Why did I go to law school again? A look at resources on alternative legal careers

by Katie Ginnane

As many of us law students contemplate the end of law school and the beginning of our legal career, we all have moments of doubt.  Whether you are a first year student just getting started or a third year student ready to get out, we have all asked ourselves the same question.

Why am I in law school?

Because firm life is the main trajectory of recent law school grads, we law students all assume it is the right career for us without researching our alternatives.  Looking at all your options throughout law school may help you realize how much you want to work at a firm, or it may start you down a path you never thought about prior to beginning law school. With the legal market the way it is, it may be worthwhile to research careers outside of firm work. Either way, here are some great resources about “life after law school” careers that may be worthwhile for those moments of uncertainty.

Here are some useful books available in the law library:

Non-legal Careers for Lawyers

  • Non-legal Careers for Lawyers is published by the American Bar Association.  It includes three sections.  The first section offers general advice on pursuing a non-legal career.  The second section is divided into several chapters addressing specific subject-area and the non-traditional opportunities within each.  Finally, it contains a list of additional resources for more comprehensive and personal research.

Should You Really Be a Lawyer? 

  • Should You Really Be a Lawyer is also divided into three subsections, two of which involve deciding to attend law and staying in law school.  The last section, Should You Really Practice Law?, addresses the decision of whether or not you should practice, including a self-assessment.  This book is useful for determining what you want to do, not necessarily at finding the right career alternative for yourself.

The Lawyer’s Career Change Handbook: More than 300 things you can do with your law degree 

  • The Lawyer’s Career Change Handbook offers insights into changing legal careers; however, it also provides a great list of opportunities within different fields of the law and resources to find out more about them.  This book provides helpful hints on honing in on marketable skills.  It is more focused on broad strategies for finding jobs than on individual career paths.

The Lawyer’s Guide to Finding Success in Any Job Market 

  • The Lawyer’s Guide to Finding Success in Any Job Market has one chapter specifically devoted to alternative law school careers.  In this book, the careers are divided into 8 subsections with information on who does it, what it is, what it pays and breaking into the industry.  It also lists pros and cons of alternative career choices, with some pros being few geographic restrictions, possibly increased job security and better life-work balance and some cons being reduced earning potential, loss of prestige and possible difficulty of returning to mainstream practice.

Outside of the library, Westlaw and Lexis have several articles outlining some alternative careers in their news sections.

Finally, the career services office is a great source for questions and advice about what to plan for if looking at alternative opportunities after law school and later in your career.

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