Do you ever find yourself wondering what other options are out there for someone with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree beyond working as an attorney for a law firm, business, government organization, or as a judicial clerk? You are not alone! While law schools often focus on preparing you to work in these types of jobs, there are also nontraditional opportunities that you could pursue. Some of these may require a little more work on your part to find, but taking the road less traveled does not have to be scary and is not necessarily impractical. Making your own way is possible by utilizing the resources and support you already have around you.
Post Graduate Legal Fellowships
Most people associate fellowships with the typical masters or doctoral program, but there are a number of paid fellowships for postgraduate law students looking to break into a special interest area of law. The advantage of legal fellowships is that they typically allow you to work in an area of your choosing. They are normally sponsored by a law firm and are setup to last for one to two years. Many of them are in in the public interest area, but if you have a specific interest you should begin researching sponsoring firms or organizations that align with that interest and create a list of potential opportunities. You can also check with your college or university’s office of graduate fellowships office for additional help with your search.
Whether a legal nonprofit organization like Earthjustice, a legal aid organization or a service-oriented nonprofit organization like the United Way or American Red Cross, the nonprofit route provides many options in both the legal and non-legal areas. Legal nonprofit organizations provide opportunities to work directly with clients and/or on a variety of legal issues. Service-oriented nonprofit organizations offer an even wider variety of jobs from general counsel to outreach and public relations. Opportunities can include anything from managing an organization to working in a specific area such finance/accounting, human resources, research, or event coordination. Job listings for these types of opportunities can often be found on-line, on both general, and specialized job sites or on an individual organization’s Web site. This type of work can be very rewarding, especially if you have a passion for the individuals or causes.
Fundraising and Development
Often it slips the minds of students that there is an entire field of fundraising and development work that can benefit greatly from a legal perspective. This includes nonprofit organizations as well as colleges, universities, booster organizations, religious organizations, foundations, and philanthropies. Available work includes nontraditional opportunities for contract review, fundraising, sponsorship development, research, policy analysis, risk, fiscal responsibility, real estate and constituent services. These opportunities offer great flexibility in exercising legal knowledge and judgement and provide a chance to work in different cross-sectional areas. As with other nonprofit jobs, job listings can be found on job sites and organization Web sites.
No matter what you decide to do with your law degree, you will find that law permeates any area you might choose. So branch out, combine your search with your own interests, and look into areas you may have not considered. Also, do not forget to network, talk to people in positions that interest you, and take advantage of the resources to which you currently have access. Moreover, have fun and follow your passions!