Becoming a lawyer is a huge investment, and not just financially. In addition to the cost of tuition, you’re also dedicating 3+ years of your life to go through the mentally and emotionally challenging process of graduating from law school. Then, you still have to make it past the bar exam! Because it’s such a huge commitment and such a long process, admitting that you may not actually want to be a lawyer can be difficult. Maybe you’re a 3L engaged in the post-graduation job search, and you can’t find yourself getting excited about anything with the word “attorney” in it. Maybe you’re a new lawyer who just started practicing and you’re feeling remarkably unfulfilled by the day to day work. Or maybe you’re a 1L or 2L, still in the middle of law school, but already starting to feel like practicing law isn’t your passion. Realizing (and accepting) that you don’t want to be a traditional attorney can be disquieting – you may feel like law school was a mistake or like you’ve been wasting your time going down this path. Well, don’t despair just yet! There are many alternative ways to take advantage of your J.D. and put your law school experience to good use. Check out some of the options below to see if anything seems right for you.
1. Legal Tech Companies
Just like every other industry, the practice of law is becoming more and more automated. Legal tech companies are providing a wide range of services to law schools and law firms, whether it be improving research, assisting with the discovery process, generating educational tools, or calculating the odds that a lawsuit will be successful. These companies, both established businesses and exciting startups, need people who understand the law to refine and market their product. Positions and opportunities at these types of companies vary, so start exploring the different possibilities that may be available to you.
If you’re someone who excelled at law school but may not love the constant conflict with opposing counsel and the billable hours, a return to higher education might be a good move for you. If you don’t think you’ve got the resume to be a tenure-track professor, there are plenty of other opportunities in academia. Depending on your skills and interests, consider working as a legal writing professor or an academic support professional. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that helping others succeed in law school is an extremely rewarding way to make use of your J.D. If you’re not sure you want to jump back in to the law school environment, look for opportunities to teach at local community colleges or state universities.
3. Law Librarian
It will mean more school to get your M.L.S., but being a law librarian can be a great career choice if you enjoy research, writing, and maybe even a little teaching or training. If you’re interested in library and informational sciences, reach out to one of the hard working law librarians at your school to get an idea about the day to day responsibilities of a law librarian.
4. Human Resources Professional
There’s a lot more to human resources than just keeping employees happy and productive. Human resources professionals manage an array of issues, many of which involve compliance with state and federal laws that regulate labor practices, working conditions, discrimination, and benefits. The ability to navigate these laws and mediate disputes can make having a J.D. a huge plus. Working in human resources can also give you the opportunity to interact with a variety of people and solve a variety of problems. Additionally, if you like the corporate environment, human resources might be a good field for you.
5. Politics and Government Affairs
For many discontented law students and lawyers, working in politics is a natural option because a lawyer’s analytical skills, communication skills, and knowledge of government functions is such an asset in this arena. On a local, state, and national level, there are all sorts of behind-the-scenes jobs that lawyers and law school grads could fill, whether it’s lobbying, staffing a campaign, working in the office of an elected official, or fundraising for a political group. Depending on what you do, working in politics and government affairs may be just as cutthroat and have hours that are just as long as a litigators, so consider carefully before making this career change.
If you’re passionate about a particular cause, working for a non-profit that operates in that area may be your path to a fulfilling career. Many smaller non-profits don’t have in-house counsel, so having a licensed attorney on staff can be a real asset. Although your position at a non-profit may primarily involve other responsibilities, being available to resolve legal questions could be the perfect balance between following your passion and practicing law.
If you’ve come to the difficult realization that being a lawyer isn’t for you, don’t feel compelled to practice law just because you spent time and money on law school. In all likelihood, you’re going to be working for many years to come, so make sure that whatever you do, it’s something you enjoy (or can at least tolerate on a daily basis). The list above is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of alternative career paths, so don’t be afraid to get creative!
For more helpful advice, check out these articles or take a look at our career services!
- Got a Job Offer? Not Sure if You Should Take It? Here are Four Tips to Help You Decide
- The Art of the Legal Job Interview
- Five Tips for Job Hunting After the Bar Exam
- Caution! Don’t Restrict Your Job Search to the OCI Process
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