Match me to a career field!
May 20, 2020 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out what I want to do in life. After working with a career coach, I have more awareness around my distinguishing characteristics and what I like/don't like, but I don't know where I want to take it. I'm 30 and have a J.D. but don't want to practice law. Below the fold: (1) my vague sense of what I'm looking for (2) list of likes/dislikes (3) info about me.

Looking for:
- An environment with some structure
- A culture that's not super-competitive
- The opportunity to make good money down the road

- Thinking about systems, creating workflows, redesigning processes, and how to organize people
- Better understanding complex things and finding easy-to-understand ways to explain them
- Feeling connected to the people I'm working with
- Talking to and interacting with people
- Being looked to as a leader, mentor, or expert
- Presenting

- Emotionally challenging work
- Under-resourced environments
- Negative cultures

I am:
- Very motivated
- Achievement-oriented
- Disciplined
- Creative
- Smart
- Not adversarial
- Sweet
- Naturally detail-oriented
- Good at making things
- Interested in studying the body (e.g. anatomy, yoga, physical therapy-type things)
- Musically inclined
- Good at logical, analytic thinking (99th percentile on the LSAT) but haven't felt happy exercising this side of me
- Moving to NYC (where I'm from) or Philadelphia in a year or less
- Parent to a 15-month-old and hoping to have another kid soon (though please don't make this the main consideration, as I'm looking for long-term paths)
- Able to consider opportunities that don't make a ton of money at the beginning

The Question: Would you please (a) suggest career paths / opportunities I might pursue long-term and (b) tell me if there's anything more entrepreneurial I could do that would still have some structure and otherwise fit my profile?
posted by melancholyplay to Work & Money (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Lobbying, management consulting, and non-profit consulting are areas that get brought up a lot for non-practicing JDs that want leadership or advisory positions that involve working closely with people.

Non-profit management and political campaigns are another possibility, but those are likely to be "under-resourced environments" unless you're talking about a large, wealthy non-profit or large, well-funded campaign.

You mention not wanting to practice law, but did you take the bar? Did you ever practice? Having some substantive legal experience may open some doors even if you won't be working in that capacity. For example, the major legal research services (e.g. Westlaw and Lexis) employ a lot of attorney-editors to write headnotes and other analysis. I don't know if that would offer a lot of leadership or personal interaction to begin with, but it might be possible to work up to a managerial role in such a company. There are similar kinds of roles in the legal tech startups that are constantly sprouting up.
posted by jedicus at 1:13 PM on May 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

Project management.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:19 PM on May 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

I worked with a JD at a big defense contractor. He had a plum job helping feds get their policy & practices in order. Some writing, but not legal stuff. Variety of clients and projects.
posted by j_curiouser at 1:39 PM on May 20, 2020

I worked with a JD at a big defense contractor. He had a plum job helping feds get their policy & practices in order. Some writing, but not legal stuff. Variety of clients and projects.

Ah yes, compliance management is another law-adjacent field and likely to be a growth area in the US.
posted by jedicus at 1:43 PM on May 20, 2020 [5 favorites]

You might do well as an advertising planner / strategist.
posted by Mchelly at 1:46 PM on May 20, 2020

Mrs Fabius says -

I have a very similar set of likes/dislikes, and realised in the run up to qualification as a solicitor (I'm in England) that I was in completely the wrong role.

There are an increasing number of roles in big firms for people with some background in law but who don't want to be a front line attorney. Often we are professionals looking for a better work-life balance, sometimes because of family responsibilities, sometimes "just because". Firms have realised that having employees who have an understanding of how the law, and lawyers and their clients, work, is hugely valuable in all parts of their business, not just the practicing attorney community.

I've found my perfect home in Knowledge Management having arrived there via Technology. Over the past 20 years I've been all of the following:

Business Analyst then Project Manager in the Technology department
Learning & Development Officer in HR
Online Manager in KM/Marketing & BD (running the firm's website providing a range of online legal services)
Knowledge Management Consultant

The jobs have all been with international firms, and my current employer has offices in the US. One observation is that legal KM is at a more advanced stage in Europe (including the UK), the Middle East and Asia than it is in the US. But there are roles such as the ones I've done in the US.

