The Ultimate Alternative Legal Careers


By Hillary Mantis

You may be struggling to find a practice area that you like right now. Or may not know if you ultimately want to practice law long-term at all.

For those in the latter category, you are in good company. Many lawyers who started out just like you have gone on to very high profile careers in other areas. So, think big!


You could be a writer

So many lawyers have gone on to become bestselling authors. Did you know that Kristin Hannah, author of the current bestseller, The Great Alone, and author of bestseller The Nightingale (voted a 2015 best book of the year by Amazon and Buzzfeed), is a former lawyer turned writer, according to her bio?

John Grisham, author of many bestsellers, some of whom feature lawyers (such as The Firm, which was made into a major motion picture) is a lawyer. Author Scott Turow, who is a bestselling writer of legal thrillers, is also a lawyer; and in fact still practices law in addition to writing books.

Emily Giffin, author of many bestselling novels including Something Borrowed, which was also made into a major motion picture, is a graduate of the University of Virginia Law School, according to Wikipedia.

Bestselling romance novelist Carly Phillips attended Boston University School of Law, according to her bio. In fact, there are many romance novelists with law degrees!  

Many famous nonfiction writers also have law degrees. Gretchin Rubin, bestselling author of the Happiness Project and the recent The Four Tendencies, attended Yale Law School and clerked for Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor before leaving law for her writing career.


You could be a television journalist

Did you know that many on air journalists are former lawyers? Many are legal commentators, such as Jeffrey Toobin, who attended Harvard Law School. Others have morphed into mainstream journalism, such as Savannah Guthrie, co-host of the Today Show, and graduate of Georgetown University Law School.

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo is a graduate of Fordham University School of Law. Jim Cramer, CNBC’s Mad Money host, attended Harvard Law School. Many television actors, including John Cleese, also studied law.


You could go into business

Many lawyers have started companies that became really successful.

Did you know that the co-founders of the California Pizza Kitchen are lawyers? They both were federal prosecutors before they cooked up the idea of their gourmet pizza chain. Larry Flax was educated at USC Law School and worked an as Assistant United States Attorney, according to the company history. Rick Rosenfeld also worked as an Assistant United States Attorney in California.

Tim and Nina Zagat, founders of the famous Zagat Restaurant Surveys are also lawyers. They met at Yale Law School and were practicing law when they founded Zagat Surveys, according to Wikipedia.


You could become President of the United States

Many United States Presidents practiced law before turning to politics, including most recently Barack Obama, who attended Harvard Law School.

Before, him there is a long list of Presidents who studied law, dating all the way back to John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Many Senate and Congressional seats are currently held by lawyers. In fact, The Congressional Research Service cites law (along with public service/politics, and business) as one the three dominant professional backgrounds in Congress.


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Hillary Mantis works with pre-law students, law students, and lawyers. She is Director of the Pre-Law Program at Fordham University and author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers. Questions about alternative legal careers? You can write to Hillary at