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Alternatives to Practicing Law

Given the dissatisfaction rampant in the legal profession and the problems inherent in creating a part-time schedule, many lawyers now face tremendously difficult decisions:

  • Do I give up the practice of law entirely?
  • Is there some way to combine my practice with my other, equally important interests?
  • Can I combine my practice with raising a family?
  • If I do give up my practice, what else can I do with a degree?
  • How much money will I earn?
  • How do I find a new job?


These questions, which have become all too common, often lead to a state of panic from which no rational decision can be made. There are no Martindale-Hubbell listings for nontraditional or part-time lawyers. For lawyers trained in the highly structured law school environment where getting hired was almost part of the curriculum, the prospect of leaving the profession can be daunting.

The good news for the lawyer pursuing alternative work arrangements is that what first appears as a murky road toward instability can be broken down systematically and logically into a series of viable options. Even more encouraging is the tremendous wealth of resource materials that have appeared in recent years. The world of nontraditional/alternative careers has developed into a veritable industry, ranging from books to newsletters to specialized career counseling consultants. As the industry evolves, these positions will become both more readily available and more acceptable in the eyes of the legal profession.

In general, making the move out of a traditional legal position involves three components: self-assessment, analysis of possible options, and decision-making implementation. Examination of these components should not be treated in a simplistic manner. If you are dissatisfied with your practice, think about exactly why you are unhappy. Do you really dislike the practice of law? Or is it just that you hate writing briefs? Or that you hate working until 9:00 p.m. most nights and can't juggle work and family? Or that you hate living in a large urban environment?

Since practice in the legal profession is preceded by a rigorous course of study most often extracting a three-year commitment of time, energy and financial resources, it is readily understandable that any lawyer would first give serious thought to the implications of making a major move. A comprehensive self-assessment to elicit the potential for change may include, among other things, one's tenure and progression in the legal profession, the skills and experience acquired that may be transferred to another setting, the compensation differentials that may accompany such a change, the substantive knowledge required, the impact on personal or family lifestyle, whether the change translates into short-term or long-term employment, and most important, whether making the change will bring success in achieving the lawyer's ultimate goal.

After careful thought and analysis many lawyers realize it is not the practice of law in itself that bothers them. For example, one lawyer realized he was unhappy because he hated writing the memos and briefs necessary to litigation. He is now happily employed as a corporate lawyer with a large biomedical engineering company. Some lawyers, of course, do realize they were never intended to be lawyers in the first place and choose to make a gracious exit. Coming to an understanding of why they do not enjoy practicing law allows them to be firm in the knowledge that they have exhausted their options and frees them of guilt and doubt about leaving the profession.

Non-Legal and Legally Related Job Titles:

Although there is no magical "list" of jobs for lawyers (especially high paying jobs), the following job titles held by lawyers may serve as means for brainstorming. We either personally know or have heard about a lawyer transitioning into every job title listed.

  • Agent
  • Arbitrator
  • Assistant/ Associate Dean
  • Auditor
  • Author
  • Accountant
  • Bank Vice President
  • Bar Association Administrator
  • Career Counselor
  • Certified Financial Planner
  • Commercial Real Estate Agent
  • Computer Consultant
  • Corporate Trainer
  • Contract Attorney
  • Department Store Buyer
  • Designer/Developer of Trial Visual Aides
  • Deposition Videographer
  • Director of Career Services, Admissions or Alumni Affairs
  • Editor
  • Executive Director of Nonprofit Agencies
  • Fundraiser
  • Investment Banker
  • Journalist
  • Jury Consultant
  • Law Librarian
  • Law Professor
  • Legislative Analyst
  • Lobbyist
  • Management Consultant
  • Mediator
  • Legal Software Developer/Vendor
  • Legal Consultant
  • Legal Headhunter
  • Politician/Political Advisor
  • President of a Corporation
  • Psychologist
  • Real Estate Developer
  • Restaurant Owner
  • Screenwriter
  • Small Business Owner
  • Special Event/Conference Planner
  • Stockbroker
  • Title Examiner
  • Trust Officer/Estate Administrator


As you begin to explore alternative career options, associations are an excellent place to start your research. Almost every industry has one or more associations analogous to the American Bar Association. Most associations can provide you with information, a calendar of events, a membership directory and committee roster, educational programming information and a newsletter, often containing job listings.

Excerpted from Jobs for Lawyers by Hillary Jane Mantis & Kathleen Brady (Impact Publications 1996).

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