According to the American Bar Association, there were 39,984 law school graduates in 2015. Of this group, 40.7% or 16,282 went to work in law firms. The next largest segment of 5,854 went to various businesses and industries, followed by 4,655 who became employed in government jobs. This country’s law schools cranks more than twice as many lawyers as medical doctors (18,705 for 2014-15 school year). The 40+% who chose to work in a law firm may be subjected to 70 hours of work weekly. Unless, you are fortunate enough to start your own practice, be prepared to put in 12 hour days and weekends. The financial benefits can be substantial, especially in personal injury law, but your personal life may be non-existent. As well as having the responsibilities of raising children and having time during their formative years.
There are many other degrees in which you can be your own boss; set your own hours; have more leisure time. But other job opportunities may not be of interest. You have set your mind on being a lawyer. If so, the following professions all require a law degree, yet afford more flexibility in the work hours. Some adhere to the typical 9-5 schedule of most corporations. Thus, more leisure time. As you contemplate your career, remember the words of prominent American Rabbi and author Harold Kushner: ‘Nobody on their deathbed has ever said: “I wish I had spent more time at the office” ‘.
A legal consultant is someone who provides expert and professional legal advice on a contractual basis to businesses and/or individuals. Legal consultants can provide advice on a number of important matters depending on what their consulting focus is, and common subject matters include corporate law, real estate law, employment law, and medical law. This profession provides individuals with opportunities to utilize their legal skills in ways not traditionally associated with firm practice. This kind of lawyer may also advise their clients on non-legal matters. However, the basis of their advice is always the law or precedent case law which helps the client to make a better deal or run their business better.
This job may be done as a one-person office or join a business that provides legal consulting services. One example is Robert Half, founded in 1948, they provide personnel from Accountemps to legal consulting. They furnish clients with an integrated solution that includes: legal staffing services, a team of legal project management professionals, legal project attorneys, dedicated legal project space, and an experienced eDiscovery team. eDiscovery Services helps clients address the riskiest and costliest areas of collecting, preserving and reviewing electronic information.
The University of Texas Austin Law School describes this job as “hyper-competitive.” The best way to describe the competitiveness of getting this job is to compare it to getting a job at a large law firm. According to this law school, first thing you should do is read the following book: “Becoming a Law Professor” (ABA, 2010: Denning, Lipshaw, & McCormick). This is the definitive guide for someone seeking to become a law professor, according to UT Law. The second thing you should read is Sam Buell, Becoming a Legal Scholar, 110 Michigan Law Review 1175 (2012). First and foremost, find out if you enjoy researching and writing law review articles. If you do not, then look elsewhere for your next position. Writing articles, crafting footnotes, and negotiating with student editors is a large part of being a law professor.
Yet another possibility for transitioning into legal academia is one of the growing number of Visiting Assistant Professor (VAP) programs. These fellowship positions offered by some US law schools let aspiring professors spend one or two years researching and teaching before going out on the competitive academic job market and (hopefully) landing a tenure-track position. To increase your chances of landing a law professorship, some aspiring candidates are taking a Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.S.D.). Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Berkeley, Chicago, NYU, Yale, Cornell, and Duke offer these two- to three-year J.S.D. programs. These programs are research-oriented, and designed for future professors.
Arbitration and mediation are forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution that allow parties to avoid court costs while seeking a mutually acceptable outcome to a conflict without having to stand before a judge. Although many mediators are lawyers, a law degree is not required to practice. Therefore, this may be an opportunity for the student who opts to leave law school prior to completion. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most mediators complete a 40-hour basic mediation course and a 20-hour advanced training course. You may also want to be certified by the National Association of Certified Mediators. To be certified, you must take 80 hours of accredited mediation training and pass a comprehensive exam. The Mediate.com Mediator Certification Program requires Premium Members to disclose their training and case experience. Mediate.com requires at least 100 hours of mediation training and at least 200 hours of mediation case experience for our Premium Member Certified Mediators.
Some mediators find employment in the court system or in the private sector in the insurance and financial industries, but many work as independent mediators who market themselves to get work. Those in business for themselves must do relentless marketing to obtain clients. As opposed to those with a law degree can be court approved, thus receiving mediation opportunities as assigned by the court system.
