Dont want to be a lawyer but I got the degree
April 25, 2006 7:59 PM   Subscribe

Legalfilter: What are some cool/interesting things you can do with a law degree if you don't want to practice law.
posted by Dr_Octavius to Work & Money (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:24 PM on April 25, 2006

Possibly consulting or some strains of banking, depending on your background. I'm not sure how much these options depend on the prestige of your law school; talk to your office of career serivices if you're still a student or recent grad.

Also, don't write off practice altogether if you're just afraid of big firm life... talk to some small-time attorneys where you live, lots of times small-business lawyers can do interesting stuff and develop real community connections as well as having a decent lifestyle potential.
posted by rkent at 8:31 PM on April 25, 2006

Write? Books, magazine articles, newspaper columns...
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:55 PM on April 25, 2006

you could try working for a NGO.
posted by Kifer85 at 9:04 PM on April 25, 2006

Politics. Law degree is a classic entre into politics. Or go to grad school and get a second degree in policy studies or legal history and you can combine the two.
posted by jak68 at 9:08 PM on April 25, 2006

I second working for an NGO. I know a few folks with law degrees who are working for non-profits directing various projects (not law related).
posted by jdl at 9:23 PM on April 25, 2006

i have a friend who spent a small fortune to attend Drake so that he could take his shiny new law degree and join the FBI.

That's right, Doc Oc, you too could be a G-man. (Assuming you meet the physical fitness, psych profile, etc)

Sounds like a cool job to me.
posted by quin at 9:31 PM on April 25, 2006

I'm in school to get my paralegal certificate and all of my teachers have law degrees - in other words, they're also lawyers, but they teach on the side.
posted by invisible ink at 10:32 PM on April 25, 2006

also, maybe look into real estate. yeah, the bubble's bursting, but from what i hear you learn a lot of real estate in law school and if im not mistaken, in many states getting on the bar also means a real estate liscense.
posted by Kifer85 at 10:32 PM on April 25, 2006

I'm in advertising now - graphic design, really - and i still (kind of) use my law degree and legal experience every day. Comes in handy with copyright and trademark issues; it helps me write advertising copy; it gives me a credibility and rapport with professional/legal/political clients that other 'creatives' don't tend to have; it's helped me write my own contracts, incorporate my own businesses, etc., etc... the list goes on. it helps me in ways i never expected.

What I'm saying is this: do whatever you want to be doing. do what you're good at. do what you love. If you're escaping the legal profession, it's probably because you found it unsatisfying at least, soul-killing at worst - so don't just settle for the next closest thing, or something you've never considered before, just because it's tangential to law. Do something that will make you happy, and your law degree will contribute in ways you may not even be able to imagine now.

I love what i do now; i enjoy getting up in the mornings to do my work. it wasn't like that before. Design was always my thing, yours is probably something different. but if you're going to take this big of a step, make the most of it.

my e-mail's in the profile if you ever want to chat about it. :)
posted by ab3 at 10:36 PM on April 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm a judge's associate -- what the yanks call a law clerk.

I second ab3: do whatever you want. A law degree is useful in a whole range of different ways -- not only for the legal knowledge it implies, but also for the mere fact that it demonstrates your ability to stick out a pretty hard course over a number of years.

And I am indebted to the Continental Operative for exposing me to Justice Learned Hand's explanation as to how he ended up in law school:
Evidently, the great Learned Hand attributed his decision to go to law school to "weakness" and a "great and almost, as it seems, unconquerable nervousness and lack of confidence". Hand explained:
You see, the family had all been lawyers . . . . And there it was. Law has always been a kind of slop box for boys who don't know what else they want to do anyway. It's decent and it may lead to something or it may not. So I found myself in the law school. And there were a lot of men I knew who had gone in for the same reason -- they didn't know what else to do.
That about sums it up.
posted by robcorr at 1:58 AM on April 26, 2006

Fundraising, especially planned giving (estate gifts, trusts, etc.).
posted by SashaPT at 3:09 AM on April 26, 2006

The two richest (economically) guys I ever met, one a current congressman, were lawyers who never practiced. They got good business advantage from their legal education.

Regardless of what you do with your legal education, it is marvellous preparation for being a citizen and very enlightening as to how things really work. I sometimes joke that everyone should be REQUIRED to get one.

It will also set you apart from the competition extremely well, regardless of what job you are competing for.
posted by FauxScot at 3:32 AM on April 26, 2006

Tucker Max has a law degree and has become a professional partier: his site
posted by thilmony at 5:25 AM on April 26, 2006

Tucker Max is also a tool, but I don't recommend you couple your law degree with tooldom.

