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Law: What Can I Do With This Degree?

Corporate Practice

Employers

  • Any large corporation (largest number of attorneys are at corporate headquarters)

Information & Strategies

  • Corporate office summer clerkships and entry-level positions are rare.
  • Usually only experienced lawyers are hired by corporations.
  • Develop tolerance for bureaucratic procedure.
  • An undergraduate major in business, particularly accounting or finance, is helpful.

Federal Government


Employers

  • Most government branches have legal counsel Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps for all branches of the military

Information & Strategies

  • Get involved with an internship or co-op program with the federal government to get a foot in the door.
  • New lawyers frequently go to court and litigate sooner; experience gained here can be valuable to private firms later.
  • Government work offers a variety of practice opportunities from criminal to contacts.

Judicial Clerkships

  • Federal court
  • State court

Employers

  • Federal courts of appeal and district court (trial) judges and magistrates, bankruptcy and administrative law judges
  • State courts of appeal and trial level judges
  • Federal and state court clerkships for collective judges in a court

Information & Strategies

  • High academic achievement is emphasized by state and federal judges; federal judges usually require tip 10% or 15% class rank.
  • Clerkships can be a stepping stone to other legal areas and provide many benefits for future career opportunities.
  • For U.S. Supreme Court, applicants must be top law graduates with 1-2 years clerking at lower federal court.
  • Moot court participation in regional and national competitions is helpful.
  • Law review membership, as an indication of writing ability, is highly valued and emphasized at all court levels.

Politics

  • Lobbing/Government relations
  • Legislative positions

Employers

  • Corporations
  • Trade and professional associations
  • Political action committees
  • Law firms
  • Public interest advocacy groups
  • Congressional representatives at national, state, and local government

Information & Strategies

  • A service-oriented attitude is helpful.
  • Learn to enlist the help of others.
  • Clerkship or summer associate positions with law firms providing lobbying services provide good experience.
  • Demonstrate an interest in politics through your undergraduate major, active campaigning, or research papers/articles.
  • Obtain law firm experience.
  • Acquire superior writing skills.
  • Develop a pleasing personality, enthusiasm, and high energy level.
  • Show ability to work with people and good communication and organizational skills.
  • Consider earning a master of public administration

Private Practice

Employers

  • Large multi-office firms
  • Medium-size firms
  • Small firms
  • Legal clinics
  • Other private legal services

Information & Strategies

  • Acquire excellent research and writing skills.
  • Obtain clerkship or internships.
  • Large and medium-size firms frequently emphasize grades and class rank, and value law review and moot court experience.

Public Interest Law

  • Legal aid services
  • Public defender offices
  • Public interest groups

Employers

  • Legal services corporation
  • Legal aid society
  • Federal, state, and local government
  • Private groups contract
  • Nonprofit and public interest organizations
  • Law firms practicing public interest law

Information & Strategies

  • Gain supervised work experience in an area through summer internships.
  • Demonstrate a desire to help the economically disadvantaged and show an interest in law as a means of change.
  • Volunteer for nonprofit organizations that serve a wide range of people.

Teaching

Employers

  • Law schools
  • Business schools
  • Undergraduate departments of history and political science
  • Paralegal schools

Information & Strategies

  • Obtain several years of experience in private practice or government agency.
  • The LLM degree and an outstanding academic record are required for law school teaching.
  • Teaching allows for more flexibility of time.
  • Some lawyers teach on an adjunct basis.

State & Local Government

  • Criminal prosecution
  • Civil law

Employers

  • District attorney's office
  • Attorney general's office
  • State agencies, commissions, boards, executive and legislative office staff
  • Local agencies and commissions
  • City and county law offices

Information & Strategies

  • Take essential courses related to criminal law, criminal procedure, constitutional law, and evidence.
  • Participate in a criminal clinical program.
  • Obtain summer positions in a prosecutor's office or a criminal litigation office or private firms practicing criminal law.
  • Civil law deals with a broad range of subjects other than criminal matters and provides for a wide variety of functions including the opportunity to work with private lawyers and a variety of public officials.
  • A demonstrated interest in public issues and completion of related internships are helpful.

Patent & Copyright Law

    Employers

    • Law firms (specialized)
    • Corporations
    • U.S. Patent & Trademark office

    Information & Strategies

    • This highly specialized area usually requires technical, science, or engineering degree. These lawyers help protect clients' claims to copyrights, inventions, software, etc.

    Energy Law, Natural Resources & Environmental Law

      Employers

      • Law firms
      • Corporations
      • Federal agencies (especially Department of Energy)
      • Environmental compliance services companies
      • State agencies
      • Regulatory commission

      Information & Strategies

      • This area involves rights to resources including those in the earth, and dangers in production of energy as well as transportation, taxation, patents, and government regulation.
      • An undergraduate major in environmental science, agriculture, engineering, or science may be good preparation.

      Financial Planning, Investment Banking, Estate Planning

        Employers

        • Bank trust departments
        • Brokerage firms
        • Insurance companies
        • Development offices for preparatory schools, hospitals, and universities

        Information & Strategies

        • Insurance "estate planning" positions require interest and ability in sales.
        • Bank trust department positions are good for those who do not want to litigate or be confrontational.
        • An undergraduate major in accounting or finance may be helpful.

        Legal Publishing/Journalism

          Employers

          • Legal publishers
          • Print and electronic media

          Information & Strategies

          • Exhibit interest in writing, research, and editing for publishers.
          • For national media, gain experience covering the law and politics.

          Law Firm Administration

            Employers

            • Private law firms

            Information & Strategies

            • Handle office management, business development, clerk and attorney recruitment, clerkship programs, finances, and human resources in a law firm.

            Higher Education Administration

            Employers

            • Law schools
            • Universities and colleges

            Information & Strategies

            • Serve as a dean or director of academics, admissions, career services, records, alumni affairs, development, etc. in law schools.
            • Work in judicial affairs, pre-law advising, or other undergraduate student support services.

            Law Librarianship

              Employers

              • Law firms
              • Law schools

              Information & Strategies

              • Master's in library or information science, in addition to a law degree, may be required for some positions.

              General Information for Undergraduate Students

              • Students interested in attending law school may choose any major of interest. Some undergraduate majors can help prepare students for a particular area of law, e.g., a BS in environmental science for a career in environmental law.
              • Develop strong research and writing skills. Enhance communication skills through public speaking courses, debate team, or Toast Masters (a public speaking organization).
              • Maintain a high GPA to increase chances of gaining admission to law school.
              • Join Phi Alpha Delta professional association.
              • Find part-time jobs or internships in law firms or government agencies to reality test your interest in law and to gain relevant experience.
              • Prepare for the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) which is required by all law schools.
              • Secure strong personal recommendations from professors.
              • Participate in mock trial, student government, student judiciary boards, and other related organizations.
              Download a PDF of this chart for easy printing.

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