To call all of the careers outside the traditional private practice of law "alternatives" is a bit misleading because in 2011 less than 50% of law school graduates nationwide entered the private practice of law. Most people understand “alternatives” as including all jobs, whether JD required or JD preferred, outside the traditional practice. These include government, corporate and business positions as well as non-profits and academia.

Whether you are looking for an alternative career straight out of law school or looking to transition into an alternative career, your law school education will serve you well.  Learning to market the skills you have developed as opposed to the degree itself can be key when you start seeking out positions.  One key to a successful alternative career search is to remember that it is only an alternative for YOU, not for everyone else.   You need to learn the lexicon of your chosen field and frame your education and experience in light of the skills they are seeking.  It is up to you to “connect the dots” between your legal education and the requirements of the job.

If you have decided to pursue an alternative career while still a law student, you should look into the class offerings and see which classes best fit with your long term goals.  Remember, you also can take a certain number of graduate hours toward your law degree. Take time to explore all your options and consider making an appointment to talk to career services and/or your academic advisor.


Skills Often Used By Lawyers/Transferable Skills

Ability to build networks, networking                                     Ability to get along with colleagues

Ability to be a team player                                                     Ability to inspire confidence

Advocating                                                                             Analytical abilities

Assembling/structuring deals                                                Business planning

Commitment, drive                                                                Common sense

Counseling                                                                            Developing business/marketing

Financial management/analysis                                            Formulating a strategy

Good judgment                                                                     Interviewing

Leadership                                                                            Management

Managing complex tasks                                                       Managing staff, people

Mediating                                                                              Negotiating

Oral advocacy, public speaking                                             possess good political judgment

Productivity, work under pressure                                        Quality control/ attention to detail

Relating to, communicating with clients                                Researching, fact gathering

Solving problems creatively                                                  Writing, drafting



Words Associated with JD Preferred Positions

Analyst/Analysis                                  Claims                   Compliance             Investigate/Investigator

Regulatory/Regulations                       Research               Writing                   

Positions Often Sought Out by Non-Practicing Attorneys

ADA Officer


Affirmative Action Officer

Alternative Dispute Resolution


Bankruptcy Analyst

Benefits Coordinator

Code Enforcement Officer

Compliance Officer

Consultant/Policy Analyst

Contract Analyst Administration/Analyst

Contract Negotiator

Copyright/Patent Examiner

Court Administrator

Customs Officer

Director of Legislative Affairs

Director of Regulatory Affairs

Insurance Claims Examiner

Insurance Risk Manager

Investment Banker

Jury Consultant

Labor Negotiator

Law Librarian

Law Professor

Law School Career Services Counselor

Legal Publishing

Legal Recruiter

Legal Writing Instructor

Legal Services Director

Legislative Assistant

Litigation Support


Political Strategist


School District Administrator

Securities Fraud Investigator


Trial technology consultant

Undergrad Professor of Law

University Administration

University Judicial Affairs

Victim Services Coordinator

Workers’ Comp. Specialist

NALP has a useful section of their website which walks you through how a resume might look for a traditional legal job as opposed to an alterantive position in academic administration or alternative dispute resolution.  Click here to see additioanl resources:

Just because you have a law degree, does not mean you have to practice law.  Having your JD can open doors for you and provide you with the skills and knowledge base that could lead to a successful career in many different areas.  In addition to interweaving alternative options throughout our programming, the Career Services Office has an entire week dedicated to exploring alternative legal careers every February.  These alternative careers could be in the area of compliance, the government, or the private sector.  The possibilities for an alternative legal career are endless!


Some of the most common alternatives to private practice include the following employers:

Government Agencies

Health Care Industry

Banking & Finance

Alternative Dispute Resolution


Small Business Ownership