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What Are the Best Alternative Careers With a Law Degree?

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There are many different types of law careers. You can be a paralegal, a lawyer, a judge, and many more. But there are also other careers you can have with a law degree. 

We asked senior lawyers of our legal team at Schmidt&Clark to be honest and tell us what they would have been if they hadn’t chosen this career path. It turns out there are quite a few alternative jobs that don’t include the legal industry. If you’re one of those people considering this career change but still want to use the law degree, here’s what you can do.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Having a law degree opens up many doors in journalism, business, non-profit work, HR, and management.
  • Making a career shift can be a great way to find a job you love.
  • Lawyers experience a higher mental illness and substance abuse rate than people in other professions.

6 Reasons Why You Might Be Thinking About Leaving The Law

A person thinking hard with his knuckles on his mouth

There are many articles written about how stressful being a lawyer can be. Lawyers have a lot of responsibilities and often feel overwhelmed. Here’s why.

1. The billable hour model is terrible.

Many lawyers hate billing their time. This creates terrible incentives and stifles innovation. You are either stressed because you are overworked and have no time for anything else or stressed because you are slow and might not make your hours. 

2. The legal profession is obsessed with prestige.

Not all lawyers want to get their law degrees from the most prestigious law school or get the most prestigious job. But many do want to join a prestigious law school. And because the legal job market is a competitive environment, lawyers and law firms often use prestige to weed out job applicants. 

3. Lawyers often have a hard time separating their work life from their personal life.

This is a problem for any profession, but I think it is especially true for lawyers. Lawyers are taught to be zealous advocates for their clients. And while this is a good thing, it can also lead to problems.

Often, lawyers become so wrapped up in their legal practice that they forget there is a life outside of it. This can lead to burnout, depression, and a whole host of other problems.

4. Many people in the industry experience a lot of stress and anxiety.

This is not surprising, given the above three points. But it is worth noting that lawyers experience a higher mental illness and substance abuse rate than people in other professions.

The data shows that 21% of lawyers qualify as problem drinkers, which is more than three times the rate for the general population and nearly double the rate for other highly educated professionals [1].

5. Burnout is a common problem.

The biggest reason people get burned out at work is the workload. It's difficult to solve this problem because it involves too few people, too many meetings, not enough resources, and more [2].

"It's a recipe for burnout," - Jenna Cho, Lawyer, and author of The Anxious Lawyer

 

6. The legal profession is in a state of flux.

The industry is changing, and it's not clear what the future will hold. This can be stressful for lawyers who are trying to build their legal careers. Many law firms are automating their work, so lawyers will need to learn new skills or face unemployment.

In addition, the internet has made it easier for people to access legal information and services without ever speaking to a lawyer. This means that lawyers need to find new ways to market themselves and their services.

16 Best Alternative Careers with a Law Degree

Someone holding paperwork in an office

1. Non-profit work: You can use your degree to work for a non-profit organization as a lawyer or in another capacity.For example, you can work for a non-profit that provides legal services to poor or marginalized communities.

2. Government Agencies:  Many government jobs require a law degree.You can work as a prosecutor, public defender, or in another government legal position.

3. Human resources: You can use your law degree to work in human resources, either in-house or for a consulting firm.

4. Recruitment: You can use your law degree to work as a recruiter, either in-house or for a recruiting firm.

5. Personnel management: You can use your law degree to work in personnel management, either in-house or for a management consulting firm

6. Business: You can use your law degree to start your private practice or work in business, either in-house or for a consulting firm.

7. Legal Writing: If you have writing skills, you can use your law degree to become a writer, either as an independent contractor or for a publishing company.

8. Legal Research or Legal Education: You can use your law degree to become a teacher, either at the elementary, secondary, or post-secondary level, or a law professor at law school.

9. Journalism: You can use your law degree to become a journalist, either as an independent contractor or for a news organization.

10. Alternative Dispute Resolution: You can use your law degree to become an arbitrator, mediator, or alternative dispute resolution professional.

