Alternative Legal Careers

29Sep11

Alternative Legal Career

Tara Kachaturoff of TeachMeLaw Radio and I spoke recently about alternative legal careers, what that means, ways to determine what you want to do and what you can look forward to.

Read the bolded language in the interview transcript below to see if an alternative legal career is right for you and let me know if you have any follow-up questions.

 

 

Tara: What are some examples, maybe two or three non-traditional legal careers that a student could possibly consider once they graduate?

Jessica: …Basically anyone who is a lawyer working at a law firm not practicing law has an alternative legal career. Alternative legal career, quasi-legal career, non-legal career, it’s a gray area. Either working with lawyers or using your law degree in a non-legal way…

I don’t think that someone that has stopped using their degree altogether, and is doing something entirely different has an alternative legal career. They just have a different career, not to exclude them from the group. But anyone at a law firm in a recruiting department that’s a lawyer and more JDs required for those positions.

Since there are fewer outside hires, a lawyer that maybe been a partner or a high level associate, they might transition into a non-legal role after a firm because they’re already inside. They know the people and the organization.

Tara: They could easily get into doing the recruiting and things like that…

Jessica: Yeah, exactly.

Tara: Even in compliance with the firm and there are a lot of other positions that don’t require you to be billing all those hours that you have to bill.

[laughter]

Jessica: Exactly. There are a lot of financial professionals with their law degree. Really, you can make it up. Really knowing what you enjoy doing will enable you to help you to know what to pursue. If you don’t love people, then being a legal recruiter isn’t the ideal position for you.

Tara: Exactly.

Jessica: Really knowing yourself, knowing what industry you want to go into. And that’s so crucial. Because if you’re pursuing an alternative legal career, you can’t fake it. If you’re going to an interview for a position or for informational interview you have to know what you’re talking about because the first question they’re going to ask is, “Why don’t you want to practice anymore and why do you want to do this?” You have to know why.

Tara: Definitely do your homework on those questions. Talking a little bit more about that, I know we talked about people making transitions from being an attorney to an alternative legal career. What are some things they need to consider like if somebody was at a large firm right now and they’re thinking of jumping into something else? I know you said they can go and interview people from those different areas that they’re interested in. They could take CLE, which is Continuing Legal Education.

Jessica: Right.

Tara: What are some things that they have to consider on the personal side like looking at themselves introspectively to handle that transition? For instance, I know how much I had to change in the things I had to deal with transitioning from corporate position in finance to starting my own business.

There are a lot of things you go through especially when you had a long career in the prior employ. What are your thoughts on that?

Jessica: One of the things that was most helpful when I was doing my informational interviews. And I wish I could remember who said this. He said, “If you can put your ego aside, if you are OK. Plan it with a legal recruiter in a firm. If you are OK planning the party at the partner’s house and not being invited to stay for dinner, then you can do this job. But if you cannot put your ego aside, if you’re not OK not being the lawyer and being the help, then you’ll be OK.”

If you can’t put your ego aside, then this isn’t the job for you. Also know especially if you’re at a big firm and you leave, the salary will not be the same. It’s nearly impossible to find that in any other type of legal or non-legal positions so you have to be prepared for that.

Tara: Meaning it will be lower.

[laughter]

Jessica: Yes. Sorry, that wasn’t clear. Yes, it will be lower.

Tara: No, it was clear. I assume that some attorneys are making especially if they’re part of the partnership. And you’re leaving that. You’re leaving your equity behind.

Jessica: Exactly. The largest part of leaving the practice of law to become a non-lawyer, especially if you’re planning to stay within a legal world and work with lawyers, is knowing that you’re always an attorney. And I do always introduce myself first as an attorney. You may not always be as respected as you once had been, right or wrong.

Thank you Casting Words for this transcript.

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