Below is an excerpt from an article by Harrison Barnes, Managing Director of Law Crossing:
60 Nontraditional Jobs You Can Do with a Law Degree (and Should Strongly Consider Doing)<!–div class="col-md-4"> Share </div–>
In my career spanning more than two decades as an attorney and legal recruiter, I have met an astonishing number of people who have chosen nontraditional legal careers. With very, very few exceptions, most of these people are far happier than they ever were practicing law. A good number of these people who left the legal practice also make more money in their new professions.
The great thing about the 60 jobs below is (1) having a law degree may make you better at them, and (2) you can do them without passing the bar exam.
While it takes years to realize it, there are far too many attorneys chasing far too few partnerships and in-house counsel jobs inside of law firms and corporations. There is so much competition, in fact, that for most attorneys, it often makes a lot of sense to choose another career.
Here are 60 careers you can do with a law degree (that do not require practicing law).
- Politician: Being a politician is all about interacting with others. Unlike being a lawyer, where your main focus often pertains to books and computer screens, politicians must deal with people. If you prefer conversation to writing, and influencing people to drafting documents, you might make better use of your legal studies by campaigning for broad changes in the world. There are of course many avenues for consideration in politics, from the local level where you represent a smaller constituency, and interact with them to discover their interest, all the way up to senators and the president, who must have a sense for how the law is structured and how and why it should be changed. Politicians must listen to testimony from the public and their coworkers, and make decisions based on that and research that will affect how large groups of people live their lives. Unlike being a lawyer, where often you are looking to make the rich richer, a politician can effect change that touches everybody.
- Government Worker: There is a rich variety of jobs available working for the government, and having a background in law often lends you a clear advantage. You can work for the secretary of state, run departments about health or law, or do administrative tasks, secretarial, financial, or human resources tasks.
- Arbitrator: Arbitration is often done by lawyers or judges. They act as an impartial third party over disputed issues, and review the facts to render a resolution. Arbitrators interview parties and witnesses to get enough facts to make a balanced decision. Though this work is often done by somebody who has passed the bar, not all arbitrators need to have done so.
- Law Professor: If you love to research and love to write you should consider becoming a law professor. The job isn’t even primarily about teaching, though that is an essential part of it, but the meat of the job is researching the law and writing about it. Naturally enough all the responsibilities a professor has would apply here, such as lecturing, grading papers, holding office hours, but you will also assign cases for students to hear and try, and of course focus your interests on training would-be lawyers.
- Teacher: If you are not interested in intensive law research, but you enjoy teaching, you might consider becoming an undergrad teacher, or perhaps even a high school teacher. Having a background in law is relevant to a range of classes at different levels, but need not focus on publishing in law. You may simply enjoy the structure and rigor that goes in law, and want to share this with others. If so, becoming a teacher is a relevant consideration.
- Journalist: If you love to write, having a background in law can give you credibility as a journalist. Naturally, a lot of news focuses on laws and legal issues, including criminal behavior, new laws being implemented, old laws being challenged, and the workings of government in particular. A journalist is expected often to do interviews, and certainly have a clear grasp of a given news situation so that he or she can present it with an angle that interests and engages the reader. Journalism is in a way a form of entertainment, for while it aims to be informative, it nevertheless must also appeal to a broad base of readers.
- Policy Analyst: Are you interested in public policies but not eager to put yourself in the spotlight as a politician? Consider the job of policy analyst. They also work with raising public awareness of the issues, such as education and constitutional principles, but their focus is getting the facts, doing research for policy research firms or nonprofit organizations, and giving the facts and data that works as ammo for politicians looking to strike new laws into effect.
- Salesperson: If you got into law because you are great at persuading others and establishing trust and interest, you might consider being a salesperson. A salesperson either sells products or services to customers or advises them on such services. What matters is having charisma or a way with people so that they like you despite themselves. We expect such a personality from winning lawyers, of course, though we often find they fall short. If you have a personality that is outgoing, ambitious, and energetic, consider sales: there is a lot of money to be made for those with a winning smile.
