Life Outside the Law Firm: Non-Legal Jobs for Law School Grads

Because a legal education prepares law school graduates to deal with issues using creative, critical, and analytical means, a J.D.'s qualifications are usually broad enough to be useful in many career fields outside a law firm.

A legal education gives graduates many transferable and desirable skills. In addition to knowing how to interpret legal terminology, J.D.s develop great analytical and persuasive abilities that prove useful in many non-legal industries.

Before we present you with a comprehensive list of interesting non-legal jobs, it is important to realize that a career is based on past accomplishments. A career change should be a transition into a related field rather than a dramatic shift into a totally unrelated field. Ideally, your non-legal job will develop important legal skills that will prove useful in your desired legal job.

These are some suggested non-legal jobs, compiled by the University of Iowa and University of Michigan, which will look good on your resume:

Public Interest. Because nonprofit organizations usually have their own distinctive political or social agendas, they can often provide their employees the opportunity to work on issues that matter to them. There is a niche for almost any interest, including civil rights, AIDS, immigration, homelessness, disability, and the environment.

Many positions are open for those with legal backgrounds, such as campaign management, professional fund-raising, legislative review, lobbying, and contract negotiation. These positions require dedication, organization, negotiation, and extensive knowledge of the specific issues at hand.

Business. There are many sectors in business that law graduates explore, such as investment banking, securities sales, and real estate. Often, J.D.s rapidly advance to management positions because of their additional education.

Many former law school students find homes in commerce; these J.D.s now occupy positions as financial analysts, trust officers, commercial loan officers, mortgage officers, construction contract negotiators, zoning regulation compliance officers, and real estate agents. Negotiation, persuasion, and knowledge of the involved areas of law are among the skills sought in candidates.

Management Consulting Firms. Businesses, government agencies, and other organizations often seek outside help when solving their management problems. Although many organizations require the impartial opinion of an outside consultant, many simply do not have enough work to hire a full-time in-house attorney.

Consultants provide research and writing, arbitration and mediation counseling, and private investigations. These responsibilities require research, writing, and interpersonal skills.

Banks. Law graduates can work in investment banks and serve as the conciliators between individual investors and institutions. Their responsibilities include the analysis of potential investments and the negotiation of purchases.

J.D.s can also work in trust departments of banks, where they provide trust and investment advice. These positions involve dealing with probate, personal trusts, pension and profit-sharing trusts, and corporation trusts.

Healthcare Organizations. There are many issues in healthcare systems that require legal aid, including physician malpractice, contract disputes, corporate filings, and tax problems. Candidates with exceptional organizational, writing, and negotiation skills are usually sought for these positions.

Educational Institutions. A university's general counsel is called upon daily to advise administrators on issues that range from labor issues and freedom of information to student rights and responsibilities. The position also deals with intellectual property issues such as patent, trademark, and copyright law. For law school graduates with a strong IP background and great writing and interpersonal skills, a university position might be a good career option.

Law Librarianship. This position should be considered by those who are interested in a career in research and law. The responsibilities include the continued accumulation of court decisions, government regulations, and new legal problems.

This position requires intimate familiarity with the legal world and skillful management of legal materials. These librarians help courts, bar associations, law schools, law firms, government offices, and businesses obtain the information they need.

Legal Publishing. Publishing firms such as LexisNexis are in need of editors and researchers. These positions should be considered by those who have a firm grasp of the English language and a strong interest in publishing.

Law Firms. Many law firms hire lawyers for non-legal positions in marketing, recruitment, and management. These positions require great persuasive skills and broad knowledge of the legal market. Candidates are usually business-minded individuals who know how to sell a product.

If you are a recent graduate, landing a position as a practicing attorney may not come immediately. Luckily, there are many non-legal jobs that build important skills and knowledge that easily transfer to legal settings.

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