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What Alternative Legal Career Is Right for You?

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By Joseph Fawbush, Esq. | Last updated on

Law schools are quick to point out the versatility of a law degree. Books and blogs abound on alternative careers to becoming a practicing attorney. But what legitimate options are out there for law students who have realized that practicing law is not for them?

The question is relevant to more than a few recent graduates. According to one study, approximately one in five law school graduates pursue careers outside of the practice of law. Even more are likely to consider it after a few years of enduring the high stress and long hours of most traditional legal jobs.

Law students are usually risk-adverse people. Venturing out of well-worn career paths can be intimidating. Still, it is better to know your own strengths and interests sooner rather than later and pursue the right career accordingly.

Fortunately, there really are quite a few alternatives. Below are career possibilities based loosely on Myers-Briggs personality types. While you can do anything with a law degree, a JD should help you both start out and advance in the following careers.

Creative Jobs

Lawyers are typically creatures of logic. For truly creative people practicing law can feel stifling. If you need a daily creative outlet, consider: 

  • Entrepreneurship. Often, the best entrepreneurs are constantly working on a new project. Whether it is as an advisor to an entrepreneurial enterprise or starting your own business, a legal education can help understand what it will take to be successful.
  • Writing. Not all lawyers are good writers, but the skills correlate. Whether it is writing a novel (hey, it worked for Grisham) or blogging (just don’t take my job) there are careers to be had in digital content creation, journalism, marketing, career coaching and others.

Social Justice Jobs

Did you go to law school to change the world? While there are certainly paths to make a positive impact in the legal profession, affecting true change as a practicing attorney can be difficult and sometimes disillusioning. Alternatives include:

  • Non-governmental agencies. Many NGOs need lawyers. Many just need hard-working, intelligent and effective advocates and workers.
  • Public interest advocacy. One option is to start advocating directly for policy positions you believe in as a career.

People-Focused Jobs

Being stuck at your desk drafting motions and briefs most days sound lonely? Use your people skills to enter:

  • Mediation/conflict resolution. While being a mediator does not require a law degree, mediators who understand the role of mediation in legal disputes have an additional selling point when getting business.
  • Teaching/academia. It’s not just for tenured law professors. From high school to trade school, there are a number of opportunities to pass on your knowledge of the law to students.
  • Legal recruiting. Help match lawyers to the right positions.
  • Real estate. In many states, attorneys can become licensed realtors with little effort.

Analytical Jobs

If research and analysis is what you like best about the law, but you don’t like the day-to-day aspects of litigation, the following may be better suited to your talents:

  • Compliance. Businesses always have a need to understand and follow regulations.
  • Finance. Your knowledge of the law can come in handy when pursuing a career in finance or banking, particularly when conducting due diligence.

This is a non-exhaustive list, of course, and a JD won’t magically get you a cushy job. Regardless of what you do, expect to work hard and pursue your goals aggressively. Just remember that going to law school does not force you to become a lawyer. Many non-practicing law school graduates are happier (and even better paid) than practicing attorneys.

What Is Law School Designed to Do? (FindLaw’s Greedy Associates)

Lawyers, Burnout Is a Real Disease (FindLaw’s Greedy Associates)

Tips for Lawyers Who Feel They Can’t Take Vacation (FindLaw’s Strategist)

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