Investing in a legal education unlocks more than the old-school practicing lawyer gig. While the traditional path appeals to many legal pros, there’s a world of possibilities for the rebels seeking alternative non-legal jobs for lawyers.

Perhaps you’re a practicing lawyer feeling unfulfilled or burnt out in your traditional legal career, or maybe you are a law student looking to break from the herd and pursue a unique job.

If you are considering alternative non-legal options, don’t worry; you’re not alone, and there are many options.

Plenty of non-legal jobs for lawyers exist and allow you to leverage your legal knowledge and expertise. In this article, we explore non-legal alternative career paths.

Why non-legal jobs for lawyers are an attractive path forward

  1. Career change or exploration: A legal professional might want to explore different career paths or industries to find a better fit for their skills, interests, or values.
  2. Work-life balance: Legal jobs often involve long hours and high stress. Non-legal jobs for lawyers can provide a role that helps them achieve a better work-life balance and reduce stress.
  3. Passion or interest: Individuals may have a passion or strong interest in a specific industry or field that is not directly related to law. They might choose to pursue a career in that area to align with their personal interests.
  4. Entrepreneurship: Some legal professionals may decide to start their own business or pursue entrepreneurial ventures outside the legal sector.
  5. Better compensation: While legal professions are generally well-compensated, some individuals may find opportunities for higher salaries or financial incentives in non-legal roles.
  6. Burnout or dissatisfaction: Legal professionals may experience burnout or dissatisfaction with the practice of law, leading them to seek alternative career paths that offer a more fulfilling experience.
  7. Skill diversification: Legal professionals often acquire a diverse set of skills, such as research, analysis, and communication. These skills can be transferable to various industries, making them suitable for non-legal roles.
  8. Global opportunities: Non-legal jobs for lawyers may offer opportunities for international experience or travel, which can be appealing to legal professionals seeking a broader perspective.
  9. Technology and innovation: Some legal professionals may be drawn to roles that involve technology, innovation, or emerging industries where they can apply their legal knowledge in new and creative ways.
  10. Personal circumstances: Life events, such as a change in family circumstances or the need for geographic relocation, may prompt legal professionals to explore non-legal job opportunities that better align with their current situation.

It’s important to note that the decision to pursue non-legal jobs for lawyers is highly individual and depends on the unique goals, values, and circumstances of each legal professional.

1. Legal consulting

Legal consulting is a professional service where legal experts, often attorneys or law firms, provide advisory and strategic guidance to individuals, businesses, or organizations on various legal matters without the formal representation typically associated with legal representation in court. Legal consulting is a versatile option for lawyers stepping out of traditional legal roles.

Legal consultants advise businesses, organizations, and individuals on legal matters. They may offer guidance on compliance, risk management, and regulatory issues.

While you won’t be providing official legal advice or producing legal deliverables, your deep understanding of the law can be a valuable asset in helping clients navigate complex legal challenges in the role of consultant.

2. Regulatory compliance officer

A compliance officer ensures that an organization or business adheres to relevant laws, regulations, and industry standards. Their primary role is to oversee and implement processes and procedures that help the organization comply with legal and regulatory requirements.

Compliance officers and similar roles are crucial in various industries, such as healthcare, finance, and technology.

They ensure that their organizations comply with all applicable laws and regulations. Lawyers are well-suited for this type of role due to their familiarity with legal frameworks and the ability to interpret and implement complex rules effectively.

Anti-money laundering (“AML”) and Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) regulators

In the US, policies, laws, and regulations to prevent financial crimes and illegal activities, such as AML and BSA regulations, play an important role in banking compliance.

Federal regulation and compliance obligations imposed by various regulatory bodies have created a significant need for compliance-related work. An AML or BSA officer, regulator, or the like may allow those with a legal education to transition to a non-legal role.

3. Human resources

A human resource officer, also known as an HR Specialist or HR Coordinator, is a professional responsible for managing various aspects of human resources within an organization.

