resource Centers, or anything else, contact Carter Isham at

You may have free access to Vault’s guides through your law school. Check with your career services office for more information.