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Researching Legal Careers

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Forewarned is forearmed, they say, and whether you have finished law school or are just thinking about attending, it may be wise to research your options for a legal career. Advanced knowledge of the advantages and challenges of different kinds of legal practices will help ensure that you direct yourself into a satisfying career and are prepared for potential drawbacks. The following article highlights resources and methods that can help you learn about your legal career options.

One great thing about the age in which we live is the existence of a vast amount of information available on the internet. The convenience of these resources is fantastic and can let you access statistics and personal narratives that provide a well-rounded view of your legal career options.

Types of Legal Careers

In most jurisdictions, becoming a licensed attorney means obtaining a bachelor's degree as well as completing a three-year juris doctorate (J.D.). But law offices and other segments of the legal field offer a variety of positions.

For many people, attending law school is a full-time job in and of itself. If you're interested in the legal field but you have other obligations that make a J.D. program feel out of reach, you could also consider a paralegal program. Paralegals often conduct legal research, communicate with courts and clients, and help gather evidence for trial. Just like attorneys, paralegals have strong research skills, communication skills, and analytical skills.

Legal research assistants rely on these same core competencies in their jobs. As a research assistant, you could help others in a legal department or law firm gather and analyze important documents. Legal research assistants often review case law and help draft briefs and other legal documents. As more and more businesses implement new technology into their work, being tech savvy has become more important in legal research jobs.

General Resources

The American Bar Association (ABA) Career Choice Series — The ABA hosts a series of audio and video recordings in which prominent lawyers in a variety of practice areas profile their work. These interviews include information about the skills needed for a particular area of practice, its pros and cons, and what a typical day in their field is like.

LSAC Fields of Law -- The Law School Admission Council provides information about a wide variety of legal fields, from Animal Law to Civil Rights to Tax Law.

Stanford Law School's Career Possibilities — Many law schools provide career services that include an overview of the kinds of jobs an attorney might pursue. Stanford Law School's Career Possibilities hub is publicly available and breaks down career options by sector. It includes information about big law firms, non-law jobs, judicial clerkships, academia, and careers in legal education.

Diversity in Legal Careers

The National Association for Law Placement (NALP) — NALP is an association composed of legal career professionals that collect and publish legal employment data and advocate for diversity and inclusion. It offers valuable information about salaries and collects statistics relating to LGBTQ+, race, and disability in the legal profession. Although there are a variety of resources scattered throughout the website, the NALP trends page has some unique data on employment trends that can help you answer questions about hiring and salaries in different legal careers.

Public Interest Legal Careers

Harvard Law School's Career & Application Guides — Harvard Law School has published a series of articles about legal career options. This series, published by Harvard's Office of Public Interest Advising, focuses on public interest law careers. In addition to profiles of careers relating to different legal subjects, this archive also includes information about different practice settings, advice on finding a job, and tips for living cheaply enough to live on public interest salaries.

PSJD Resource Center — PSJD focuses on public service legal careers. The organization's website includes public interest legal career profiles and extensive information about career paths in government, nonprofits, and public interest law firms. In addition to the typical information provided by other resources, PSJD also explores issues relating to funding and student loan repayment issues.

We're Here for You, Too

While we hope that the aforementioned resources are helpful, don't forget to come back to browse FindLaw's own legal career resources. In addition to the information found in our Law Students section, there are resources throughout the site intended to help you succeed at every stage of your legal career.

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