A law degree opens many doors. Even the traditional option of taking the bar examination and joining a law firm results in having a choice between more practice areas to focus on than ever.
And it’s a similar story for nontraditional legal jobs. Many law graduates want to leverage the knowledge and analytical skills they acquired at law school to pursue jobs related to but outside the practice of law. Sometimes known as J.D. Advantage jobs, these are positions for which a law degree is preferred — and having one could put you on the fast-track to promotion and career development.
Regardless of your motivation, exploring nontraditional employment options in the legal field may provide you with a new opportunity you never thought of before that you can’t pass up.
What are the hottest nontraditional legal jobs?
Alternative legal careers can run the gamut from insurance adjuster to law professor and patent examiner to legal blogger.
In the third year of the pandemic, a growing number of professionals across all industries are looking for roles that better reflect their passions, align more closely with their values or improve their chances of achieving the ideal work-life balance.
Read on for an overview of some of the most in-demand roles, from compliance officer and privacy officer to contract manager, environmental law specialist, legal writer/editor, mediator and legal recruiter.
Compliance careers are an area of interest for attorneys, especially in times like this, when legislation such as the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and contentious issues like employee vaccine mandates have added to employers’ list of risks and responsibilities.
Compliance officers ensure that companies comply with these kinds of laws and regulations, among others. The compliance officer position also often serves as an organization’s ethics officer, responsible for developing and maintaining its code of ethics.
Many companies started adding the compliance officer role after 2002, when the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed by Congress. Public companies are more likely to include compliance officers within their legal departments, but this title appears frequently within private companies, as well, as they face greater ethics and corporate governance concerns.
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Data privacy is a booming practice area. Privacy officers are responsible for developing and enforcing the privacy policies and procedures of the organization, including compliance with any state or federal privacy laws. Chief privacy officers often work closely with the chief compliance and chief security officers and, depending on the company, may report to the general counsel or the CEO.
A good way to kick-start a data privacy career is to take the CIPP certification with the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), which demonstrates your mastery of data protection laws, regulations and standards.
If you prefer precise and detail-oriented work, you may want to consider the contract manager position. These professionals can work for private businesses, in academia or for government entities. In this assignment, you deal with both sides of the customer-supply chain to help reduce risks and costs.
Responsibilities for a contract manager may include contract drafting and review, communication with involved parties, development and implementation of contract standards, monitoring compliance of internal contract procedures, and closing contracts.
What type of salaries can contract managers earn? Check out the latest Salary Guide from Robert Half to find out.
Environmental law specialist
Environmental law specialists are responsible for interpreting and applying environmental laws and policies and ensuring environmental compliance. They often manage highly technical information, such as chemical levels in soil and water samples. Knowledge of environmental regulations, guidelines and laws come in handy for those pursuing this legal employment option.
Attorneys with comprehensive science backgrounds are best-suited for this role. Some law students pursue a joint degree as a step on this career path, acquiring knowledge in areas like political science and public policy.
Legal writer or editor
Legal professionals with stellar written communication skills can bring their knowledge and expertise to legal journals or publishing companies. The materials you write or edit may range from case law digests (compilations of cases with a common theme) to lengthy essays on general or niche legal topics.
If you’re interested in this career path, seek out summer internships with legal publishers while at law school.
Mediation is another nontraditional career that is becoming popular as a private alternative to litigation. It involves reaching an accord outside the courtroom and is gaining in appeal due to the immediacy of dispute resolution.
The job requires strong analytical, reasoning and communication skills, and creative problem solving abilities. Mediators also undergo conflict resolution training and need to remain neutral to help opposing parties facilitate an equitable solution.
A legal recruiter helps to find and match promising candidates to open positions on a contract or permanent basis for law firm and companies. These talent solutions specialists also manage ongoing engagements and provide career guidance to candidates. Duties include helping clients develop hiring and retention strategies, participating in career fairs and networking events to recruit job seekers, and interviewing and screening new candidates. Legal recruiters may work in a law firm setting or at a staffing agency or talent solutions firm.
Ready to start looking for one of these nontraditional jobs in the legal field, or for another position? Check out the listings on the Robert Half website.