First, ask yourself why your current work isnít engaging you. What donít you like about your practice (and what do you like)? If you switched to a different practice area, would you be able to avoid the things you dislike about your current work? Would a new practice area allow you to fully utilize your skill set? Sometimes lawyers are unhappy and believe the problem lies with their practice area, but the problem is really their work environment: they are dealing with difficult co-workers or supervisors, not getting interesting assignments, or working unpredictable hours. If you like the substantive law and skills used in your area of practice, you may just need to change your environment (e.g., ask to work with other supervisors, seek out different types of cases or transactions, or consider changing employers).
If you are convinced itís the practice area you dislike, your next step should be to conduct ďdue diligenceĒ on other practice areas. Learn as much as you can about the substantive area of law to really test whether itís of interest to you. Attend CLEs and read up about recent legal developments in the field. Investigate opportunities to do pro bono work.
In addition, do informational interviews with attorneys who practice in the area. Find out what their typical day looks like: is most of their time spent writing, are they in court often or not at all, how much of their day is spent dealing with clients, opposing counsel or other parties. What do they like most about their work, what skills you need to be successful and what are their biggest challenges? Ask what employers are looking for when they hire attorneys at your level. Make sure to speak with attorneys at your seniority level and above so you know how the work differs at various seniority levels. Also, consider seeing an experienced career counselor who can help you hone in on practice areas that utilize those skills that you have enjoyed using in your current role. If you are a member of the NYC Bar, you may be referred to a counselor at a reduced hourly rate through its Career Counselor Referral program. (http://www.nycbar.org/LegalCareerCenter/Counselors.htm)
And last, once youíve done the necessary due diligence, ask yourself those earlier questions again. Will this new practice area utilize my skills? Will I be able to do the type of work I want to do (and avoid most of the things I donít like)? If the answers to those questions are yes, go for it. Youíll be more marketable to potential employers since youíll have done your due diligence and gotten exposure to the field.