The best law jobs aren’t necessarily the ones in the highest paying fields of law. For some, working at a law firm doesn’t feel stimulating or fulfilling. If searching for jobs with a legal degree is stressing you out, you aren’t alone. Luckily, you can get into careers with a law degree that involve interesting work and don’t involve billable hours.
A lot of lawyers are unhappy with their traditional legal career paths. The highest paying law jobs might be a good fit for some people, but others strive for more meaningful or flexible work. There are plenty of jobs for lawyers out there, and there are just as many opportunities that don’t require a J.D. but do require skills you’ve acquired in law school. People with law degrees have gone on to work as actors, business analysts, entertainment agents, real estate developers and playwrights – the possibilities are really endless. There may be an alternative law career for you that does not appear on this list, but here are the more common, law-related categories of nontraditional full-time attorney work.
If you don’t want to work as a traditional attorney but still want to use your writing, research and editing skills, consider a career in the legal publishing industry. Legal writers and editors can work for corporations, firms and publishing houses by contributing to website content, online publications, news articles, blog posts and much more. If you want to work from the comfort of your home, there are increasing freelance opportunities with the growth of web-based publications as well.
If you miss academia, you could get a job in higher education as a professor or in academic administration. Competition for teaching positions at law schools is stiff, and you’ll likely need good grades from a top school and post-graduate publications to be considered. You could also teach legal courses like political science or copyright law to undergraduates. There are also opportunities to work as a bar course instructor or administrator. If you’ve had experience in higher education before attending law school, you might be qualified for J.D. preferred or J.D. required positions at universities; these roles include assistant dean, director of student programs, director of career services and academic advisor.
For those with an entrepreneurial spirit, working in-house at a start-up or founding your own start-up is an option. The pay as an in-house attorney at a new venture may not be high, but you won’t have billable hours and there’s potential for growth within the business. As an alternative to working as an in-house attorney, you can also look for job opportunities with legal tech and A2J (access to justice) start-ups where you can use your law degree.
Starting a business of your own requires some legal expertise. It also requires risk taking and a lot of time and energy, but it means you get to be your own boss. Of course, when it comes to founding your own start-up, capital can be a major road block for those saddled with student loan debt.
Legal recruitment is ideal for those with a high emotional intelligence and good negotiation skills. Legal recruiters screen and interview candidates to be hired by their law firm clients. They talk to many different types of people about their careers and find firms the perfect candidate they’ve been searching for. Recruiting allows for a more flexible schedule than the highest paid types of lawyers, and recruiters make a decent salary to help people with their careers. For those who have sales experience this can be an easy transition from law school.
If you find yourself liking typical attorney work but are in a place in life where you want to work remotely and part-time, opportunities in legal project work allow you to work for firms that need assistance with short-term legal assignments. Lawyer Exchange helps small and solo law firms find support for temporary yet challenging legal projects and helps project lawyers find work that they can do on their own time. What makes this option truly unique is that it can be used in conjunction with a traditional job search, where you work on legal projects to earn money while studying for the bar, waiting for your exam results, or interviewing for other positions.
Whether you’re sick of your current firm job or just coming out of law school, think about your unique skills, personality and motivations for going to law school in the first place. Do you want to create interesting legal content? Would you rather help others in the legal field build their careers? Maybe you want to continue what you’re doing in a less demanding work environment. Whatever the case may be, there is an alternative career path for you.
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