When I went to law school, I knew that I would benefit from having a law degree. But, I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to use my J.D. I knew I wanted to be an advocate for a cause I could be passionate about. I wasn’t entirely sure what that might look like, and I was open to opportunities that might not be the traditional practice of law.
Turns out, there are lots of careers that benefit from having a law degree even though they’re not practicing law. Here are a few:
When I was in law school, every single one of my professors was a lawyer. But, not all of them were practicing attorneys. Some still maintained private clients. Most didn’t. I now work in academia myself in fundraising and know of two attorneys on my university’s campus that teach law classes but don’t practice law.
Teaching may appeal to you if you enjoy analyzing cases, rules, and regulations and helping students understand the issues around those cases and policies.
2. Dispute Resolution
I got my first taste of dispute resolution when I interned for a public school district in law school. I sat in one room with the school administrators and their lawyer while the opposing parties sat in another room. A mediator engaged with each party individually and privately, then presented each side’s position to the other side in a way that would hopefully bring everyone to an agreement.
It was an exhausting process that took all day. Eventually, however, the parties reached an agreement. Because neither party had to hear disparaging remarks about the other in litigation, the parties were able to resolve their differences much more amicably than they may have if they were in the court room.
Dispute resolution does still require an ability to plead a case. You just aren’t using those skills to advocate for one side over the other.
This career may be a great option for you if you enjoy helping people come to agreements more than the satisfaction of winning a case.
3. Legal Publishing
My whole life I wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to be a lawyer. I never knew that I could combine my passions for writing and law and go into legal publishing. Publishing companies hire lawyers, because lawyers tend to have exceptional writing, editing, and research skills. And, there is an increasing amount of legal publications whose audience includes lawyers, paralegals, and other legal professionals. In many ways, publishers prefer to hire lawyers to write for other lawyers, because they know the industry better than a non-lawyer would.
Within the realm of writing and publishing, your skills as a lawyer can be invaluable.
4. Policy Advisor/Analyst
As a law school graduate, you’ll be able to understand legal precedent better than most non-lawyers. You’ll also have a better understanding of the legal system in general. Combine this understanding with your research, analysis, and writing skills, and you’re a great candidate for a policy advisor or analyst.
Policy analysts and advisors research existing policies and usually advise politicians or organizations about the policies that may impact them. Policy analysts may even draft new legislation or regulations.
Utilize your research and analytical skills as a policy analyst and effect change in policies.
Similar to policy analysts, lobbyists work in the realm of policies. They research policies. They may even write policies. But, mostly, they argue for why a certain policy should or shouldn’t be adopted. Typically, lobbyists work for various industries. You may have heard the terms “Big Agriculture” or “Big Tobacco.” These terms refer to the trade organizations that advocate for these industries. Most of these organizations has at least one lobbyist on staff. Even universities hire individuals to advocate on Capitol Hill for them.
Sometimes lobbying is referred to as government relations, because individuals who lobby work primarily with government officials. Essential to their job is an ability not only to advocate for their cause but also build relationships among influential people and professionals.
If you enjoy following politics, working with politicians, and building relationships, then lobbying or government relations may be the job for you!
As you can see, there are lots of possibilities for using your law degree even if you don’t want to practice law. These are just a small sampling of opportunities. At the root of most of these jobs is an ability to research, write, analyze, and understand the legal and policy industries.
If you don’t want to practice law as a traditional lawyer doing things like drafting contracts or litigating in court, then consider the skills you have gained as a law student and how you can use those to build a different kind of career based on those skills. You may find something new you didn’t imagine. Your skills are more marketable than you may realize and will serve you well no matter what career you end up choosing.
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