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Justice Without a JD: Careers in Law That Don’t Require a Law Degree

published October 31, 2019

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Summary: You don’t have to be an attorney to work in the legal industry. There are many jobs in law firms and corporations that don’t require going to law school or earning a J.D. Are you into tech and social media? Are you great at research? Have great organizational skills? Then you may be able to have a great career in the legal industry. This article explains your options for legal jobs if you don’t have a law degree.
Justice Without a JD: Careers in Law That Don’t Require a Law Degree

An increased focus on the legal system and law offices through television dramas, reality shows, and forensic documentaries has led to more interest in entering the legal profession. Yet, law school isn’t necessarily an interest or possibility for many people. The good news is that the legal profession continues to embrace technology, looking for ways to become more profitable from the business perspective, and continues to both better serve their current clients and improve access to justice. Why is this good news? Because there are careers in law that don’t require a law degree. Many may not require a college degree, either.

Here are some of the top careers in law that don’t require a law degree.

Paralegal or Legal Assistant

Although there are some law firms, corporations and government entities that may prefer or require that a paralegal or legal assistant have either a college degree or certificate of completion for a focused paralegal course, just as many, if not more, have no higher education requirement. In fact, even those who finish some sort of paralegal course find that while they learned a lot during the program, it’s nothing compared to what they learn while on the job.

There are also voluntary certifications for paralegals and legal assistants. These certifications help paralegals and legal assistants land more interviews as well as make more money. Even without certifications, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the 2018 median pay as $50,940 per year. It is expected that the need for paralegals will increase by around 12% during the next ten years. Pay may also depend on whether it’s a law firm, corporation, or government entity; the cost of living in the area; and certain skills, such as being technologically competent and good at research. Depending on the type of law practiced and the size of the firm, the paralegal or legal assistant may also be eligible for bonuses.

Litigation Assistant or Litigation Clerk

A litigation assistant is similar to a paralegal or legal assistant in some capacities. They may prepare trial notebooks (as might paralegals or legal assistants). They may manage evidence. However, they also have an extremely important task: the knowledge required to use, manage, and sometimes create databases that can sort, index, and coordinate a large amount of data related to a lawsuit. A litigation assistant or litigation clerk understands how to use existing legal technology and has the capacity to quickly catch onto the newest applications offered. They may also be called on to help during the trial to assist with technology. Often, litigation assistants are also the go-to person to help other staff members learn how to use legal technology.

Although a degree may not be required, a strong comfort with technology is a requirement. According to PayScale, the average salary for a Litigation Assistant is $61,269. It is important to note that IT and technology experience may also be factors in pay as well as the cost of living for the area. Much like paralegals and legal assistants, litigation assistants may also be eligible to receive bonuses.

E-Discovery Specialist or E-Discovery Paralegal
E-discovery, electronic discovery, continues to grow. An e-discovery specialist has the important job of collecting, processing, and preserving electronic evidence that may be used during a trial. In addition to capturing and preserving electronic evidence, they are often called on to identify and manage electronically stored information (ESI). E-discovery specialists must understand both the state and federal rules related to the collection and management of evidence. This position may also include many of the typical job duties of a paralegal or legal assistant depending on the size of the law office, corporation, or government entity employing the professional.

It’s important that e-discovery specialists have a good grasp on technology as well as IT. They must also know and use the best practices of retrieving, processing, and preserving ESI so that the information may be admitted. Generally, they work closely with their supervising attorneys so that they are kept abreast of any changes to evidence rules at the state or federal level.

The average salary of an e-discovery specialist is $54,000. They may also be eligible for bonuses. Pay may be dependent on many factors including previous experience in similar roles, technology skills, and cost of living.

Nurse Paralegal

So far, we’ve looked at jobs in the legal field that don’t require a JD and often don’t require any other sort of higher education. Nurses have specific degrees and licenses that allow them to work in the medical field. And nurses are a hot commodity in the legal field. Depending on the type of organization that hires them, they may have some or all of the typical duties of a paralegal on top of reviewing medical records or other information related to health to advise the lawyer on certain matters. In some organizations, the nurse paralegal may have one main responsibility: to request, review, and categorize medical information related to cases. The guidance provided by nurse paralegals can literally make or break a case.

The average salary of a nurse paralegal is $52,600. They may be eligible for bonuses. Other factors that may impact the average salary of a nurse paralegal includes experience, any specialties of the nurse, and the cost of living.

Legal Secretary

There are some law firms, corporations, and even government entities that do not differentiate between a legal secretary and a paralegal or legal assistant. For those that do, a legal secretary is someone who provides vital administrative support to the office. They aren’t performing research, writing legal documents, or doing much case management. They may be docketing (although some law firms have a dedicated docketing clerk), entering time, opening and routing mail, answering the phone, scheduling appointments, and handling other administrative tasks. It is important for legal secretaries to be comfortable with technology since more and more legal technology is being used.

The average salary of legal secretaries is $55,900. Experience, cost of living, and other factors may affect pay.

Trial or Jury Consultant

Trial or jury consultants help lawyers in a variety of ways. A trial consultant may help a lawyer by developing potential strategies to use at trial. They may help the lawyer choose the proper presentation types for certain exhibits. They may also help locate, screen, and contact expert witnesses. Trial consultants may help prepare witnesses as well. Some may even fulfill the role of a jury consultant. A jury consultant conducts certain types of pretrial research, including determining ideal juror profiles and researching backgrounds of the jury pool. They may gather and analyze demographic information. During trial, the jury consultant may review the body language and behavior of the jury and report that information back to the lawyer.

You do not need a degree in law to become a trial consultant or a jury consultant. However, a degree or working background in psychology or sociology may be helpful. A grasp on the use of technology and digital research is also important.

The average salary of a trial or jury consultant is $65,000 to $110,000.

Mediation Professional

Mediators aren’t required to have a law degree. There are mediators who started out in the trenches as paralegals or that worked in other capacities that exposed them to lawsuits over the course of time. Mediators do require special training. In some jurisdictions, it may be required that a mediator is certified. Mediators provide an alternative to taking a case in front of a judge. The mediator works with the parties to try and help them negotiate an acceptable agreement. However, the plan established by a mediator isn’t binding. The parties may reject it and continue to court. Many jurisdictions require that parties involved in a lawsuit first try mediation before their case is heard.

The average salary for a mediator is $118,000. The salary of a mediator may depend on several factors including experience and cost of living.

Compliance Professional

HIPAA, GDPR, FINRA, COPPA, jurisdiction-specific compliance requirements for certain industries…as the world continues to embrace technology, including clouds, compliance with industry-specific regulations are a must. And it can be a maze of doom for any business who tries to handle it on their own. A compliance professional may specialize in a certain industry. Their job is to ensure that the business is in compliance with the regulations that directly affect it. And regulations for compliance exist at both the state and federal level. If a corporation engages in international business, that creates an extra host of compliance matters that must be handled. A compliance professional monitors a corporation’s compliance with the required regulations and may also help coordinate and implement solutions to bring a corporation into compliance.

The average salary of a compliance professional is $100,100. That salary may be affected by previous compliance or industry experience as well as cost of living.

Court Reporting

Court reporting isn’t something that just takes place in the courtroom. It also takes place during depositions and during other proceedings related to the practice of law. Court reporters often take a specialized course to learn how to properly use the digital equipment as well as how to accurately create, maintain, and certify verbatim transcripts.

The average salary of a court reporter is $54,000. However, a shortage in court reporters means that some make as much as $100,000 per year. Experience and cost of living may directly affect the salary of a court reporter.

JDs Are Nice but They Aren’t the Only Way to a Satisfying & Profitable Career in Law
Law degrees are nice, but they aren’t for everyone. Attending law school and becoming an attorney is not the only option for those interested in having a successful legal career. Many professionals in other industries have transferable skills that could lead to a more fulfilling and possibly better paying career. And there’s always room for entry-level legal professionals!