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Law-Related Institutions, Business Career and Other Career Options

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As you begin your law study, however, it will be helpful for you to think about what lawyers actually do with their legal training. This will enable you to have various career choices in mind as you consider various subjects in law school and make course selections.

Another career choice for attorneys is to work in a law-related institution. For example, law schools hire lawyers to be faculty members and to serve in administrative positions in the school. To become a faculty member, you do not need an advanced law degree beyond the J.D. degree, but you can enhance your chances for such a position by serving as an editor of one of your law school's journals and as a law clerk for a judge. In addition, many other academic departments in higher education appoint lawyers to their faculty-usually to teach law-related subjects, such as business law in the business school or education law in the college of education. A number of other law-related institutions, such as bar associations, law research institutes, and legal publishers, employ a large number of attorneys. They are employed to do legal research, to edit journals, to direct staff work, and to provide management leadership for these organizations.

It was noted earlier that law is a generalist degree and that it is excellent training for many careers other than the practice of law. Many law graduates use their legal training to enter the business world and pursue a management career even though a law degree is not a prerequisite. Oftentimes, the successful corporate manager holds both a law degree and an MBA. Indeed, the CEOs of many large corporations in the United States have an educational background that includes a law degree. Investment banker, registered securities representative, and insurance underwriter are other business careers commonly pursued by holders of a law degree. The training in critical thinking and analysis, which is at the core of legal education, is of proven value for success in the business world.

The accounting profession attracts many persons with a law degree. Many persons holding both an accounting degree and a law degree go on to become certified public accountants and practice as an accountant, rather than a lawyer.
The number of other careers pursued by persons with a law degree is almost as broad as the number of careers. Law trained persons successfully use their training in a wide variety of occupations from elective and appointive government positions, to the clergy, hospital administration, architecture, and athletic coaching and administration. The skill of critical thinking and analysis learned in law school is a valuable skill that is useful in virtually every avenue of human endeavor.

As a reflection of the value of law study to many different careers, many law schools offer joint de-gree programs in which a student can obtain both a law degree and a degree in another discipline in less time than would be required to pursue the degrees separately. Some examples of these joint degree programs include:
  • Law and Business Administration (JD/MBA);

  • Law and Economics (JD/MA or PhD);

  • Law and International Relations (JD/MA or PhD);

  • Law and Journalism (JD/MA);

  • Law and Medicine (JD/MD);

  • Law and Public Health (JD/MPH); and

  • Law and Public Policy (JD/MPP).


Whatever your career choice or practice specialty, we hope you will recognize your obligation as a member of the legal profession to do "pro bono" (literally, "for the good") legal services without compensation. As a lawyer, you will have an obligation to improve the administration of justice in this country. This obligation may be discharged by providing legal services without fee to those who cannot afford to pay for those services and by working to broaden access to justice for groups that have historically been excluded.

We hope you begin to do pro bono legal services while you are a law student and continue it throughout your career. Pro bono service is one of the characteristics that distinguishes law as a profession.

Another major practice option for lawyers is working for the government. This can be at any level-from the federal government, to the state government, to city and county governments.

At the federal level, many attorneys work for the United States Justice Department or for one of the many federal executive agencies. Within these offices, there may be many areas of specialization. Many other attorneys work for Congressional committees or for the federal court system.

In fact, a large number of attorneys work for courts at all levels of government. These positions include working as a law clerk for a specific judge or as a staff attorney for the entire court. Indeed, a highly prized career opportunity for a recent law school graduate is serving as a law clerk for a judge for a year or two before beginning a permanent position with a law firm or other employer.

At the state level, the State Attorney General's Office is usually the largest employer of attorneys. In addition, many state agencies employ attorneys to handle the agency's work. As at the federal level, the state legislative and judicial branches of government also employ a large number of attorneys.

Another large employer of attorneys are city and county governments who employ attorneys to work in the civil and criminal justice systems. Many attorneys work in the city or county attorney's office handling civil matters, such as land use disputes and litigation. Other attorneys are employed in the district attorney's office prosecuting criminal defendants or in the public defender's office defending criminal defendants.

There are also a large number of attorneys working as military attorneys in both civil law matters and the military justice area. This will frequently, but not always, require the attorney to become a member of the Judge Advocate General's Corps of the military service for which the work is done.

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