Their role is essential for ensuring an organization’s workforce is effectively managed, its employees are supported, and it complies with labor laws and regulations.

The specific responsibilities of an HR Officer may vary depending on the size and structure of the organization.

Human resources departments benefit from having lawyers on staff. Lawyers can assist in drafting and interpreting employment contracts, ensuring legal compliance, and handling sensitive personnel matters.

Your legal background can help your organization maintain a safe and legally compliant workplace.

4. Mediator

A Mediator is a third-party neutral, usually a retired judge or experienced lawyer, who helps the parties understand and move towards resolving their dispute.

The mediator does not decide the outcome, but helps the parties to move to a mutually agreed upon outcome where possible.

If you have strong negotiation and conflict resolution skills, a career as a mediator or arbitrator may be a great fit. Mediators help parties reach mutually beneficial agreements outside the courtroom, while arbitrators make binding decisions in dispute resolution processes.

Lawyers are often sought after for their expertise in understanding the legal implications of various decisions.

5. Arbitrator

An Arbitrator is a neutral third party who presides over a dispute resolution process known as arbitration. The arbitrator reviews evidence, listens to arguments, and renders a binding decision that is legally enforceable.

In contrast, a mediator is also a neutral third party but facilitates negotiations between disputing parties, helping them reach a voluntary agreement without making a final decision or award.

Arbitration and mediation are two distinct methods of alternative dispute resolution. In arbitration, a neutral third party, the arbitrator, makes a binding decision after hearing arguments and evidence from the parties, resembling a simplified court proceeding.

Mediation is a collaborative process where a neutral mediator facilitates communication and negotiation between the parties but does not impose a decision; the outcome is voluntary and non-binding, with the parties reaching an agreement.

Arbitration is more formal and adversarial, while mediation is a non-adversarial and voluntary process focused on helping parties find mutually acceptable solutions.

The American Arbitration Association (“AAA”) is a prominent organization that provides services for resolving disputes through arbitration and other ADR methods.

The AAA maintains a roster of qualified arbitrators chosen based on their expertise and experience in specific areas of law or industries. Parties involved in a dispute can select an arbitrator from this roster or have one appointed for them if they cannot agree on a choice.

The AAA often provides training and certification programs for arbitrators. These programs help ensure arbitrators are well-versed in AAA rules and procedures, ethical considerations, and fair and efficient arbitration principles.

Arbitrators may need to meet certain educational and experience requirements for the AAA roster. AAA encourages arbitrators to continue their professional development and education to stay current with legal and industry developments, rules, and best practices.

6. Legal tech and startup sales

A sales representative converts qualified leads into paying customers. There are many variations of course, but essentially sales people sell things. In the context of legal start-ups, a sales representative may be selling legal tech to individual consumers, businesses, or enterprises.

The legal tech industry is booming, and lawyers can make significant contributions. Whether you’re interested in legal software development, legal project management, or legal tech consulting, your legal knowledge can help bridge the gap between technology and the law. An example is Alex Su.

Alex Su is the Head of Community Development at Ironclad, a contracts technology company backed by Accel, Sequoia, and other leading investors. Su specializes in helping startups introduce their innovative products to law firms and corporate legal departments.

Before joining Ironclad, Su spent five years selling technology to law firms and legal departments.

Su had a natural talent for working with people and explaining complex technology and software programs. He leveraged his legal background to promote contract management software and used humor to connect with clients.

He started creating comedic sketches for fun, and when the pandemic hit in 2020 and remote work became more common among lawyers, his sketches gained popularity. Other software companies took notice of his unique skill set.

Ironclad, a software company, recognized the potential in Su’s abilities and offered him a tailored position: community developer. This role is distinct from traditional marketing or sales and uniquely suits Su’s personality.

His primary responsibility is to engage with the community to generate interest in the software maker’s products.

