Unlike the relatively predictable path attorneys have followed in the past, many 21st century practitioners are choosing to take a road less traveled, pursuing nontraditional careers in the legal field. Nontraditional legal employment can be a strategic option — the legal knowledge you’ve acquired during law school, combined with the analytical, research and writing abilities you’ve honed, can readily be applied to a number of different positions and industries.
A sampling of nontraditional legal employment opportunities
Alternative legal careers can run the gamut from alternative dispute resolution counselor to law professor, and from privacy officer to contract manager. Here are a few of the hottest.
Compliance careers are an area of interest for attorneys. The compliance officer is accountable for ensuring the company complies with government regulations. The position also often serves as the organization's ethics officer, responsible for developing and maintaining its code of ethics. Many companies started adding this position around the time Sarbanes-Oxley first came on the scene. 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.
Privacy is also considered a hot 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 chief executive officer.
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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.
In-house legal adviser for healthcare reform
Recent healthcare legislation has created a significant demand for legal professionals who can navigate the new healthcare laws and various requirements imposed on businesses. In this role, your responsibilities may include reading and interpreting statutes as well as identifying and helping implement long-term changes needed within the organization. You'll also need to understand the tax implications of healthcare legislation and possess superior research and analytical abilities.
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If you prefer precise and detail-oriented work, you may want to consider this position. Contract managers can work for private business, 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 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.
You may have a variety of reasons for looking into an alternative legal career — a desire for a better work/life balance, a position that coincides with your passions or a work culture in which you feel more comfortable. Regardless of your motivation — or even if you’re happy with your current legal job — exploring nontraditional legal employment options may provide you with a new opportunity you can't pass up.
Whether you're looking for a nontraditional legal employment option or not, Robert Half Legal can help find contract and full-time positions that match your experience and goals. Let us help with your next career move.