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Puravida's avatar

Life after law school: viable alternatives?

Asked by Puravida (62points) August 11th, 2014

Dear Fluther,

Having recently moved back to the USA after a very long time studying abroad, I have found that I am in need of a little food for thought.

Returning to the USA was never exactly the plan, but life seems to often follow forks in the road that you do not necessarily anticipate…. Long story short, I met another American abroad, fell in love, and moved back – who would have thought?!

Becoming a lawyer was my mission in life from basically the age of sixteen, though now I have realized that perhaps I never really stepped back to think about why I was so intent on this. As the years, and work experiences, have gone by, I have realized that it is not the most entailing job on the planet, and I am exploring other options, though not entirely discounting the possibility either.

My question boils down to this, considering my qualifications:

I have an LL.B. in Law, Valedictorian, (undergrad English equivalent to a J.D.), and an LL.M. (Masters) in Law from Cambridge.

The issue is that in the USA, I really cannot practice law easily, I still need to do a J.D., and avoiding 300k+ debt (?!), and keeping 3 years of my life, is attractive. Based on the current climate, I am not entirely sure that there are enough pros to outweigh the cons – it is not clear to me that there are enough attractive legal jobs to make the pursuit worthwhile. On some quick investigation, it seems that many entry level corporate jobs match or surpass similar level jobs for lawyers.

The loophole: I am able to take the NY bar (though this does not provide me with much reciprocity with other states), however, it would allow me to work as in house counsel in the state which I plan to live in. The downside, however, is that on preliminary research, in house jobs do not seem to be offered to those with little to no experiences in their particular field. I do plan on taking the bar either way, as I feel like it can’t hurt, and if I don’t do it now, there is a chance I never will. Also, following the NY bar, I would be able to take a conversion exam to be admitted in England as well – following 5 years of legal practice, in theory, I should be able to then take the bar exam in my state, then finally becoming a full fledged lawyer rather than simply an in house exception.

As an alternative, the state I am living in has a large energy industry, oil and gas etc. How would one go about breaking into this industry at a corporate level? Would a further Masters in this area be beneficial? What should I be doing to target jobs in this industry? Further, what other kind of industries could (should) I be considering, keeping in mind that that I am definitely not an engineer, mathematician, accountant or doctor… My consideration to depart from a career in law is very fresh, and if would greatly appreciate some food for thought regarding this.

Thank you in advance.


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6 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

The difficult thing to realize is that you can get a job but not at the level one would expect with a law degree. And, learning an industry on the job is an excellent way to both learn and get experience, it takes a few years of working in the trenches.

As for the industries you mention, consider jobs in the regulatory compliance end of things. You’ve demonstrated an ability to review regulations and look through them, so you have a skill that lens itself to compliance. A caveat: such jobs are usually overseen by an attorney.

But doing so you could work and prepare for the bar exam. Lots of people work and study at the same time.

JLeslie's avatar

I didn’t know much about the field of law, but I will tell you the thoughts at the top of my head for the purposes of brainstorming.

Consider being in house counsel in the industry you are interested in. If the company is large enough it might have positions in the law department that don’t require full knowledge of the industry, and you could be in a position to be mentored by lawyers within the company. Definitely talk to lawyers in the industry and get advice. They might be able to give you information on possibilities you never would have thought of.

My husband works in HR and he needs to know employment law to do his job and constantly worked with the law and finance departments. For many years he worked for mulitinational corporations and had to be familiar with employment law for many different countries. Since you have international experience through your education I think that is helpful. If you speak a second language even better.

Another idea considering your interest in energy is some sort of focus on environmental law. The energy industry probably constantly deals with environmental issues.

Definitely talk to people in the field. Send a few emails out to lawyers in the companies that interest you. Like a cover letter, but not with your actual CV attached, not asking for a job, just your interests and ask about the possibility of meeting with them or to shadow them for a few days to see what their job is like.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I don’t know your temperament, but were I in your shoes, my priority would be to retire the 300k in debt. Sell your soul to Wall Street, or at least lease it out temporarily. The status of your qualifications will no doubt impress the thieves you’ll be working for, and perhaps you can make an ethical difference. But I wouldn’t count on it.

Gabby101's avatar

There are always jobs in law firms and corporate legal departments for non lawyers. Your legal education may give you an advantage in securing one of those jobs. Keep in mind that you will always play second fiddle to the jd’s. Can you do this?

It is true that most corporate legal jobs are for lawyers that have practiced at a firm, but I have seen them make exceptions for people that start in a non-attorney position that they grow to like. Maybe you could work as a paralegal and they would consider you for an attorney position when one opens?

hsrch's avatar

Oil and Gas Corporations, Pipeline Companies, and some other energy-related companies have Land Departments that are staffed by attorneys. You may need to pass the bar in a particular state but with your academic background they may hire you as is and let you take the state bar exam at your convenience.

talljasperman's avatar

You can run for office.

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