legal career options

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walterwhite
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legal career options

Postby walterwhite » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:35 am

What options are there after graduating from law school? Big law, criminal defense, prosecution, government? Am I missing any?

And when posters on TLS refer to government jobs what exactly does that mean? Working for a federal agency? What exactly does that kind of work entail?

I'm also curious as to what the specifics are for big law. All I've gathered so far is it's hard to get a big law job and you have to work really long hours and divide your days into 6 minute increments.

Also when do the different fields of law (environmental, intellectual property, etc;) come into play? Is that something we should have figured out before entering law school?

I realize these are all very basic questions but I'm just trying to get a sense of what the legal career paths are and how they are unique from one another. I feel like I have a lot of unkown unkowns and that there are types of law practices and options for JDs that I don't even know I don't know about.

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justonemoregame
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Re: legal career options

Postby justonemoregame » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:59 am

Google "legal practice areas" -- a few links within the first five or so should be helpful

PRgradBYU
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Re: legal career options

Postby PRgradBYU » Thu Aug 08, 2013 5:16 pm


blsingindisguise
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Re: legal career options

Postby blsingindisguise » Thu Aug 08, 2013 5:22 pm

walterwhite wrote:What options are there after graduating from law school? Big law, criminal defense, prosecution, government? Am I missing any?

And when posters on TLS refer to government jobs what exactly does that mean? Working for a federal agency? What exactly does that kind of work entail?

I'm also curious as to what the specifics are for big law. All I've gathered so far is it's hard to get a big law job and you have to work really long hours and divide your days into 6 minute increments.

Also when do the different fields of law (environmental, intellectual property, etc;) come into play? Is that something we should have figured out before entering law school?

I realize these are all very basic questions but I'm just trying to get a sense of what the legal career paths are and how they are unique from one another. I feel like I have a lot of unkown unkowns and that there are types of law practices and options for JDs that I don't even know I don't know about.


Well shit, this is kind of a broad question to expect people to answer on a message, board, don't you think?

What I would advise you, though, is that if you don't already have a specific practice area you really want to focus on, don't worry about it, because once you get to law school, (1) you'll probably realize it's not what you thought it was, and/or (2) you'll realize it's not actually realistic to practice that area right out of school, and/or (3) YOU won't have the option, and/or (4) you'll discover there's something else you like much better.

That said, it's not a bad idea to have some broad, general idea of your law school goal -- is it to do something that's more public-interest oriented (govt, non-profit) in spite of low pay? Is it just to make as much money as you can (biglaw)? Is it to act out some kind of courtroom/procedural drama fantasy (doesn't exist, but closest is probably criminal defense)?

blsingindisguise
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Re: legal career options

Postby blsingindisguise » Thu Aug 08, 2013 5:25 pm

I will say this though. There are certain areas that a lot of people *think* they want going in, but actually have no idea what they entail and probably don't stand much chance of actually getting a job in them right out of school unless they have top credentials. These are areas like entertainment law, sports law, "international law," "environmental law," "soft" IP like copyright and trademark, "arts law," etc. i.e. stuff that sounds sexy and interesting but doesn't actually create much entry-level work.

There are certain other practice areas that people who go in with a purpose do manage to work in right out of school -- e.g. I knew a lot of people who specifically wanted to do real estate law (often from real estate backgrounds) and did in fact find jobs in that field.

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walterwhite
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Re: legal career options

Postby walterwhite » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:15 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:
walterwhite wrote:What options are there after graduating from law school? Big law, criminal defense, prosecution, government? Am I missing any?

And when posters on TLS refer to government jobs what exactly does that mean? Working for a federal agency? What exactly does that kind of work entail?

I'm also curious as to what the specifics are for big law. All I've gathered so far is it's hard to get a big law job and you have to work really long hours and divide your days into 6 minute increments.

Also when do the different fields of law (environmental, intellectual property, etc;) come into play? Is that something we should have figured out before entering law school?

I realize these are all very basic questions but I'm just trying to get a sense of what the legal career paths are and how they are unique from one another. I feel like I have a lot of unkown unkowns and that there are types of law practices and options for JDs that I don't even know I don't know about.


Well shit, this is kind of a broad question to expect people to answer on a message, board, don't you think?

What I would advise you, though, is that if you don't already have a specific practice area you really want to focus on, don't worry about it, because once you get to law school, (1) you'll probably realize it's not what you thought it was, and/or (2) you'll realize it's not actually realistic to practice that area right out of school, and/or (3) YOU won't have the option, and/or (4) you'll discover there's something else you like much better.

