About two months ago, I decided I wanted to write an article interviewing classmates of mine who had decided not to pursue law, and who instead went after careers where their juris doctor gave them a leg up. This was a completely selfish attempt at trying to figure out what I could do with my career because I live in Florida, have a New York bar license, and do not want to pursue getting a Florida license.
But, here’s the rub: no one wanted to talk. I pitched the idea to a few people, and no one wanted to discuss their decision to leave the law behind. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever encountered, and I wondered if maybe these individuals hadn’t passed their bar exams and had been forced into working in a different role and that’s why they didn’t want to speak about it. I find that thought even stranger – I guess because I’m so vocal about my failure (and yes I know, I probably would be less vocal if I failed the second time and decided to leave the law).
So, instead, I’ve outlined below the kinds of real jobs you can get with a juris doctor, and why I’m so interested in this path.
When I graduated from law school, I thought, like many others, that a job would be a piece of cake to find.
Just because you have a law degree and a bar license and live in the state where your license is accepted, doesn’t mean you will get a job. I am two years out of school, nearly two and a half, and I have yet to find an attorney’s position. Up until January, I was exclusively looking in New York and other UBE states for an entry level attorney position. I applied to everything (literally everything – I went through my LinkedIn and ZipRecruiter accounts before writing this article and counted over 500 jobs I had applied to in that year and a half) and got maybe 5 interviews.
From January 2019 on, I was looking for in-house counsel positions and compliance positions in Florida and again, not finding anything. The only job I did get an offer on turned out to be for an attorney with a shady past and three admonitions on her license. I turned it down. And since, I’ve had this luck where, if I get an interview, it gets down to the last of us, and I get booted out. It’s exhausting and frustrating to say the least.
In the past six months, I have decided that leaving the law – at least a traditional transaction attorney position – is best for me. I know my partner and I won’t be staying in Florida for long and will be moving international this summer, thus being able to work only in specific states is not feasible anymore. I want to be able to take my work and skills with me. Now I look for compliance roles and human resources positions where my skills as an attorney would be well suited.
This involves regulations of a specific industry, and you will need to be able to distill that law for non-legal personnel. It’s almost like a hands-on approach to the law. No, you won’t be going to court arguing in the best interest of your client, but you will be taking those regulations and guidelines and turning them into living, breathing policies and procedures that every member of your company will have to abide by.
If you are interested in legal research and writing, this role might be right up your alley as it allows you to use your legal education to better the efficiency and operation of a company. (Also, I had a colleague on my document review team tell me that getting into financial compliance was much more achievable, he felt, than trying to go in from any other industry.)
I’ve recently gotten extremely interested in human resources. Human resources is the department in a company that works to find new employees, onboard them after hiring, protect them from issues at the company, and protect the company from issues the employee might cause. I like to think of them as the backbone of a company and for any company to flourish, this backbone needs to be strong.
For this role, you need to understand labor and employment law and how it relates to both the employer and employee. Further, you get to use these laws to create policies and procedures for both parties to follow, and ensure that they are following them. You also get to work to find new hires, train and develop their skills, and ensure they are the best suited individuals for the job. This role really requires a love of working with people and a unique understanding of the law and how to explain it to others.
I don’t know about you, but writing will always be my first love. Probably the only reason I don’t regret going to law school is because of how much better my writing has gotten. I learned how to be way more efficient with my word choices and discovered new paths to get the same point across.
Positions in content creation, copywriting, or marketing require the individual to know how to use words to sway customers and mask their writing to match a particular company’s message. Further, they require the employee to know what kind of claims can and cannot be made, how to use their time effectively, and how to stay organized.
The one thing I’ve learned while on this JD advantage job hunt is that while I think a law degree has prepared me for most jobs, employers don’t necessarily agree. You have to get creative in your resume building and cover letter writing, and sometimes it feels like nothing works. But it can be done. I have faith that we will all find something as long as we are approaching the job search with an open mind, a creative heart, and the skills to back our promises.
I wish you all good luck in your job hunt! And remember, you are an incredible individual who made it through law school, and you deserve to find the job of your dreams, whether it’s within the law or outside of it.
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