Alternative Legal Careers

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.

Transferable Skills

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

Common Words

Words Associated with JD Preferred Positions

  • Analyst/Analysis Claims Compliance Investigate/Investigator
  • Regulatory/Regulations Research Writing

Common Positions

Positions Often Sought Out by Non-Practicing Attorneys

  • ADA Officer
  • Admissions
  • Affirmative Action Officer
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • ATF/DEA/FBI Agent
  • 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
  • Lobbyist
  • Political Strategist
  • Reporter
  • School District Administrator
  • Securities Fraud Investigator
  • Teacher
  • Trial technology consultant
  • Undergrad Professor of Law
  • University Administration
  • University Judicial Affairs
  • Victim Services Coordinator
  • Workers’ Comp. Specialist

NALP Resources

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 additional resources.

Common Alternatives

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
  • Compliance
  • Small Business Ownership
  • Insurance
  • Politics