That said, it's not a bad idea to have some broad, general idea of your law school goal -- is it to do something that's more public-interest oriented (govt, non-profit) in spite of low pay? Is it just to make as much money as you can (biglaw)? Is it to act out some kind of courtroom/procedural drama fantasy (doesn't exist, but closest is probably criminal defense)?


I realize it was a pretty broad, stupid question but everyone keeps telling me don't go to law school unless you want to be lawyer. "Lawyer" just seems like such vague term given the different types of practices.

I don't really want to do the big defense lawyer fantasy thing. If I had to pick a broad idea of what I wanted to do it would be something for the government like working for the DoJ or preferably the State Department since I've always been interested in foreign policy. I would probably take the Foreign Service Officer test but I've been doing research on USA jobs and if you just have a Bachelor's you won't make any money working for the federal government.

But from reading the forums it seems the State Department doesn't really need lawyers. I understand law school has nothing to do with diplomacy/ foreign policy but it can't be a coincidence that John Kerry and many other top State department officials have JDs. Even a lot of the fellows at Washington think-tanks have JDs, often instead of PHDs or MAs (suggesting a relationship between going to law school and working in the IR field).
Last edited by walterwhite on Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

blsingindisguise
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Re: legal career options

Postby blsingindisguise » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:19 pm

walterwhite wrote: I understand law school has nothing to do with diplomacy/ foreign policy but it can't be a coincidence that John Kerry and many other top State department officials have JDs. .



This is almost the equivalent of saying "I realize going to college doesn't have much to do with becoming an NFL football player, but it can't be a coincidence that Payton Manning and many other top NFL players went to college."

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walterwhite
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Re: legal career options

Postby walterwhite » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:20 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:
walterwhite wrote: I understand law school has nothing to do with diplomacy/ foreign policy but it can't be a coincidence that John Kerry and many other top State department officials have JDs. .



This is almost the equivalent of saying "I realize going to college doesn't have much to do with becoming an NFL football player, but it can't be a coincidence that Payton Manning and many other top NFL players went to college."



Peyton wouldn't be in the nfl if he didn't go to college. He wouldn't have been drafted. Maybe the State Department or a Washington think-tank wouldn't want you if you didn't have a law degree. I don't know if that's true though, that's why I'm posting here.

And i realize all the posters on TLS are going to say a law degree isn't flexible, it's only good for practicing law, etc; I'm not arguing that I'm just trying to determine what foreign policy/ IR jobs are also considered to be legal careers.
Last edited by walterwhite on Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

blsingindisguise
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Re: legal career options

Postby blsingindisguise » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:26 pm

walterwhite wrote:
blsingindisguise wrote:
walterwhite wrote: I understand law school has nothing to do with diplomacy/ foreign policy but it can't be a coincidence that John Kerry and many other top State department officials have JDs. .



This is almost the equivalent of saying "I realize going to college doesn't have much to do with becoming an NFL football player, but it can't be a coincidence that Payton Manning and many other top NFL players went to college."



Peyton wouldn't be in the nfl if he didn't go to college. Maybe you need a law degree to work in IR. I don't know that though, that's why I'm posting here.


Actually you're pointing out a flaw in my analogy -- at least for the NFL you basically NEED to go to college, same is not true with IR and law school. Kerry didn't really get into IR until he became chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee a few years ago, or at least, arguably, not until he became a senator in 1984, and that was after about eight years of law practice.

blsingindisguise
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Re: legal career options

Postby blsingindisguise » Thu Aug 08, 2013 6:27 pm

BTW, percentage of Senators with JD's is about 40% and falling, assuming you want to gun for the politics equivalent of the NFL

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/ ... e-lawyers/

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Cicero76
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Re: legal career options

Postby Cicero76 » Thu Aug 08, 2013 9:41 pm

blsingindisguise wrote:BTW, percentage of Senators with JD's is about 40% and falling, assuming you want to gun for the politics equivalent of the NFL

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/ ... e-lawyers/


Dammit

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szb5058
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Re: legal career options

Postby szb5058 » Mon Aug 12, 2013 5:41 pm

PRgradBYU wrote:http://www.chambersassociate.com/Articles/PracticeAreaSummaries

HTH


nice.

mono172000
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Re: legal career options

Postby mono172000 » Tue Aug 13, 2013 7:51 pm

I don't think this is exactly what is going on in this thread, but I've always been a surprised by how much tls understates/disputes the value of a law degree for someone gunning for big politics or top administration roles. While a law degree is neither necessary nor sufficient for either of those goals, it can, under many circumstances, be the right first step for someone trying to navigate their way into that world assuming they have the other requisite skills. I get why you would want to push back against someone about to take out a life-altering amount of debt just for the prayer of politics. But that certainly doesn't mean a law degree isn't valuable for an aspiring politician/ government offical. It's just not valuable enough for most people to consider it if they have no interest in being a lawyer otherwise.

