You’re living your dream—you secured your law degree, passed the bar and are now working at a prestigious law firm. That’s a tremendous accomplishment. However, if the demands of the billable-hour environment have dampened your enthusiasm, it may be time to step back and examine your options. Armed with a J.D., you have many career alternatives—opportunities that can build on your love of the law while offering you greater career fulfillment.
Consider the doors your recent experience and J.D. could open ...
INSIDE YOUR LAW FIRM
If you enjoy the law firm environment, but are no longer enamored with practicing law, you may want to pursue a different role within your own firm or a different one.
- Strategic Planning & Development—Larger firms with an eye on growth recognize the need for someone to focus on client development and business expansion. That means understanding current clients’ businesses, industries and concerns while looking for outside opportunities as well. This type of position affords you the opportunity to be creative and make an important contribution to the firm’s future billable hours.
- Technology Guru—If technology is your forte, you might want to explore related opportunities within your firm. With a solid understanding of law firm operations and your specialized knowledge of technology, you could make a vital contribution to your firm’s operations and future while enjoying the satisfaction of working in a dynamic field.
- Recruiting & Associate Development—New talent is the life blood of a law firm. Attracting the best and the brightest is the first challenge. Developing and retaining them is yet another challenge. Because you have lived the life of an associate, you know what they want, how they feel and what they need. What’s more, you know the firm’s expectations. Add your own “people skills” and a career in recruiting and development could be very rewarding.
- Public Defender—If public service is what drew you to study law, a career as a public defender may be just the answer for you. It’s a great opportunity to defend the rights of the disadvantaged. At the same time, it provides you with great trial experience, typically giving you a great deal of autonomy over cases and with it the opportunity to exercise creativity in legal arguments, plea bargaining and sentencing.
- Assistant City Attorney—Local city attorney offices offer a different environment for those burned-out on firm life. Those who practice as assistant city attorneys say they like the flexible hours, guaranteed salary and the fact that there’s no overhead to support. Moreover, it’s an opportunity to make a difference at the grassroots level.
- Administrative Agencies—City, state and federal government agencies offer you the opportunity to effect change, contribute to law and shape public policy in a wide variety of areas. What’s your passion—finance, antitrust, environment, housing, civil rights, telecommunications? Whatever your interest or specialty, it’s likely you’ll find an agency where you can put your J.D. to good use.
- The Judiciary—While no fast, sure-fire path to the bench exists, trial and arbitration experience, public service and diligence are good preparation. According to one civil court judge, being a member of the judiciary is a personally (though not necessarily monetarily) rewarding career.
If you enjoy the intellectual stimulation of research and writing but also want to share your knowledge of the law, teaching could be a rewarding career choice. With a more flexible schedule, you may have opportunity to teach, write and maintain a small practice as well. To jump-start this career, interview with various law schools at the annual recruiting conference of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS).
CAREER COUNSELING & RECRUITING
If you like to work with people and derive special satisfaction in helping them realize their professional goals, legal career counseling and recruiting could prove to be right for you. Plenty of opportunities exist in law schools, recruiting firms and bar associations. Or, if you are bold and have a well-established network, you may want to go solo.
Nonprofit organizations are rich with opportunities to use your J.D. and serve the greater good. Consider the various bar and legal professional associations, such as the American Bar Association (ABA). Perhaps, you’d like to be staff attorney for the ABA’s Center on Children and the Law or its Commission on Nonviolence, or maybe a Project Coordinator for the Office of Public Sector Lawyers. Career opportunities are as varied as the ABA’s numerous Centers, Sections, Divisions, etc.
Of course, there are countless other nonprofit organizations, associations and foundations who need staff attorneys to provide counsel, oversee certain affairs, lobby for their cause or litigate. What causes or special interests stir your soul? Perhaps, that is where you will find the greatest career satisfaction.
The world of business offers similar career opportunities. You can opt to be part of a large team of attorneys at a corporation like General Motors or Microsoft, where you can lend your expertise in antitrust, intellectual property or any number of specialties. Or, you may prefer to be the sole attorney or part of a small in-house department where you can be a vital resource to the business management team. It’s challenging work that typically involves you in a variety of issues and areas of law—from corporate to real estate law, from immigration to employment law and everything in-between.
BUSINESS & INDUSTRY
However, don’t think career opportunities in business are limited to the legal department. There are countless ways you could use your J.D., particularly with companies that sell their products and services to the legal profession. For example, look at some of the opportunities LexisNexis provides to those with a J.D.
- Publishing—Analytical ability, writing skills and knowledge of the practice of law are critical to the legal publishing segment of LexisNexis. There is huge demand for legal editors to create case-law summaries, edit court and administrative materials for citation purposes and resolve complex legal questions. In fact, such opportunities exist throughout our entire publishing family, including Shepard’s®, Mealey’s™, Michie™, Matthew Bender® as well as LexisNexis itself.
- Product & Marketing Management—A company that serves the legal profession needs people who are knowledgeable about the law and all aspects of its practice in order to develop products and services that meet user needs and expectations. At LexisNexis, such skills are particularly vital as we seek to provide increasingly specialized research and information management tools for specific practice areas.
- Training & Application Consultants—Your knowledge of the law and its practice can also be put to good use as a Training Consultant who acquaints new users—students, paralegals, attorneys and others—with the power and application of LexisNexis services. Likewise, we employ hundreds of Application Consultants who not only work one-on-one with legal professionals, showing them how to use information tools in their day-to-day work, but also conduct practice area workshops.
- Customer Service Representatives—Your J.D. and law firm experience are equally valuable to us as a Customer Service representative. When legal professionals phone into our 800 number for assistance, knowledgeable LexisNexis representatives use their education and experience to respond to their inquiries.
TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR CAREER
As you can see, career opportunities abound for people with your credentials. If you are not satisfied with your current niche, take charge of your career. Identify your passions and build your career around them.
A number of legal Web sites feature career centers where you’ll find career profiles, actual job listings and directories, as well as advice on career planning and launching a successful job search. Here are a few resources to get you started:
American Bar Association