Although we're seeing a slight increase in the number of first-year and junior-level associates being hired by law firms, it remains a conservative job market for many recent graduates embarking on their legal careers.
Law degrees can apply to a broad range of career options, however. Even those who elect not to take the bar exam after graduating from law school have a diverse field of job opportunities from which to choose.
Some alternative legal careers
Here are a few of the different legal careers attorneys can pursue:
- Legal consultant – The demand for specialized legal expertise in recent years has helped expand the market for legal consultants who can provide strategic planning counsel, research and analysis, training and coaching, among a host of other services. In particular, legal professionals with litigation, healthcare, regulatory and compliance, e-discovery, and records management experience are being sought to assist legal teams on a contract basis.
- Legal project manager – Law firms and corporate legal departments often choose to hire outside legal experts to manage complex legal cases, for example, e-discovery litigation projects. The arrangement can provide management and cost efficiencies to the hiring organization, while offering the project manager more flexibility and diverse assignments in his or her career. The growing popularity of the annual ediscovery conference held by the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists® (ACEDS) is a testament to new career opportunities in litigation support.
- Legal mediator or ADR counselor – Our company conducted a survey a few years ago in which we asked legal professionals what career alternative would hold the most appeal if they were to resign from their current job. More than half (54 percent) selected “mediation or alternative dispute resolution counselor.” As legal organizations seek to resolve legal matters outside the courtroom, they often look to legal mediators for support. The role requires a legal professional who possesses strong analytical, reasoning and communications skills, as well as someone well-armed with effective consensus-building strategies.
- Law technology expert – Technology continues to change how legal organizations operate and deliver services, a factor that has opened an employment niche for tech-savvy legal professionals. For example, as electronically stored information (ESI) continues to grow exponentially, demand for legal specialists is increasing to manage complex e-discovery engagements. I recently participated in a general session at ACEDS's annual conference on "Balancing People, Process, Partnerships and Technology to Achieve Optimal Cost-Savings." We discussed a variety of ways legal departments and their law firms can streamline and modernize the e-discovery process. While utilizing technological tools can create efficiencies in the review process, staffing solutions and project management play an important role in alleviating bandwidth shortage and optimizing cost-savings.
- Law professor – Legal education can serve as an interesting and dynamic career choice for those desiring to share their legal wisdom and experience with others, either as a professor or guest lecturer.
- Legal editor or publisher – Legal professionals with strong written communications skills can leverage their legal knowledge and expertise by working with legal journals or publishing companies, researching and writing articles or serving as editors.
A wealth of opportunities
I’ve named just a handful of the many employment opportunities available to legal professionals seeking positions outside the law firm or legal department environment. Attorneys are also pursuing legal careers as fraud investigators, risk managers, public policy analysts, affirmative action officers — and the list goes on.
If you’re considering pursuing an alternative career in the legal field, you have a wealth of diverse positions, industries and opportunities to explore.