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Career Paths

What can You do with a Law Degree?

You may have entered law school with a clear direction in mind: You grew up watching Law & Order and intend to find a position as a prosecutor upon graduation. You’ve always dreamed of guiding clients through a company merger. You want to help immigrants obtain legal status in the United States. Many students come to law school with a less-than-clear vision of the future. Wherever you fall, these pages are designed to introduce you to the many options available to law school graduates, from the traditional law firm route, to a career in government policy, to running a business.

What does Law School Give You?

The traditional analytical and communication skills learned in law school are of value in a wide variety of work settings. Advocacy, problem-solving, research skills, clear and concise writing, the ability to view an issue from multiple angles: these are important skills that many different kinds of employers seek.

How do I Decide on my Career Path?

Choosing your career path is a process that begins the day you enter the legal profession – your first day of law school.  For the next three years, part of your education will be to discover the right career path for you.  Even if you come into law school with a set path in mind, it is important to learn as much as you can about all the different practice areas and employment settings available to law graduates. You may find yourself considering practice areas that you never knew about. In addition, you will want to balance your desires and interests with the needs of the market.

The Office of Career & Professional Development is committed to helping you identify and pursue your own career path.

Step 1: Assessment

Self-assessment is crucial. What are your strengths? What are your interests? What are your values? Understanding what is important to you will help you narrow down career options.

The OCPD has a number of self-assessment tools and resources to help you evaluate your goals, determine your strengths, and consider what career path may be the best fit for you.  One-on-one counseling with OCPD staff is also an excellent tool to assist with this process.

Step 2: Research

While you are going through the process of self-reflection, it is also important to learn as much as you can about different practice areas and the career opportunities available to law graduates.  Your coursework will give you some insight into different areas of law, but you should also take advantage of OCPD educational programming throughout the year.

Attending networking events where you can meet practicing attorneys, as well as conducting informational interviews with professionals who work in a field that interests you are both excellent ways to conduct thorough research.  By putting the time in, you will make an educated choice about which areas of practice or employer types to pursue.  This is the best way to ensure that you can find a job that is the best fit for you.

Step 3: Build practical skills

More and more employers are seeking employees with the practical skills to “hit the ground running” on their first day of work.  The law school recognizes this, and now offers classes with an emphasis on practical skill-building, as well as several clinics.  Doing pro bono work is also an excellent way to develop practical lawyering skills, as well as to grow as a professional.  Your summer experience, internships, and research projects are additional ways to gain as much practical experience as possible – be sure to take advantage of these opportunities, and seek out ways to take ownership of projects.

Step 4: Reassess

As your time in law school progresses, it’s important to circle back and reassess your values, goals, and strengths.  Finding the right career path is an ongoing process and takes time. You might find that the career choice you entered law school with is not the one that works out in the end, for a variety of reasons. Keep in mind that your first job out of law school is most likely not going to be your last.  Consider opportunities that may be building blocks for your future.  While it never hurts to have an ultimate goal in mind, there may be multiple paths to get there.

Be sure to use the many resources you have at your disposal.  Meet regularly with your career advisor, talk with your professors, seek out advice from practicing attorneys. The key to success is to be intentional about your career planning.