What Are Different Types Of Lawyer Jobs?
For most students, going to law school means working at a private law firm or obtaining a judicial clerkship after graduation. This post, however, is for those who may want to do anything but begin or continue your career in private practice. If you find yourself in that latter category, we are happy to tell you that there are definitely other options available to you! It turns out that there are many different types of lawyers than those you see depicted in television dramas and Hollywood blockbusters. In addition to actual “lawyer jobs,” there is an endless number of careers that are commonly referred to as “law-adjacent.” We talk in more detail below about alternate careers for those not interested in following a more traditional law school career path post-graduation.
What Are Different Types Of Lawyer Jobs?
The overlap between law school and human resources may seem hard to discern. But the truth is, many skills needed to be successful in human resources are those taught in law school. Hearing each side of a disagreement, considering each argument, and making a decision on what is reasonable and sound, is exactly what human resources professional do. Furthermore, a basic understanding of contracts and other aspects of employment law, is incredibly helpful to all human resources teams. A law degree can be useful in an HR setting. Counseling employees, explaining policies, or even providing clear and concise statements of issues can put your JD to good use.
Like human resources, the skillset for financial advising can benefit from a JD. Synthesizing vast amounts of information, presenting that information in a clear, cogent way, and doing so in a timely manner is at the heart of many, if not all, financial advising jobs. Financial advisors must work under time constraints and the stakes are often quite high. However, a law school skill set is also relevant to these types of positions. For example, you might notice that the issue-rule-analysis-conclusion format come up in a financial advising setting. Determining precisely what the issue is, subsequently identifying the relevant financial rule, and then applying said rule, is exactly what makes financial advisors successful. Coupling a methodical approach with solid communication skills is an excellent way to utilize your law degree. Furthermore, like human resources, many financial advising teams also hire full-time attorneys to supervise the legal aspects of their work.
If you are not interested in working for a private firm and are passionate about a particular social issue, a not-for-profit might be a good place to start. There are hundreds of not-for-profits that are continually looking for attorneys. If there’s a cause that you are passionate about, you may consider looking up not-for-profits that share your interest. From environmental issues to issues related to gender and sexuality, there are endless not-for-profits for nearly every interest you might have. While the pay may be less than what you could make at a private firm, the satisfaction of working in an environment of like-minded people is often professionally gratifying.
When most people think of people with law degrees working at a college, they think of teaching. However, there are far more jobs available at colleges and universities that don’t involve stepping foot in a classroom. Many colleges have their own in-house counsel. Attorneys at universities work on everything from matters related to employment to issues regarding patents. Many lawyers also head compliance departments within a university, including compliance matters related to Title IX. In non-attorney capacities, individuals with a JD are often seen working in offices that create and implement college-wide policies, and in academic advising positions (think Dean of Students, Dean of Admissions, and Director of Athletics). A JD establishes that an individual can look at a set of rules, consider the various factors at play, and make well-informed decisions. Given the skillset learned during law school, those with JDs are often considered for these positions.
Risk Management and Compliance
Nearly all institutions have employees who are dedicated to addressing issues related to risk management and compliance. While those issues may play out differently depending on the organization (for example, risk management at a Division I college will look quite different than risk management at a small insurance firm), those issues will continue to be present no matter what the organization. If you are someone who is interested in preventative work, risk management, and compliance, this may be the right fit. Assessing an organization’s strengths and weaknesses, researching best practices in the field, and then designing and implementing policies to mitigate risk, is one way to put your law degree to work. Like the other areas discussed, many risk management and compliance teams are led by a lawyer. Smaller institutions and those with fewer resources may outsource their legal work to a firm, but some prefer to employ someone to do the day-to-day business of policy enforcement and management.
Mediation and Arbitration
If helping people stay out of a courtroom interests you, then becoming a mediator or arbitrator may be a good fit. Many mediators and arbitrators are attorneys who help opposing parties settle disputes outside of court. Mediators in particular work to help parties come up with their own resolution and do not, in any way, decide the actual outcome. Rather, the mediator serves to point out flaws in arguments, suggest alternative ways of thinking about things, and ultimately, focuses the parties’ attention on the real issues that may be standing in the way of a resolution. Mediators and arbitrators may work alone, or they may work with a panel of other trained professionals.
Consulting and Advising
Legal training has been the basis for some of the world’s best advisors and consultants. While the words may seem vague, consultants and advisors do exactly that—consult and advise. Whether it’s advising large corporations on the best path forward or providing consult to political leaders, many consultants and advisors are either lawyers or have earned a JD. In addition to learning how to think like a lawyer, both the corporate world and the political world are full of attorneys. Knowing how lawyers think is, in and of itself, an advantage. Using critical thinking skills, considering a wide array of arguments, and then persuasively advising others is exactly what lawyers (and consultants and advisors) do.
Many, many politicians are practicing or formerly practicing lawyers. Here the parallel between law school and politics is fairly straightforward. Politicians must convince, communicate, and collaborate. They must argue and prove a point, but they also must effectively recognize the weakness of their own arguments, and yet somehow still persuade. The business of politics is also far-reaching. Careful consideration of important issues that impact the daily lives of constituents is key to political success. In the same way that financial advisors may use IRAC when dealing with a financial issue, politicians also tend to use IRAC frequently. From issues related to public education to national health care, politicians are constantly faced with an ever-changing world of important challenges. Lawyers, who continually assess, apply, and reconsider, are well poised to serve as thoughtful politicians.
With the increase of political commentators on air and with the expanding markets for news, those with law degrees might consider a career in journalism. The advent of social media and the rise of political commentary gives those with JDs an opportunity to weigh in on a variety of issues. Whether it’s covering Supreme Court cases for a newspaper or writing for an online publication that focuses on particular legal issues, there are many opportunities to use a law degree to write about and to engage with, the law. While news outlets hire individuals to be members of the staff, many organizations offer freelance opportunities. Freelancing may be a good way to establish yourself if you’re interested in eventually working full-time for one publication. Legal blogs, bar association magazines, and other law-related websites are all places to begin your legal writing career. Don’t worry if you’re not at all interested in writing about the law. Media outlets hire journalists with JDs simply because these journalists know how to write. Period.
Ok. This one might be a bit harder to break into. But, the reality is that many highly successful entrepreneurs went to law school. Where those who might use their ability to assess risk and then develop a plan to help a company avoid that risk, those who venture into the world of entrepreneurship might be more prone to identify what level of risk is worth the possible financial returns. Entrepreneurs also often see possibility whereas others simply see defeat. Those in law school might also see the connection. When faced with roadblocks, entrepreneurs, like lawyers, have to think quickly and intelligently to find a way out or around. The ability to craft a different solution is an invaluable asset for those interested in entrepreneurship. Additionally, because so much of entrepreneurship involves “newness,” there are many, many unanswered legal questions. This makes a law degree particularly useful to anyone interested in being or helping entrepreneurs.
Legal Research Firms
Maybe you love to research but you don’t want to be a clerk or teach law. There’s a solution for that, too. Companies like Westlaw, LexisNexis, and Bloomberg are constantly looking for attorneys to help their hundreds of thousands of customers. Those who work for such firms may provide individual support to users by crafting legal searches and otherwise assisting with research. Still, others may edit legal materials to ensure that there is uniformity of style and citation. Some employees may read and analyze court decisions and then provide short summaries of the relevant points of law. If staying out of the limelight is something you desire, then working for a firm that employs individuals to read, write, and summarize, is an excellent way to use your JD. Another benefit is the experience you gain that others in the legal field covet–high-quality researching skills!
The bottom line here is if you’re leery of working for a private firm, there are still many options available!