More lawyers seeking alternative careers

By Hillary Mantis

Just 68.4 percent of the Class of 2010 are working in jobs where bar passage is necessary, according to the National Association for Law Placement employment report. This is the lowest percentage since NALP starting collecting these statistics.

Does this mean that more law grads are actively seeking jobs outside of the legal field because they want to combine their J.D. with another career? Or are they seeking non legal jobs because of the economy?

I would guess it’s both.

There have always been lawyers who seek careers in other fields where their J.D. may be an asset, whether the job market is great, or terrible. In fact, even Yale Law School reports that about ten percent of their alumni work in a business setting five years after graduation, according to a recent story in U.S. News & World Report.
The Yale alumni seem to have parlayed their J.D.’s into business careers, but others have moved into all sorts of other careers.
“There’s a huge variety of them,” commented James Leipold, Executive Director of NALP, addressing this topic as part of a “Career Options and Market Outlook for Attorneys” webinar sponsored by Michigan State U. College of Law.
“These are jobs that by definition, someone without a law degree could do,” he said. But a law degree can be an asset. “Often the J.D. is the thing that gets you the job.”
For those seeking alternative legal careers, whether because of the economy or your own interests, I would recommend that you start by:

• Reading market reports and statistics, to see what other fields are currently showing growth (see my recent blog post, Legal Hiring down despite Job Growth in other Areas of Economy, for some examples.) You will have more luck trying to get into a field that is growing.

• Thinking about transitional skills from your legal education that might lend themselves to other careers; for example, research and writing skills, counseling skills, and negotiation skills are often transferable to other careers.

Hillary Mantis is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers. You can write to Hillary at: