Earning a law degree can lead to any number of career paths. From the traditional law firm job to working for a non-profit, a law degree has the potential to help you succeed in any career path you decide to follow.
From a solo practice to working in offices with more than 500 attorneys, including litigation or transactional practices, and can be for- and not-for-profit law firms.
Opportunities with local, state, and federal agencies as lawyers, advocates, representatives, and policy analysts.
Corporate In-house Counsel
Typically focus on internal corporate legal issues including human resource management issues, contract review, sales, and compliance.
Careers with non-profit organizations, legal aid societies, and public defender offices all with the goal of helping others access justice.
Alternative Legal Careers
Careers give graduates the option to use their Juris Doctor degree in non-practice positions that may or may not be connected to the legal profession.
Areas of Focus
Many areas of practice can be sorted into four areas of focus:
Business & Finance
Areas of law that regulate commercial and financial transactions as well as the day-to-day internal legal issues that businesses and financial institutions face. Broadly, business law governs the buying and selling of goods and services, as well as the sale of business entities (mergers and acquisitions), and finance law governs financial transactions such as banking, investments, taxes, and bankruptcy.
Government & Policy
This focus incorporates a wide range of substantive areas of law in which attorneys in local, state, and federal offices advocate for the needs of the community as a whole and on behalf of other government offices or officeholders. Government attorneys also assist with policymaking or legislation including drafting, implementing, and assessing public policy and legislative initiatives.
Public Interest & Justice
Advocating for the rights of individuals in both civil and criminal matters. Often, these areas of practice assist indigent individuals or disenfranchised groups, including historically underrepresented groups, who face significant access to justice barriers.
Family & Estates
Focused on the relationships of individuals and families from birth to death. Family law solves the problems associated with a family unit including marriage, births, adoption and surrogacy, delinquency, abuse and neglect, and divorce. Estate law focuses on an individual’s decisions about personal and physical property and end-of-life directives during their lifetime and after.
Two Job Types
Graduates of law school often pursue traditional law careers that include serving as an attorney in litigation and non-litigation roles. Likewise, some graduates pursue alternate careers tangential to the law or completely away from the law. In considering your motivation to pursue a law degree, consider the following two job types.
Litigation paths encompass the various steps, processes, and procedures an attorney takes to bring or defend a civil or criminal matter in a court of law or before an administrative agency. This may include:
- Assessing and investigating a client’s legal issue;
- Filing and responding to pleadings and motions;
- Seeking and reviewing evidence as well as taking or defending depositions (discovery and eDiscovery);
- Preparing for hearings and trials by conferencing with the court and opposing counsel, developing trial strategies, and conducting witness prep;
- Conducting hearings and trials by selecting a jury (voir dire), presenting evidence, performing cross-examination, and making opening and closing statements;
- Applying various Alternative Dispute Resolution techniques throughout the course of preparing to go to trial including mediation, arbitration, negotiation, or settlement as well as crafting plea deals; and
- Preparing post-hearing documents and strategies, including appellate issues.
Non-litigation paths entail an attorney assisting clients with the legal side of business and personal matters by advising clients on strategic or required actions or drafting documents to execute transactions between one or more parties. Alternatively, non-litigation may include assisting businesses, government agencies, non-profits, and other organizations with management, lobbying, policy research, advocacy, or legislation. Examples of non-litigation attorney roles include:
- Assisting a corporation or business with commercial contracts, mergers, acquisitions, securities, financing, or regulatory matters;
- Helping an individual with the sale of land or personal property, estate planning, or end-of-life directives;
- Assessing risk;
- Guiding a governmental agency responsible for regulation, policy, or administrative functions;
- Leading a business or non-profit by managing and directing its mission as well as its people and financial resources;
- Advising or consulting on public policy, lobbying efforts, or organizational management; and
- Serving as a legislator or other elected official.