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12 High Paying Alternative Careers with a Law Degree

This ex-lawyer sought alternatives careers with a law degree

Law careers come in many forms. Yes, there are the “typical” careers, including work as a paralegal, lawyer, or judge. But there are also alternative careers with a law degree. These jobs bring a new level of engagement to your career, and they could be the right choice for your future. Whether you have already completed a law degree or you’re simply considering this education, you should understand the alternative careers with a law degree so you can make the best choice for your future.

Law Careers: An Overview

There are many types of jobs available for people with law degrees. Of course, there are traditional law careers that deal directly with the legal system. Attorneys, of course, are the obvious destination for careers in law. People who have practiced for many years can work as judges, and someone with a law degree but does not have a law license could work as a paralegal or general legal counselor.

But you don’t have to work directly in the courtroom or even the legal system, as there are many non legal jobs with a law degree. A real estate agent, human resources manager, or community planner are all examples of alternative jobs for lawyers.

What can you do with a law degree? Essentially, if you complete a law degree, you are not limited to working as an attorney. Although this is a fine career with excellent salaries, there are other options available. Anything where you use your legal knowledge and experience could be a potential career after you complete a law degree.

What Eduction is Required?

To work in many of these careers, a law degree can be an excellent start, but it may not be the only required education if you go into the top alternative jobs for lawyers. For example, if you decide to work as a law librarian, an education in library science of information science may be needed. It all depends on the specific career you choose, but you can expect some type of focused education to be required.

Is Law a Good Major?

It’s hard to say what makes a “good major,” as certain people will enjoy and succeed with different topics. A math degree may be a good major to one person, while a literature degree could be a good major to another. There are, however, a few common, measurable factors.

One of the most notable perks is the handsome paycheck that comes with the majority of legal careers. Looking for law degree jobs without passing bar? There are a few options on this list that also garner an excellent paycheck. When you look at a few of the typical legal careers, as well as alternative careers with a law degree, you can see a potential for high pay. Attorneys, for example, have a median salary over $126,000. Judges have a median salary of $124,000, while a skilled legal consultant could earn a salary over $100,000.

But earning a law degree takes time. In most cases, you will start with a bachelor's degree, usually something related to legal studies, although many different majors can transition into a law degree. Once you complete undergraduate studies, you’ll enroll in law school, which requires another three years of education. Totaled together, you are looking at roughly seven years of coursework between leaving high school and graduating from a law program. Check out our article on how to become a lawyer for a more detailed look at the traditional law education path. If earning a large income is important, then it’s reasonable to say yes, law is a “good major.”

Alternative Jobs with a Law Degree

These are the top jobs for law graduates. They bring an excellent salary and allow you to use your education to become one of the most successful professionals in the industry.

#1 Attorney

Median Salary: $126,930
Education: Juris Doctor (Law Degree)
Experience: None
Licensing: Law license through bar exam

While there are numerous careers in law without being a lawyer, becoming an attorney is usually one of the top choices after law school. While lawyers advice and represent individuals and companies in legal matters, they can work in a wide variety of industries and sectors. There are lawyers focused on personal injury, business, environmental issues, constitutional law, contracts, estate planning, criminal defense, and more.

While you don’t need experience to work as an attorney, you do need certification and licensing through the American Bar Association. Licensing is completed with the bar exam, a lengthy and difficult test that is taken over two days.

Attorneys often enjoy some of the highest salaries possible. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top 10% of all attorneys earn over $208,000.

Popular Pick: Juris Doctor / Executive from Taft University System

 

#2 Judge

Median Salary: $124,200
Education: Juris Doctor (Law Degree)
Experience: 5 or more years practicing law
Licensing: Law license typically required

Becoming a judge is often seen as the pinnacle of the legal profession, the top of the career mountain when it comes to jobs for law graduates. Judges are responsible for overseeing the legal process and court procedure, and can have a tremendous influence on the outcome of cases. They resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations, oversee court proceedings, and complete a variety of legal decisions.

However, these jobs don’t come easy, and many aspiring judges won’t have the chance to work in this role. To become a judge, you first need to work as a practicing attorney, usually for at least five years, although many judges have decades of experience before taking the gavel. Of course, this means that you need to complete law school first, then work as an attorney, then work toward securing a judgeship.

The salary for these careers can be tremendous, as the top 10% earn more than $180,000 annually. It’s often seen as a second careers for lawyers, especially attorneys who are ambitious and successful..

Becoming a judge is often seen as the pinnacle of the legal profession, the top of the career mountain when it comes to jobs for law graduates. Judges are responsible for overseeing the legal process and court procedure, and can have a tremendous influence on the outcome of cases. They resolve administrative disputes, facilitate negotiations, oversee court proceedings, and complete a variety of legal decisions.

