JD/Non-Lawyer Taking Questions About Non-Legal Jobs

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JD/Non-Lawyer Taking Questions About Non-Legal Jobs

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 05, 2014 2:04 pm

I'm guessing this doesn't come up here too much so I thought I would start a thread. Per the title, I have a JD (graduated a few years ago) but do not practice law. I work in the non-profit/government sector.

champ33
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Re: JD/Non-Lawyer Taking Questions About Non-Legal Jobs

Postby champ33 » Sun Jan 05, 2014 4:14 pm

Did you go right into your field from law school or did you practice first?

Did you take the bar?

Is your pre-law school background directly tied to your field?

How did you break into it? Was it difficult?

What other kinds of fields did you look into other than practicing law and what fields would you recommend? Yours?

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Re: JD/Non-Lawyer Taking Questions About Non-Legal Jobs

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 05, 2014 5:06 pm

champ33 wrote:Did you go right into your field from law school or did you practice first?



I did quasi-legal work for about 6 months after graduation. I never practiced law.



Did you take the bar?



Yes. I took the bar in a very tough state right after graduation. I wasn't prepared (no Bar/Bri), so I failed. To this day I have not gotten a license to practice. In my current career, it isn't necessary and would probably be viewed as negative when trying to switch jobs, so it's not something I plan to pursue.

Is your pre-law school background directly tied to your field?


Background, yes. Bachelor's degree no. I have a B.A. in a completely unrelated field. Between college and law school I worked for a non-profit for a couple years, which I think helped a little bit.


How did you break into it? Was it difficult?


Breaking in was extremely difficult. I applied to a lot of jobs before I got into what I am doing now. Finding my first full-time non-legal job took about 1 year after graduating. I tried to highlight my pre-law background and de-emphasize the legal stuff as much as possible in my job applications. I basically tried to pitch to employers that my JD was equivalent to the types of Master's degrees that the employer would normally look for when hiring and that any skills or specific types of experiences they were looking for that I lacked were things I would pick up quickly.

Getting that first non-legal job was the hardest part. When I switched jobs after a couple of years things were much easier but still difficult. I suspect it will be another 3-5 years before some employers stop viewing my JD with suspicion when I apply for jobs in my field.


What other kinds of fields did you look into other than practicing law and what fields would you recommend? Yours?


I think there are a bunch of different things that non-practicing JDs would fit into. The trouble is finding an employer willing to give you a shot if they don't normally hire JDs. I looked into a lot of different things...everything from teaching in public schools to federal law enforcement. By my final semester in law school, I was pretty sure I did not want to practice law, but I had no idea what specifically I wanted to do or what was feasible.

I'm not sure if I would recommend my current field (a niche area of non-profit/government) to a broad swath of JDs that don't want to practice law, mainly because there aren't that many entry-mid level positions available on the national job market. For the right type of candidate I would though.

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northwood
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Re: JD/Non-Lawyer Taking Questions About Non-Legal Jobs

Postby northwood » Sun Jan 05, 2014 5:38 pm

how did you craft your resume? Did you have any law related internships, and did/how were you able to spin them into a positive mode for your current field? Did you go through career services, a third party, or just mass mail like crazy?

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Re: JD/Non-Lawyer Taking Questions About Non-Legal Jobs

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 05, 2014 6:15 pm

northwood wrote:how did you craft your resume?


I looked at resume examples I found online for people that were changing careers. At the top, I made a list of professional skills that were non-law related.

Did you have any law related internships, and did/how were you able to spin them into a positive mode for your current field?


I did have law-related internships. In fact, all of my internships were pretty typical things a law student would do, and I was in a clinic 3L year. When I listed these out on my resume, I found focus on skills that were transferable and relevant to the job I was applying for.

Trying to spin my legal work experience the way I wanted was not easy. Honestly, if I had known what my career path would have been at an earlier stage I would have done completely different internships than the ones I did.

Did you go through career services, a third party, or just mass mail like crazy?


Career services, even at a T14, sucked. They are absolutely no help if you are trying to do anything off the beaten path.

By third party, what do you mean? If you are referring to a professional job coach/resume consultant, no, I did not use one of those when I was looking for my first legal job. I probably would've liked to, but I simply couldn't afford it. Later on, when I was switching jobs I did use one and they were somewhat helpful, especially in terms of interview preparation. Beware, as these folks are expensive. My first employer picked up the tab for it as part of an employee benefits package.

