Alternative career paths for legal professionals

Woman standing at a crossroads
Is your fire for the legal profession waning? There are plenty of things you can do with your legal training besides practicing law. Here are our top six alternatives.

Whether you’re an attorney, paralegal, or other legal professional, you spent blood, sweat, and tears to get where you are today. Maybe you loved it for a while but the fire is waning. Maybe you’re finally ready to admit that it was never your thing. Or maybe you just always want to keep your options open.

Whatever the reason that you are starting to consider other potential career paths, there are plenty of things you can do with your legal training besides practicing law.

#1: Become a freelance writer

Regardless of the type of law you’re practicing (and regardless of whether you’re an attorney or other legal professional), you’re already a professional writer. Let’s face it, writing is a huge part of your daily life. Whether you’re drafting file memos, legal briefs, client letters, or business contracts, every word you put on a page is practice for your professional writing career.

As an added bonus, you probably have a persnickety partner or two who you will later recognize as the best copy editors of your life. Lawyers are highly particular people when it comes to grammar. And, chances are, you’ve been on the receiving end of some of the best red pens in the business. While you may hate it now, those people are simply preparing you for your future career in writing.

Of course, I’m a little biased in this regard. I gave up my civil litigation practice to become a writer. And nothing could have prepared me better for that career than being an attorney. If you’re still not convinced, just study the works of John Grisham, Marjorie M. Liu, David Drake, Lisa Scottoline, or Scott Turow. All of them were attorneys before becoming successful novelists.

Read more >> Should you become a freelance paralegal?

#2: Legal recruiting

If you’ve practiced law in any capacity, you have undoubtedly received phone calls, emails, and texts from a headhunter. And, if you’ve spent time talking to any of these individuals, you know that many of them are former practitioners who, like you, got fed up with the business.

Legal recruiters can still make great money without any billable hour requirement and they have great flexibility in their schedule. So, if you feel like you want to leave the practice of law without walking too far away, this may be an option for you.

#3: Corporate training & coaching

Perhaps you were drawn to a career in law because you’re skilled at talking with people. Maybe you’re a natural leader. Or, perhaps you have a great sense of humor and a knack for delivering honest (if not difficult) messages with kindness and compassion. If you possess any of those skills, you would probably make a great corporate trainer or career coach. The good news is, this is a relatively stress-free business where one can reap great satisfaction from helping others live their best lives.

Your knowledge of the industry gives you both empathy and unique insight into the top challenges that your coachees are facing, plus an opportunity to stay connected to that world and to making a difference in the legal space.

#4: Government/political jobs

Simply by virtue of practicing law, you already know a lot more about government than most people. For example, every attorney has at least studied Constitutional Law and most have studied things like federal taxation, health care law, and legal policy. So, why not put all those skills to use by helping your community?

You certainly wouldn’t be the first legal professional to have this idea. Indeed, according to the Washington Post, “over half of all presidents, vice presidents, and members of Congress in U.S. history had a background in law.” Barack Obama, Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, and Richard Nixon are just a few of the famous former attorneys who ended up in U.S. politics.

#5: Contract manager

Many businesses have specific personnel whose sole responsibility is managing the company’s contracts. While not all contract managers are former attorneys, most have some sort of legal background. It is an incredibly important role that helps the company avoid conflicts while maximizing profits. And, best of all, it is a position that is free from the pressures of billable hours or business development.

Read more >> Top 5 tips for writing stellar contracts

#6: General business

In his memoir, “Shoe Dog,” Nike founder Phil Knight spoke of his penchant for hiring lawyers and accountants and turning them into business people.

That was our priority, and accountants and lawyers had at least proved that they could master a difficult subject. And pass a big test. Most also demonstrated basic competence. When you hired an accountant, you knew he or she could count. When you hired a lawyer, you knew he or she could talk.

Fortunately, Mr. Knight isn’t the only CEO who feels this way. Legal professionals are highly valued in the business world for their ability to think and reason. Thus, if you’re looking to leave the law, it can’t hurt to dip your toes into the corporate world.

So, how about you? What alternative career plans are on your horizon?

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