Alternative Legal Career v. Non-Traditional Legal Career

So you have heard the terms ‘alternative legal career’ and ‘non-traditional legal career,’ but what is the difference?  In everyday parlance, there isn’t a difference.  These terms are usually used interchangeably to refer to someone with a JD who is not practicing as an attorney in a law firm or government setting. 

While there isn’t a strict definition attached to either of these terms, I tend to distinguish them based on whether the job requires the person be licensed to practice law (although I still tend to use the terms interchangeably).  I think of alternative legal careers as those careers that do not require a person be licensed to practice law, but legal training and skills are a benefit in that position.  We reviewed a sampling of those types of careers in yesterday’s blog (found here).  On the other hand, I think of non-traditional legal careers as those careers that require a person be licensed to practice law, but the person is not practicing law in a “traditional” setting. 

What are some examples of non-traditional legal careers?  How about:

  1. In-House Counsel – While working as an attorney in a law firm or the government is considered a “traditional” legal career, being employed by a company is considered “non-traditional.”  Depending on the size and type of corporation there are many possible in-house counsel positions, including general counsel, assistant general counsel, deputy counsel, legal counsel, corporate counsel, employment counsel, and litigation counsel – just to name a few!
  2. Compliance Counsel – Compliance counsel are also typically employed by a company, but are usually distinct from in-house counsel.  Compliance counsel oversee the company’s compliance with a particular Act or regulation.  There are many different areas of concentration for a compliance counsel, for example banking, securities, insurance, health-care, ADA, environmental, wage and hour, and ethics.
  3. Judges – There are many different types of judges including trial court judges, appellate court judges, magistrate judges, and administrative law judges. 
  4. Legislative Counsel – Work environments for legislative counsel can range from departments in the government to non-profit organizations.  Legislative counsel are responsible for policy analysis as well as drafting, interpreting, and applying legislation.

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