My thoughts on mass mailing: it doesn't work that well for non-legal jobs. By applying for a lot of non-legal jobs with a JD, you are already trying to fit a square peg into a round hole - sending out 100 resumes with generic cover letters every week isn't going to get you very far. Instead, you need an "in" to prevent your resume from disappearing into the aether. That means finding someone like an old college buddy or former supervisor that can make a call on your behalf. If they don't have an "in" directly, maybe they can refer you to someone else that does.

If all else fails and you can't make a connection at all, you have two options 1) call the employer and ask questions about the job before you apply. Express interest and be prepared to sell yourself a little bit. They *might* remember your name when it comes time to review applications and give you a screening interview. 2) Contact someone that works there already (via the company website or LinkedIn), preferably in your age range, and try to get an informational interview. If you can get them on the phone or meet them in person and things go well, they may be able to recommend you to their boss for a screening interview. If you don't know how to do an informational interview or need to brush up, check out the book "What Color is Your Parachute?".

Note that this advice is for when you are in full-tilt job hunting mode. Ideally, you would want to start making contacts with people in industries you are interested in well before you graduate. I realize that might not be possible for a lot of people, as it was not possible for me.

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Re: JD/Non-Lawyer Taking Questions About Non-Legal Jobs

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Sun Jan 05, 2014 8:45 pm

Why did you go to law school?

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Re: JD/Non-Lawyer Taking Questions About Non-Legal Jobs

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 05, 2014 10:07 pm

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:Why did you go to law school?


Not the OP but I am going into a non-legal field (would be listed as "Business" on a school employment report) and want to chime on in this. Not saying this applies to the quoted poster, but people often ask this question and look at you like you are some petulant child who can't figure out what to do. Be prepared for that if you do something other than law after graduation.

In my case, I entered law school knowing that I wasn't necessarily in love with law or really any career path. I'm pretty old school (although on the young side for a law student) and see my career as primarily a way to the pay the bills and, at most, a tertiary source of "fulfillment." With that in mind, I made the decision that I would be perfectly fine being a lawyer but I would also seek out non-legal possibilities as well. Ultimately, I decided to turn down my big law offer and go with a 100% non-legal role. I didn't make the choice because I hated law or loved business but ultimately I had two choices I thought were great and chose one great option over the other.

Don't fall into the trap of failing to pursue options or defaulting to law simply because you went to law school. I've actually encountered a bunch of lawyers and law students who legitimately think that way and its not only a faulty way of thinking, but ultimately short-sighted. If you are lucky, you will have a number of decision points in life where you are choosing between two good options rather than one bad and one good. Have confidence and be willing to actually think about the decision instead of going down a default path.

Just to clarify: I don't recommend going to law school if you are 100% sure you will hate being a lawyer but I also don't believe you should only go if you are 100% sure you would love it. Hell, most of the big law partners I know don't even know to this day whether or how long they want to stick around in law.

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Re: JD/Non-Lawyer Taking Questions About Non-Legal Jobs

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 06, 2014 7:45 am

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:Why did you go to law school?


OP here. At the time I enrolled, I really thought I wanted to become a lawyer. That changed, of course. By the time I started to think about not practicing law at all, I only had one more year to go and thought I should finish the degree. I'm sure many others have gone through the same thing.

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Re: JD/Non-Lawyer Taking Questions About Non-Legal Jobs

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:12 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Don't fall into the trap of failing to pursue options or defaulting to law simply because you went to law school. I've actually encountered a bunch of lawyers and law students who legitimately think that way and its not only a faulty way of thinking, but ultimately short-sighted. If you are lucky, you will have a number of decision points in life where you are choosing between two good options rather than one bad and one good. Have confidence and be willing to actually think about the decision instead of going down a default path.



I've encountered this as well among law students and recent grads I've met. Some of them feel they have to practice law no matter what, even if that means turning down a good non-legal gig so they can work for a solo or small firm for low pay. They are sure that eventually it will pay off and they will land a better firm gig or government attorney position. I've seen things eventually pan out for some of my classmates/peers a few years after graduation and not pan out for others. For the ones that are stuck doing work they hate for low pay, they are now kicking themselves for not looking into options other than practicing law.




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