Government officials and agencies, nonprofit and service agencies and private companies employ legislative analysts to monitor and analyze the activities and new policies established by local, state and federal governments. Depending on their employers, they may focus on particular types of legislation, such as that dealing with healthcare or agricultural issues. The primary duty of a legislative analyst is to follow and examine the legislation initiatives that affect their employers, and provide detailed reports about how the legislation will influence the organization’s activities. This may require extensive research, meetings with executives and government officials and contacting outside experts to request additional information.
Perusing job listings, there are various degrees acceptable to enter this profession. Some organizations and government offices require at least a Bachelor’s degree while others may require an MBA or law degree. One example, is a job posting in governmentjobs.com in Snohomish County in Washington in their Human Resources Department. Applicants must have the minimum of a degree in public administration, political science, business or economics, law, urban planning, or a related discipline.
There are many TV personalities in the broadcast news media who graduated from law school. Cynthia McFadden, currently the senior legal and investigative correspondent for NBC news, graduated from Columbia Law School. Jeff Greenfield, TV journalist (CBS-2007-11) and current political analyst on NBC, graduated from Yale Law School. These are just two examples where law graduates have utilized their learned skills to synthesize ideas, information, and communicate it clearly to an audience. Just as an attorney would in a court room.
The same qualities required to be great lawyer must be mastered to excel in broadcast journalism:
- Judgment: draw reasonable, logical conclusions or assumptions from limited information
- Analytical skills: distill large piece of information into something manageable
- Research skills: able to research quickly and effectively
- People skills: be personable, persuasive and able to read others
This may be one the most difficult professions to be successful. There are millions of aspiring novelists in America, but some of managed to buck the odds and become best-selling authors. One of the most notable is John Grisham. Grisham graduated from Mississippi State University before attending the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1981. He practiced criminal law for about a decade and served in the House of Representatives in Mississippi from January 1984 to September 1990. Scott Turow is lawyer who graduated from law school in 1978 and then landed a role as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. Mr. Turow has produced nine works of fiction and a few non-fiction.
These two examples are former-lawyers turned writers who became enormously successful. It requires not only creativity to produce a novel but also good fortune to be published. Marjorie Liu, graduate of Wisconsin Law School in 2003, who practiced law provides the following advice: “I loved law school. Did not like being a lawyer.” She has since penned 21 issues of Marvel’s Astonishing X-Men comics. Ms Liu’s success as a novelist is unique and not be taken as typical. Even if you passionately crave to be an author, it’s one of the jobs that the adage: ‘Don’t give up your day job’- strongly applies. Mr. Grisham was rejected by 28 publishers before his first novel, A Time to Kill, was in print (5 years after he wrote it).
Perhaps during your travails as a practicing attorney, you come up with an idea for a new product or service that could be successful. This may start as a hobby (again-best not to quit your day job), as it did with Nina and Tim Zagat. The husband-and-wife team met when they were both attending Yale Law School. They were at a dinner party in 1979 when friends began discussing how unreliable a certain major newspaper’s restaurant reviews were. Mr. Zagat suggested surveying a larger population of people on their restaurant opinions instead of relying on the biases of one reviewer, and the Zagat Survey was born. In September 2011, the company was acquired by Google for a reported $151 million.
In a rare instance, your lawyer savvy may catapult you into the stratosphere of wealth as it did with Peter Thiel. Mr. Thiel is co-founder of PayPal; according to Forbes Magazine, his wealth is estimated to be $2.2 billion. He graduated from Stanford Law School in 1992, practiced law for one year then joined Credit Suisse Group as a trader before becoming an entrepreneur.
Legal Operations Manager
The responsibilities of legal operations managers vary widely from department to department, and business to business. Along with managing outside counsel and vendors, some operation specialists oversee department budgeting and staffing, as well as diversity and pro bono programs. Others have also taken take the lead on implementing e-billing and/or e-contract management systems and other technology initiatives. These professionals serve as critical interface to the technology, communications and finance functions directing strategy and oversee key legal resources. This position requires demonstrated leadership capabilities with strong personal and organizational accountability and initiative.
General Electric, Bank of America, Prudential and other East Coast financial and industrial companies had begun hiring legal operations specialists for their law departments back in the 1990’s. By the end of the decade, Cisco Systems, Inc., Hewlett-Packard Company, and a handful of other Silicon Valley businesses had followed suit. A Fortune 500 company such as Cisco has a law department consisting of a team of 40 people, including nearly 20 IT professionals. Legal operations managers in conjunction with IT personnel can devise cost-savings measures that amount to millions of dollars.
