Category Archives: Alternative Career Descriptions

Alternative Career Spotlight: Contract Management

If you are looking for an interesting and challenging career outside of the traditional practice of law, consider the growing field of contract management. The knowledge and skills that you develop in law school are directly transferrable to the contract management industry.  Skills required for contract management positions include analytical skills, problem-solving skills, and written and verbal communication skills.  Additionally, contract management offers a variety of career path opportunities, and it is a growing field, particularly as businesses become increasingly global, demanding more efficient supplier and customer relationships.  Typical job duties in a contract management position include creating proposals, negotiating contract terms, resolving legal disputes, and making presentations. Furthermore, the contract management team works closely with all areas and departments within an organization.  For more information about contract management, visit the National Contract Management Association’s website at ncmahq.org.  Also, visit the CSD library for additional resources on jobs in contract management. 

The National Contract Management Association (NCMA) offers a significantly discounted membership for students ($25/year).  Benefits of membership include valuable networking opportunities with industry leaders, live webinars covering hot topics in contract management, national educational seminars, access to the NCMA’s job bank, and a monthly subscription to Contract Management Magazine.  Click here for complete details on how to join.

Career Spotlight: Government Contract Specialist

A Contact Specialist for the government develops and awards a full range of contacts for goods and services used by the government.  Duties of a contract specialist may include:

  • Plan solicitations for supplies and services and analyze contract proposals.
  • Negotiate and evaluate contact terms.
  • Award contracts and perform detailed administrative functions.
  • Ensure compliance with contract terms and conditions during term of contract.
  • Terminate contracts when necessary and perform contract closeouts.
  • Formulate contracting strategies and advise on contracting actions.
  • Meet with employees at all levels on all types of procurement issues and concerns.
  • Maintain up-to-date knowledge of clients’ procurement requirements and serve as subject matter expert on the clients’ professional fields.

Career Spotlight: Policy Analyst

Policy analysts research, evaluate, and shape policy.  Policy analysts can be involved in developing new policy or in analyzing existing policy, and their role will usually be determined by the type of organization for which they work.  Policy analysts can work in a variety of settings including government offices, nonprofit organizations, think tanks, and corporations. 

Key skills that a policy analyst should possess include an analytical mind, an ability to think creatively, attention to detail, excellent oral and written communication skills, and an ability to understand and analyze statistical information.

Most policy analysts have a graduate degree such as a masters degree, J.D. or Ph.D.  Policy analysts will usually start out by specializing in a particular field to develop an expertise in that area.  Because most employers seek policy analysts with particular specializations, it is very important to gain experience in this field prior to graduation.  Experience can be gained while in school through internships, working with professors, and joining public policy clinics. 

Check out these resources for additional information on a career as a policy analyst:

 

Alternative Career Highlight: Court Administrator

So what does a court administrator do?  A court administrator is responsible for the day-to-day management of a court system’s administrative duties.  The responsibilities of a court administrator often include:

  • Analyzing the court’s case docket and improving case-flow management
  • Personnel management
  • Preparing the court’s operating budget
  • Development and implementation of policy and procedures
  • Managing the court’s information technology
  • Responding to public inquiries
  • Establishing and maintaining relationships with individuals in the state legislature, county and city governments, law enforcement agencies, and the media

Some general qualifications for a court administrator may include:

  • Bachelor’s degree in business administration, public administration, public administration, or a closely related field
  • Juris Doctor degree preferred
  • Experience managing personnel, complex budgets, and information technology

To find jobs in court administration, check the job board of your local courts, as well as the National Center for State Courts’ job board (click here).

Career in Mediation

A mediator is a neutral individual who facilitates the resolution of a legal issue between parties.  A mediator is not a judge or an arbitrator and does not decide which party is “right.”  Rather, a mediator assists parties in arriving at a compromise to find a win-win resolution to their disagreement.

Mediators can work in a variety of settings including community mediation centers, court-appointed programs, government programs, or a private office.  Mediators can specialize in a practice area (such a family law or mortgage foreclosures), or mediators can have a more general practice (such as commercial litigation).

If you are interested in a career in mediation, these are some helpful websites to visit: National Association for Community Mediators (www.nafcm.org); National Center for State Courts (www.ncsoline.org); Florida State Courts Alternative Dispute Resolution (http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/adr/index.shtml).

More Ideas on What You Can Do With Your JD

Here are some more thoughts about what you can do with a law degree.  From Anthony Balderrama with CareerBuilder.com:

Corporate Investigator
What they do: When companies suspect their employees are violating workplace rules or committing serious breaches, they hire investigators to conduct internal investigations, which can reveal illegal behavior such as theft or fraud. They also conduct external investigations if a company suspects its clients or vendors are violating an agreement or engaging in illegal behavior.
Annual salary:$47,098*

Employee benefits managers
What they do:
Employee benefits managers design and implement the benefits plan for an organization. They formulate a plan that incorporates the needs of employees, ranging from health and mental well-being benefits to stock options and flexible spending accounts. In addition to creating and implementing the plan, managers also stay abreast of all legal guidelines to ensure that the company is not violating any state or federal laws.
Annual salary: $91,023

Law librarians
What they do:
In law firms, libraries, corporations and universities, law librarians are experts on researching any law-related issue. Attorneys, professors, paralegals and patrons of all industries often need to access reference materials, case studies and other legal documents. Law librarians know where to find relevant information and ensure that the library remains stocked with the appropriate materials necessary for its patrons.
Annual salary: $60,732

Mediators
What they do: When two parties (individuals or organizations) need to settle a disagreement that they would prefer not escalate to a trial or other public forum, they turn to mediation. A mediator sits in on the discussions and sometimes offers advice, but he or she does not dispense a ruling or orders of any kind.
Annual salary: $50,660

Personal financial advisers
What they do: Personal financial advisers work with clients who need guidance on how to handle their finances, from investments to savings to insurance.
Annual salary: $77,723

Risk managers
What they do: Often employed in financial organizations, risk managers identify potential financial threats to the company and implement methods to reduce or eliminate them.
Annual salary: $96,395

*Salary figures based on data from CBSalary.com and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Click here to read the entire article.

