As you begin to understand what the legal field and a career within it entails, you may start to think about the applicability of your J.D. to various career fields. Whether you need a break from the legal field or you simply wish to explore other career fields, you have the tools to do so. You are a high-achieving individual determined enough to be accepted, attend and graduate from law school—a stereotypically grueling path of education; that determination can help cultivate skills in many career fields.
Your skill toolkit
The hard work you put into your classes and exams add up to something: skills. These skills are transferrable to nearly any workplace. Think about what law school has taught you other than the law itself and the interworking of a courtroom. You can think analytically, be persuasive, advocate, research and speak before an audience among a plethora of other talents. Other job fields require their employees to bring these abilities to the table. So why would you, a law student, be exempt from applying to these jobs? Hint: you are not.
Starting your journey
Jumping into a new career field is an exciting journey, but one that needs some organization. If you want someone to walk you through the process of finding a fulfilling career, find a career counselor. Most colleges have career counselors on campus and are readily available to students. They help you organize your thoughts, analyze your values and direct you to careers that suit your newly established goals. However, if you wish to go begin the search by yourself, be sure to do your research and prepare yourself for the work ahead of you.
Getting your thoughts together
Think about why you initially chose to pursue a J.D. Did you wish to help people, want a challenge or desire the prestige that follows a legal career? Evaluating your initial motivation for law school helps narrow down what your new career must entail. Be sure to take into account your overall values. These include personal values about your interactions, environment and priorities.
For example, do you value creativity, loyalty, adventure or intellectual challenge in your work place? Do you enjoy those who are punctual, honest and hard working? These considerations are fundamental as you decide where to place yourself. If the job you are vying for does not meet your values, then you may find yourself stuck in the same unfulfilled position that you started in. So take your time to look through your options and find a profession that will make you happy. Below are a few nontraditional legal careers to get you started.
Most jobs in academia require a graduate degree, which includes your J.D. You have quite a few years of postsecondary education under your belt that can be turned into valuable advice to pass along to students. Educating students can be a fulfilling and engaging career path to explore.
Professors: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary of a professor is $68,970. With your knowledge of the law, you could teach at the undergraduate level or graduate level. Teaching at a law school would pull from the information you learned throughout law school yourself, but teaching undergraduate classes could still benefit from your knowledge you gained in earning your J.D. You may think about teaching government, public policy or pre-law classes.
Administrators: Administrators make a median salary of $86,490. With this position, an education background is important; you may wish to start as a professor if you see yourself vying for a position as an administrator down the line. You can work in the admissions, student affairs and registrar’s offices. If none of those strike you as interesting, you can also look into becoming a provost or academic dean. All of these positions must communicate with college students and parents, promote the school and manage budgets (BLS).
Here your knowledge about law is on your side. Business deals are centered on legal transactions, and you will come into a deal knowing precisely the best way to approach it; from law school, you currently have countless hours of problem solving in your tool kit. Why not put that knowledge to work?
Management analyst: The median salary is about $78,000 per year. You will evaluate the financial data and efficiency of a company, craft proposals to streamline the company and follow up with managers to ensure that the plan is working properly. The majority of management analysts work for a consulting firm and choose a specialized area to work within. You could hone in on dissolving unnecessary jobs, managing inventory or reorganizing company structures.
Directors of regulatory affairs: The median salary is $134,876. You regulate the business adherence to laws and regulations applicable to your specific company, oversee the regulatory committee and communicate with regulatory agencies to absolve any possible mistakes or disagreements. This position requires a thorough knowledge of regulations in the field you are entering. For example, if you are consulting for a pharmaceutical company, you should be well-versed in FDA laws and regulations.
Law firm administration
You are well-versed in the legal field, but may not wish to carry out the day-to-day tasks of an associate or partner. You can transfer your legal knowledge to improving firm operations with these jobs:
Top executives: Top executives within law firm administration make a median salary of $101,650. Some administrators work their way up through the company, a path you can decide whether or not to take. Top executives include:
Contract managers: They make between $75,000-$116,250 according to Robert Half Legal 2016 Salary Guide for the Legal Field. Contract managers are in charge of all contracts that pertain to legal vendors, employees and clients in contact with the firm. You must maintain contact to ensure that the contract obligations are properly performed. As this is a management position, you will have to be comfortable delegating tasks to others, communicating effectively and monitoring the work of others.
Bar associations are all over the country and provide multiple services for lawyers and firms. It is key to have the audience (lawyers) in mind when working at a bar association; you know exactly how lawyers think and communicate, making your perspective extremely valuable within the bar associations. There are a myriad of jobs available:
Continuing legal education (CLE) coordinators: They make an average of $73,000 a year. For this, you must research, evaluate and coordinate CLE events for firms or bar associations. You must be comfortable with legal happenings and understand what topics would be beneficial and which courses would attract a large number of attendees.
Product marketing managers: For an employee of the American Bar Association, the initial salary for a product marketing manager is between $61,400- $67,940. They create and implement marketing plans needed for ABA materials. This position also requires you to communicate the values and benefits the bar association has for lawyers. Creativity is a must for developing marketing materials such as social media posts, pamphlets and other literature.
As a law school graduate, you are confident advocating for others and presenting material in a unique light that benefits you and your client. In nonprofit management, you must have a passion for what the organization does and the ability to persuade others to see the relevance of the organization. Your law school skills will not go to waste here.
Directors of development: They have a median salary of $59,000. This job requires efficient planning; heavy advocacy for the individual organization; and the creation, plan and implementation of fundraising opportunities.
Government jobs consistently deal with laws, rules and regulations; after receiving your J.D., you should be comfortable exploring those topics with an educated perspective. Think about these career options to put your current skills to work.
Government affairs representatives: They have a median salary of $75,985. They create and reform policies to adhere to a specific organization’s goals, act as the organization’s communicator and help create a pathway between the organization and the government and public.
Members of senior executive service (SES): Specifically derived from the Office of Personal Management, these members make between $121,956 – $183,300 a year depending on whether or not the agency has a Certified SES Performance Appraisal System. You may apply to the SES Candidate Development program, which could lead to a job within the SES. Members of SES must have a passion for government and maintaining the “citizen centered, result oriented Federal Government.”
Political scientists: They have a median salary of $102,000. In this field, you research and analyze policy, ideas, government and political trend. You must also have a master’s degree in political science or a related field. You, as a law school graduate, will have a deep understanding of the law and constitution, making you extremely valuable in this career path.
Throughout this process, remind yourself to be flexible. Rethinking your entire life career may take a while, and your new career path may be vastly different from the legal one. A strategy to keep in mind, once you have honed in on your top career choices, is networking. Obtaining a job in a field you have yet to touch is approachable when you know people to guide you through it. To start, ask professionals in the jobs you wish to have for informational interviews. Through the interview process, you can make connections, be introduced to others in the field or embrace the individual as a mentor. Creating these lasting relationships, you guide yourself into a new career with relative ease.
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