It’s been the subject of books, articles, conversations with family, friends, and colleagues and, of course, blog posts like this one: what can I do with a law degree other than being a lawyer?
Whether you are a 3L approaching graduation who has decided that practicing law is not for you or a mid-career attorney looking to make a change, alternative legal careers abound. Like every industry, the legal profession supports ancillary businesses and occupations that relate to the practice of law but don’t involve practicing itself.
The challenge that lawyers often face when searching for an alternative legal career is simply the inability to visualize what those alternatives might be. Many times, opportunities will present themselves which you never knew existed.
For example, one lawyer left the practice of law after over a decade; she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, she just was sure she didn’t want to be a practicing attorney anymore. At first she was frustrated in her search for a new path, but soon was looking at a number of well-established alternatives for lawyers: corporate compliance, legal writing, communications.
Then, a position she couldn’t have conceived of for an organization she didn’t even know existed presented itself. Soon, she was working for her state’s supreme court as deputy director of its commission on professionalism.
So don’t be limited by a lack of vision; open yourself up to new and creative possibilities.
For 2016, a number of alternative legal careers are gaining prominence and growing rapidly. Two areas of particular interest include:
- Law Firm Administration – There is no practice of law separate from the business of law. Law firms are companies, and companies need to be managed, need to be marketed, and need to attract the best talent. Law firm administrative and management roles include marketing director, professional development coordinator, diversity and inclusion director, practice management director, and director of talent and recruitment. Check out this job posting for example.
- Ethics & Compliance – Companies that don’t comply with laws, regulations, and standards applicable to their industry can suffer catastrophic losses. Businesses of all sizes have a vested interest in ensuring that they follow the law and often look to lawyers to fill key roles in compliance and ethics. Industries that are heavily regulated, such as healthcare, banking, or finance to name a few offer abundant opportunities for compliance specialists.
Other opportunities exist to use your background in any of these roles:
- Mediator or Arbitrator
- Career Coach or Business Consultant
- Teaching and Academia
- Legal Recruiting
- Non-profit Management
- Jury Consultant
- Agent (athletes, entertainers, etc.)
For additional ideas, both related and unrelated to the law, see this article from Santa Clara University Law School: http://law.scu.edu/careers/career-pathways/non-lawyer-jobs-for-lawyers
You gained valuable skills and substantive knowledge in law school that are applicable beyond the courtroom or negotiating table. Character traits, such as a strong work ethic and integrity, are assets to any employer in any field.
Eddie Huang, a celebrity chef, successful author, and former practicing lawyer said: “I wasn’t meant to be an attorney, but I was meant to go to law school.” As it was for him, your search for an alternative to practicing law is truly an opportunity to find out what you were meant to be.