7. Legal influencer

If you’re looking for non-legal jobs for lawyers that’s truly out of left field, becoming an influencer might be it! An influencer uses social media channels like Instagram, LinkedIn, etc., and they establish a significant presence and credibility within the field of law, typically through leveraging various online platforms and social media to reach a broad audience.

Legal influencers use their expertise, knowledge, and online presence to educate, inform, and engage with their audience on legal matters. They may focus on specific legal niches or provide more general legal insights.

Some everyday activities and roles of legal influencers may include advocacy and raising awareness. Some legal influencers use their platforms to advocate for specific legal issues, social justice causes, or policy changes.

They raise awareness about important legal matters and engage with their audience to drive change. Legal Influencers often share information about legal topics, such as recent legal developments, regulation changes, and legal analysis.

They may create content like blog posts, videos, webinars, or podcasts to explain complex legal concepts in a more accessible way. Legal influencers provide commentary and analysis on high-profile legal cases, issues, or controversies.

They may offer their opinions on legal matters and provide context and insights to help their audience understand the implications.

An example of a legal influencer is Mike Mandell. Mike, a professional attorney based out of Los Angeles, shares his legal expertise with over 7.4 million TikTok followers.

In his videos, Mike discusses the basics of the law and explains principles one should or should not follow when it comes to the law. Mike manages to create engaging yet informative content.

8. Academia

There are various opportunities in academia, from being a law professor to leading a clinic or externship program to being part of the administration, fundraising, and career support, to name a few. Working with students is a fun way to stay energized!

9. Law school or undergraduate professor

A professor teaches students at the college or university level, conducts research, and engages in other academic pursuits such as high-level writing, speaking, and publication.

Two terms that you’ll come across in academia are adjunct professor and tenured professor. An adjunct professor teaches on a limited-term contract and is likely ineligible for tenure.

When a professor earns “tenure,” this typically refers to a system that guarantees or otherwise firmly secures the professor’s job until they exit the role.

If you have a passion for teaching and an advanced legal degree, consider a career in academia. Law schools and universities often seek experienced lawyers to teach courses in various legal disciplines.

This path allows you to mold the next generation of legal professionals and contribute to the academic community. This can be distinguished from the adjunct.

10. Director of clinic or externship program

A clinic is a formal program organized by a law school and supervised by a licensed attorney that allows students to receive course credit as they work to provide legal services to actual clients.

Similarly, but slightly different, is an externship program where students can work directly with a legal employer in the private or public sector, corporate, governmental, or other industry.

A clinic/externship director will supervise the students professionally on behalf of the associated university. Working as a clinic/externship director is a great way to continue as a legal professional, but in a unique environment where you cannot only assist clients but also supervise and support new lawyers as they learn the nuances of practicing law.

Salaries for this type of role can vary from university to university. For many public universities, salaries are open to the public or published in easily accessible databases.

As you research salaries, it may be a good idea to find publicly available resources and see what types of wages are typically earned in similar roles.

11. Writing and publishing

Many lawyers have a gift for writing and a desire to share their legal insights with a broader audience. You can explore a career in legal writing, whether it’s writing books and articles or becoming a legal journalist.

Your legal expertise can help you provide valuable insights to many readers.

12. Public relations specialist

A public relationship or communications specialist manages or executes strategic communication with the public, including but not limited to consumers, investors, the public, or other media.

Lawyers often have strong communication skills and an acute understanding of reputation management. This makes them excellent candidates for public relations, crisis communication, and corporate communications careers.

Your legal perspective can be invaluable in shaping the public image of organizations.

13. Marketing Specialist

A marketing specialist manages or executes some role in a company or individual’s overall marketing strategy.

This may include tasks such as strategy and development of marketing campaigns, creating brand messaging, improving brand awareness, researching trends, collecting and analyzing relevant data, developing sales presentations, and other related responsibilities.

Marketing and public relations are related but distinct fields, each with its focus and objectives. To generate sales and revenue, general marketing focuses on promoting products or services to a target audience through various channels, such as advertising, content creation, and digital marketing.

Public relations, on the other hand, is a strategic communication process that aims to build and maintain a positive image and reputation for an organization or individual by managing relationships with the public, media, and stakeholders.

PR emphasizes credibility, trust, and long-term reputation management, often beyond direct sales promotion. The salary for a marketing specialist varies, with the lower tier being around $100,000.00 and the higher tier being $190,000.00 and up.

14. Government and public policy

There are various government and public policy opportunities, from lobbying to diplomat to government representative. Lawyers passionate about public service and policy change can find fulfilling roles in government.

Positions in legislative affairs, lobbying, and public policy analysis allow lawyers to use their legal knowledge to influence laws and regulations on a larger scale.

15. Lobbyist

The role of lobbyist usually communicates the views of special interest groups to lawmakers, including Congress, with a strategic focus on influencing how lawmakers vote on related issues.

A lobbyist is a professional who engages in lobbying, influencing government decisions and policies on behalf of individuals, organizations, or interest groups. Lobbyists work to shape legislation, regulations, and government actions to advance their clients’ interests.

They work to convince lawmakers and government officials to support their positions.

Lobbyists can operate at different levels of government in the United States, including federal, state, and local levels. Here’s a distinction between federal, state, and local lobbying. For instance, federal lobbying may focus on influencing the U.S. federal government, subject to the Federal Lobbying Disclosure Act, which deals with national and international issues, often centered in Washington, D.C.

On the other hand, State Lobbying focuses more on state-level governments, is regulated by state laws, addresses state-specific issues, and can be found in various state capitals. Local lobbying targets municipal or city governments, is subject to local ordinances, handles jurisdiction-specific matters, and operates locally.

Building a network of contacts in government, politics, and advocacy is essential to set a path to becoming a lobbyist. Attend conferences, seminars, and events related to your field, and seek out mentors who can provide guidance and support.

Internships or entry-level positions in government offices, nonprofit organizations, or lobbying firms can also provide valuable experience.

The income of Lobbyists can vary based on factors such as their level of knowledge, location, the type of clients they represent, and the success of their lobbying efforts. The average salary for a Lobbyist in the United States is about $108,500.00.

16. Diplomat

A diplomat is typically responsible for overseeing, managing, and playing a role in strategic international relations regarding peace deals, culture, human rights, trade, and economics.

This may include negotiating treaties and international agreements or the like. Diplomats work in embassies or consulates and often serve as a bridge between their government and the host country’s government.

To become a diplomat, gaining experience that demonstrates your understanding of international relations is essential. This may include internships with government agencies, international organizations, or work in areas related to foreign policy.

Proficiency in foreign languages, especially those spoken in the country where you wish to serve, is often a requirement for diplomats.

With the relevant experience, you can apply for diplomatic positions through your country’s foreign service or equivalent agency. Once selected, diplomats are assigned to embassies or consulates abroad.

They may rotate through various political, economic, or consular work assignments. The income of diplomats can vary based on their education and experience level. The salary for a Diplomat in the United States ranges from $69,000.00 to over $100,000.00.

17. Real estate and property management

Real estate is a vast field with many legal aspects. Lawyers can excel in roles such as real estate agents, property managers, or real estate development consultants. Your legal understanding of contracts and property law can benefit this industry.

Law school trains students how to think, read, and write in a significantly above-average way. These skills and knowledge have utility beyond a courtroom, transactions, or other traditional usage.

Conclusion

Numerous non-legal jobs for lawyers are attainable and can provide you with a fresh and fulfilling career path. Whether you’re interested in consulting, compliance, academia, or any other field, your legal expertise is a valuable asset that can open doors to many opportunities.

Happiness at work is a choice! If you need a change, don’t hesitate to explore these alternative career options, leverage your legal background, and run full speed toward a career and job you’ll enjoy.

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