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What's Next after Finishing Law School?

published February 16, 2009

By Richa Maheshwari
( 1338 votes, average: 5 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.
You might still be planning a career path in law or you might be a law student or a recent law graduate. Have you thought about your long–term career goals? Have you considered all the career avenues that a law degree can open for you? This article will brief you about all the career options that you have after law school.
 

Right after law school and clearing the state bar, you are all set to get started on your legal career. Until now, you have more theoretical knowledge of the working of the legal system. Law school has taught you how to think like an attorney, but to gain practical experience and decide on your options, you need to analyze your priorities. Do you want a job that pays more or something that offers relaxed billable hours? Do you wish to work in all practice areas or would you consider a specialization? Are you a workaholic or do you seek to maintain a work-life balance? Only after you analyze your priorities will you be able to make the most of this prestigious career.

 

Further Legal Education


After getting a Juris Doctor (JD) degree and state bar licensures, you can opt for a post-JD degree offered at various colleges. These advanced degrees often come with specialization in a particular field of law and give you an edge over thousands of others. Typically, most graduates take up these advanced degrees after gaining some relevant work experience. Some of these degrees include:
 
  • LLM: Master of Laws
  • JM: Juris Master
  • MCL: Master of Comparative Law
  • MJ: Master of Jurisprudence
  • SJD: Doctor of Juridical Science
  • DCL: Doctor of Comparative Law
  • JSD: Doctor of Jurisprudence

 

Types of Lawyer Jobs


Following is the list of different types of lawyers:
 
  • Contracts Lawyer
  • Corporate Lawyer
  • Bankruptcy Paralegal (They do legal research for Bankruptcy Lawyers)
  • Litigation Paralegal (Helps Trial Attorneys)
  • General Practice Lawyer
  • Associate Attorney
  • Immigration Lawyers
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer
  • Family Lawyer
  • Personal Injury Lawyer
  • Litigation Attorney
  • Employment Lawyer
  • Corporate Attorney
 

Types of Employment

 


Most graduates work in law firms after law school. Apart from law firms, you have the option to take a judicial clerkship, practice law as a solo practitioner, work for the federal and state governments or military, find a position in a corporate legal department, work for a non-profit organization, or become a legal professor. There are a few who opt for a non-legal career and various others who pursue further education for advanced degrees.
 

Clerkships

 

Judicial clerkships are described as one of the most important career milestones by various attorneys. Clerkships are usually with a judge and allow recent graduates to see the insides of the legal system and legal proceedings. They are considered very prestigious and play an invaluable role in your resume. You gain immense knowledge and first-hand experience working under a judge, and you also get to create a network at the very beginning of your career.

Generally, graduates or law students take up federal or state court clerkships. Federal clerkships are considered the most prestigious and are usually more difficult to get than state clerkships. Clerkships with Supreme Court judges, circuit court judges, federal district court judges, and magistrates comprise the federal clerkship options. State court clerkships, though not considered prestigious, are extremely helpful in creating local contacts and will make you more marketable at your choice of location.
 

Law Firms


Law firms can be small, medium, or large. It is difficult to define what formulates the size. For example, a 200-lawyer firm will be considered small in New York but will be termed mid-sized in Plymouth.

Attorneys at a small firm generally receive more experience from the start. They need to advise clients and work on individual cases covering all practices by themselves. The billable-hour requirement is also low compared to larger firms. Also, small firms offer strong partnership prospects. However, the pay is comparatively lower and there are no formal training programs since all attorneys receive on-the-job training.

A mid-sized law firm is a mix of both small and large firms. It offers a perfect blend of training, good salary, and hands-on experience. They have more resources than small firms, require average billable hours, but pay less than large law firms.

Large law firms have specific departments for each practice area. You will find yourself rotating between departments during your formal training until you find your specialty. You will generally receive a higher salary here, but at the same time, you will be required to put in long billable hours.
 

In-House Counsel


It is generally difficult to find an in-house position directly after law school. Most attorneys initially work at law firms and then join companies after gaining relevant experience. These positions are more relaxed than large firms. Attorneys need not justify their billable hours and the positions offer high salaries. Though you will have a guaranteed client, the work may get monotonous. You might find yourself handling similar cases for years.
 

Government


Attorneys working for the government find their jobs most secured. Additionally, the industry offers extremely fascinating cases to work for. As a government attorney, you will find yourself relieved from the billable-hour requirement, and you might be required to work on various policies that would ultimately influence the nation. Not only would you be a part of important training programs, but a career as a government attorney will also open doors for a higher post in the government. However, despite these benefits, many attorneys do not work for the government due to the low salary packages offered as compared to firms.
 

Law School Professor


You can go back to law school and teach. Various top attorneys working at firms or in-house are also visiting law professors at top law schools. There are many who actually become a full-time law professor. The law school offers flexible timings and no billable hours. If you give priority to maintaining a work-life balance, you will find this field quite lucrative. However, most schools prefer those with a doctoral degree and a good amount of law firm experience.
 

