Non-Legal Career Paths For Law Grads

A majority of students go to law school with hopes of securing a law-related job at graduation.

76.8% of Class of 2015 law grads secured jobs requiring bar passage, according to the National Association for Law Placement. Yet experts say there are a number of non-legal opportunities available to law grads as well.

Ilana Kowarski, a reporter for U.S. News & World Report, recently discussed such non-legal careers where law grads have an advantage.

Skills learned in law school

According to Santa Clara University Law, if you’re applying for non-legal jobs, it’s important to highlight skills acquired in law school. In fact, Santa Clara Law lists many valuable skills that law students acquire during their law education, including the ability to:

  • Think and write analytically
  • Speak in public
  • Write clearly and persuasively
  • Synthesize ideas and compile facts and information
  • Simplify complex ideas
  • Negotiate
  • Persuade
  • Research
  • Develop a strategy to reach a desired outcome
  • Teach
  • Work with others
  • Counsel

Law grads are also urged to craft a resume that is specific to the job type they are seeking. According to Santa Clara Law, it’s best to tone down the legal jargon and focus more on skills gained from law-related activities.

“When writing a resume for a non-legal job, you should not simply list what you did during law school. The non-legal employer will not know what a summary judgment motion is,” Santa Clara Law’s website reads. “They will assume it has no relevance to the job they are hiring for; and they will not care that you have written one. Instead, your non-legal resume needs to frame your activities in terms of the skills you gained from completing them. Remember, you are trying to counter the assumption all you learned in law school was the law.”

While a law degree can be useful for non-legal jobs, Santa Clara Law officials advise law students to take the bar exam even if they don’t think they will be pursuing a law career.

“Whether you practice or not, you will never know as much law as you do the year you graduate from law school,” the website reads. “You were taught all this law for a reason, the bar exam tests it. Re-learning this law again three, five or ten years down the road will make studying for the bar exam harder than it already is. Take it now while all that knowledge is fresh in your head.”

One possible route: PR & Communications

There are a number of career paths available for law students. One route law students can choose to pursue is PR and communications, or “crisis communications.”

Crisis communications is a “form of public relations work that involves representing individuals or companies facing litigation or criminal charges or receiving other negative publicity,” U.S. News‘ Kowarski writes.

JDs tend to excel in this field since it involves collaboration with attorneys and detailed communications skills, she adds.

“People in crisis communications have to be very careful with the words that they choose just as lawyers have to be very careful with the words that they choose,” David Helfenbein, an alumnus of the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and a senior vice president with the Main & Rose strategic branding company, tells U.S. News.

And of course there’s always politics

The field of politics is another career path that Kowarski highlights for law students.

Helfenbein tells U.S. News that law students tend to make great politicians because they already have knowledge of legal processes. Politics, after all, is about lawmaking.

“A lot of people in the political realm have law degrees, because it helps them understand the governing process beyond the basics that we learn in elementary or high school,” he tells U.S. News.

Compliance jobs: Legal training helps in corporate America 

Compliance jobs revolve around “ensuring the company complies with its outside regulatory requirements and internal policies,” according to Investopedia.

Law grads generally tend to succeed in compliance because they understand how laws and regulations affect a business.

In an interview with U.S. News, Matthew D’Ambrosio, senior vice president and global chief compliance and ethics officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance, says earning his JD allowed him to utilize his legal knowledge every day. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without my legal training,” D’Ambrosio tells U.S. News.

There are numerous opportunities available outside the traditional legal world for law grads, but law students will need to make careful consideration of pros and cons when deciding which career path they will take, Santa Clara Law’s website reads. “If you are thinking of a career outside the law, realize that your job search will be more difficult than your peers’. No career is ready-made for law graduates other than ‘attorney.’”

Sources: U.S. News, National Association for Law Placement, Santa Clara University, Investopedia