The vast majority of our students choose to practice law in a variety of different settings after graduation. Some students may find during their time at SLS that practicing law is not their first choice of a career and embark on a non-law job search. This is not an easy task.
While a JD might be useful in some non-law careers, the job search requires putting in significant effort learning about your desired job and networking over time to learn what is takes to get that job. Those students who can leverage their prior work experience, education and background might be attractive to non-law employers. Getting a joint degree in a field related to your desired profession might be one step to obtaining skills and qualifications necessary for that profession.
Most Common Non-Law Careers
Typically every year several SLS students embark on a job search in the business world; the bulk of these are JD/MBA candidates. We also see alums who decide to move over to business after practicing law for a while. Opportunities in business vary from consulting and finance to business development and sales and marketing positions in both private and public companies. Students are encouraged to speak with an OCS advisor about the types of business roles in which they are most interested, and to work to create a job search strategy specific to those particular industries and roles.
The below sections briefly discuss some of the most popular business careers pursued by SLS students/alums, including consulting and various finance positions.
Consultants are hired advisers to corporations. They tackle a wide variety of business problems and provide solutions for their clients. Client companies hire consultants when they are up against problems that require expertise beyond what their staffs can provide, or when they need the fresh perspective of an outsider basis. Consulting firms are generally amenable to hiring non MBAs and some actively recruit JDs. Consultants work in a variety of sectors, e.g. banking, healthcare, engineering, retail, etc. so if you have a degree that relates to one of these areas it could prove useful. Competition for these positions is intense; candidates should love working under lots of pressure and be prepared to travel….a lot! Qualifications include teamwork, strong interpersonal skills, creative problem solving, flexibility and commercial awareness and business sense. Employers often value experience and skills as much as qualifications and so it is useful to gain relevant work experience before you enter the profession.SLS Guide to Doing a Consulting Job Search
The world of finance is appealing to some law graduates, typically those with business backgrounds, strong quantitative skills, and no fear of working long hours. Among the areas of finance to which SLS alumni have been especially drawn are investment banking, venture capital, private equity, and hedge funds.
Investment bankers underwrite new securities issued by a bank's clients and help raise funds in the capital markets. In addition to underwriting securities, investment bankers can usher corporations through complex processes like initial public offerings or mergers and acquisitions. While entry-level investment banking analyst positions require only a bachelor’s degree in a field such as accounting, finance or mathematics, many investment bankers pursue graduate degrees. MBAs are most common among investment bankers, but other graduate degrees, like law degrees, can be useful as well. Successful applicants must be highly numbers and business-focused with good financial modeling skills.
Private equity funds invest in a struggling company, hoping to improve the performance of that company, and then sell the fund’s stake in that company at a profit. Private equity funds do not employ many people and when they do, they generally require previous experience as an investment banking analyst or as a management consultant with a finance background. Competition for these jobs (even for MBAs from top schools) is fierce. As with other finance jobs, networking is the key to securing a position.
Venture capital funds manage money from investors seeking private equity stakes in startup and small- and medium-size enterprises with strong growth potential. These investments are generally characterized as high-risk/high-return opportunities. VC firms are typically receptive to the skill sets of JD/MBAs and MBAs, but are not convinced that JDs have the business training to be viable. They do very little hiring, but when they do, tend to hire analysts who have had a year or two at a strategy consulting firm, or people with technical or engineering degrees who can evaluate the technologies of prospective portfolio firms. They have also hired more MBA graduates in recent years, typically those who have some industry experience before returning to top business schools. VC jobs are extremely competitive; networking is key.
A Lawyer's Guide to Career Satisfaction Inside, Outside & Around the Law by Larry Richard et al.
A Practical Guide to Authentic Professional Satisfaction by Michael Melcher
Nonlegal Careers for Lawyers by Gary A. Munneke