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Student Lawyer

Career Paths

Find Your Niche in a Nontraditional Legal Career

Haley Carolyn Taylor Schlitz

Find Your Niche in a Nontraditional Legal Career

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One benefit of a law degree is its versatility. But because of that, if you don’t have your heart set on an area of practice, you get overwhelmed by the array of options before you. How do you find your niche?

Here’s how to begin that journey.

There are numerous career paths that don’t fit into your “traditional” path that your law degree can supplement. Government jobs, serving in elected office, and business management or marketing are just a start.

Working in Government

“The easy way to figure out what you want to do in law school is by taking as many opportunities to get your hands dirty as possible,” advised Tolulope Kevin Olasanoye, national political and organizing director of Collective PAC, a political action committee seeking to grow African-American representation in elected positions. “Internships, externships, pro bono work, or clinics that are potentially less traditional are great exposures. Take and apply what you learn in the classroom to real-world experiences to really get your hands dirty and get that exposure.”

Robert Hertzberg, majority leader of the California State Senate, knows his law degree has benefitted his political career. “It’s been very useful and has made me a better legislator,” he stated because he knows how to navigate, apply, change, and write laws.

When you are an elected official or work in a government job you are constantly exposed to, handling, reading, and sometimes even writing the laws. Having a law degree can accustom you to reading the law, such as what approaches to take, where to start, filtering what is important and what isn’t, or how to take notes while reading the law.

When you are a legislator, having the ability to read, understand, and filter the law quickly will prove very impactful. Law school trains students in those areas and will supplement and complement a government job or elected official position well.

Business Management and Other Fields

With business management, a law degree can also be very complementary. Knowing what rules your business and workers need to follow, knowing the systems in place that your business must follow, and knowing the processes your employees must set up and go through are all very crucial to successfully managing—or starting—a business.

Other fields where the law is helpful:

  • Art: Knowing the finer points of copyrights and trademarks can protect an artist's works from being stolen or plagiarized. Your law years could also expose you to new passions that can translate to more artistic pursuits.
  • Sports and Entertainment: Whether the issue is contracts, pay, gender equality, freedom of speech, brand ownership, exclusivity, or contracts, a legal degree can be the difference between success and struggle.
  • Science: Some might be surprised by how well science and the law go together. Contrary to popular belief, a degree in the law could support a scientist in protecting their work, drafting contracts with a university, or protecting themselves from liability.

Law degrees can even supplement students pursuing more degrees. Having the foundation of approaching difficult topics and having frank conversations, and working and preparing in groups will all be very useful no matter what program a student is pursuing after law school.

Help with Making a Decision

Some last advice on how to get experience in different types of law and other career options, not in law, that your degree can be useful for:

“Firstly, take advantage of the diversity of summer placements, pro bono work, clinics, and other opportunities outside of the classrooms and textbooks,” said Regina Evans, Chief of Staff to California Board of Equalization Member Malia M. Cohen. Cohen also said students should network well. “That law degree gave me access points that I would have never got the opportunity to have.”

At the heart of this issue is the question: "I have a law degree, now what?" And there is no right answer to that question. All students will answer that question at different times in different ways, and there is no “right” way to use a law degree.

Getting exposed to as many areas or types of practice as you can will help you find your niche and specify your practice area and goals, whether that be non-traditional law or traditional law.

Find the Door That's Right

Expose yourself to people to expose yourself to opportunities, and then execute on those opportunities. Your law degree will open doors, walk through them.