Alternative Ways To Use Your JD
Well, you made it through your second year. Congratulations! Now you can wean yourself off the energy drinks and get a good night’s sleep.
Wait… you say you don’t want to practice law anymore? And you’re sick over wasting two years of your life?
Uh, oh… maybe we need to sit down.
Between the debt, workload and tedium, every law student faces fear and doubt at some point. If you enrolled for the money, maybe you’re reeling from the grueling lifestyle. And if you envisioned making a difference, learning that practicing law heavily entails waiting, posturing, and compromising can be a major disappointment.
But that doesn’t mean your law degree was an expensive boondoggle. In fact, a JD gives you a number of lucrative and fulfilling paths to pursue.
That’s the advice of Shawn O’Connor, Founder and President of Stratus Prep, a leading test preparation and consulting firm. In his latest U.S. News and World Report column, O’Connor outlines potential careers for law graduates who’ve grown disenchanted with the practice of law.
For starters, O’Connor recommends marketing, which taps into both your creative and analytical sides. In particular, he cites the “writing and research skills” you honed in law school as transferrable to a marketing position, which often requires planning and persuasiveness, along with the ability to wade through capacious and conflicting data to identify key trends. What’s more, experienced marketers can earn $119,000 or more, according to U.S. News data.
Law grads can also channel their energy into the non-profit sector. In this sector, you can help those in need. What’s more, your legal training gives you an edge in areas like establishing nonprofit status and complying with federal and state regulations. Even more, as O’Connor notes, a nonprofit job can help you receive assistance on your student loans, as financial aid is often predicated on your postgraduate salary.
Finally, O’Connor suggests that law grads consider entrepreneurship, where your “knowledge of legal documents and contracts . . . proves invaluable in a new business venture” (as these are often areas where entrepreneurs make the biggest mistakes).
If you’re a law student, you’re facing other issues. In particular, you’re concerned about landing that coveted summer internship. Of course, you’re bound to face fierce competition for those positions. Fair or not, you may be among those left standing in the job hunter’s version of musical chairs. Do you really want your legal skills to atrophy while you wait tables at Buffalo Wild Wings over the summer?
In a separate article, O’Connor also shared some ideas for students who are unable to land law-related summer internships. He first proposes looking into academic research. Even in law school, the dictum of ‘publish or perish’ still applies. The fact is, many professors would welcome help in conducting research.
While you may have loathed such assignments in class, research offers some real career benefits, according to O’Connor: “Because research generally means working one-on-one with a professor, students often garner glowing references from fostering a close relationship. Finally, assisting with the creation of materials that get published looks great on your resume.”
An entrepreneur himself, O’Connor also advocates starting a side business (one that can continue generating revenue once you return to school). For example, O’Connor throws out ideas like creating an app or starting a textbook exchange. “Think of a service you find lacking for you or your peers, and then fill that void,” he says.
In addition, O’Connor lists journalism or nonprofit work as possibilities. If anything, missing out on a law internship frees you to pursue opportunities that you normally wouldn’t have considered. “As long as you partake in an activity that interests you during your law school summers,” O’Connor says, “you are taking important steps forward in your career. If you are planning a traditional legal career, then you will have unique experiences to discuss during interviews. If you find yourself dreaming of a different career, you can use your law degree and summer activities to take your career in a new direction.”