You could work in legal publishing and/or as a legal writer. I work for a legal and professional publisher as an editor, and I'm surrounded by lawyers who are mostly fine people who love to write about the law.
posted by orange swan at 5:57 AM on April 26, 2006

Law librarianship is fun and interesting, and you often don't need a library degree if you have the J.D. I'm always willing to talk up the profession- email's in my profile if you have any questions!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:06 AM on April 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

Also, you could work for Lexis or West as a reference attorney or do training for them.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:43 AM on April 26, 2006

Another vote for the ab3 school of thought...I finished law school, passed the bar, and promptly became an entrepreneur. It's amazing how much more seriously people will take you (especially if, like me, you don't seem an obvious fit for your industry -- I was a woman in an offshoot of the used car business and frequently both the youngest person and only female in the room) with an Esq. after your name on your business card, and what you know about contracts, property, and all the other good 1L stuff never stops being useful.

I'm currently a part-time graphic designer in the middle of launching a literacy nonprofit, and my law degree somehow comes in handy just about every day. It's a tool you now have, not a tunnel you're stuck in. Do what you love.
posted by picopebbles at 6:57 AM on April 26, 2006

Yet another vote for ab3. I went to law school with the express intent of not practicing law. I am a law firm marketer. I am employed by a law firm as their marketing director - and I make the same salary many starting attorneys in my city.

Admitted to practice, yes, but I don't actively practice. It's also handy to have a law license for those times when you need it - I do wills and closings and such.
posted by MeetMegan at 8:51 AM on April 26, 2006

I teach businesspeople how to manage and resolve their own conflicts, thereby helping them avoid hiring lawyers (my former classmates). The field of conflict management is growing and offers all kinds of possibilities: teaching negotiation, mediating, arbitrating, etc. You can practice dispute resolution anywhere from the corporate world to the schoolhouse to government. If you're interested, you can poke around the web for more info and then contact me (e-mail's in my profile).
posted by equipoise at 9:02 AM on April 26, 2006

Apparently the lone voice of pessimism: I've found my law degree to be an unmitigated liability, and frequently omit it from my resume now that there's enough subsequent work experience to keep the the resume from looking like there are much more serious issues than a JD at play.

The situation will probably vary according to the amount and type of work history you have when you get out of law school, though.
posted by dilettante at 1:38 PM on April 26, 2006

Apparently the lone voice of pessimism: I've found my law degree to be an unmitigated liability, and frequently omit it from my resume now that there's enough subsequent work experience to keep the the resume from looking like there are much more serious issues than a JD at play

Hope this doesn't count as a derail: what do you do that makes a JD a liability?? email me if you don't want to discuss it in public; just wanna make sure it's not one of the things I have as a backup plan...
posted by rkent at 3:14 PM on April 26, 2006

rkent: I've emailed an overly detailed explanation.

banjo_and_the_pork: are you accepting inquiries from interested partes other than the original poster?
posted by dilettante at 9:16 PM on April 26, 2006

Possibly you've already considered this, but there are lots of types of law. Filing SEC documents is nothing like helping people through a bankruptcy. Divorce work isn't like criminal defense. There are a lot of possibilities. Maybe there's a niche you'd like?
posted by MollyNYC at 10:33 AM on April 28, 2006

okay, dilettante - i don't know exactly how it's been a liability for you, but i will admit that even in my case, it was a bit of a stumbling block just coming out of the gate. in a few of the first interviews i went on after making the break, the interviewers pretty much came out and said, "why should we hire you? you're just going to quit and go back to law as soon as you get bored dabbling in design." or "we could never pay you the money you must want" or "you're clearly overqualified" or something like that.

i soon learned to preclude that from happening by simply being very direct about the law degree, mentioning it before they did - in fact, usually in the cover letter accompanying my resume - explaining why i left the law field, that i was sincerely more interested in a design career, more than willing to take the pay cut, and in addition, how the law degree actually makes me a better designer and an asset to their company.

being up front about it obviously worked, because it soon ceased to be an issue. and the more experience i've gotten since, the less it even comes up.
posted by ab3 at 10:11 PM on April 28, 2006

ab3, I believe it was a huge obstacle for several years, based on conversations I've had with people who had made hiring decisions in the past, and based on the fact that there were apparently special discussions higher up than usual about whether it would be okay to hire me at the place I am now. I've been at the same company for 7 years, and I was told about the questions when I was brought on - the discussion centered on the JD and whether I'd stick around.

I used to try to confront the question head-on, as well, but now I downplay it. Someone who does resume/cover letter review nearly had a stroke when she saw I'd addressed it in a cover letter - said it was drawing attention to a negative point. And these days I can just leave it off entirely unless someone asks, on certain kinds of resumes.

I admit it's nowhere near as bad anymore, but now there's the track record of staying in one place for a very long time. It's funny, because now employers don't seem to be so cautious, and now the job situation is unstable enough that I really have considered going back into law if I see anything appropriate. But coming right out of law school, the JD was crippling.
posted by dilettante at 2:10 PM on April 29, 2006

write a Broadway musical, win a Tony Award, make a fortune, and make your parents very proud. simple. (Avenue Q).
posted by jeffmarx at 12:24 AM on April 30, 2006

I have not had the same experience as ab3 and dilettante. I don't know how long ago either of you graduated law school, but I graduated about 18 months ago, and it was absolutely no problem. However, I was going into a career where my J.D. was an asset. YMMV.
posted by MeetMegan at 9:25 AM on April 30, 2006

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