Despite the complexity, evaluating non-legal employment prospects may be well worth your time and effort. Depending upon the industry and position, the rewards can include: stable income and benefits, flexible hours, greater work-life balance, unlimited job growth potential, and the opportunity to develop yourself as a respected expert in a niche field.
Here are some tips for finding and securing a non-traditional legal job:
- Combine your legal education with another marketable skill. Strategically couple your legal education with another area of expertise or interest. It may be helpful to create a list of your marketable skills. Think about all of your education, employment, and volunteer experiences. Isolate the skills you developed or utilized during each experience. Consider how your legal education enhanced those skills. For example, if you have marketing and sales experience, consider the new sales markets available to you as an attorney. What new products are you now equipped to represent?
- Identify the strongest potential job markets: Some markets will value your J.D. more than others. Pay particular attention to those industries that are highly regulated or face unique legal complexities (e.g., medicine, research, environmental safety, construction safety, aviation, insurance, employment). Many employers face legal challenges such as leasing and purchasing real estate, hiring and firing employees, maintaining public access and special accommodations, protecting the privacy and security of financial and health records, and honoring consumer protection laws. Hiring a candidate with the ability to recognize and navigate potential legal pitfalls is especially important to these types of employers.
- Immerse yourself in an industry that appeals to you: Do you want to work for a company that remediates environmental contamination, but don’t know much about environmental law? Read the CFRs <http://www.epa.gov/lawsregs/regulations/>, spend time at the local law library learning about the topic, visit relevant industry and professional association websites, and consider attending a CLE or professional conference to gain more information. Don’t forget to contact your undergraduate and graduate alma maters to ask your alumni development office if any alumni are currently working in the field. If so, call them, invite them to coffee, and be prepared to ask questions.
- Place your legal education in context for non-legal employers: Present yourself as an asset to a potential employer. While a law firm’s hiring partner will place great emphasis on your law school performance and internship experience, a non-legal employer will typically not fully understand your legal education or how it may benefit its business. It is up to you to identify how your legal education can benefit the employer before you apply to the position. Focus your application materials on how your legal education prepared you to succeed in the position you are applying for; do not submit a “lawyer” resume to a non-legal position and expect success. For example, if a position requires you to manage a team of 100 employees, emphasize your thorough understanding of state and federal employment laws and your comfort working with and honoring union contracts.
- Search for a position! In addition to legal job boards and sites like indeed and LinkedIn, professional organization websites are an excellent source for targeted job postings.
Have a non-legal job? Using your J.D. in a creative way? Tell us about it in the comments!