Edition: March 14, 2022
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS
Excerpts from article by Wendi Weiner, published on Abovethelaw.com
For a long time, there was a dearth of material and advice out there about how lawyers could leverage their law degree for a career outside of law. Many students feel pressured to take up jobs in big law firms once their studies are completed.
However, big law firms are not the end-all-be-all that law schools and on-campus interviews glorify.
Working in varied legal environments teaches you that. Such environments could include, mid and small law firms, insurance companies, working in litigation for Fortune 500 companies, and more.
In my case (the author’s), these roles highlighted and reinforced the things that I loved doing as a lawyer – taking depositions, writing lengthy motions and briefs, and arguing them in court. These roles also reinforced that my true passion for writing and speaking could be successfully leveraged outside of law.
I remember the shock when I told people I was leaving law to be a career coach and resume writer. Some laughed at me. Others congratulated me with resentment. Yet, what I realized in the end is that life’s too short to be anything but happy and fulfilled in your career.
Additional Alternative Careers Outside of Law
There are dozens of careers outside of law where you can still leverage those transferable legal skills and find the trifecta of financial, professional, and personal success.
Some of those additional careers include real estate, public affairs, governmental relations, legal services and legal technology, strategy, risk, financial services, and entrepreneurship.
1. Real estate: It is a competitive industry that’s well-designed to help lawyers stand out in the marketplace. The benefit to working with a real estate agent who’s also a lawyer provides unwavering confidence and credibility.
2. Public policy work: It enables lawyers to thrive at the intersection of government relations, advocacy, and law. There are various directions to go in government affairs — from an executive capacity to legislative advocacy, policy development, and advisory for a trade association.
3. The digital age has also increased opportunities in legal technology and legal services, with many legal technology companies being founded by practicing and nonpracticing lawyers.
4. Strategy, risk, and financial services are other arenas that enable you to leverage your discipline, passion for detail and creative analysis, knowledge of regulatory and compliance laws, as well as a solid ability to examine things from multiple angles.
5. Entrepreneurship: This opens the doors to many opportunities, leveraging your ability to read and interpret contracts, draft terms of service, build relationships, develop business, and advise.
As you can see, the list is never-ending with possibilities.
Writing a Resume for a Career Outside of Law
Many lawyers struggle with this part, especially because legal resumes are centralised on framing your experience solely around legal work.
In situations like this, it’s often because the format of the resume is the same as the resume you’ve used from law school forward (which is outdated and out of touch with today’s resume writing trends in the corporate world).
Resumes now follow a modernised format (and font):
- Branding statement at the top
- Short professional summary with a roadmap of relevant skills and career highlights
- Professional experience section that includes a paragraph of your leadership functions and responsibilities
- Key competency areas in bullet points.
The way you frame your resume for an alternative career outside of law will look and feel different from the resume used to apply for a litigation associate position at a law firm that regurgitates your resume template from law school.
For example, if you’re applying for the “Head of ABC Compliance” position at a bank, your reader is not going to be focused on your ability to write fancy memos of law for the managing partner, draft a motion for summary judgment, or that you achieved the highest billable hours each year of all associates.
You’ll need to delve into factual examples in the STAR format (situation, task, action, result) regarding fraud-related litigation matters, pertinent compliance regulations or laws you’ve become well-versed in, strategic initiatives you’ve assisted with, and investigations and audits you’ve conducted.
You’ll also benefit by being aware of how job postings centre on keyword repetition. Many of the same keywords appear in multiple job postings (a pattern).
Also, be sure to explore people on LinkedIn with the current title you’re pursuing — observe how they position their skill set and consider asking for an informational interview to gain more first-hand insights into the position. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a recruiter who specialises in that niche and inquire about opportunities as well as breaking into the industry.
Deciding to leave law and pursue an alternative career is not scary. It’s simply a new path on your long career journey.
Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)