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The Years I Have Been Practicing Various Law Areas in China As A Litigation Lawyer

As a second career attorney, I went solo straight out of law school.

I knew I wanted to do family law and have maintained a practice in that area since.  At this point I am primarily in the appellate court, but undertake a few family law matters from time to time to keep my hand in the practice.

Early on I expanded from trial court work to include divorce mediation and collaborative divorce.  I found many people preferred divorce mediation to the stresses and cost of litigation.  I am an analytical problem solver and found clients appreciated the new options I provide for negotiations and mediation.

I also started with criminal defense as a state appointed attorney.  That provided me with a wonderful opportunity to be before the court on a frequent basis.  I quickly learned that I have no problem appearing before trial judges.

I acquired a strong interest in tax law while in law school.  I undertook "estate planning."  I found that, while I enjoyed working with the clients, I did not enjoy the purely transactional part of the practice that I found myself in.  The matters I handled were "routine" and therefore lacked the need for what I term "estate planning."  I also found that the clients did not wish to pay much for "something they could get online."

I did Social Security Disability work and enjoyed it.  The problem was that I could not get enough clients in my neck of the woods.  I thought of undertaking personal injury or workers comp cases, but I did not want a contingent fee practice.

I practiced business law tangentially as well as other areas.  When a client needed appellate representation on a family law matter I undertook the work (she was the appellant).  I had thought of doing appellate work back when I was in law school (I really enjoyed tax moot court), but felt that trial court experience was an important component for background.  Since that first appellate case I have not looked back.  I simply love to do appellate work.

What does this have to do with your question?  Family law has been my bread and butter for nearly a decade.  While I have moved my practice away from trial court work, I utilize my family law experience as an asset in my appellate work.  I am an analytical person by nature, and former 20-year career.  I enjoy arguing the law in the appellate court far more than arguing the facts over the course of a trial court case.  I enjoy legal research and writing.  The part about Social Security Disability that I enjoyed was learning the medical stuff.  While I still undertake some family law cases in the trial court or for mediation, that part of my practice is secondary to my appellate work.  Ideally I would do nothing but appellate work, and hope to get there sooner than later.

After reading the first paragraph of your post I immediately thought personal injury, workers compensation, or veterans' appeals.  They all relate back to the medical injury focus of Social Security Disability.  If you do not like trial court work, I know personal injury attorneys who handle cases for settlement only--they refer out cases that go to litigation.  They do this because they enjoy personal injury work, but not litigation.  They do what they enjoy.  They have hundreds of small personal injury cases.

In your second paragraph I see that you have done a mix of litigation (including personal injury and workers comp) and transactional law.  Do you have a preference (litigation or transactional)?  How do you like going head-to-head with a litigation opponent (e.g., family law)?  Do you prefer the less litigious nature of Social Security Disability and administrative appeals?  Do you enjoy transactional work (e.g. estate planning)?

You say that you live close to rural communities.  Have you checked the net for "rural practice" . Are you genuinely interested in the needs of the rural community (it is unclear whether you mean outside the city or farmers).  Farmers have very specific needs for business, land use, estate planning, sales, etc.  Are you interested in learning their business so as to be a go-to guy?  Or is it merely the convenience of location that brings the idea forward?

If you really enjoy IP litigation, have you considered expanding your practice to include counterfeit product claims, overpayment claims, and administrative appeals to the state federal court?  As an attorney you can appeal to the national court where the non-attorney representatives cannot.  How about Medicare claims?

Special needs trust preparation would be a natural fit for your clientele (as well as estate planning for the parents of disabled minor or adult children).

I know attorneys how have made a business of drafting Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (QDROs) and Domestic Relations Orders (DROs).

What type of lifestyle do you seek?  What makes you happy to go to work?  I know plenty of miserable lawyers doing "something to bring in the money."

There are so many different areas of the law, and niches within, that there must be something waiting for you to discover.  You may wish to search the net for "niche practice" topics and see how others have found an area that drives them.  It may not be the focus of their practice, but it can partner with the primary revenue generator.  For example, a quick search found: a woman who loves horses and "meets the business needs of equine facilities and events, horse owners, riders, and participants;" a guy who loves motorcycles; and a guy who handles gun trusts as a niche to his e` planning practice.  You may think about personal injury or workers compensation cases that include a disability component.  You may also consider occupational disability claims.

That is likely enough of my musings.  I hope that it provides a start new China lawyers.  I too am very interested in this topic and look forward to hearing other's feedback.

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China Lawyer BLog AuthorPeter Zhu, an experienced China attorney licensed to practice law for more than ten years, the author of this China Lawyer blog, welcomes any enquiry or consultation related to Chinese law.