Using the Occupational Outlook Handbook in Your Alternative Career Search

The Occupational Outlook Handbook (“OOH”) is a fabulous resource for exploring career options.  Along with presenting detailed information on employment projections for hundreds of careers, the OOH provides summaries of the career field, work environment, training and qualifications, average salaries, related occupations, and professional organizations.  Ever thought about writing or editing?  Go to the OOH first to find out the latest trends in fields employing writers.  Just starting your career search and wondering what areas have the best prospects for job growth?  Go to the OOH Overview to discover that the number of compliance officer jobs is expected to increase and the employment services industry is expected to have large growth, but that you should stay away from jobs in textile production.  To check it out click here.

Alternative Career Spotlight: Law Firm Marketing

Ever thought of using your law degree to get into law firm marketing?  Most large and mid-size law firms have a marketing person or an entire marketing department.  Let’s explore!

Sample job responsibilities include:

  • Developing the firm’s brand and marketing materials
  • Counseling attorneys on issues related to business development, client retention, and cross-marketing to existing clients
  • Overseeing the firm’s communication with the public including press releases, attorney articles, electronic news alerts, and other marketing communication materials
  • Improving the firm’s visibility to the public
  • Researching, identifying and producing targeted client prospect lists
  • Coordinating and implementing internal and external events
  • Developing and monitoring marketing budgets
  • Researching regional and national industry trends

Sample Job Titles:

  • Marketing Specialist
  • Marketing Manager / Marketing Coordinator
  • Business Development Manager
  • Client Relations Manager
  • Marketing Technology Specialist
  • Proposal Coordinator

Sample Experience Requirements:

  •  Excellent writing, editing, communication (oral and written), interpersonal and analytical skills
  • Undergraduate degree in English, Journalism, Communications, Marketing, Business or a related field
  • Business development and client management knowledge
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Computer proficiency including a knowledge of Word, PowerPoint, Excel
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Ability to organize and prioritize multiple projects
  • Knowledge of law firm practice areas

Want to find out more information about this career?  Want to know how you can position yourself for this career?  Come meet with a CSD counselor!

Alternative Legal Career v. Non-Traditional Legal Career

So you have heard the terms ‘alternative legal career’ and ‘non-traditional legal career,’ but what is the difference?  In everyday parlance, there isn’t a difference.  These terms are usually used interchangeably to refer to someone with a JD who is not practicing as an attorney in a law firm or government setting. 

While there isn’t a strict definition attached to either of these terms, I tend to distinguish them based on whether the job requires the person be licensed to practice law (although I still tend to use the terms interchangeably).  I think of alternative legal careers as those careers that do not require a person be licensed to practice law, but legal training and skills are a benefit in that position.  We reviewed a sampling of those types of careers in yesterday’s blog (found here).  On the other hand, I think of non-traditional legal careers as those careers that require a person be licensed to practice law, but the person is not practicing law in a “traditional” setting. 

What are some examples of non-traditional legal careers?  How about:

  1. In-House Counsel - While working as an attorney in a law firm or the government is considered a “traditional” legal career, being employed by a company is considered “non-traditional.”  Depending on the size and type of corporation there are many possible in-house counsel positions, including general counsel, assistant general counsel, deputy counsel, legal counsel, corporate counsel, employment counsel, and litigation counsel – just to name a few!
  2. Compliance Counsel - Compliance counsel are also typically employed by a company, but are usually distinct from in-house counsel.  Compliance counsel oversee the company’s compliance with a particular Act or regulation.  There are many different areas of concentration for a compliance counsel, for example banking, securities, insurance, health-care, ADA, environmental, wage and hour, and ethics.
  3. Judges – There are many different types of judges including trial court judges, appellate court judges, magistrate judges, and administrative law judges. 
  4. Legislative Counsel - Work environments for legislative counsel can range from departments in the government to non-profit organizations.  Legislative counsel are responsible for policy analysis as well as drafting, interpreting, and applying legislation.

So What Can I Do with My JD?

I often hear the question, “So, what can I do with my JD other than practice law?”  That is a very broad question!!  And the very broad answer is, “Almost* anything!”   

Deciding what kind of alternative legal career is right for you depends on a lot factors.  One of the biggest factors is your background – your undergraduate degree, any other graduate level degrees, and prior work experience.  It also depends on your interests, your goals, and your network of connections.

Further, what you can do with your JD can be thought of as a continuum – on one end, those jobs that are very closely related to being an attorney (think paralegal) and on the other end, those jobs where having a law degree helps develop your skills but is not required (think real estate developer). 

So what are some job examples along that continuum?

Closely related careers

  • Paralegal
  • Contract administrator
  • Law school librarian
  • Insurance claims examiner
  • Compliance officer
  • Dispute resolution professional
  • Clerk of court
  • Lobbyist
  • Undergraduate legal studies instructor
  • Grant writer
  • ADA coordinator
  • Director of law firm marketing
  • Law enforcement officer
  • Market research analyst
  • Journalist
  • Financial planner
  • Real estate agent

Indirectly related careers

These are just a very few examples of what you can do!  Since everyone is unique, it is a good idea to meet with a career counselor to find a field or area of alternative legal careers that is right for you. 

*Like any good attorney, everything must be prefaced!!