Figuring Out What to Do with That Law Degree

You’re putting in the hard work at a good law school and thinking about what to do after you earn your Juris Doctor. That degree can help you along with several career paths, but first, you need to decide what you want to do. What is the plan for the near future? What are your long-term career goals? You might think that the obvious answer is to become a lawyer; however, the reality is that not everyone with a law degree goes into the practice. Even if you decide to become an attorney, there are still plenty of career options.

Private Sector

Some of the obvious career paths for a law student is to practice law as part of the private sector. This includes working as an attorney for a big legal firm with multiple offices that specializes in one or more several types of practice. You may work for a small or boutique firm that focuses on certain types of cases. In both scenarios, you start off as an associate with the long-term goal of becoming a partner at your firm. You may even think about having a solo practice in a niche market or in an underserved location. Another career option to consider is working as an in-house lawyer for a corporation. These businesses usually require educated staff to advise them on legal issues as it relates to their operations. Your expected salary in a private sector is estimated at around $75,803 (source).

Public Sector and Government

Many attorneys find jobs working in the government at the federal, state and local levels. You could work as a public defender or in the district attorney’s office, where you prosecute cases in a particular jurisdiction. A Court Officer Salary in the US ranges between $28,491 and $80,843. Many regulatory boards are staffed with lawyers who have to understand how regulations dictate how business is conducted. At the federal level, most agencies such as The Department of Justice, Homeland Security and others require staff who are experts when it comes to the law. Some attorneys go on to become judges, like Judge Mike Tawil who has to be deeply knowledgeable of the law to interpret it as it relates to hearing cases and making rulings. Many politicians, from congresspersons to presidents, have a legal background.

Non-Legal Career Options

A legal education can lead you to paths outside of the practice of law. If you really love chewing on and processing all things legal, you might consider working in higher education as a law professor. Legal publishing and journalism require staff with educational backgrounds in law. You may consider working in other fields such as consulting, marketing and finance, among others, which rely on personnel that are experts and specialists in various knowledge areas. Working for a nonprofit organization is another consideration. These charities and organizations need personnel who can make sense of regulations as part of their operations.

Your career possibilities are practically endless when you have a Juris Doctor. A legal education demonstrates to would-be employers that you have transferable skills that are useful in many types of jobs. Law students have to be able to research information, process data, make assessments based on applied logic and communicate effectively both written and orally.