However, these jobs don’t come easy, and many aspiring judges won’t have the chance to work in this role. To become a judge, you first need to work as a practicing attorney, usually for at least five years, although many judges have decades of experience before taking the gavel. Of course, this means that you need to complete law school first, then work as an attorney, then work toward securing a judgeship.

The salary for these careers can be tremendous, as the top 10% earn more than $180,000 annually. It’s often seen as a second careers for lawyers, especially attorneys who are ambitious and successful…

Popular Pick: Doctor of Philosophy in Criminal Justice / Law & Public Policy from Walden University

 

#3 Legal Consultant

Median Salary: $82,178
Education: Law degree
Experience: 5 or more years of legal experience
Growth: Not required, although previous licensing is required

This is one of the best alternative jobs for lawyers. There is a growing need for expert legal advice, and many organizations are meeting this need by hiring independent legal consultants, which is one of the top JD preferred jobs. These professionals provide advice and guidance to a group, company, individual, or organization, helping them navigate a complex legal situation. However, they do not actually represent the group or person in court or in legal negotiations. They merely provide advice.

While it is possible to provide legal consultation services without previous experience, most of these experts will have years practicing law. In fact, many will be current lawyers, with some actively providing legal representation to some clients while merely giving advice and consultation to others.

The more experience you have, the better your chances of being hired to provide independent consultation services, which is one of the best second careers for lawyers. This can be a strong career field for anyone who has completed a law career, as the top 10% earn over $137,000 according to ZipRecruiter.

Sponsored Pick: Doctor of Law & Policy from Liberty University

 

#4 Legal Professor

Median Salary: $80,560 (postsecondary teachers)
Education: Juris doctor and teaching/education degree
Experience: 5 or more years of legal practice recommended
Growth: Previous licensing recommended, most states will also require a teaching license

As a law professor, you can shape the minds and skills of future attorneys. This profession generally requires previous experience in the field, which means law professors should have about five years (or more) practicing law. This makes perfect sense, as experience allows you to give direct, real-world advice to students.

Although they are considered alternative jobs for lawyers, to become a legal professor, you may have to maintain a law license. This is often preferred by the college or university. Also, it’s not uncommon for a lawyer with a strong academic standing to both teach law and practice law at the same time.

While median salary is $80,560 according the the BLS, this is the number for all postsecondary teachers. It’s entirely possible that professors in these alternative careers with a law degree earn much more than this rate. With the chance to guide future attorneys and earn an outstanding income, a law professor is one of the best non legal jobs with a law degree.

Sponsored Pick: Doctor of Philosophy in Education / Educational Law from Liberty University

Top Jobs for People Who Have Practiced Law

While there are many jobs available for people currently practicing law, there are also option for professionals who used to practice but are, for whatever reason, no longer maintaining their license.

#1 Regional Planner

Median Salary: $79,950
Education: Master’s in regional or urban planning
Experience: None
Growth: A few states require licensing

As a regional planner, you are responsible for planning the development of land, helping to create communities, facilitate growth, and revitalize urban, suburban, and rural areas. This profession requires an education in community planning, but it is heavily influenced by federal, state, and local laws. A law degree, as well as experience practicing law, could be extremely useful.

In this profession, you would likely be hired by local governments, although engineering and development firms also hire regional planners. The top 10% earn more than $102,000 annually, so there is potential for high incomes.

Popular Pick: Master of Arts in Urban & Regional Planning / Geographic Information Systems from University of Florida

 

#2 Arbitrators

Median Salary: $66,130
Education: Bachelor’s in related subject like law
Experience: None
Licensing: None

It’s not uncommon for legal disputes to be settled out of court. In these situations, the services of an arbitrator, mediator, or conciliator is often used, and these are good jobs for ex lawyers. While some states require certification, there is no national licensing requirement. In other words, you don’t have to pass the bar exam to work in this profession. However, previous experience practicing law would be extremely beneficial, as it helps you understand and navigate the complexities of legal negotiations.

Again, the pay is relatively low compared to attorneys, judges, and other legal careers. But the top 10% can expect annual incomes over $131,000, making this an ideal option for many former attorneys.
It’s not uncommon for legal disputes to be settled out of court. In these situations, the services of an arbitrator, mediator, or conciliator is often used, and these are good jobs for ex lawyers. While some states require certification, there is no national licensing requirement. In other words, you don’t have to pass the bar exam to work in this profession. However, previous experience practicing law would be extremely beneficial, as it helps you understand and navigate the complexities of legal negotiations.

Again, the pay is relatively low compared to attorneys, judges, and other legal careers. But the top 10% can expect annual incomes over $131,000, making this an ideal option for many former attorneys.

