For Law Students Considering Alternative Legal Paths...

Originally published in American Bar Association for Law Students
BY Crystal Marsh

So, you’re a law student looking for an alternative career path. Your mindset isn’t the problem — in fact, you’re pretty darn sure that if you made it through law school, you can excel in just about any industry. The only problem being, you’re not sure where to start.

How do you figure out which career path you should pursue? The good news is, there are a number of skills you’ve likely excelled at and even found enjoyable as a law student that will help guide you. Here are three steps to take to help you get started.

Step 1: Identify which skills you’re best at, and enjoy doing.

First, pick out the lawyer skills that you’ve most enjoyed during your time working in law or while in law school. This should be the easy part, particularly if you break down the core competencies of lawyers into six categories:

  • Advocacy/speaking
  • Research
  • Writing
  • Counseling
  • Analysis
  • Management

From here, you can begin to explore career options that naturally flow from these skills.  For example, if your strength and passion lies in writing, it’s entirely possible that your true calling is to be a writer. For those who are fond of counseling, a potential second career may be in therapy, consulting, coaching, or social work.

Step 2: Figure out what’s holding you back.

Lawyers, and by extension law students, as a group tend to be a relatively risk averse bunch – which may have been the motivation for pursuing law in the first place since it’s a stable career option. Sometimes, the fear of failure is what holds emerging lawyers back from seeking a career that they think might actually make them happy.

Whatever is holding you back from leaving your career in law to pursue something more fulfilling, the first step to getting past this is to identify what that is for you. Take some time to become aware of your thoughts – when you consider pursuing an alternative path what comes up for you? Is it fear that you won’t be able support yourself? Are you determined to continue on the path that you’ve started on? Are you worried about judgment from other people? Just take some time to get clarity in your own head.

Step 3: Create a vision of what you want.

One way to move past the fear and doubt is to create a vision of what your ideal job would look like. Continue honing the law skills that can get you to where you want to be, and figure out why certain parts of law are enjoyable to you.

For example, if your favorite aspect of law is advocacy, you may want to consider a career that still incorporates speaking and work to enhance that skill even further. Join Toastmasters, sign up for a seminar, attend conferences, and begin networking with professional speakers in order to build your experience.

Just because you don’t have everything completely planned out yet doesn’t mean you can’t start taking steps towards the career or job that you truly want!