Career Change Advice and Ideas for Attorneys

Changing career paths after spending time in a profession like law can be a pretty massive undertaking
Are you an attorney thinking about making a career change? Changing career paths after spending time in a profession like law can be a pretty massive undertaking
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After all, you’ve already invested so much time and money getting into law school, getting through law school, and then however many years you spent laboring in a law office.

But it’s never too late to change careers and as an attorney you will have a lot to offer in a different career path.

Below is some guidance that will help you on your career change from being an attorney.

Recognize your transferable skills

Transferable skills are skills that can be used in any job, regardless of any position or industry. 

When you are preparing for a career change you will be relying a lot on your transferable skills but a lot of people will also need to acquire new skills which we will talk about how to easily do below.

Here are some of the main transferable skills you probably have as an attorney. 

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Communication skills

Attorneys often have tremendous communication skills. 

They interact with fellow attorneys, clients, judges, clerks, legal assistance, paralegals, experts, juries, business owners, the list just goes on.

Being able to communicate ideas clearly to people of all different walks of life can be an invaluable skill when venturing into other industries.

This also often means that many attorneys are excellent public speakers, which can open up a lot of doors for new careers.

But it’s not only about oral communication. 

Oftentimes, you might be gifted with the written word which can take you very far in a different profession. And that brings us to our next transferable skill.

Writing skills

Not every attorney is gifted with public speaking abilities or the best communication skills, but it’s very rare to find an attorney who is not a skilled writer.

Being a strong writer is a tremendous transferable skill because you can land a position in just about any industry. 

For example, you might be a natural for technical writing with your ability to break down complex ideas into easy to understand concepts. 

Research skills

Back when I was an attorney, most of my time was spent researching caselaw, statutes, state and local procedures, etc.

I learned how to efficiently attack my searches so that I could obtain the information I needed without unnecessarily spending hours perusing through irrelevant information.

Being able to quickly find the right information also means being able to quickly grasp new ideas and concepts which can make you attractive to virtually any employer.

New skills

These are just some of the transferable skills that stick out for attorneys. 

Chances are, you probably have many more and you can check out this article to give you some structure into discovering your own.

But a lot of times, you may be lacking a necessary skill set to launch you into a new industry. 

For example, let’s say you wanted to get into front end design. As an attorney, you are probably lacking the skill set to jump immediately into a field like that.

However, you can utilize Unmudl to find you skills that can land you a job in a new career where you lack the foundational skills.

The approach is called skills to jobs and Unmudl is the marketplace where you can find the skills you need to be connected with employers.

Lawyers Looking at Documents
Photo by August de Richelieu

New career ideas for attorneys

Digital marketing

A lot of law firms want to build a larger online presence but don’t know where to start. They don’t have a good grasp on SEO, paid marketing, lead generation, social media, etc.

If you can pick up skills in these areas, your legal background will be extremely valuable to other law firms because it’s an instant way to stand out as qualified.

If you apply yourself to researching these sectors, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to pick up these skills. 

And because you are probably a skilled writer, you’ll be able to produce great content to go along with the skills making you a very attractive candidate.

Build an app

Building a good app is not easy but if you feel strongly enough about the problems you can solve, it could be worth giving it a shot. 

There’s a movement in law of automating certain types of cases and if you have in-depth knowledge of a given area you could apply that to creating a valuable new tool in the industry. This is especially true in certain areas like consumer debt collections, landlord tenant issues, etc.

Or maybe you worked in document review and you have ideas on how to optimize the process. Heck, maybe you even see a better way to take care of billable hours.

Think about the experience that you have gained and how you could create something automated to replace a lot of that human hours required for that task. 

Legal Journalism

You can find positions for legal journalism with many different blogs and websites. 

These websites publish articles providing insight and commentary on the law, cases, and different trends in the industry.

If you have a love for writing, your legal background could make you a prime candidate to become a regular contributor for some of these platforms.

If you have a liking for television, maybe you can try to get into the entertainment side of things and provide legal commentary for television networks or other online platforms.

a-group-people-having-a-meeting-inside-the-office
Photo by RODNAE Productions

Academia

As an attorney, you’ve spent plenty of time in higher education and so you probably have a good idea if that would be a good fit for you.

To qualify for a teaching position at the college level, a master’s degree or a doctorate degree is often needed. As an attorney, you do have a doctorate degree although it’s not quite the same as a PhD.

But you’ll be qualified enough to teach certain courses. I recall one of my favorite undergraduate courses for “business law” that was taught by a former attorney. 

This was a major university so whether you want to teach at community college or at a university your legal background may be enough to land you a position.

If you've published scholarly articles in law you also might be on the right track to become a law professor.

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LSAT or Bar exam instructor/entrepreneur

Did you do amazing on the LSAT back in the day?

If you scored in the upper percentiles that’s pretty much an instant qualifier for being an instructor. 

Or at least you’re halfway there. 

If you also have what it takes to be a good teacher it won’t be difficult for you to find positions as an LSAT instructor.

But at this point in your career you probably have your sights on bigger things so if you have entrepreneurial instincts maybe you can build up your own LSAT instructor business.

If you really enjoyed the bar exam or did really well on it (or both) then maybe you can take your instructor skills to create something for the bar exam. 

Perhaps you can build a new bar exam tool to help people repair or even launch your own prep company. 

There’s a lot of competition out there but there certainly are ways to find a niche and then go from there.

For example, maybe you focus on students who failed the bar exam the first time and build a specific model to help them have success the second go round. 

Or maybe you build something for students who want to take the bar exam in a second state.

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Legal recruiter

If you understand what it takes to be a great attorney and have always had an eye for talent then consider trying to become a legal recruiter. 

Start a podcast

Attorneys can be great podcasters because they already have so much experience with asking questions. 

Ok, yes sometimes in discovery you’re asking the same question about 25 different ways which isn’t necessarily the best strategy for podcasting. 

But for each case or transaction you work on, there’s usually a strong sense of curiosity that helps propel you through your work. 

If you can translate that curiosity into what other people are doing, you’ll be able to ask great questions to create an awesome podcast. 

Combine that with your research skills and listening skills you will certainly have a leg up on much of the competition.

Politician

Lots of politicians have law degrees and many are former attorneys. In fact, forty percent of the current Congress attended law school. 

Having knowledge of the legal system can help make you a more qualified politician right out of the gates. 

If you have always been comfortable with public speaking and care deeply about making a positive impact on society, transitioning to a life of a politician is a very natural pathway for a former lawyer.

Author

Going back to those writing skills, you can tap into those and take a stab at writing a book. 

Whether you go the fiction or nonfiction route, plenty of attorneys end up producing literature at some point.

Compliance

Compliance work can be found in various industries and a lot of your legal work will translate over to it very well

You’ll get familiar with regulations and procedures and have to apply your knowledge of those to real world situations which is very similar to applying the law.

Final word

As you can tell, there are plenty of career change opportunities for you as an attorney. Start with honing in on your transferable skills and then think about what industries appeal to you the most. Don't hesitate to pick up new skills if that's what you need.

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