11. Paralegal: You can use your law degree to work as a paralegal, either in-house or for a law firm.

12. Product Liability Specialist: You can use your law degree to work as a product liability specialist, either in-house or for a consulting firm.

13. Lobbyist: You can use your law degree to work as a lobbyist, either in-house or for a lobbying firm.

14. Investment Banking: You can use your degree to work in investment banking, either in-house or for an investment bank.

15. Financial Planning: You can use your degree to work in financial planning, either as an in-house lawyer or for a financial planning firm.

16. Judge: You can use your degree to become a judge, either in a court of law or in an administrative capacity.

The 7 Best Questions to Ask When Changing Careers

A person on his phone in front of a glass wall

Making a career shift can be a great way to find a job you love. But it's important to think about the consequences of your choice before making a decision and performing a job search.

1. Why did you decide to leave your career as a lawyer?

Before you decide on not being a lawyer anymore, I suggest you make two lists. One list is what you don't like about your job. The other list is what you do like about your job. You may have a long list of things you don't like. But it's important to also think about the things you do like about your job. Maybe there are some aspects of your job that you would miss if you left.

2. Are you looking for an alternative career in a new law field that is more exciting and different?

More and more people are working remotely, and some people have even left their jobs to become "legal nomads." This means lawyers have more opportunities to find an alternative career and work in unconventional ways.

3. If you quit your job as a lawyer, what is the worst that could happen?

Once you know what could go wrong, your fears will be less in your mind. To figure out your worst-case scenario, I recommend that you sit down and think about some tough things that could happen. This will help you plan for the worst.

4. What are you good at? What do you want to be good at?

Think about what you would like to learn more about. This can help you figure out which skills might get stale if you don't keep practicing them.

5. What skills do you need to be valuable in order to get the bargaining power you want?

Now that you know a lot about what you're good at, you need to figure out how good you need to be at those things in order to use them to get the life you want.

6. What experts can help you learn new skills and get more leverage? What professional support is available to help you reach your goals?

Today, it is easy to find experts who can help you line your alternative career path by helping you earn new legal skills or get more information as part of your professional development or legal training. This includes professionals in legal fields that are growing. Gathering information will help you make more informed decisions and gain more legal knowledge.

7. What can you do if your worst-case scenario happens? How can you minimize the damage and still look graceful?

If your worst-case scenario happens, you can try to minimize the damage by being honest and upfront with the employer of your current job. Former lawyers suggest exploring alternative careers while you are still employed so that you have a safety net. Finally, you can try to negotiate a severance package to be financially taken care of after you leave your job.

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FAQs

Is Law a Good Major?

Law is a good major for those interested in pursuing a career in law or a related field. It is also a good major for those who want to learn more about the legal system and how it works.

How bad is it, really, to have a resumé gap as a lawyer?

It is not bad to have a resumé gap as a lawyer. However, it is important to explain the gap on your resumé so that employers understand why you were not working during that time.

Is quitting law without another job lined up a bad idea?

No, quitting law without another job lined up is not a bad idea. In fact, it may be the best thing for you if you are unhappy with your current situation.

What if I regret leaving the law?

If you regret leaving the law, you can always go back and take the bar exam. However, it is important to make sure that you are truly interested in practicing law before making this decision.

How do I know if I'm experiencing lawyer burnout?

You will know you are experiencing lawyer burnout if you feel constantly stressed, anxious, or depressed, feeling like you are not good enough or do not want to practice law anymore. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek help from a mental health professional.

Want to Change Your Law Career?

If you want to change your law career, there are many alternative careers for lawyers you can look into before you leave your current job. Many of these careers are just as challenging and rewarding as practicing law but may be a better fit for your skills and interests.

References:

1. https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/news/2020/07/potlp2020.pdf

2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/pauladavis/2021/04/27/how-to-address-burnout-in-the-legal-profession/?sh=ffd658d434b7

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