7 Other Things You Can Do With a Law DegreeAugust 22nd, 2012
We understand that the prospect of committing years of your life and who knows how much money to obtain a law degree only to use it for something other than practicing law may sound completely insane. If you find you’re not sure whether you should or shouldn’t go to law school, you might consider how the knowledge and skills you would gain by going can be applied in another non-legal profession. In the current job market, and in the eyes of some employers, having a law degree gives you an advantage over your competition. Below are seven career categories outside of the legal profession where it is not uncommon to find people with a law degree.
Despite drastic changes occurring within the industry, or maybe because such changes are occurring, it is an exciting time to pursue a career in print or broadcast journalism. Law school will certainly teach you how to thoroughly research and effectively communicate facts and conclusions, which are the essential skills of a good journalist. You might consider a career as a legal affairs reporter, since some law schools offer joint degrees in law and communications.
So much of what you learn in law school, including strong negotiating skills, knowing how to structure financial transactions that offer minimal risk and maximum returns, and an understanding of current tax laws, is essential for successful real estate investing. The analytical skills that come from studying law, cases, and rulings will serve you well when you are presented with a real estate opportunity that requires a quick "yes" or "no" to investing.
While in law school, you may decide that a career practicing law will not be as rewarding as utilizing your talents to the benefit of a charitable, socially conscious, or artistic organization, either in a pro bono capacity, or as a leader of or executive within such an organization. There are many examples of law school graduates who founded or currently lead nonprofit organizations out of a concern for social justice and the common good. Abraham Foxman who graduated from the New York University School of Law and is now the national director of the Anti-Defamation League is just one example.
Law school graduate and RedRoomDVD founder Dan Joyce put his legal studies to good use, drawing on his knowledge of contracts and corporations law, intellectual property, and company structures to get his now very successful company off the ground. Lawyers are trained to think both critically and creatively which, along with some calculated risk-taking, is a characteristic of successful entrepreneurs.
The writing and analytical skills you develop in law school can certainly be put to creative use in novel and screenplay writing. University of Mississippi School of Law graduate and bestselling author John Grisham drew on his experience as a lawyer to write his first novel A Time To Kill, which was directly inspired by a testimony he had heard from a 12-year-old rape survivor. Television writer and producer David Kelly graduated from Boston University with a law degree before going on to create several shows inspired by the legal profession, including The Practice and Ally McBeal.
There are many examples throughout history of social activists with law degrees. Although unsuccessful as a lawyer, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would go on to lead India to independence from British rule using a combination of non-violent civil disobedience and his gifts as an orator. Of his time as a lawyer, Gandhi said, "I had learnt the true practice of law … I realized the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder." More recently, poet, activist, and lawyer Ogaga Ifowodo was jailed after calling for sanctions against the government in his home country of Nigeria. Ifowodo has also advocated to end the persecution and terrorizing of Nigeria’s homosexual population and has written eloquently about the subject.
If you survive your years at law school and still feel you’re a glutton for punishment, then consider a career in politics. You’ll be in good company! Both President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney attended and graduated from Harvard Law School — the president with a law degree, Romney with a joint degree from Harvard’s law and business schools. Former South African president Nelson Mandela opened South Africa’s first black law firm in 1952 and has written that he was "rather flamboyant in court. I did not act as though I were a black man in a white man’s court, but as if everyone else — white and black — was a guest in my court."
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