Alternative Careers

A law degree has long been touted as a “versatile” degree, offering an education in critical thinking, detailed research and analysis, writing and communication skills that can be a valuable asset in many work setttings.  In recent years, many law schools have seen an increase in the number of students seeking nontraditional jobs.  While this is obviously due in part to the tight legal job market, it also reflects the fact that law students are taking the time to evaluate what kind of career path is a good fit for them.  Loving what you do is the key to a successful career, and finding work that connects your education with your particular strengths or skills, passions, and interests is the first step toward finding that fit.

Common Non-practicing Career Paths

  • Academia: Teaching, higher education administration, compliance, development/advancement/fundraising
  • Legal Industry: Publishing, technology, law firm marketing or recruiting, professional development, library & technology, pro bono coordination, legal headhunters/search firms
  • Business: Banking/finance; sports & entertainment; healthcare; real estate; insurance; energy/environmental companies; other highly regulated industries
  • Nonprofit: Management/leadership/administration; advocacy; fundraising/development/grant-writing; foundations or charitable organizations; professional associations; service organizations; lobbying groups
  • Government: Public policy; foreign service; legislative (research and drafting); government relations

Key Steps Toward An Alternative Career

1. Assessment

  • What industries interest you? What skills do you have that are relevant to each particular industry?
  • What are you good at? What kind of work do you enjoy?
  • Why are you considering an alternative path?
  • What accomplishments/skills/experience do you have that are transferable?

2. Research & Planning

  • Read job descriptions – what sort of qualifications is the employer looking for?
  • Read trade journals, industry news, relevant blogs and other publications
  • Identify professional associations, networking groups, educational programs, etc.
  • Understand industry lingo/terminology
  • Get industry-relevant certifications and training

3. Networking

  • Conduct informational interviews with people in the industry
  • Attend events/conferences put on by relevant trade associations
  • Follow companies and associations on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Linked In etc.
  • Take every opportunity to meet with people in the industry. Networking is essential!

4. Patience

  • This is NOT the “easier” path
  • Rely heavily on networking and referrals.  There is no alternative careers jobs board for lawyers: your “alternative” career is a traditional path for someone else
  • Use all your resources: your career coach, people who are doing what you want to do, Wake Forest alumni, alumni from your undergraduate institution, your personal network, etc.

Alternative Career Resources

University of Arizona Rogers College of Law, Alternative Careers Handbook (contact the OCPD for login information)

NALP: Alternative Careers For Lawyers – Websites of Interest

What Can You Do With A Law Degree? – Deborah Arron (available in the OCPD Library)

National Trade & Professional Associations Directory (available in the OCPD Library)