Sponsored Pick: Bachelor of Science in Legal Support & Services from Purdue University Global

 

#3 Law Librarian

Median Salary: $56,320
Education: Law degree, library science degree
Experience: None, although legal experience is helpful
Licensing: None

Lawyers, paralegals, and judges need a lot of information, and they often turn to law librarians to find it. These highly-detailed professionals provide research support, which can include legal research, operations management, and even, in certain situations, strategic planning. Their expertise is often utilized by law firms, although corporations, universities, and governments will also request their services.

While they do not need to pass the bar exam, many law librarians need an education in law, including a J.D. A master’s in library science or information science could be an alternative education for these JD preferred jobs.

ZipRecruiter says that the median salary is over $56,000, but the top 10% in this field earn over $94,000.

Sponsored Pick: Master of Science in Library & Information Science from St. John’s University

 

#4 Real Estate Agent

Median Salary: $51,220
Education: Real estate courses
Experience: None
Licensing: State by state licensing required

The real estate industry, for many reasons, is heavily regulated by laws, making this one of the best alternative careers with a law degree. Numerous transactions require the services of an attorney, and some lawyers specialize in real estate law. For someone who has practiced law in the past and still has a law license, the combination of a real estate agent and lawyer could be a profitable dual profession.

The median pay for real estate brokers and sales agents is low compared to many law careers, but it’s heavily based on performance. As such, the top 10% actually earn over $174,000 a year, so there is a high potential for larger earnings in this career. If you have practiced law in the past, this experience would flow seamlessly into a second career as a real estate agent. If you are looking for high-pace careers in law without being a lawyer, a real estate agent could be a fine choice.

Sponsored Pick: Master of Professional Studies in Real Estate from Georgetown University

Alternative Careers with a Law Degree (For Those That are Not Lawyers)

If you have completed a law degree, but are not licensed to practice law, there are countless options. These law degree jobs without passing bar allow you to use your general legal knowledge, even if it’s not applied to courtrooms, contracts, or legal consultation.

#1 Human Resources Manager

Median Salary: $121,220
Education: Bachelor’s degree
Experience: 5 years or more
Licensing: Certifications available

Few offices are as fraught with legal complexities as the human resources department. For obvious reasons, there are laws for recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and firing. Understanding these laws is an important role for a human resources manager, making it a fine choice for people with a legal education who don’t want to work in typical legal careers.

This is an excellent career for anyone who wants to earn a strong income. While the median salary is strong, the top 10% can expect earnings over $208,000. With a high demand for skilled human resources professionals, this could be a useful alternative careers with a law degree.

Sponsored Pick: Bachelor of Science in Applied Human Resources Management from Grand Canyon University

 

#2 Chief Executive

Median Salary: $107,680
Education: Bachelor’s degree
Experience: At least 5 years
Licensing: Certification may be required

A chief executive is responsible for shaping the overall focus, direction, and strategy of a company or group. Depending on the nature of the business or non-profit, there could be numerous legal pitfalls, which means a law degree can be beneficial in this profession.

As a chief executive, you’ll have the chance to use your knowledge, drive, and understanding of the legal profession to improve a business. Pay is heavily dependent on performance, but the top 10% earn over $208,000 a year, making this one of the best-paying alternative careers with a law degree. These are good jobs for ex lawyers, as they allow you to use your knowledge, skills, and ambition in a competitive environment.

Sponsored Pick: Bachelor of Science in Business Administration / Business Management from Western Governors University

 

#3 Paralegal

Median Salary: $52,920
Education: Associate’s degree
Experience: None
Licensing: Certification typically required

Paralegals perform many of the important tasks for which lawyers simply don’t have the time. They investigate cases, organize documents, write summaries, and perform a myriad of other duties to help legal attorneys. These legal careers do not require a full law degree, but paralegal education of some type is required.

The pay for experienced and skilled paralegals can be excellent, as the top 10% earn over $85,000 annually. They pay is clearly lower than an attorney, but this profession is often seen as an entry point to other legal careers.

Sponsored Pick: Bachelor of Science in Law & Paralegal Studies from University of Cincinnati

 

#4 Entrepreneur

Median Salary: Varies widely
Education: None
Experience: None
Licensing: None

Entrepreneur” is possibly the most wide-ranging career description possible, and it covers everything from a solo contractor to the owner of a global tech conglomerate. There is no education requirement, but having a law degree seems like good starting point, as it will help you navigate complex negotiations, contracts, and other areas that require legal expertise.

It’s virtually impossible to measure the median salaries for entrepreneurs, but with hard work, dedication, and perseverance, you can certainly earn a strong income. This may not be one of the traditional careers in law, but working as an entrepreneur after law school can be exciting and rewarding.

Sponsored Pick: Master of Business Administration / Entrepreneurship from Utica College

Top Alternative Careers with a Law Degree Await You

What can you do with a law degree? You can become one of the most influential attorneys in the country. Or you could work your way to a judgeship. Or you could use your understanding of law to become a successful entrepreneur. The choice is yours, but it can all start with an online law degree!

Online Law Degree Programs

 

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