Tips for Those Thinking about “Alternative Careers”


Tips for Those Thinking about “Alternative Careers”  

SBA & PDO recently sponsored a panel on “Alternative Careers,” featuring Dr. William McDonnell, Primary Children’s Medical Center & Adjunct Faculty member of the University of Utah School of Medicine; Doug Foxley, Foxley & Pignanelli; and Eric Paulsen, University of Utah Technology Commercialization Office.  Read on the panelists’ tips for those considering “Alternative” and/or less traditional legal careers.

1.)  A law degree will come in handy in a variety of professional settings, both legal and non-legal. 

Law school teaches you transferrable skills that may be applied to a variety of jobs, especially writing and analytical skills.  Many companies find value in hiring JDs because they bring a legal perspective to decision-making efforts within the business.

2.)  In some cases, there may be value to pursuing additional education after completing a law degree.

Find something you are passionate about and explore the areas that interest you the most.  Anyone can be a lawyer, but your ability to create a niche for yourself and a desire to become the best at whatever profession you decide to pursue is what will set you apart from others and will allow you to attract clientele base.  This may require you to expand your education and, in some cases, go back to school.  If you decide to pursue a technological career, you may find that an advanced degree will help you to understand the language of the field, which is essential.  If you decide to work in politics, an M.P.A. or a related degree may be of interest to you.  If your professional goal is to become a hospital administrator, additional education and/or training may be required before you’ll be able to apply for the position.

3.)  Think ahead now for the ways you might best apply your law degree to a non-legal or “alternative” professional setting.

Prepare yourself while in school.  Get a broad education and spend time participating in and experiencing the practice of law.  Take opportunities to learn how the practice of law works.  Do pro bono work.  Participate in clinics.  Participate in moot court and strengthen your writing through a position on a journal.  Even if you do not plan to practice law after you graduate, find opportunities to do legal work.  These opportunities are available to you as a law student and will refine your professional and intellectual skills, which are transferrable no matter where you end up.   Many JD’s will start at a law firm to gain experience and will later transfer into a different professional setting altogether.  Panelists indicated that the opportunities they pursued during and directly after law school opened up the door to employment offers they may not have otherwise had.  If you do not want to go to a firm or work in a legal setting after graduation, begin developing your skills so that you will be employable in other areas.  Utilize previous education and do what you can to showcase your skills in order to find alternative employment.