Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Blog

Not a Fan of the Courtroom? 7 Alternative Ways to Use a J.D. Degree

While perhaps the most well-known path after law school is taking the bar exam and becoming a litigation attorney, that is far from the only option for those with law degrees. Many law school graduates establish outstanding and successful careers that have little to do with being in a courtroom. When you combine the knowledge, skills and ethics you gain during your legal education and the resources of your network of over 20,000 graduates around the world, you are well-equipped for almost any leadership position. Here are seven career options that take place outside the courtroom.

Lobbyist

As a law student, you’ve learned to be persuasive and persistent. You now can combine your knowledge of how the legal system works with your excellent communications skills to lobby for causes you’re passionate about in a career. A lobbyist requires you to have an indepth knowledge of the laws for you to best influence how those laws get made. You will be able to talk responsibly with lawmakers in order for your voice to be heard.

FBI Special Agent 

The FBI actively recruits law students for special agent positions. This fast-paced and exciting position is perfect for students who thrive in the high-pressure environment of law school. An analytical eye and good problem-solving skills come in handy as does your solid understanding of how the criminal justice system works. In this position, you can truly make a difference in bringing down the "bad guys."

Head of a Nonprofit 

While positions like outside counsel and public defenders may seem like a given, there are also non-law-related positions inside nonprofits and non-governmental organizations that a law degree is a real asset to succeed in this kind of career. Knowledge of how laws work, having great persuasion and communications skills, along with your ability to apply this knowledge to your organization, can make you a prime candidate to head an organization. This position also lets you rally around a cause you believe in and get paid for it.

Legal Editor 

With an eye for detail and knowledge of the law, you can make sure documents are accurate and ethical as a legal editor. This position lets you get close to the legal system without ever having to set foot in court. Instead, you can use your writing and research skills to review and edit legal publications.

Entrepreneur 

If you’re not sure you want a routine of a lawyer’s life, you can join the ranks of people with legal backgrounds who start their own companies. Being an entrepreneur requires flexibility and ambition. While the lack of structure may seem antithetical to the rules of law, there are many lawyers-turned-entrepreneurs who have used their skills in problem solving and persuasion to set up a solid business structure, secure funding, and launch successful businesses.

Teaching 

Whether you go on to teach law or decide to teach undergraduate courses, the public speaking and organizational skills you learned in law school will help you be an effective professor. Teaching gives you the opportunity to use your communications skills to connect with students and share your knowledge with them, just like in the courtroom, but without the judge. 

Politician 

Lawyers generally make up over 40 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives and over 60 percent of the U.S. Senate, so this is a far-from-uncommon alternative. Political roles are a perfect use of the formal lessons you’ve had in law school as well as the softer skills of research, persuasion and negotiation. You can also put your skills to work as a political adviser or other supporting roles.

Interested in pursuing a J.D. degree? Click below to download our Viewbook for more about what life looks like for a WMU-Cooley student.

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July 23