Among popular career paths like medicine, engineering, technology, and arts, many people also opt for law.
The path to becoming a lawyer starts with a Juris Doctor Degree (J.D.) after earning your bachelor’s.
It includes coursework that teaches you the fundamental law principles in various areas, along with the necessary critical, analytical, and practical skills required for a career in law.
If you are doing a Juris Doctorate degree online or on campus, you can supplement the standard foundational curriculum by opting for a J.D. concentration. J.D. concentrations, also called ‘tracks’ or ‘programs of study,’ are additional areas of focus a law school offers within their J.D. degree, along with the foundational law courses.
These programs allow law students to delve deeper into the legal principles, doctrines, and practical skills relevant to a specific field of law they are passionate about or want to pursue their career in.
While beneficial, most concentrations are not mandatory for J.D. graduation, and you can still pursue a general legal career path without one.
However, you should not underestimate the importance of a J.D. concentration.
If you want to learn more about the different types of J.D. concentrations and the importance of taking one, continue reading this article.
The Types of J.D. Concentrations
Some common types of concentrations within a J.D. degree are:
1. Corporate Law
The core courses will explore the legal structure and governance of corporations, partnerships, and limited liability companies.
You’ll also study the intricacies of M&A transactions, the federal and state laws governing the issuance and trading of securities, and the key tax considerations for corporations and their stakeholders.
A corporate law concentration will also teach you about the legal framework for dealing with insolvent businesses and intellectual property rights, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets in corporate transactions.
Alongside this, you will learn how to draft and negotiate legal contracts for various corporate contexts.
2. Family Law
Family law courses cover foundations like fundamentals like marriage, divorce, child custody, child support, and domestic violence and provide practical experience through simulations, client interviews, and drafting legal documents.
Many concentrations also offer opportunities to gain practical experience in family law settings, such as family courts, legal aid organizations, or mediation centers.
Some programs also allow students to conduct independent research projects on a specific family law topic and conduct various workshops and seminars to provide insights from practicing family law attorneys and experts on specific areas of family law.
3. Health Law
Core courses of a health law J.D. concentration offer insights into:
- healthcare delivery systems,
- insurance regulation,
- provider licensing,
- ethical and legal dilemmas arising from medical technology and research advances, and
- the regulation of food, drugs, and medical devices, including FDA approval processes and liability issues.
The course also examines medical malpractice laws and the laws and regulations protecting patient privacy, including HIPAA and other confidentiality rules.
4. Civil Rights Law
Civil rights law courses typically include fundamental principles of the U.S. Constitution.
The program particularly focuses on the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which guarantee equal protection, and look at laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, and other protected characteristics.
The Importance of J.D. Concentrations
J.D. concentration programs are optional; you don’t need to pick one to graduate.
However, they do come with certain benefits, which are:
1. Deeper Knowledge and Expertise
Concentrations give you a deeper understanding of your chosen area’s relevant legal principles, doctrines, and practical skills.
This specialized knowledge makes you a more valuable asset to potential employers and can give you an edge in competitive legal markets.
2. Enhanced Career Opportunities
Demonstrating expertise in a specific area can make you a more attractive candidate for employers seeking specialized legal knowledge.
Many legal firms, government agencies, and corporations increasingly seek lawyers with specialized skills in intellectual property law, environmental law, or cyberlaw.
3. Improved Networking
Many concentrations involve dedicated faculty advisors, guest speakers, and student organizations, which helps you connect with established professionals in your field.
These connections can provide valuable mentorship, and job opportunities, and insights into the legal landscape.
Remember, choosing a concentration is a personal decision.
Don’t feel pressured to pick one immediately if you’re unsure.
Explore your options during your first year of law school and choose a concentration that aligns with your evolving interests and career aspirations.
Weigh the pros and cons carefully and choose the path that best suits your needs and goals.
Even if you don’t declare a concentration, you can still take courses in your area of interest.
Some law schools offer certificates or minors in specialized areas of law, which can be a good alternative to a concentration.