|Career Development Office|
Not every law student intends to become a practicing lawyer in the traditional sense. Law school provides students with substantive knowledge of the law, but it also enables students to learn how law is created, interpreted, modified, and enforced. Further, the study of law requires that students hone a wide variety of invaluable professional skills, such as the ability to analyze facts, to perform thorough and targeted research, to persuade and negotiate, to assess risk, and to communicate with a variety of stakeholders in an effective manner, to name just a few. Many lawyers combine a passion for another field and their legal training to create a career path that is uniquely rewarding.
Some popular fields in which lawyers pursue alternative careers include:
- Academia (legal or non-legal)
- Bar Association Administration
- Business (e.g., banking, financial planning, insurance)
- Contracts Administration
- Court Administration
- Human Resources Management
- Information Technology
- Knowledge Management
- Law Enforcement
- Law Firm Administration
- Law School Administration
- Legal Recruiting
- Legal Research and Publishing
- Legislative Consultant/Lobbyist
- Management Consulting
- Nonprofit Management
- Policy Making
- Politics (local, state, federal)
- Public Accounting: Tax and Consulting
- Trial Consultant
A law degree is a versatile credential that can enhance your ability to obtain employment in a tremendous number of fields. Some lawyers work within the legal profession in non-practicing roles, such as writing for a legal trade publication or developing practice tools for fellow lawyers in a particular subject-matter area. Others decide to use their knowledge and training outside of the legal profession, pursuing careers as law enforcement officers or entrepreneurs. Law students considering an alternative career must be prepared to invest time and energy into discovering what path is the right “fit.” It is imperative that these students also meet with their assigned counselors in the Career Development Office to learn about the tools, strategies, and opportunities that are available to help with this process. A sample of print and electronic resources relevant to alternative legal careers appears below.
Below is a sampling of professional organizations from popular industries for alternative legal careers.
- American Association of Law Libraries
- American Bar Association – Section of State and Local Government Law
- American Bar Association – Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar
- Institute of Management Consults (IMC USA)
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization
- Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
- Higher Education Recruitment Consortium
- New York City Bar Association
- National Association for Law Placement
- National Contract Management Association
- New York City Recruitment Association
- Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics
- Society of Professional Journalists
Noteworthy resources to consider when determining whether to pursue an alternative legal career include:
- Deborah Arron, WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A LAW DEGREE? A LAWYER’S GUIDE TO CAREER ALTERNATIVES INSIDE, OUTSIDE & AROUND THE LAW (2004). Available in the CDO Library.
- Richard N. Bolles, WHAT COLOR IS YOUR PARACHUTE? A PRACTICAL MANUAL FOR JOB-HUNTERS AND CAREER-CHANGERS (2017)
- Liz Brown, LIFE AFTER LAW: FINDING WORK YOU LOVE WITH THE J.D. YOU HAVE, (2013).
- Jasper Kim, 24 HOURS WITH 24 LAWYERS: PROFILES OF TRADITIONAL AND NON-TRADITIONAL CAREERS (2011)
- Ursula Furi-Perry, FIFTY UNIQUE LEGAL PATHS (2008)
- Gary A. Munneke & William D. Henslee, NONLEGAL CAREERS FOR LAWYERS (5th ed. 2006)
- NALP – The National Association of Law Placement, THE OFFICIAL GUIDE TO LEGAL SPECIALTIES (Career Guides) (2008)
- Deborah Schneider & Gary Belsky, SHOULD YOU REALLY BE A LAWYER?: THE GUIDE TO SMART CAREER CHOICES BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER LAW SCHOOL (2nd ed. 2010). Available in the CDO Library.
Students interested in alternative legal careers should also explore the numerous web resources available, a sample of which include:
- Harrison Barnes, 60 Nontraditional Jobs You Can Do with a Law Degree (and Should Strongly Consider Doing), LawCrossing.com, accessed May 13, 2019.
- Nicholas Gaffney, Alternative Careers for Lawyers, Law Practice Today, Jan. 14, 2015.
- Roy Ginsburg, Get a Better Job: When and How to Pursue an Alternative Career, The Lawyerist, Dec. 29, 2013.
- Hillary Mantis, Best Alternative Legal Careers, The National Jurist, April 15, 2014.
- Ambrosio Rodriguez, JD Detours: Alternative Career Paths for Lawyers, ABA Law Student Division, Dec. 3, 2018.