By Jamy J. Sullivan, JD, Executive Director, Legal Practice Group, Robert Half
As law students graduate across the nation, not all are preparing for the bar exam. Many are already searching for jobs outside of traditional law practice.
A Juris Doctor degree is not just a one-way ticket to the bar exam and courtroom. Many law school graduates are drawn to roles related to the legal field that don't actually involve practicing law.
These are known as “JD advantage” jobs, and they’re perfect for graduates who have a law degree and want to put their problem-solving and analytical skills to good use. These careers often appeal to law graduates who want to explore alternative paths in business, finance, government, consulting and beyond, leveraging their JD as a significant advantage in the role.
I’m one of those who was drawn to the nontraditional route when obtaining my JD. I wanted to use my legal knowledge to help people solve business challenges they were facing. Over the last 20 years, I’ve been able to assist people in finding new career opportunities and share legal market trends with our clients.
JD advantage jobs are also good alternatives for those who want to pursue interdisciplinary work combining the law with other fields, such as health care, technology or public policy.
And they’re not just for new grads. Many practicing attorneys choose to shift their careers to these other roles after practicing for a few years.
Whether you intend to take the bar exam or not, law school will equip you with skills many employers find highly desirable and easily transferable:
- Analytical and critical thinking
- Research and writing
- Advanced problem-solving
- Attention to detail
- Time and workload management
- Oral communication
Popular JD advantage careers include:
Human resources manager
HR professionals often deal with complex legal issues related to employment law, like discrimination, harassment and compliance with labor laws. Graduates with a strong understanding of legal issues can help the organization stay on the right side of applicable and emerging laws and regulations.
Law graduates typically excel at the communication and interpersonal skills needed to work well with employees at all levels of the organization. And they have the analytical skills to evaluate employee data and make evidence-based decisions about recruitment, retention and performance management. By leveraging their legal training, law graduates can help shape organizational policies and practices that align with legal and ethical best practices.
Law graduates who have honed their analytical skills through legal analysis, research and writing are particularly well-suited to work in project management roles, having the skills to develop project plans, allocate resources and manage project risks.
In law school, they’ve likely developed strong organizational, time management and multitasking skills — especially useful when working on cross-functional projects requiring a deep understanding of legal and regulatory issues, like compliance with data protection laws, intellectual property rights, and contract law.
Auditing takes place in a highly regulated environment that requires a thorough knowledge of legal and ethical issues around confidentiality, independence and professional standards. Law graduates have learned to evaluate and ensure compliance with strict requirements around financial reporting standards and tax laws. They’re also equipped to evaluate financial data, identify potential risks and develop best practices.
A compliance manager ensures the organization follows all the laws, regulations, and policies related to their industry. This includes overseeing risk management, internal controls, and audits. Having a JD can give you an edge in this role, as you’ll have the legal knowledge, attention to detail and ability to communicate effectively with different stakeholders. There’s a growing demand for compliance managers across industries as companies seek to avoid legal and reputational risks, so opportunities are ample.
Contract administrators are responsible for drafting, reviewing and negotiating legal contracts between organizations — for example, sales contracts, vendor agreements and employment contracts. Those with a JD are able to navigate complex negotiations and ensure contracts meet legal standards and protect the interests of the organization. These jobs require deep dives into legal and ethical issues such as confidentiality, nondisclosure agreements and intellectual property rights.
Data privacy specialist
A legal education is great preparation for a career as a data privacy specialist, who makes sure the organization complies with privacy laws and regulations related to the collection, storage, and use of personal data. This includes developing and implementing privacy policies, conducting privacy assessments, and providing guidance and training to employees on privacy matters. In today's data-driven business environment, there is increasing pressure on companies to protect personal data and prevent data breaches, and it starts with good rules and policies with strong legal foundations.
These JD advantage roles represent just a small slice of the opportunities open to graduates with law degrees. To learn more about how your particular talents and skills translate to a nonpracticing legal role, your best bet is to work directly with a talent solutions firm, which can access a wide range of job opportunities that may not be publicly advertised.
These search firms have forged longstanding relationships with employers across various industries, giving JD advantage candidates a greater range of job opportunities to choose from. And they’ll work with you to match your unique set of skills and interests with an employer who’s just right for you and your career goals.
Search our legal jobs page for current opportunities.