chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.

After the Bar

Career Resources

Thinking Creatively about JD Advantage Jobs

Meredith Wiggins

Thinking Creatively about JD Advantage Jobs
Stígur Már Karlsson /Heimsmyndir via iStock

Jump to:

When I talk to law students about their career goals, one question comes up regularly: “What if I decide I don’t want to practice? I’ll have spent three years preparing for a job I don’t want!”

My answer: a JD isn’t only about what you learned; it’s about what you learned how to do. While students often focus on a subset of practice at law school, the JD itself is skills-focused. It is a degree in analysis—research, writing, argumentation—which allows graduates to think creatively about using these skills professionally.

That’s where JD Advantage (JDA) jobs come in. JDA jobs consist of opportunities:

  • That make use of the skills and knowledge learned in law school;
  • For which holding a JD provides an advantage in hiring for or performing the work;
  • That do not require the employee to pass the bar.

A common feature of these jobs is they are not industry-specific. Instead, they exist across a range of employer categories, including everything from Fortune 500 companies and institutions of higher education to small businesses and federal, state, and local governments. While it is impossible to become an expert on all aspects of the JDA job market, the following areas are worth exploring.

Business Development and Entrepreneurship

Law students with an entrepreneurial bent may find they enjoy the world of business development. Analyzing market trends, managing projects, and building relationships with clients come naturally to many JDs. One University of Kansas School of Law alumnus used his degree in professional sports, where he has worked in high-level business development and operations for nearly two decades.

A legal background is an advantage for JDs dreaming of opening small businesses, given they are likely to be on firmer footing when navigating the rules and regulations governing employers. Nor does the business itself need to be related to the law. One graduate I know opened her own yoga studio, which she has been running successfully for several years. She even offers classes to law students free of charge.


JDs make excellent candidates for compliance roles, focusing on creating, monitoring, and enforcing relevant regulations and laws in various industries. The skill set required for compliance roles (e.g., research and analysis, attention to detail, and strong communication skills) is broadly transferable, and specialization opportunities abound.

Compliance roles can also offer the chance to get a foot in the door in competitive industries or hot markets. For instance, those drawn to sports and entertainment law can gain excellent experience working for university athletics departments or institutions such as the NCAA or NAIA, and young JDs can find compliance opportunities across diverse geographic regions.

Data Privacy and Cybersecurity

JDs with backgrounds in computer science and information technology may be particularly well-suited to careers in the emerging areas of data privacy and cybersecurity. Those without hard technical backgrounds should not count themselves out. During a virtual panel, a JD working as a data privacy consultant emphasized that skills like project management and the ability to translate complex regulatory language into clear operating instructions were paramount to the work he performs.

Like many JDA roles, this type of work exists in a variety of industries. The COVID-19 pandemic created a boom in virtual work opportunities, and the need for employees who combine legal knowledge with technological expertise and practical skills has only grown. As these fields continue to evolve, additional opportunities will no doubt arise.

Policy, Advocacy, and Lobbying

For JDs who want to remain in the legal realm, pursuing work as a policy analyst, advocate, or lobbyist can offer a rewarding career path. These roles use many of the same skill sets of traditional legal work (e.g., deep research or structured and persuasive argumentation). They also often offer the opportunity to lend support to an important cause or effect meaningful change, which is a significant reason many attend law school in the first place.

In recent years, I have worked with young JDs pursuing these sorts of positions across the country and the political spectrum, from national health policy roles based in DC to boutique lobbying firms working with private clients in the Midwest. The chance to tailor roles in policy and advocacy to your interests can be a major motivator for many seeking JDA positions.