Insurance Senior Legal Counsel
For those with law practice experience, there are opportunities within all major Property and Casualty (P&C) insurance companies for legal counsel positions. Names such as Geico, Progressive, Travelers, and USAA all have in-house legal counsel whose duties include: general legal counseling, compliance counseling, contract drafting and negotiation, management of litigation, resolution of disputes with or on behalf of the company’s insureds. Other responsibilities are: Completes research and analysis for underwriting projects, collaborates and works effectively with others in the Claim Legal organization, and with Claims, Underwriting, and other areas of the insurance company.
Since all P&C insurance companies are governed by their respective state insurance department, this creates a host of laws and regulations to adhere to. Not only in claims’ departments, but at the corporate level as well. Plus, the advantages of working for an insurance company are the benefits, 401K or similar savings plan, regulated hours, and best of all-less stress than private practice. There are companies, such as Travelers, that have offices across the USA, thus affording job opportunities in select cities. This company, as of July 2016, had postings for Senior Counsel openings in Hartford, Connecticut, Overland Park, Kansas, New York City, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) wrote an article in February , 2012, stating that since 1945 one-third to one-half of U.S. Senate seats were occupied by lawyers. Lawyers accounted for 23.91 percent of the House of Representatives in 2012, down from a high of 42.56 percent in the 87th Congress (1961-62). Today, there are also about as many representatives who previously worked in banking and business as there are lawyers, with bankers and businessmen making up 21.38 percent of the House. The trend doesn’t stop at this level as President Obama, Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, and James Madison all graduated with law degrees. Noteworthy is Hilary Clinton, currently campaigning to be the next U.S. president, who graduated from Yale Law School in 1973.
Law school in itself is competitive-arguing cases with the desire to be persuasive enough to win the case. This motivation to win bodes well for those entering politics. Some present-day leaders also point to clinical work and case studies that helped hone their problem-solving and analytic skills. These activities, important in legal education for the past two decades, help students learn to find—or construct—facts and to navigate more dimensions of a problem than is permitted by the frame of appellate judicial opinions. These analytic skills learned in law school carry over easily to professions in finance, politics, business and administration. Law school classes and study groups deepen reasoning skills while shaping students in other ways relevant to leadership.
Estate Planning Attorney
A person’s estate is considered the net worth of a person at any point in time. To plan for the disposal of an estate, wills, trusts and power of attorney are typically established. Doing so reduces uncertainties about the estate’s distribution and helps maximize the estate’s value by decreasing taxes and other expenses. In order to practice as an estate attorney, you must receive a law degree (a juris doctor) from an accredited law school and pass the bar exam in the state where law will be practiced. Typically, during the second and third year of law school, a student has more flexibility in their course load, allowing them to specialize in fields of their choosing. Estate law classes include topics like asset management, estate planning, family law, taxation, real estate law, and trusts.
In order to be most effective, estate law attorneys must have a thorough grasp of state and federal tax laws, trusts, wills, property and real estate. They collaborate with financial managers and insurance specialists. Financial knowledge, such as how to manage a balance sheet, will allow them to better assist their clients with prudent estate planning. Other personal and business matters that estate lawyers can handle include retirement plans, life insurance policies and charitable contributions. To do so, they must stay up-to-date with the ever-changing tax laws. This profession has a reported median annual salary of $74,614; those with 10+ years experience surpass the $100k barrier on average, according to PayScale.
Real Estate Attorney
Real estate lawyers serve two primary functions in the real estate world. They either act as litigators or handle the legal aspects of real estate transactions. Real estate lawyers deal in real property and mediate real estate transactions gone sour. A real estate lawyer must obtain a juris doctor (JD) degree from a school accredited by the American Bar Association along with an attorney’s license through passing the bar exam. Some law schools may provide the option of specializing one’s studies around real estate law. After graduation, continuing education may be required yearly or every three years as it is so in forty-five states.
Excluding law firms, there are many other employment opportunities for the law graduate, particularly with real estate experience. Real estate lawyers work for the government, using their expertise in the building and zoning departments of municipalities and counties. Still others may be on staff in corporations, financial or lending institutions, private equity firms, real estate development companies or title companies. Many real estate lawyers with their own practice have salaries extending into six figures. For example, a job posting on Indeed.com is seeking a real estate attorney with 4 years experience. The posted pay range is $160-$200k.