- Musician: If you’ve made it this far in law you might think your adolescent dreams of being a musician are long gone. Consider though what lawyers and successful musicians have in common: a strong drive to practice hard and be the best at what they do, and also an ability to sell themselves to an audience or venue. Further, musicians often experience a high, or ego rush, when they perform, similar to a lawyer who is on fire in court: they command the attention of the audience, make you feel as they wish, speak to your heart and get your body on their side, whatever else your mind may wish.
- HR Director: As an HR director, you will manage the human resources team for a company or organization. This means knowing the policies and organizational strategic goals for the company, and being able to write up further goals and implement them. In this, your canniness for law and the structure of human organization will enable you to get your hands on how to keep a business well-staffed with a work force fit for the goals of the company. You will direct employee orientation and training programs, as well as explain benefits plans, policies, and guidelines. You must have a strong sense of the principles and values of your company, and know how to hire people who best align with those.
- Actor: Perhaps you got into law because you wanted to dramatize your client’s plight and move the judge and jury to join you on the side of justice. If you have this knack for moving a crowd, you might consider being an actor. Though a glamorous job, with the upper ups ever in the public spotlight, there are all sorts of actors at various levels, from those who perform in movies or on television to those who perform live. You will have to use your voice, appearance, body, and gestures to portray characters convincingly. The ideal is to move your audience, to make them trust you are the person you depict, to identify with you or be fascinated with you. This requires having a certain extraverted personality, and also having the willingness to learn the actor’s trade.
- Military Personnel: If you have a strong sense of patriotism, or want to be part of a well-organized group, consider being military personnel. There is a wide range of careers available through the military, from soldiers, to personnel specialists who advise members of the military on making their career through their enlistment. You will be part of a group bound by honor and pride, and you will be playing a part in an operation with high goals that are grounded deep in our national identity. You will also be working with men willing to fight and die for their country. Your own role, and background in law, can be helpful in a range of military occupations.
- Private Judge: Are you interested in law but unwilling or unable to run the rigmarole of becoming a court judge? Consider becoming a private judge. You can conduct settlement discussions, such as disputes over marital dissolutions. You can help those who wish to settle their disputes without hiring private attorneys for representation. The private judge, or temporary judge, is an attorney appointed to those involved, with Court consent. He or she has the same responsibility as a courthouse judge, and must know and follow the judicial code of ethics. Such a judge may offer binding input or simply advise, depending on how the appointment is drawn. They can also use creativity to solve disagreements between parties, and unlike traditional judges, they can welcome more party input and seek something more comfortable and less absolutist for them.
- Preacher: If you sought the law to inspire others and work for justice, if you value your integrity, and especially if you have faith in your religion, you may consider becoming a pastor or preacher. Just as a lawyer must touch the minds and hearts in favor of whom he or she is representing, a preacher must also speak to the heart. A preacher must not only live a life of integrity, but know how to inspire others to do the same. Many of the ideals that draw young people into law could be fulfilled through serving a church as well, and having a solid background in law gives a pastor the systematic presence of mind to approach the problems of church politics and guidance of parishioners.
- Business Development: Do you have a logical mind that readily presses to the essence of an issue? Consider business development. You will be responsible for determining values for an organization by studying its customers, markets, and its relationships to other businesses. You will create new sales leads, determine what contracts will better your business, and scout out new clients. You will in short be at the cutting edge of the business you work for, determining its tomorrow. This requires you to understand how a dynamic system works and where it can go, just as you were taught in law school regarding the growth and evolution of law.
- Banker: There are many types of banker you can be, and having a legally trained mind will help with all of them. Just as lawyers must look at language and laws objectively and understand what is before them, to see things concretely and yet know their abstract basis, so the various forms of banker roles, such as investment banker, financial manager, or personal banker, mean knowing the principles behind how a bank runs business, its codes and rules, and all the laws that define what a bank can do and how, and applying it to handling money in your specific department. In a way, money is a more concrete asset than “justice,” and yet it is not simple “materialism,” but represents the earnings and values of those who own it. Of course, you can make a lot of money as a banker, with financial managers earning over $120,000. However, the joy of banking is working skillfully with numbers and applying laws and principles to its management.