Others


Apart from these, you can start your own practice and start a sole proprietorship. Here, you will be your own employer and profit sharer. However, you will need to have very strong networking and the ability to bring clients. Alternatively, you can join the military and start as a second lieutenant and top out at the rank of general or admiral. Or if you are not interested in money but want to work toward a cause, a public-interest position could be perfect for you.
 

What Can You Do With A Law Degree Besides Being A Lawyer?

 

You can enjoy many benefits to earning a Juris Doctor (JD) even if you do not work as a lawyer. In addition to career advancement opportunities and above-average salaries, there are several preferred jobs for J.D. graduates. Business, government, and public interest jobs can be found in the J.D advantage universe.

The following are some J.D. preferred careers to consider:
 

Certified Public Accountant (CPA)


Performing financial record preparation and auditing is the responsibility of certified personal accountants (CPAs). Keeping accurate financial records and paying taxes on time is the responsibility of a CPA. Besides understanding and assessing financial operations, a CPA must also make strategic recommendations to clients. A business or individual can use this to reduce costs, increase revenue, or improve their profit margins. 

In addition to being sole proprietors, CPAs can work for large institutions such as banks. In any practice setting, a background in law can be beneficial. The knowledge of state laws and regulations that a CPA who holds a law degree can bring to their daily tasks.
 

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)


Accounting and financial projections are provided by a CFO, who maintains the financial health of an organization. Whether in the public or private sector, this position is available. The skills CFOs gain through their education and experience are refined through their J.D. or J.D.-MBA program.

The CFO is responsible for overseeing the accounting and finance departments while ensuring the company's financial health. CFOs often work closely with CEOs and other executives of large corporations. As the CFO of a smaller company, they may be responsible for several administrative functions as well, such as human relations and legal rights.
 

Human Resource Managers


A human resources manager manages employee relations, policies, internal programs, and best practices within a company. A successful HR employee must be a good communicator and good at building relationships. They will also be detail-oriented and organized. A background in law is helpful to HR professionals since they are often responsible for enforcing and communicating compliance policies. 
 

Insurance Adjuster


Among the many settings where insurance adjusters work are the claims departments of insurance companies. A person in that role investigates insurance claims and determines whether the insurance company should pay them and how much. In order to determine liability, they may interview witnesses, consult hospital records or the police, or inspect property damage.  As well as representing policyholders, other adjusters can help with the preparation of insurance claims.
 

Negotiation and Conflict Resolution (Mediator)


Conflict-affected parties are guided through negotiation by a mediator in order to reach an agreement. Mediators can work for the courts or within the private sector, and some never need to appear before a judge. One example of an industry where a mediator can help is the insurance and financial sector. Mediators cannot make binding decisions, unlike arbitrators. Their goal is to reach an agreement amicably. Depending on the industry, mediators are paid differently.
 

Tax Attorney 


An attorney can serve a variety of roles in the tax field. By reducing income taxes and estate taxes, they represent individuals and use trusts, gifts, and other tax planning structures. In addition, they can represent clients in lawsuits involving the IRS and issues related to business ownership. Further, tax attorneys may help companies set up their organizations and understand tax laws.

Here are some positions to consider if you want to work in the legal field, but do not intend to take the state bar exam:
 

Business Development Professionals


Business development professionals align strategy with a company's long-term goals and objectives. It entails creating opportunities for new business ventures, allowing you to use a lot of your J.D. toolbox. Businesses, industries, and locations all affect the salary of business development professionals.
 

Compliance Careers


A career in compliance is an option for law degree candidates. A compliance officer ensures entities comply with laws and federal regulations. An internal audit is conducted by a compliance analyst and any associated risks are assessed. The analyst also keeps all the company's records and monitors any legal work.
 

Financial Advisor


Financial advisors aim to ensure their clients' financial security. The solution consists of setting goals and establishing a financial plan, such as a retirement savings plan, school savings plan, estate plan, or large purchase plan. As either sole proprietors or part of large firms, financial advisors work in both environments. 
 

Legal Writer


Many legal professionals use legal writing to convey their expertise. Effective legal writers are able to communicate facts, conclusions, and intentions in a way that is easy to comprehend. In the courtroom and in textbooks, legal writers are needed. Legal writers can also be employed to write articles for publications, to write copy for legal websites, and to write press releases or presentations for law firms.
 

Patent Examiner


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office does not require you to be a practicing intellectual property lawyer. Education requirements for the position are a bachelor's degree. Besides discipline, focus, and reasoning, this profession also demands a great deal of focus and discipline. Examining documents, preparing paperwork, writing legal actions, and researching invention information are all tasks of a patent examiner. Patent examiners make a wide range of salaries.

Below are some alternative careers for lawyers and law school graduates:
 
  1. Journalist
  2. Legal Consultant
  3. Legal Marketing Manager
  4. Legal Technologist
  5. Politician

 

Conclusion 


A legal career for you can be a mix of any of the above. But remember, your initial years of work experience will decide the entire course of your legal career. In these initial years, you can grow your skills, enhance your network, and build your future. Your law school career service office will give you the best guidance to decipher your skills and choose the best career option. Whatever you choose, make sure you give it your best. Here is wishing you the best for a rewarding legal career ahead.

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