Department of Justice
Within The United States Department of Justice is the Attorney General’s Honors Program-the largest and most prestigious federal entry-level attorney hiring program of its kind. Every year, various components and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices hire entry-level attorneys through the Honors Program. The number of entry-level attorney positions varies from year to year. Eligibility is generally limited to graduating law students and recent law school graduates who entered judicial clerkships, graduate law programs, or qualifying legal fellowships within 9 months of law school graduation and who meet additional eligibility requirements.
Every year the Department hires a significant number of entry-level attorneys through the Honors Program. Those selected represent diverse backgrounds and interests, and come from law schools throughout the country. The Honors Program is centrally managed by the Office of Attorney Recruitment and Management, but each participating component reviews the applications submitted and makes independent hiring decisions. Entry-level attorneys are required to pass a bar and be an active member of a bar (any U.S. jurisdiction) within 14 months of entry on duty. You must, therefore, attend a law school whose graduates are eligible to sit for a bar exam. If the state in which your law school is located allows only candidates from accredited law schools to sit for the bar exam, your law school must be accredited.
The FBI has five entry degree programs that you must qualify for before it will consider you for appointment as a special agent: Accounting, Computer Science or IT, Diversified, Language and Law. While you don’t have to be a practicing attorney to be qualified for the Law entry program, you do have to have a law degree. That said, the nature of the work lends itself to applicants who possess analytical and critical thinking skills, investigative and interviewing techniques and the ability to interpret federal regulations and laws.
As difficult as it may be to be accepted into the FBI, even with a law degree, the more qualifications you possess-the better. One former FBI agent was approached in law school by the FBI due to her extensive language skills: fluent in Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Law school graduates, despite their more sedentary jobs, take the same demanding physical and firearms training as the Special Agents. Professional positions within the legal arena involve: legal research and writing, counsel clients, and represent the FBI in legal proceedings. You will also work with the Intelligence Community, the United States Attorney’s Office, and local city and county’s legal representation when dealing with casework.
Labor and employment law governs the relationship between employers and employees. As a general rule, labor and employment lawyers either represent employers/management or employees/unions. These lawyers work in small and large law firms, corporate law departments, the general counsel offices of federal agencies, and labor unions. Other potential employment exists in federal and state enforcement agencies such as the Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Some may even work in public interest organizations providing legal services to employees or non-profit organizations.
There are a broad range of responsibilities in this profession. Labor lawyers may review employment contracts, advise clients about their employment rights while recommending legal action, mediate between employees and employers, and represent clients in court in civil lawsuits against employers. They help to bridge the gap between employers and employees through handling legal matters which involve collective bargaining. They may also advise employers in creating workplace policies and procedures that are in compliance with federal, state, and local employment laws. This latter function helps minimize conflict and lawsuits by their employees.
The role of a compliance officer, sometimes called a compliance manager, is to make sure that a company is conducting its business in full compliance with all national and international laws and regulations that pertain to its particular industry, as well as professional standards, accepted business practices, and internal standards. This person must have an innate and intuitive knowledge of the company’s goals and culture, as well as of the greater industry and standard business law. These officers/managers are employed in a variety of industries, from healthcare (Johnson & Johnson) to banking (J.P. Morgan Chase) to computers/software (Microsoft). They are an integral component of corporate governance. In addition, they determine how an organization is managed, directed, and governed, including the relationships between clients, shareholders and the structure of the company.
Within some organizations, the most common compliance risks are data privacy, bribery and corruption, and industry-specific risks. Compliance officers are charged with determining how to protect their particular organizations from all risks. In banking, for example, government regulators are more aggressively pursuing financial institutions who break the law. The regulator supervises licensed banks for compliance with the requirements and responds to breaches of the requirements by obtaining undertakings, giving directions, imposing penalties or (ultimately) revoking the bank’s license. Similarly, healthcare companies must promote quality of care and embrace compliance with such organizations as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
This type of journalism refers to effective communication through writing. Lawyers have exceptional writing skills that they learned by writing reports, articles and briefs in law school. One of the major differences when transitioning from the practice of law to journalism is the difference in the time commitment. The hours are fewer than at a large firm and you have greater flexibility in your schedule. As in law, there are extraordinarily busy times, such as when a high priority story is evolving and you are the person on call to cover it. One drawback is that it may take a while to reach the same level of compensation you were at or could be at working in a law firm. If you are a practicing attorney or plan to be, you may want to write as a supplement to your full-time profession until established as a journalist.
