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Looking for a Less Traditional Legal Career Path?

30 July 2019

If we’re honest, most of your law degree is geared towards setting you up in a private practice career of some kind.

However, that doesn’t mean that you’re completely stuck in a traditional legal role if you decide along the way that it’s not for you.

The soft skills you have developed along the way can certainly be put to good use in less mainstream areas, even if you might not need to use your hard earned comprehensive knowledge of equitable estoppel.

So What are your Strengths and Weaknesses?

Really this is the nub of the issue – what skills do you have, and what things make you break out in a sweat?

Whether you started this way or ended this way, there’s a good chance that as a law graduate you have started to hone some skills like these:

  • The ability to digest information quickly and parse out the important bits;
  • Analysing facts and details without getting lost in irrelevant issues;
  • Synthesising your thoughts into written work;
  • Working hard and (to some extent) under time pressure;
  • Being organised and prepared;
  • Communicating your thoughts clearly;
  • Drinking coffee (as well as harder stuff).

Most of these are generally useful skills in any number of areas that don’t require you to keep timesheets and follow a standard career path in the law.

So where can you put your degree itself or these skills to good use?

In-house or Government

This is the logical place to start, since there’s a good chance the in-house or government roles will utilise your legal knowledge but still offer an environment very different from a traditional private practice role. This needn’t just be a legal counsel role either with in-house and government roles providing the opportunity to do different roles from policy or legislative review work through to highly commercial roles (see below).

Check out our article on whether in-house is right for you here.

Commercial Roles

There are any number of businesses that would benefit from having a hard working, diligent and capable commercial addition to their team.

Think about it – you can read documents carefully and quickly, understand them comprehensively, communicate with staff and clients clearly. This is exactly what many businesses need in an employee.

Contract Management

With a keen eye for detail, risk and compliance a role in contract management would be a great fit for many law graduates.

With your skills you could help a business minimise its risk and maximise its reward through your ability to revise and review contractual arrangements, ensure that the company was compliant with its requirements, and use your best efforts to remove the bits that expose the company to unacceptable problems down the track.

Risk, Compliance and Governance Related Roles

Running a corporation involves an enormous amount of compliance and regulation that, quite honestly, most business owners don’t want to do.

But you can, because that’s where your training lies. You can identify requirements in the legislation, document policies as necessary with your drafting skills, and ensure that companies have the necessary checks and balances in place to remain compliant with all their relevant governance requirements.

A NewLaw Environment

While traditional practice might not seem a good fit, the burgeoning areas of NewLaw style practices might be what you’re after. With the potential for flexible or contract-based work, differing roles and workloads, and an entirely different financial or reward model – the options for NewLaw practice seem to grow in new and interesting ways every day.

Corporate Administration and Management Generally

Each of the roles above often combine in some way towards a general corporate administration or management role.

There are plenty of corporations that don’t have the size or revenue to take on 15 different staff to deal with the general compliance, risk, contract and administration burden that a company has.

Nor are these tasks necessarily suitable for completely untrained staff.

You, however, can most likely adapt to many of these roles as needed and might be a good fit to manage and oversee them as a business grows.

Teaching In Various Forms

Beyond corporate work, have you considered teaching? If you are a clear communicator with strong delivery and language skills you might be well suited to teaching others.

This could be in legal areas, but doesn’t have to be.

Your Spare Degree?

Many lawyers have two degrees, if only to break up the perceived tedium of doing straight law for 4 years.

However, what can you do with that other degree? With Commerce, Economics, Business or Management (the more common contenders) under your belt these could easily give you a chance to work in a completely different field from law, while still getting the benefit of the skills you acquired along the way.

It’s Not All Sunk Cost

If you are sure that the traditional legal career path isn’t for you, don’t let the fact that you invested in a law degree keep a stranglehold on your future.

Instead – take the positive parts that you can, the skills that you have learned, the benefits that are transferable, and use them to best advantage in other roles that will offer you the career (and, dare we say it, life) satisfaction that you are looking for.


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