What kind of non-lawyer job can I get with a law degree?
Q. If you'll indulge me for a moment - I'm a 2nd year law student at a middle of the road law school (low 1st tier/high 2nd tier). Long story short - I'm not doing so hot (~C/C+ average), especially after a mandatory grading curve implemented by the school last summer. I am worried about paying off my loans, much less supporting myself, after graduating from law school. Plus I can't seem to even get any interviews for summer clerkships/internships, even at the public defender's office (there are externships available next year, but I would like something to do this summer). I'd like to hear from any ex-lawyers out there got a non-law career with a J.D. and no work experience outside of retail. Basically, I was wondering if having a J.D. is something employers in general (who aren't looking for a lawyer) consider a positive, or maybe a liability. I'd appreciate any comments.
A. A JD is just another degree. It's a positive thing. Legal knowledge and skill would be useful to a buyer (contracts), personnel manager (labor and discrimination law) contractor (contractor's licensing law, contracts), cop (criminal law and procedure). But the idea that legal knowledge and skill would be useful is not the same as saying a JD would be useful. Your law school doesn't teach practical applications, such as how to evaluate contracts or negotiate them. It also doesn't focus on the law of any one state. Some employers care about a degree, some care about a relevant degree, but all of them care more about knowledge and skill in their particular job. I suggest that if you want to be an attorney, you should stick with the JD program, quit worrying about grades except to the extent needed to pass and get certified to take the bar, give up on internships, pass the bar, get a job as an attorney or hang out a shingle, become successful, be happy. Unless you are going for a blue chip firm, your average grades really don't matter that much. Work as hard as you can and involve yourself in moot court and other extracurricular activities if at all possible. There are huge numbers of jobs out there if you work at finding them. What kind of law interests you? If you are interested in criminal law, look at a district attorney's office and a public defender's office. If you really are interested in criminal law, you can hang out your own shingle like I did after 18 months with a public defender's office. I am very successful in Houston doing nothing but privately retained criminal defense work. There are jobs with the state and federal government working on contracts, child support issues, environmental issues, etc. If you look for a job with a JD degree, odds are, you are going to be told you are overqualified, and if you have never practiced law, the potential employer is going to wonder why you don't want to be a lawyer without ever having tried it. By the way, not getting one job you wanted and then deciding that you don't want to be a lawyers doesn't say much for your perserverance. You are halfway to being a lawyer. It can be a great life. Give it a chance.
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