Now that you’ve achieved that coveted law degree and taken the bar exam, what’s next? The good news is that there are plenty of options, depending on your career goals and life-balance priorities. Below are various options that are available to recent law graduates.
These come in small, medium and large, and each has its pros and cons. Large firms tend to pay more but you will likely find yourself putting in a lot of hours. Also, for a while you may be doing a lot of research and writing rather than meeting with clients and seeing the inside of a courtroom. In small firms you are more likely to be doing a variety of work, meeting with clients and even seeing some courtroom action. However, generally the pay is not as high as the larger firms. Medium firms can be a blend of the two.
These jobs are free from the billable hours model and you can be exposed to some interesting cases. Jobs in the government sector can include the district attorney’s or public defender’s office where you will be in the courtroom quite a bit, or as a city or county attorney, in legislature or some Federal offices such as the FBI. These jobs tend to pay less than law firms but can lead to good jobs in the private sector.
Corporate counsel jobs are also free from billable hours with better work-life balance than in law firms. The pay is often comparable or even better than law firms, but most in-house counsel roles require prior work experience, so it is not easy to land one of these jobs out of law school.
Judicial clerkships are a great resume-builder. Clerkships usually involve working for a judge and are a great way to experience the inside of the courtroom. It is also a great networking opportunity. The most valuable roles are clerkships with a federal judge, but these are not easy to land. State judge clerkships are also valuable but are great for making local connections if you are planning to practice in that location. Clerkships do not pay as well as law firms, but they are usually temporary and can lead to good positions at large law firms.
While it is possible to land a law professor job out of law school, most law schools hire attorneys who have practiced for a period of time or who have a legal masters or doctoral degree. The pay is not as good as most law firm roles but there is a terrific work-life balance.
Another option is to work for yourself. This is a great path for the entrepreneur who is prepared to reap the benefits of what is put into it. Make sure you network with experienced attorneys in the area who can provide guidance on legal and ethical matters, and who may send some clients your way. Also, be prepared to hire someone who is very skilled in internet marketing.
You can also consider getting a masters or a doctorate degree in a specialized area of law, but make sure that this is the area you definitely want to practice in before spending the extra time and money. If it is then having such an advanced degree will give you an edge in finding jobs in that area.
Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.Dalai Lama