Law School and Jobs: Thinking Beyond Being a Lawyer

Written by Christi Hayes and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

All too often we think that the only reason anybody ever goes to law school is to become a lawyer. This assumption is understandable. After all, law school is hard work, expensive, and the very name of it (law school) suggests that most people are going through the grind of it in order to come out the other end as well-compensated attorneys. The truth, however, is that just because you have gone through law school does not mean that you need a job as a lawyer or even one in the legal profession. Let's look at just a few of the reasons why you should consider using your law degree for a career as something other than a lawyer.

  1. Lack of jobs

Law schools educate a lot of students every year and, unfortunately, not all of those students are going to be able to find jobs as lawyers. Furthermore, while some types of lawyers are in high demand, other areas of the law suffer from too many candidates and not enough positions. A lot of people tend to think that becoming a lawyer is a surefire way to making a good income, but the truth is that many lawyers struggle to pay down their student loans and work long hours with relatively low pay, especially at the beginning of their careers. Indeed, some areas of the law should be done for passion rather than for money. While working as a civil liberties lawyer may give you plenty of satisfaction (which is the most important thing, after all) don't expect it to pay very well, especially if you are just starting out. Additionally, you may have to do a lot of pro bono work at the start of your career in order to build up your reputation and attract more lucrative clients.

  1. Law school skills areĀ transferable

The great thing about training to be a lawyer is that it prepares you to do a large number of tasks and jobs. Your law school education will give you the training to think logically and critically, write well and clearly, speak engagingly, interpret complex ideas, and research difficult to understand information. While those are skills that are great for lawyers, they are also very useful for, say, corporate executives, journalists, investment bankers, small business owners, politicians, consultants, and so on. Furthermore, just getting through law school shows that you are determined, focused, and hardworking--skills that come in handy in almost any workplace!

  1. Being a lawyer isn't always fun

Way too many people choose to become a lawyer for one reason and one reason only: to make money. Sadly, as pointed out above, becoming a lawyer isn't necessarily a ticket to easy riches. Furthermore, as a lawyer you can expect to work ridiculously long hours, take phone calls from clients at odd hours, and wonder where your social life went. Those sorts of demands are fine if you are passionate about being a lawyer, but if you only got into law for the money then don't be surprised if you start suffering from burnout pretty quickly. Maybe a better solution would be to take the skills you learned in law school and apply them to a job you would actually enjoy.

  1. Do you really want to be a lawyer?

This is the most important question you should ask yourself after coming out of law school and yet it is sadly one that far too many people fail to even consider. That's understandable: after all, after going through the grind of law school, it can be downright terrifying to then realize you don't actually want to be a lawyer. While that is a frightening prospect, it's much better to be honest with yourself and acknowledge the possibility that law is not right for you now rather than learning it the hard way in ten years when you find yourself burnt out and in a career you don't love. If the answer to this question is a no, then you need to ask yourself the next question...

  1. What do you want to do?

Now that you know you don't want to be a lawyer, what is it that you want to do? If you are fortunate enough to not have to worry about money then you have far more options about what the next step in your life is going to be. That's because you can choose any career you want and, if you need to, head back to school in order to qualify for that job. If you are like most people, however, law school will have left you with plenty of debt and going back to school is not going to be much of an option. But don't panic! You still have lots of avenues open to you. Remember, law school has given you plenty of skills that can be used in many different professions. Make a list of jobs that you would love to do and then narrow down that list to ones where your law degree skills would come in handy (and which require little, if any, extra education).

  1. Consider your options

For example, if you've always dreamed of representing people in the arts and entertainment industries as an agent, then a law degree will have given you the skills you need to persuade publishers, movie executives, and others about the creative merits of your client. Likewise, you could easily apply your critical thinking and research skills to a life as a journalist. If politics has always been a passion of yours then your law school experience gives you the skills and knowledge of the law that you will need to either run for office yourself or to work on the staff of a politician whose policies you support.

If your dream in life is to become a lawyer then by all means go for it! Lawyers, despite being the butt of plenty of bad jokes, do a lot of good for society. However, don't think that just because you went to law school that you have no choice but to work in the legal sector. As you can see above, a law school degree gives you many skills that can help you succeed in a broad range of industries, many of which have nothing to do with law!

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