Each year, roughly 40,000 students graduate from an accredited law school and enter the job market with a Juris Doctor degree. Most–almost 90%–will pass a bar exam within two years of graduation and search for a job as an attorney. But as competition for attorney jobs becomes more intense, many law school graduates are turning to alternative careers that do not require a law license but leverage the valuable education of a law degree. Law school can also pair well with your undergraduate major for great job opportunities. Here are 10 examples:
1. FBI Agent/Investigator
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a specific career path for law school graduates and attorneys. Law enforcement, generally, requires an notable ability to analyze complex fact patterns and apply critical thinking to make sound judgments–the exact skills that are emphasized throughout law school. The FBI utilizes lawyers to work on cross agency enforcement of complex laws touching on both criminal, civil and administrative matters. Another option is work for a law firm as an investigator. In the face of litigation, lawyers rely upon investigators to help gather evidence and prepare for trial. Investigators with a thorough understanding of civil and criminal procedures as well as the laws of evidence make excellent investigators.
2. Legal Instructor
Most law professors are hired after a distinguished career in law. However, there are numerous teaching opportunities for law school graduates that do not require an extensive legal career. Many community colleges hire law school graduates to teach paralegal classes. Law grads with a strong background in writing can also find teaching jobs for legal writing and research–often at law schools who use adjunct teachers for these classes. There are also teaching jobs available for LSAT preparation courses or Bar review courses. Finally, online legal education is gaining popularity and could provide another teaching opportunity for the law school grad.
Entertainers and athletes often rely upon an agent to help manage their careers. The agent represents their client as they negotiate contracts between the client and their various sources of income including record labels, sports franchises, apparel companies, or film studios. Since these negotiations require a thorough understanding of the principles of contracts generally as well as entertainment and sports law specifically, talent agencies often hire persons with a J.D. Being an agent can be a lucrative career option as agents earn an average of $110,00 per year with many earning substantially more.
4. Contracts Administrator
Corporations employ a lot of attorneys. They also utilize law graduates for all types of work that touches on legal issues. Corporate contracts are complex and critical to any organization. Reviewing contracts requires a thorough understanding of business law but also keen reading comprehension and analytical skills–two skills that most law students possess. Contract administrators also work hand-in-hand with the lawyers so sharing the same vocabulary is also critical to success. Contract administrators are also paid reasonably well with an average salary over $70,000.
5. Document Review/E-Discovery
Large corporations face constant litigation and regulatory actions. These cases often require a corporation to produce millions of documents to the opposing party. Before these documents are turned over to the other side, corporations use lawyers or law school graduates to review documents to determine their relevance and protect sensitive information. Generally, this process is known as electronic discovery (or E-Discovery for short). While some document review cases pay as little as $25 per hour, many pay substantially more especially for specialized document review requiring foreign language experience or a technical background for patent cases.
6. Human Resources
Human Resource professionals deal with a myriad of issues that touch upon sensitive issues with potential legal consequences for both the employee and the company that employs them. A strong background in employment law is a strong asset for law school graduates looking for a job in a human resources department. In addition, human resource departments are increasingly data driven and successful HR professionals must analyze complex data to find patterns and find solutions much like law students are trained to do in school. Human Resource professionals also deal with real people making this an excellent option for law students who enjoy working face-to-face with people.
7. Financial Officer/Adviser
Many law students have strong backgrounds in the financial sector. As well, many law schools now offer joint degrees which pair the J.D. with an MBA. Law school graduates with a strong financial background can find work as a financial officer for a company or financial related positions. Most CFO positions require an advanced degree such as a J.D. and many lower level financial jobs such as a tax manager or financial adviser prefer applicants with a Juris Doctor. Since corporate and personal finance involves a host of legal and regulatory issues, law school graduates often possess the background education and problem solving skills to make excellent financial officers.
8. Compliance Officer
As the cost of litigation continues to escalate, corporations are increasingly investing in compliance to help prevent lawsuits from happening in the first place. Compliance attorneys and professionals are in high demand in heavily regulated industries such as health care and insurance. While many of these jobs require a license, there are plenty of opportunities for law school graduates who do not have a license. A law school graduate with a background in insurance or health care is an excellent fit for a compliance related job. Compliance professionals can expect to earn a good starting salary between $60,000 and $80,000.
A mediator helps two parties resolve a dispute without having to resort to the legal system. By using a mediator, the parties hope for an efficient resolution in terms of costs and time. An effective mediator, therefore, is tasked with finding a solution in the midst of a complex–often tense–situation. Many law students make excellent mediators especially those that understand conflict resolution and negotiation strategies. Many mediators also seek out advanced certifications that build upon their legal education.
10. Magistrate Judge
Magistrate judges are the first line of the judiciary in most state court systems. For most jurisdictions, there are no specific requirements to be a magistrate as most are appointed by the court administrators. However, law school graduates make excellent magistrates since they often possess a solid understanding of the criminal process and are comfortable following court procedures. Magistrate salaries vary widely by jurisdiction and generally increase–sometimes substantially–the longer a magistrate sits on the bench.