Editor’s weekly: Jack of all trades?

A major dilemma faced by many students on the hunt for a training contract is whether to tell a potential employer what practice areas they are interested in specialising in.

The danger is that if you over egg the pudding by focusing on just one practice area such as insolvency because it’s currently en vogue you may put some graduate recruiters right off you.

Especially because the age of the specialist lawyer might just be coming to an end. Our story earlier this week about Linklaters training a new generation of ‘generalist’ associates (see story) has sparked a massive debate over the dangers of specialising too early.

Having recognised that “people are specialising too early” the firm is looking at ways of giving its young blood a “more rounded” experience at a Linklaters’ boot camp.

After the largest number of redundancies in the legal profession’s history, you might think this more Continental European approach would be welcomed -the more skills a lawyer has the more he/she can be moved between practice areas.

But not according to our readers, who have filled our message board with criticism of the idea.

Such as this from Anonymous at 10.09am: “So who loses out as these associates get more expensive but not all that more experienced in any one area? Clients…And who wins?…The partners, since they don’t have to get rid of so many people, and can move people around when departments get busy.”

While another wrote: “Jack of all trades and master of none.”

Other posters, however, support Linklaters’ move. “The rush to specialise is much too early these days and in order to give the best service to a client a breadth of experience is invaluable so that you can at least recognise there is an issue even if you do not know the answer and it makes life more interesting for the lawyer,” wrote Anonymous at 4.20pm.

Whether or not you agree with what Linklaters is doing one thing is for sure it’s important to keep your options open. That’s why the vast majority of firms rotate their trainees between different departments. After all, how can you make a convincing case to qualify into a practice area without sampling it first?