Media sources as National Public Radio (NPR), The American Lawyer Magazine, American Bar Association Journal, The New York Times and many other magazines, journals and newspapers employ journalists with law degrees. Some of these, NPR for one, offers unpaid internships working with their Legal Affairs Correspondent. This provides real experience in researching, analyzing, and reporting on events in the Supreme Court and other major legal arenas. The American Lawyer, a monthly 20,000-circulation law magazine, offers a summer internship for graduate and undergraduate students interested in business and legal journalism. The position is in New York City, runs 10-12 weeks and pays $400 per week. Other internships may be found at cubreporters.org.
Legal Affairs Manager
Legal affairs professionals are typically lawyers who work in a company’s in-house legal department, advising the company about legal issues related to business operations. Legal affairs professionals often work for banks, insurance companies or pharmaceutical companies, combining legal experience with strong business acumen. Specific job duties of legal affairs staff vary by position level, but they typically include providing management with effective legal advice on business issues and company strategies, selecting and overseeing the work of outside counsel, drafting and editing complex commercial agreements, ensuring the company operates in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, helping prepare briefs, complaints, motions and other court documents.
The previously stated industries are not the only ones requiring legal affairs personnel. Warner Music Group (WMG) posted a job looking for someone with a law degree to develop strategies for identifying third parties who may be infringing upon WMG’s intellectual property rights. The candidate will investigate potential infringements, and then devise effective strategies for addressing any infringements in order to stop any infringing activity and secure appropriate compensation from any infringing parties. Even the World Wildlife Federation (WWF) employs legal affairs officers to ensure that the organization adheres to the laws and regulations of the country in which they are operating.
A lobbyist can work for a single corporation or nonprofit organization or represent an entire industry to represent its interests to political and business leaders. The purpose of lobbying is to persuade politicians to enact or support legislation that benefits your organization or to get business and community leaders to support activities that are beneficial to you. The lobbying profession is a legitimate and integral part of our democratic political process that is not very well understood by the general population. While most people think of lobbyists only as paid professionals, there are also many volunteer lobbyists. Lobbyists represent just about every American institution and interest group – labor unions, corporations, colleges and universities, churches, charities, environmental groups, senior citizens organizations, and even state, local or foreign governments.
According to The Center for Public Integrity (formerly The American League of Lobbyists), there is no specific degree or formal training to become a lobbyist, but lobbyists do typically have a college degree, and some have advanced degrees. Degrees in business, political science or law often contribute to effective work as a lobbyist, since these are the two areas in which the lobbyist actively works. An understanding of how business and government interrelate is valuable. They must analyze the situations faced by the companies they represent and determine the best people to contact, at what time and with what message.
For those set on earning their law degree but unsure which path to take once your JD is in hand, you may want to consider a judicial clerkship. It is typically a one- or two-year post-graduate position in the chambers of a judge. A judicial clerk serves, in essence, as a judge’s attorney, and judges typically place an enormous amount of reliance on the counsel of their clerks. There are a wide variety of courts — state and federal, trial and appellate, specialty — and the work can vary widely. Generally, clerks read briefs, attend court proceedings, write bench memoranda analyzing parties’ arguments, advise the judge on the disposition of a case, and draft opinions. Thus, a clerk is in the enviable position of thoroughly learning various substantive areas of the law, free from the pressures of advocacy and billable hours. The U.S. Courts of Appeals, U.S. District Courts, Federal Magistrate Judges, Federal Bankruptcy Judges, the Court of Federal Claims and the Court of International Trade all have clerkships.
Given the high level of competition among those applying for the few spots that open up each year, a U.S. Supreme Court clerkship is known as far and away the hardest to obtain. Clerking for the Supreme Court is viewed by many law school graduates as the ultimate achievement, and it can be the catalyst for a highly successful legal career. The Top Law Schools have the largest proportion of graduates working at clerkships, namely, Yale, Stanford, and Harvard. Regardless of which law school you are attending, interning in a judge’s chambers during a semester or the summer can open the doors to the judiciary in several ways. During the application process, you may want to consider other less competitive courts and types of clerkships. Expand your list by researching newly confirmed judges and keeping alert to new openings and law clerk vacancies. Further information regarding employment may be found at this government site, uscourts.gov. It is a source for judiciary job openings.