- Motivational Speaker: There is some wisdom in the idea that our lives would be better, not if they were radically different, but if we could do what we are doing with happiness. Motivational speakers are those who inspire others with enthusiasm to approach their life and challenges with an eager and excited mindset. This requires a special kind of person, somebody who knows what it means to struggle, but has overcome that in himself or herself. The discipline and dedication for learning law translate to discipline and dedication in general, the values motivational speakers inspire in their audience. This job can give you a high, that you are helping others love their lives. If working for a law firm helping the rich get richer doesn’t sound inspiring, consider focusing your energy on inspiring audiences.
- News Commentator: Having expertise proves useful, especially when the public is listening to your educated opinion. If you understand the law well, or understand anything well, distinguish yourself by informing the world with your insights. Consider being a new commentator. By examining local and national news, and editing it to appeal to your audience, you will be able to shine light on the daily happenings with the wisdom you gained through education. News is news, but when you bring understanding to it, instead of just getting the latest thing that happened, you offer a sense of continuity, a meaningful situation that shows how it relates to the larger picture.
- FBI Agent: Though you should not expect the job to live up to the romanticized portrayal of it in cinema, working of the FBI can be rewarding for those seeking excitement on the job as well as high employment security. As with most agencies, there are many roles you could play out for the FBI, but whichever role it is, you are expected to be excellent at what you do. You will be working as national level law enforcement, and ensuring the nation is secure from all sorts of threats. Some of these threats will be full-blown such as the 9-11 attack and the Un-abomber, while others will be comparatively smaller but also important.
- Paralegal Instructor: If you enjoy teaching others and encouraging them to develop the skills to succeed at their career, and know a lot about being a paralegal, you might consider teaching about it. You will have the responsibilities typical of professors, such as developing course programs, teaching courses, grading papers, but unlike being a law school professor, you will not be pressured to publish in law journals. In fact, you can teach at the community college level, giving more flexibility to where you can live.
- Legal Recruiter: Legal recruiters are the human resource professionals of the legal world. If you enjoy helping others land a job and want to help lawyers succeed in a difficult market, giving hope where hope has been wanting, you should consider being a recruiter. You will need to learn how to recruit possible clients, how to interact with firms, and how to work well with employees. You could work with individual practices or with recruitment companies.
- Entertainment Agent: If you are good with contracts, and interested in being part of the entertainment industry, consider being an entertainment agent. You not only get to work with talented actors and performers, but you have the challenge of promoting them, orchestrating tours and performances, arranging public appearances, making your clients’ dreams come true. It is invigorating to see somebody you represent realize what they’ve been longing for, and it takes commitment and endurance to make it happen. With your background in law you can also ensure your clients land themselves in the most lucrative contracts possible.
- Lobbyist: If you are hot on political issues, and fired up to change the way our country is run, consider being a lobbyist. You must be able to develop strong ties with policy makers and politicians, and understand well what your clients seek in legislation, being able to sum up the issues in simple and compelling ways. Just as in law, you must be able to summarize complex ideas in ways readily accessible and explainable both to clients and to legislators. Through a job like this you can change the country and bring justice where it was lacking, and yet avoid the spotlight of being a politician.
- Entrepreneur: Realizing your dream of owning a successful small business requires dedication, persistence, and planning. Fortunately, with a legal background you need not be overwhelmed by red tape. You will understand the hoops that you will need to go through, the forms that need to be filled out, and you can focus on making it all come together. You will be managing your business, making sure it comes together and works forward to your goals. Being able to draft reasonable but inspiring projects will keep your people moralized and eager to succeed. You, as the head of the company, will have the vision and the drive.
- PhD Student: If you have made it this far, you have a good work ethic. And if you love education, and want to do research, to master a field, you may have what it takes to be a PhD student, an arduous discipline. The master of a field requires research, teaching, and working with scholars in your field. You will master the intellectual and ethical principles required to perform scholarly research and provide an informed and authoritative perspective in your field.
- Law School Career Counselor: Most good schools offer career counselors to help students transition to the next part of their life. Law schools are no exception. By working as a career counselor, you can give hope and direction to fresh legal talent, helping them prepare for the arduous plight of securing a job in their field. The more you can bolster the confidence and provide real opportunities, the more transparent will be their gratitude and your job satisfaction.
