This is the third post in a multi-part series designed to explore how the legal market is changing and introduce you to some of the options it presents for future law graduates. We’ve already taken a look at opportunities that have arisen with the emergence of new technology and a few “hot” practice areas. We’ll round things out by examining some jobs in the JD Advantage market for those of you who feel like traditional legal practice may not be your jam.
What Kind of Jobs Are Considered JD Advantage?
The National Association of Law Placement (NALP) defines JD Advantage jobs as “those for which the employer sought an individual with a JD, and perhaps even required a JD, or for which the JD provided a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but are jobs that do not require bar passage, an active law license, or involve practicing law.” NALP provides a number of examples, including: corporate contracts administrator, alternative dispute resolution specialist, government regulatory analyst, FBI agent, and accountant. They note that jobs can also be found in personnel or human resources with investment banks, consulting firms, law firm professional development, and law school administration.
I would add legislative aides and lobbyists, trust officers, policy analysts at think tanks, non-profit directors, and charitable gift planners, though there are many more options. In fact, a recent Above the Law article examined an exciting new category of JD Advantage jobs tied to the influx of legal tech investment. Below we’ll take a quick look at a few other options.
With the increasing focus on compliance and risk management in corporate and health care settings, there is a growing need and opportunity for those with JDs to serve in roles outside of the legal department. The job of a compliance officer is to ensure that the organization is acting in compliance with all laws and regulations that apply to its particular industry, as well as both professional and internal standards and accepted business practices. Because healthcare and banking are so heavily regulated, these industries are hotbeds of compliance opportunities, but jobs can be found in any corporate setting, as well as in government agencies and college athletics.
Compliance consistently tops the list of most common JD Advantage jobs in business for new graduates, and it is among the fastest growing occupations in corporate America. If you are wondering whether compliance might be a good fit for you or how you can prepare for a career in this area, NALP has prepared a helpful checklist that outlines some key questions to think about.
Landman/Land Acquisition Specialist
First, let me point out that although the term “landman” seems gender exclusive, it’s actually shorthand for “land management professional.” A landman works primarily as an independent contractor or employee of oil and petroleum companies, which can’t drill on private land without first securing rights from the land owner. While the American Association of Professional Landmen (AAPL) limits the definition of “landwork” to that which involves the acquisition or divesture of mineral rights, there are individuals doing similar work in the wind energy industry, often referred to as land acquisition specialists.
A landman/land acquisition specialist is tasked with searching public records to determine land ownership and then negotiating with landowners – individuals, businesses, or the government – to buy or lease the land for drilling or pumping or turbine sites. Although not required, a law degree is valued by many companies and can increase earning potential.
The Corporate Legal Operations Consortium (CLOC) defines legal operations as a multi-disciplinary function that optimizes legal services delivery to a business or government entity by focusing on twelve core competencies. It is centered around the idea that innovation, technology, collaboration, and legal process management can make the legal profession better and more efficient. On the topic of legal operations, Connie Brenton, CEO of CLOC and Senior Director of Legal Operations at NetApp has said, “We need to stop thinking about how we can fit into the world around us and we need to start thinking about how we can change the world and make it a better place. It’s about reinvention, it’s about disruption, it’s about getting a completely different mindset.”
While a law degree is not essential to this role, many Directors of Legal Operations do have them. Those with legal training are a natural fit, given their understanding of the processes and language used. However, having a background in business, finance, or technology is also incredibly beneficial. Strategic, big-picture thinkers are often well-suited for this type of work. If you are thinking about a career in legal operations, you may want to consider a student membership with CLOC.
For more advice on legal career options, check out these additional resources:
- More Than Esquires Network
- Podcast Episode 70: How to Decide What Type of Law to Practice
- What’s Your Alternative? Uncovering Alternative Career Paths for the Law Firm Skeptic – How Do I Become a Public Interest Attorney?
- What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?
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