Category Archives: Exploring Alternative Legal Careers

NY Times Article on Midlife Career Changes

On Sunday the NY Times published an interesting article on midlife career changes.  The article features two former attorneys and does a really great job of highlighting the difficulties of following your career dreams – demanding hours (even demanding by an attorney’s standards), economic uncertainty, loss of career prestige.  The article is a reminder that the reality of following your dreams is never as idyllic as you imagine.  In the end, however, the obstacles make the journey richer. I won’t ruin the end of the article for you, but I urge you to read it – I think you will find it reaffirming.  Happy reading!  (Click here to read the article.)

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Alternative Career Spotlight: Law Firm Marketing

Ever thought of using your law degree to get into law firm marketing?  Most large and mid-size law firms have a marketing person or an entire marketing department.  Let’s explore!

Sample job responsibilities include:

  • Developing the firm’s brand and marketing materials
  • Counseling attorneys on issues related to business development, client retention, and cross-marketing to existing clients
  • Overseeing the firm’s communication with the public including press releases, attorney articles, electronic news alerts, and other marketing communication materials
  • Improving the firm’s visibility to the public
  • Researching, identifying and producing targeted client prospect lists
  • Coordinating and implementing internal and external events
  • Developing and monitoring marketing budgets
  • Researching regional and national industry trends

Sample Job Titles:

  • Marketing Specialist
  • Marketing Manager / Marketing Coordinator
  • Business Development Manager
  • Client Relations Manager
  • Marketing Technology Specialist
  • Proposal Coordinator

Sample Experience Requirements:

  •  Excellent writing, editing, communication (oral and written), interpersonal and analytical skills
  • Undergraduate degree in English, Journalism, Communications, Marketing, Business or a related field
  • Business development and client management knowledge
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Computer proficiency including a knowledge of Word, PowerPoint, Excel
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Ability to organize and prioritize multiple projects
  • Knowledge of law firm practice areas

Want to find out more information about this career?  Want to know how you can position yourself for this career?  Come meet with a CSD counselor!

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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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So What Can I Do with My JD?

I often hear the question, “So, what can I do with my JD other than practice law?”  That is a very broad question!!  And the very broad answer is, “Almost* anything!”   

Deciding what kind of alternative legal career is right for you depends on a lot factors.  One of the biggest factors is your background – your undergraduate degree, any other graduate level degrees, and prior work experience.  It also depends on your interests, your goals, and your network of connections.

Further, what you can do with your JD can be thought of as a continuum – on one end, those jobs that are very closely related to being an attorney (think paralegal) and on the other end, those jobs where having a law degree helps develop your skills but is not required (think real estate developer). 

So what are some job examples along that continuum?

Closely related careers

  • Paralegal
  • Contract administrator
  • Law school librarian
  • Insurance claims examiner
  • Compliance officer
  • Dispute resolution professional
  • Clerk of court
  • Lobbyist
  • Undergraduate legal studies instructor
  • Grant writer
  • ADA coordinator
  • Director of law firm marketing
  • Law enforcement officer
  • Market research analyst
  • Journalist
  • Financial planner
  • Real estate agent

Indirectly related careers

These are just a very few examples of what you can do!  Since everyone is unique, it is a good idea to meet with a career counselor to find a field or area of alternative legal careers that is right for you. 

*Like any good attorney, everything must be prefaced!! 

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