- Legal Writing Instructor: If you especially enjoy the writing aspect of law, the creation of commanding and tight set language that defines a binding contract, consider being a legal writing instructor. As with other teaching jobs, you will be teaching a class of students, preparing lesson plans, and grading papers. You must also necessarily have a fluency in writing and an understanding of legal language.
- Real Estate Agent: If you want in on the excitement of hooking people up with their new house, your preparation in legal studies will help you understand how to write up real estate contracts and also understand the technical business of city ordinances and so forth. Real Estate Agents must develop a sense of the potential in a given property, and come to intuit who would be drawn to that. The job entails interviewing clients and taking them to sites.
- Fundraiser: If you are good at rallying the spirit of a group or community towards a cause, and enjoy working with money, how to manage it, and how to anticipate who will give what, then you should consider being a fundraiser. You will need to build your media contact lists and recruit sponsors, participants, and volunteers to help the project. Making others enthusiastic about your fund is necessary. If you are a people person and know how to generate enthusiasm in others, and want to feel fired up by getting behind a good cause, fundraising might be for you.
- Investment Banker: If money, business, and finance are interesting to you, consider joining the highly skilled and highly paid professionals who guide companies on issuing stock and configuring stock options. The technical aspects of banking and investments require a unique acumen accessible to those who have mastered the law. The field has been experiencing strong growth, and it pays quite well.
- Business School Student: Perhaps after law school you realize you are more interested in the business aspect of law, in how to manage people and make a corporation work. Business school could be an attractive next step for you, and would build on your knowledge of the law, filling out your expertise with the leadership skills necessary for commanding a business and helping it grow.
- Law Librarian: If you are fascinated with the literary aspect of the law, the organization of the legal code and various cases, you might consider being a law librarian. Though law libraries are becoming less common in firms, the role of the law librarian is only intensifying. Precedents must still be discovered, and lawyers must still be trained in how to conduct their research into public records, legislative history, and so forth.
- Management Consultant: With the mindset required in law to understand language, law, and how groups are structured around careful language and programs, you can work as a management consultant, giving objective advice on how organizations can improve productivity and function. Coming up with specific and effective programs for corporate growth means fostering a clear understanding of business, how the organization is situated amidst its competitors, and figuring out ways to guide it forward.
- Real Estate Developer: You can make a lot of money and stir up economic growth in this profession, either in reviving an area that has decayed or in discovering new areas where property can be added. Real estate developers do require certifications and an understanding of how populations grow and change, the sort of thing you can learn readily if you have the sort of mindset that comprehends how populations work in relation to law.
- Stockbroker/Investment Advisor: Maybe you’ve decided you like working with money. Certainly it is an interesting substance. As a stockbroker, you will be able to work with individuals or corporations investing their money, taking risks, and getting returns. Your job will be to research financial markets, discuss matters with other investment analysts, and monitor how your client’s investments are going. This will require you to think quickly and have a sense of where the market is turning.
- Screenwriter: If you are set on being a writer, screenwriting can be an especially lucrative outlet, if you can land the jobs. Writing scripts for television or films lets you see your ideas come to cinematic life. On the other hand, you are a bit hedged by the requests of your clients. Nevertheless, your background in law could set you up for some expertise in any law-related show, and such shows are always in style.
- Author: Being an author puts you in one of the most coveted of all jobs, with a certain mystique that has lead people everywhere to say, “Maybe someday I will write a book.” It is difficult to break in the novel-writing profession, difficult to break in any genre, but if writing is a necessity for you, something you couldn’t do, then consider shooting for the moon and making a career of it. Certainly your background in law shows you have severe patience for reading, and even some dry stuff. Put that to use in writing about law, either fiction or expository.
- Foreign Service Officer: Representing your country abroad is an honor and a heavy responsibility. If you enjoy exposure to other cultures, and can hold aplomb and sincerity when discussing heavy topics, consider working this job. There are different career tracks for this job, ranging from the political to the economical, but a solid sense of police and propriety, the sort of thing law school instills aplenty, will help you. In dealing with foreign leaders to represent U.S. interests, having a sense for careful language is essential.
