What Other Careers Can You Have With a Law Degree?
When you look hard enough, you will find law is embedded in almost every facet of modern day life. So, it’s no surprise that a degree in law can also provide a strong foundation and jumping off point for other careers besides becoming a lawyer. “As a child, I wanted to be a lawyer because I thought lawyers and the law were wonderful. But they are more wonderful, I think, then I had thought,” said Janet Reno, former US Attorney General. Surely learning the ins and outs of the legal system is wonderfully empowering and fascinating work. Going down the rabbit hole and learning the law’s nuances and many facets can be rewarding and challenging. Today, not only does the law degree continue to be a great all-around degree, it can also be a launchpad for a surprising amount of other career options. Here are five excellent careers outside traditional legal work which nonetheless all benefit from law studies and experience.
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As versatile as it gets? The Independent weighs in on the versatility of the law degree in an interview with Alisdair Gillespie, head of Lancaster University Law School, who says, “It's a myth that the law degree is a vocational course that churns out cookie-cutter lawyers. It's actually a great all-round degree that is a good grounding for lots of other careers.” Gillespie adds, “We've seen law graduates go into all sorts of roles: police, auditing, management, banking, journalism.”
“Law trains students in research, analysis, criticism and communication. You have to engage in problem solving, memory recall and wider theoretical discussions - sometimes all at the same time. These skills are useful in all kinds of professions,” explains Nick Chowdrey in The Guardian. Not only are law students realizing their degree can lead them to other careers outside of just practicing law, many are seeing this as a growing trend within the legal field of study. Kathleen Boozang, dean of Seton Hall University School of Law, says, “We know from experience that a fair percentage of students already are coming to law school intending to do something other than practice law.” Law students know it is a competitive job market and they are willing to think outside of the box when considering what is possible. Here are five excellent careers outside traditional legal work which nonetheless all benefit from law studies and experience.
A career in politics is intrinsically linked to knowledge about the legal system and its processes. In fact, politicians need to be well-versed in the legal system. Megan Carrick, a University of Kent law student interviewed in The Guardian, says, “Studying law teaches you how to construct arguments, think critically and challenge policy – all valuable skills needed for a career in politics.” She adds, “It makes you aware of the application and different interpretations of policy within society, which is key to understanding the influence and limitations of politics.” Being able to advocate for others, caring about legislation that affects the masses, and writing compelling arguments that will win votes and pass bills, are all skills that lawyers cultivate while in law school.
“Lawyers make great leaders. Service to others is central to our profession, and the ideal elected official views her job to be speaking and advocating for others. Lawyers also understand in their bones the centrality of rule of law and fair governance. [...] I am deeply gratified that more students seem to be hearing the call,” says Stanford Law professor M. Elizabeth Magill. If you are hearing the call to serve others in public service or politics, then go for it -- getting a law degree might be the best fit for you.
Are you a storyteller? Do you love talking to people, find out their stories? Does digging through the facts and figures to get to the heart of the matter appeal to you? Then maybe a career in journalism for you, and perhaps a law degree is how you could go about it. Over the course of a typical law student’s career, they will spend hours and hours reading and researching. These high-functioning research and analytical skills transfer well to the field of journalism. In fact, they are essential and vital to getting the story right.
Legal journalist Jill Schachner Chanen says, “The essence of being a legal journalist is really being a reporter or an editor and covering the law, whether that’s a Supreme Court decision or trends in the law, writing profiles of interesting people in the law and just covering the industry in general.” If you are a trained lawyer, you understand the nuances that are going on in an everyday court case -- so who better to report on it than you?
Does passion for a particular cause make your blood pulse and your palms sweat? Do you jump at the chance to do good in the world, for others and a cause you believe in? Then maybe you’re an “A” for “Activist.” Now, imagine having the power of a full three years of legal training as a law student under your belt. Applying that legal knowledge to a cause could make you the most effective activist ever!
“Law degree is a lofty goal,” writes Tom Head for ThoughtCo.com, “but lawyers are trained in the skills and weapons that are necessary to tackle broad platforms at governmental levels. Even a bachelor's degree in pre-law or one of the social sciences can be immensely helpful, and nothing says you can't pursue your cause or causes while you're going to school. Many famous activists have done just that.” If working at the forefront of human rights activism is your dream job, then you might want to consider enrolling in a law degree program. Trained lawyers can be valuable assets to any humanitarian or activist organization. You’ll be a valued member of the team for your legal expertise, and you will be working at the intersection of legal issues and activism. Nothing is more rewarding than making a difference in the world.
Do numbers appeal to you? Tracking, analyzing data, crunching numbers? If so, a job in finance might be for you. Combining legal knowledge and finance may lead to a successful (and lucrative) career in investment banking. “A lot of the intellectual thought process and confidence in the craft is the same,” says successful Harvard Law School student, Jeffrey Cohen ’88, the Managing Director and Global Head of Retail at Lazard, while discussing his journey from a law school and legal training to investment banking. Many trained lawyers fresh out of law school might find themselves really excelling in many finance jobs, including investment banking, venture capital, private equity, or hedge funds. Yale Law School explains, “The world of finance is appealing to some law students, typically those with business backgrounds, strong quantitative skills, and no fear of working long hours.” Money talks, but if you are a lawyer so can you -- you’ve been trained in debate and high-level argumentation skills. There’s no doubt that finance and law is a lucrative and powerful combination.
Many Bachelor of law (LLB) law school students graduate as experts in a particular and very specific subject. This expertise, combined with highly skilled research and analytical skills, makes most lawyers ready to take on the world of consulting. Yale Law School explains, “[C]onsultants give professional advice. In the broadest sense there are three types of consulting firms. First, are the large management consulting specialists that offer primarily strategy consulting but are not specialized in any specific industry. Second, there are boutique firms which have consulting expertise in specific industries or technologies. Finally, there are large, diversified organizations that offer a range of services, in addition to a strategy consulting practice.”
Legal consultants are experts in their field and they are brought in to help a team or organization find solutions to problems -- they offer the sound legal advice on projects and plans, but can also navigate an array of subject matters. Legal expert Robert Half writes, “While corporations typically employ in-house counsel, they often need extra help during peak workload periods and for projects requiring specialized expertise they lack internally. Companies seek experts with business and legal know-how to help with strategic planning, research and analysis, and employee training.”
Your law degree can take you on many different career paths -- don’t feel limited to working solely as a lawyer! A law degree can provide you with foundational knowledge, valuable and coveted skills like research and analysis, and it can set you up to embark on many options for a fulfilling career. If you were wondering about a law degree being a good investment -- don’t hesitate. A law degree opens doors...
S. M. Audsley is a freelance writer and poet who lives and works in Vermont, a small but mighty state in the United States. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast and a lover of potlucks.