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Re: legal career options

Postby blsingindisguise » Tue Aug 13, 2013 11:07 pm

mono172000 wrote:I don't think this is exactly what is going on in this thread, but I've always been a surprised by how much tls understates/disputes the value of a law degree for someone gunning for big politics or top administration roles. While a law degree is neither necessary nor sufficient for either of those goals, it can, under many circumstances, be the right first step for someone trying to navigate their way into that world assuming they have the other requisite skills. I get why you would want to push back against someone about to take out a life-altering amount of debt just for the prayer of politics. But that certainly doesn't mean a law degree isn't valuable for an aspiring politician/ government offical. It's just not valuable enough for most people to consider it if they have no interest in being a lawyer otherwise.


what is your basis for this claim

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Re: legal career options

Postby mono172000 » Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:45 am

blsingindisguise wrote:
mono172000 wrote:I don't think this is exactly what is going on in this thread, but I've always been a surprised by how much tls understates/disputes the value of a law degree for someone gunning for big politics or top administration roles. While a law degree is neither necessary nor sufficient for either of those goals, it can, under many circumstances, be the right first step for someone trying to navigate their way into that world assuming they have the other requisite skills. I get why you would want to push back against someone about to take out a life-altering amount of debt just for the prayer of politics. But that certainly doesn't mean a law degree isn't valuable for an aspiring politician/ government offical. It's just not valuable enough for most people to consider it if they have no interest in being a lawyer otherwise.


what is your basis for this claim


Well...

1. Law degrees open up the possibility of running for or being appointed to numerous prominent positions that often catapult politicians into high-profile careers. District Attorney, Public Defender, City Attorney, State Attorney General, AUSA, US Attorney General, and the numerous elected and appointed judgeships are all JD-required positions. If your sole goal is to have the greatest chance of attaining high political office, then it wouldn't be a bad idea to grab the degree that keeps all of these positions on the table. Furthermore, with the exception of maybe surgeon general (which obviously isn't a prominent position or a stepping-stone office), I can't think of any top elected office that you're precluded from by only having a JD.

2. Running for and holding office as a lawyer is often easier than it is in other professions. I didn't understand this until I started working for local campaigns. Especially at the local level, many elected offices are part-time positions. Initially, I couldn't understand how so many top state legislators and city council members could also have thriving legal careers at prominent local firms. The candidates I worked for all intimated that once they were elected to these positions, their firms bent over backwards to put them in roles where their government offices augmented the work they were doing for the firm. They were suddenly no longer associates or senior associates but "policy advisors" or "of counsel" attorneys who brought in business and consulted on policy/ regulatory issues.

For law firms this makes a lot of sense. Many big law firms have regulatory practices or even lobbying arms that are always benefited by having a new elected official on their rosters. This isn't really the case in other professions, at least not to the same degree. The big consulting firms don't really care if they have an elected official in their office. They certainly don't care if it means they'll be taken away from their client work. Big banks probably feel the same way. No company cares at all. But for law firms it's part of the game many of them are already playing, so it makes sense.

3. Law is a national profession. There are strong law practices in every state and in almost every city around the country. If you have the right ties, the right grades, and went to the right schools you shouldn't have too much of an issue transporting that degree back to whatever corner of the country you want to run in. Say you were born and raised in Sioux Falls, decided you wanted to go into law, and did well enough for yourself to make it out to a HYS for law school. You probably wouldn't have any problem finding your way back to one of the major firms in Sioux Falls, building up a strong legal career, and potentially running for office one day if you had the other necessary skills and experiences. This is the Bill Clinton path to power.

There aren't too many other professions that are as geographically agnostic and provide you the level economic stability that a legal career can. You could go into banking and make enough money to comfortably run for office, but you probably have to be in NY or California to do it. But if you wanted to run for office in Jackson, MS, building a strong legal career at one of their top local law firms certainly wouldn't be the worst way to do it.


Again, I'm not saying that getting a law degree is the key to every would-be politicians hopes and dreams. But, I don't think it's just a coincidence that so many high level officials have law degrees. A strong law career can set you up for a variety of government roles in a variety of locations in a way that other professions can't.