- Contracts Administrator: If you especially love the contract writing aspect of the legal world, consider narrowing your focus and becoming a contract administrator. You will be responsible for preparing, analyzing, and revising contracts regarding any assortment of topics from the buying and selling of goods and services. Managing the acquisition and storage of equipment is also important. If you are organized, thorough, and exact, this job will draw on your legal strengths.
- Labor Negotiator: Are you good at soothing tensions and disagreements? Consider becoming a labor relations negotiator. You may be called upon to work on a labor union, or otherwise you will correspond between management and the workers they employ. They handle complaints and resolve disputes, and also negotiate contracts, something your legal career will have prepared you for. Setting contracts that establish salaries, holidays, and conducting corrections will be necessary.
- State Bar Administrator: If you are eager to keep working at the JD level, or with those young hopefuls fresh and ready to make a career of law, consider working as a state bar administrator. You will be administrating the rite of passage all lawyers must make.
- Legal Editor: If you enjoy perfecting manuscripts, both in vetting them, determining if they are useful and will find an audience, and, once that is determined, making decisions on how to present them, consider being a legal editor. A legal editor has the same basic duties as an editor, but focuses on editing and proofreading mostly for legal publications. If you have a fine sense of detail, and a canny sense of what writing is quality and worth pursuing, consider using your background in law to be a legal editor.
- Media/Television Host: If you sought law to be the sort of authority who commands the attention of a court, not just the jury, but the audience and of course the judge, then perhaps you have what it takes to be under the spotlight in general. Being a media or television host requires have a confidence when the camera is on you, being quick on your feet, and keeping presence of mind even under difficult situations. If you find people enjoy listening to by the sheer lilt and hypnotic effect of your voice, or if you get an ego-thrill when the room is focused on you, you should consider this much-coveted position.
- Literary Agent: A thorough understanding of contract law will certainly prepare you to be a literary agent. Not only that, but you can hook up with fresh talent and bring the light of publishers, and next the world, new voices and dynamic ideas. A literary agent is somebody who must do a lot of reading, and must certainly build friendships with publishers and editors. If you are good at networking, you might make it as a literary agent. What matters is that you have a sense of recognizing what editors are looking for, and now how to present a new client – this fragile thing – to the right outlet.
- Analyst: Business analysts are part of what keeps a company on the cutting edge. They plan and monitor company innovations, plan new ways to organize and understand how a company is growing in response to the business world in general. You must be able to command respect and trust amidst partners, stakeholders, and facilitators, and your legal prowess will give you the language and authority to do so.
- Artist: Perhaps the legal world was too logical for you, too based on precise language, stifling your inner need for creative expression. Nevertheless, as an artist, your understanding of law will not go to waste. Not only will you better understand how to make contracts and approach venues, but the discipline of studying the law will be the same sort of discipline you must bring to mastering your medium. Being an artist is much more than creating something new. It means understanding technique. It means understanding the artistic world as it is, so you can fit in the next step toward where it is going.
- Chef: It might seem like a giant step to switch a legal career track to being a chef. However, if you plan on going independent or working for your own restaurant, an understanding of the legal world will only help you establish your business. What matters is having the competency to establish a style and create a way of cooking that generates its audience. Having that extra bit of business sense gained from a background in the law will make the rest that much more central.
- Financial Advisor: There are all sorts of financial advisors, but all of them require you understand the nature of laws and the sorts of policies a client, either corporate or individual, must respect when spending their money. Mortgage, pension, and investment advice all requires a thorough understanding of contract law, amidst the various other laws that give them shape. This career track should appeal especially if you have a keen understating of money and enjoy the acumen of wise investments.
- eDiscovery Consultant: Get into the latest technology as an electronic discovery consultant. This refers to discovery in civil litigation in which electronic information is made available for legal scrutiny. Your background in law will bring you to the cusp of internet law, so you can appraise what information is relevant and appropriate for attorneys to view and present before the courts.