I don't really draw upon my knowledge of the law at all, but rather use my understanding of how lawyers do / need to do their jobs, and how to help them deliver the services what their clients are looking for. I'm a real people person, with great attention to detail and love problem solving and getting good things done. To give you a flavour, two things I do in my current position are to manage the firm's databases and to advise on and do document automation.

If you were interested in making more active use of your JD then the roles to look at would be KM Lawyer / Professional Support Lawyer, but these often ask for some experience as a practising attorney. But not always!

Unlike the attorney role, the same set of responsibilities can have any number of differing job titles, and sometimes you'll find these roles listed as some of the job openings for lawyers and sometimes we will be listed under eg Business Services - but we are there!

So - have a scout around the websites of the larger firms in the cities you're targeting to see what non-practising job opportunities are on offer and take a look at the job descriptions to get a sense of which ones appeal.

Good luck!
posted by fabius at 2:13 PM on May 20, 2020 [7 favorites]

I don't know much about Law Librarianship and it would require going back to school, however that program can be done in 1 year as opposed to the typical 2 year master's for an MLIS degree (at least that's the case at University of Washington where I got my MLIS). Unfortunately, I don't know what the prospects are in terms of job availability and competition for that branch of librarianship. Other librarians can chime in on that particular.
posted by acidnova at 2:21 PM on May 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Yes, I was coming in to suggest looking at law librarianship. It meets all of your criteria except for possibly being under-resourced, but that might depend based on whether you were a law librarian at a law school or at a firm. I'm also not intimately familiar with the job prospects in this field of librarianship but you might find more info here.
posted by stellaluna at 3:00 PM on May 20, 2020

Any management job would include most of your likes.

The more entrepreneurial side might include executive / management coaching.
posted by Spokane at 6:28 PM on May 20, 2020 [1 favorite]

Data Privacy! I'm most familiar with this function from a healthcare data perspective as HIPAA requires a designated privacy officer but I expect these roles exist in nearly all industries. In larger orgs, this would be part of the compliance function. I think a JD would be a prime qualification.

In my org, the data privacy team interpret international, federal and state regulations and provide guidance and consulting on projects. They are also responsible for the standard HIPAA training program and develop and lead other privacy related learning programs. Data privacy regulations are created/changed often (like GDPR or individual state privacy laws) so there is quite a bit of growth and lots of opportunities to be the expert consulted. Some technical knowledge or background is probably helpful.

I've seen references in compliance job postings to the Certified Information Privacy Professional certification which may be a path to pursue or at least investigate.
posted by thatquietgirl at 7:31 PM on May 20, 2020

I worked at several major insurance companies in the US as an analyst. You might look at them for positions like legal compliance, contract strategy, etc. The "understanding complex things and finding easy-to-understand ways to explain them" can be a big part of explaining insurance policies to the rest of the team or customers.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:42 AM on May 21, 2020

Would require more school, but: epidemiology. (If I had written that six months ago, few people would know what it is. But now: everyone is an armchair epidemiologist.). Most epidemiology is NOT about viruses and outbreaks - it is about conducting different kinds of research to determine if, how and why different groups of people have different health outcomes, and then explaining this in a way that makes sense to other scientists and lay audiences. You get to think about how to set up experimental situations that will hold up and aren't subject to bias; work with and analyze data that you generate; connect it to other existing trends. It is about people, but you don't have to be a people person to do it. Many different subfields and new developments to get enjoyably lost in (molecular epidemiology! Epigenetics! Using machine learning and AI to better detect differences!). Pay is not top notch, but not bad. Variety of places that could employ you - research facilities, cancer centres, large medical centres, public health departments, CDC, etc. Major drawback: most people will have a hard time pronouncing your new profession.
posted by sonofsnark at 1:04 PM on May 21, 2020

Thanks for the thoughtful responses! I'm not marking any answers as "best" because I would choose all of them, but thank you if you contributed.

For those that asked, I am indeed barred and practiced for two years and change (corporate law, capital markets at a big global firm). I didn't mention it in the original ask because I wanted the focus to be on non-law and opportunities that rely less on my logical/analytical thinking. I am very happy not to be using my knowledge of finance and corporate law in my current work and don't want to go back to it in the future.
posted by melancholyplay at 2:33 PM on May 21, 2020

« Older How to ease recovery from hysterectomy?   |   Top Gear episode about "The Italian Job"? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments