Today, many students begin law school with no plan ever to practice law.
Others, in the course of their law school studies, decide to combine law with another discipline and accept positions in the more general fields of management and business, as well as education, health care, philanthropy and many more. There are many career alternatives for the attorney who does not want to enter into a traditional practice. However, before deciding not to practice in a traditional setting, you should carefully analyze the pros and cons of your choice, understand your personal motivation, and assess long-term career goals. Your decision should be a positive one and should be made out of enthusiasm for a new area and not out of frustration with the trials and tribulations of law school.
Because the law touches every aspect of life, legal training is a plus in virtually all careers. You will have to provide evidence to prospective employers that your legal training is a bonus for their organization. Attorneys can and do regularly market themselves in this way with success, by using conviction, persuasive oral communication skills and knowledge of the prospective job. Plan to sit down with an advisor and devote some time to this important decision.
The financial world can offer a multitude of career opportunities for law students, especially those who have business backgrounds and/or strong quantitative skills. While the following areas represent only a fraction of the options available in finance, they are the areas in which law students tend to be the most interested. Many opportunities fall within the areas of Investment Banking, Venture Capital, Private Equity and Hedge Fund management.
Management consulting involves working with private and public sector organizations to solve problems and implement new business strategies. As a consultant you will not be researching cases or writing briefs, but you will be using the analytical skills you have gained in law school to solve problems for clients. Consultants must have the ability to persuade and communicate, and law school will help you develop these skills.
Often times working behind the scenes, consulting firms offer resources that clients cannot provide themselves. One of these resources is typically expertise in the form of knowledge, experience, special skills, or creativity while another is time or personnel that the client cannot spare. Put simply, it is the consultant’s job to define what the organization’s problems are, develop a strategy to solve the problems and create a solution.
The consulting industry is made up of firms of all shapes and sizes. While you may have heard of the big names such as McKinsey & Company, Bain and Company, and Boston Consulting Group that are large, generalized firms, it is important to note that there are a multitude of smaller, boutique firms that may specialize in a particular area. Often, when entering the field, consultants begin in a generalist model and may eventually transition into a more specialized or niche area.
Consulting firms are much like law firms in that they use “summer associate” programs as a major recruiting tool. Typically, the recruiting season for summer positions (2L/3E) is early spring (though this is trending earlier and earlier) with recruiting for full-time positions (3L/4E) taking place in the fall. Most consulting firms do not hire 1L/2E for summer internships.
Lobbying (also known as government relations) is generally defined as when an individual or organization attempts to persuade members of the government – often members of Congress or regulatory agencies – to make decisions that would benefit a particular group or special interest. Professional lobbyists are paid to try and influence legislation on behalf of a specific group or individual who hires them. Lobbyists often work for lobbying firms; trade associations; law firms; Political Action Committees (PACs); large corporations; political parties; or advocacy groups.
In addition to lobbying members of the government, lobbyists also monitor, research, and analyze legislation or regulatory proposals; attend congressional hearings; educate government officials and corporate officers on relevant issues; and attempt to change public opinion through the media and other information sources.
A successful lobbyist is knowledgeable, persuasive, and sociable (and a charming personality doesn’t hurt!). Lobbyists must have strong communication skills (both written and oral) and be able to thrive in very fast-paced, action-oriented environments. Additionally, it helps to have previous experience on Capitol Hill, which provides an opportunity to both learn the legislative process and make contacts (since lobbyists are often hired as much for who they know as for what they know). Lawyers often make good lobbyists, because law school helps to develop strong communication and analytical skills. Having attended law school is also helpful for reading and understanding proposed legislation. Common job titles for JDs include: legislative associate; research analyst; staff assistant; and research assistant.
Lobbying is a very competitive industry, and job openings are frequently filled through networking and referrals – and often by recruiting Hill staffers. Law students interested in lobbying careers should consider interning on the Hill, with a lobbying organization, or with a trade association; or volunteering on a political campaign. Trade associations often hire summer interns; the hiring timeline varies by organization but tends to occur around February or March. Additionally, members of Congress regularly hire interns for both their personal offices and committee staff. To apply for an internship with a member’s personal office, submit a resume and cover letter to the Chief of Staff or the Legislative Director. For internships with a committee, apply to the majority or minority staff director or the Chief of Staff.
If you are interested in a career in lobbying, you should sign up for Georgetown Law’s Hill/Lobbying Listserv through Symplicity, and also consider applying for our Spring Break in Public Affairs program (2019 application form coming soon).
If you love the work of academia, legal teaching positions provide a unique career choice. Law schools seek faculty members with a combination of strong academic recommendations, outstanding grades and experience, substantial scholarship, law review, moot court experience and a judicial clerkship (preferably federal). The number of law teaching positions available each year is relatively small, so early planning is crucial to make yourself competitive. Some suggestions:
- Publish! Scholarship is key to getting a legal teaching position.
- Seek membership on a law journal.
- Consider working as a research assistant to a law professor.
- Obtain a federal court clerkship.
- Sit down with a favorite law professor to discuss the possibility of legal teaching. Professors Susan Bloch and Emma Jordan serve as mentors for students interested in teaching.
The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) offers three services for those interested in finding a job as a law teacher: the Faculty Appointments Register (a collection of information about candidates interested in teaching at law schools that is given to law school recruiters); the Placement Bulletin (lists available faculty and administrative positions); and the Faculty Recruitment Conference (provides opportunities for law school recruiters and candidates for faculty positions to meet and interview).