When Working in a Firm Isn’t for You: 5 Alternative Legal Career Paths

The nature of work is changing in all types of professions, and the legal field is no exception. With over 1,300,000 lawyers practicing in the United States as of 2016, the legal profession is beginning to look less traditional as supply and demand needs shift.

In previous articles, we highlighted that only 40% of lawyers who are practicing are opting for full-time, long-term work within traditional legal environments, signalling a definite change of course for those in the legal profession towards alternative careers.

Here are just 5 possibilities available to an individual with a legal education who is looking to think outside the box in terms of their career path.

Policy Analyst

As a lawyer, you are trained to notice the fine details that focus on the facts that inform and make up public policy and laws. There are several positions within government offices, corporate entities, non-profits and research firms that rely on the detail-oriented skills of those familiar with the way laws and broad policies come together. Policy Analysts also play an important role in providing education and information to those who are initiators of or beneficiaries of policies that seek to guide the way people live or work.

College or University Instructor/Professor

It’s never been true that “those we can’t do teach”. In fact, those who CAN do are the ones who are best suited to teach. If you have been a strong observer of legal education, and have been able to gain both a theoretical and practical understanding of the legal field and the various careers within it, you may be suited for education. Those in various legal education programs ranging from paralegal to Juris Doctor seek to have experienced and knowledgeable instructors at the helm of their education. If you can help inspire new legal students while giving them a practical and realistic insight into the legal profession, you may be an excellent fit at a community college or university. You may even choose to go further with your own legal education by obtaining a PhD in a legal related field.


As a legal professional, you have been trained to build a case, and be persuasive in order to establish trust and credibility in what you are offering. This is the exact same way professional sales work. Those in sales who have been financially successful have taken significant time in building strategies that seek to persuade their prospective clients through their trust and credibility. As a legal professional, you know how to see someone’s needs and build a case around that. These are the skills you need to be able to perform at an advanced level as a sales person who is promoting a specific product or service.

Human Resources

The Human Resources (HR) field is becoming increasingly complex as the nature of work changes and labor efforts continue to seek ways to support workers. More and more, large companies are hiring Senior Human Resources Advisors and like positions who have a legal background to be a strong resource in the analysis of employee policies and collective agreements. Those who have a background in employment law are often sought to support large and small companies who deal with a diverse amount of employee situations, challenges, and at times legal issues. Human Resources is a field that also provides a diversity of applications for legal skills through its various associated aspects such as compensation, training and development and pensions and benefits.

Corporate Development

For decades, it’s been popular for large firms, corporations and businesses to go through phases of corporate development that require the attention of someone with a legal background. Mergers, acquisitions and reorganizations are usually a large part of the life span of large organizations and as new opportunities emerge, so do legal issues. As a corporate development representative, you will be involved in overall growth of the company you work for, and you’ll be an important component of pulling off “deals” that in the end increase the financial longevity and viability of your company.

The great thing about the legal profession is that it provides those who train in it a set of transferable skills that are valued by a wide array of companies and industries. Looking at alternative careers involves doing some research and opening your mind to possibilities in areas you wouldn’t naturally have thought of when pursuing a legal career. Be thoughtful with the areas you would like to work in, but don’t be afraid to apply your legal education and legal skills in an alternative legal career. You may surprise yourself with the type of career in which you find the most success.

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