- Union Organizer: Do you enjoy managing others? Your background in law will make you ideal for organizing union members, making sure the right policies are enforced, and claims from various members are answered lawfully and according to policy. You will also be recruiting workers into your union, and must establish the policies by which the union is organized.
- Chief Executive Officer: Being a CEO is a coveted position: they are the brains behind for-profit organizations, carry the most clout, get the most PR, and are the most envied and admired. His or her job is to enhance the value of the business, and they do this, in part, by organizing a board of directors, managing the managers of an organization, and acting as central communication node for all the main organs and structures of the business. Your background in law will have made you structure focused, with a holistic approach of how an organism such as a business thrives.
- Chief Financial Officer: If you are better with money than people, you might consider being a CFO instead of a CEO. Mind you, you will still have to work with people, and work with them well, but the primary “stuff” of your business will not be people, but money, and you will have to assess financial risk and manage how your business handles its resources. It is a central job in any corporation, and well paid.
- Marketing Director: Your understanding of protocol will lend you sway and clout as a marketing director. In this role you will plan and lead the marketing team. You are there to make your business’s products and services well-known and available to whomever could use them. You must be able to create the conduits of communication between the teams beneath you who control marketing budget, plan activities, and strategize on how to create visibility.
- Chief Operating Officer: This is a loosely defined position, whose responsibilities differ from corporation to corporation. Generally, you will be responsible for the daily operation of your business, and you will report to the CEO. Your task is to ensure everything is getting done, and much of your work will be attending and managing the various programs your business has put into place. A COO is like vice president to the CEO, so his responsibilities will relate to the expectations of the CEO.
- Undergraduate Professor: Though you may have an expert knowledge of the law, you need not teach at that level. If you enjoy teaching, you might consider some civic-themed class at the undergrad level, if not anything in the humanities, from English Literature to philosophy, since your training will have prepared you for exactly these things. With undergraduate professorship, as opposed to teaching at a law school, there will be less pressure to publish law articles, and if that’s not your thing, great. You can still influence students who are at the level of determining who they will be as adults, and what they will do.
- Law Firm Administrator: If you are eager to work with the law, you can offer administrative support in a law office as an administrator. You will manage schedules and organize meetings, and provide a friendly face to clients. Since you will be expected to prepare legal correspondence, to prepare reports, and understand generally how the law works, your background will help you here.
- Westlaw or Lexis Representative: If the organization of information fascinates you, consider being a Westlaw or Lexis representative, somebody who works with these research services, allowing judges and attorneys to find specific information amidst a sea of data. You must be able to work with lawyers and other legal figures, and help them discover information that is presented in a vague way. It requires a lot of looking, in other words, but if you have such a sleuth’s nose, considers this job.
- Private Investigator: While Hollywood has glamorized the detective, as has an entire genre of popular novels, nevertheless, there really is excitement in the job of a PR. Research is nevertheless necessary. You will be researching legal records, background checks, family histories, and so forth. You will combine such research with interviews with witnesses of crimes or family members of interesting persons. You must be able to get the useful information, whether the individuals are cooperative or not. And as for the fun part, surveillance, you will also have to be able to monitor individuals without them knowing.
- Civil Rights Investigator: If some of the trials and triumphs of social work appeal to you, consider being a civil rights investigator. You must be able to relate well with diverse populations, and be able to research and investigate how the law figures into how individuals are treated. Various civil rights laws have been legislated since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and you must have a strong knowledge of these and an interest in seeing them applied. Helping those who feel discriminated against or harassed makes this job important.
- Airline Pilot: Your appreciation for exact language and disciplined procedure, as well as your keen attention to detail, could have rendered you the ideal candidate for something seemingly unrelated to law altogether: flying commercial jets. However, the strict care and pride these pilots take in making exact measurements and following strict procedure should appeal to you, with your background, and the market is often growing.
In my experience, people with law degrees often do extremely well in careers that do not require actually practicing law. People generally become attorneys because they are motivated, intelligent and have great work ethics. When you get out into the world (outside of law), you will soon discover that many people do not share your same commitment, aptitude and abilities. This is one reason that attorneys tend to perform so well in careers outside of the law. In fact, in my opinion most people who go to law school would have better careers not practicing law and doing something else altogether.