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desiballa21
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Re: legal career options

Postby desiballa21 » Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:50 am

if you want to get into politics, volunteer on a congressional race.

mono172000
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Re: legal career options

Postby mono172000 » Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:59 am

desiballa21 wrote:if you want to get into politics, volunteer on a congressional race.


I hear that all the time but I don't understand what people actually mean for it to look like in practice. Volunteering for a congressional campaign is a great experience for anyone wanting to go onto politics. But if you want to run for office you should probably have money, a network, and some degree of standing in your community. Most entry level campaign volunteers don't have any of that. Strong lawyers do. And they're in every corner of the country, volunteering and donating to campaigns, building their political clout while maintaining strong legal careers.

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Re: legal career options

Postby Snowboarder1588 » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:11 am

Congresspersons/Senators, are also known as "lawmakers" because they are the "legislative branch" in government. So, while not required, it's easy to note that a law degree can be very helpful in your role as a lawmaker.

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Re: legal career options

Postby blsingindisguise » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:17 am

I guess if you're the rare person that's highly motivated to go into politics, a law degree is not a bad idea. But if you're just thinking "a law degree is great because it will open lots of doors, for example politics" you're probably not thinking clearly.

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Cicero76
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Re: legal career options

Postby Cicero76 » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:27 am

desiballa21 wrote:if you want to get into politics, volunteer on a congressional race.


This is as idiotic as saying "if you want to be a senator, grab a law degree from a TTT."

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Snowboarder1588
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Re: legal career options

Postby Snowboarder1588 » Wed Aug 14, 2013 11:30 am

blsingindisguise wrote:I guess if you're the rare person that's highly motivated to go into politics, a law degree is not a bad idea. But if you're just thinking "a law degree is great because it will open lots of doors, for example politics" you're probably not thinking clearly.



I agree. Getting a MPP (master's in public policy) can also lead you towards a career in politics. it's also much cheaper than a law degree at sticker.

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desiballa21
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Re: legal career options

Postby desiballa21 » Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:12 pm

Cicero76 wrote:
desiballa21 wrote:if you want to get into politics, volunteer on a congressional race.


This is as idiotic as saying "if you want to be a senator, grab a law degree from a TTT."



nah

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haus
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Re: legal career options

Postby haus » Wed Aug 14, 2013 12:43 pm

Snowboarder1588 wrote:
blsingindisguise wrote:I guess if you're the rare person that's highly motivated to go into politics, a law degree is not a bad idea. But if you're just thinking "a law degree is great because it will open lots of doors, for example politics" you're probably not thinking clearly.



I agree. Getting a MPP (master's in public policy) can also lead you towards a career in politics. it's also much cheaper than a law degree at sticker.


Some of these MPP & MPA degrees are surprisingly pricey, and seem to have even less utility than a JD. On the bright side several of these programs are much more flexible for working adults.

mono172000
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Re: legal career options

Postby mono172000 » Wed Aug 14, 2013 6:06 pm

haus wrote:
Snowboarder1588 wrote:
blsingindisguise wrote:I guess if you're the rare person that's highly motivated to go into politics, a law degree is not a bad idea. But if you're just thinking "a law degree is great because it will open lots of doors, for example politics" you're probably not thinking clearly.



I agree. Getting a MPP (master's in public policy) can also lead you towards a career in politics. it's also much cheaper than a law degree at sticker.


Some of these MPP & MPA degrees are surprisingly pricey, and seem to have even less utility than a JD. On the bright side several of these programs are much more flexible for working adults.


Definitely agree with haus. A top MPP or MPA degree can go a long way if you're trying to get think tank work, work in a congressional office/ federal agency, or work for some kind of advocacy group. But it's cache starts to drop rapidly once you step outside the beltway/ state capitals, so you're pretty restricted wrt where you can find a job (which makes it tough to start a political career). Plus if you don't grab one of those top degrees you could very easily be staring at a big pile of debt and no job. They allow some flexibility, but you're very regionally restricted and even if you graduate from a top program you probably won't be making nearly as much money as a law student graduating from an equivlantly ranked school. Those degrees aren't all rainbows and roses, especially if your end goal is elected office or something like that.

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Otunga
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Re: legal career options

Postby Otunga » Sun Sep 08, 2013 9:55 am

http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/law-admissions-lowdown/2012/01/23/5-unique-career-paths-for-law-school-grads

Nobody should ever let this inspire them to choose law school. I'm not suggesting the OP has - it's just something related to the thread that should be mentioned.




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