Lawyers work in a variety of settings, requiring both the skills you develop in law school, prior facets of your pre-law school background and additional training you will obtain following law school. A J.D. is also an incredibly beneficial degree to have for a wide variety of other aspirations. Our graduates are CEOs, entrepreneurs and legislators, among many others.
Some work as solo practitioners, others in small or boutique law firms. Many work in firms that have several hundred lawyers in cities around the world. Lawyers usually join firms as associates and work toward becoming partners.
Many government lawyers work at the local level, but state governments and the federal government also hire lawyers to perform a multitude of tasks.
Most federal government agencies have legal counsel. These agencies include the U.S. Department of Justice, the Office of Homeland Security, the Security Exchange Commission, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Patent and Trademark Office, and just about every other government agency that you can name. Attorneys also serve in all branches of the military. Each military branch has its own Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG).
State and local governments include attorneys who work as prosecutors in District Attorney’s offices and in some jurisdictions, Public Defenders’ offices, Attorneys General offices, state agencies, commissions and boards. They can also be found representing both a state’s executive and legislative branches as well.
Judicial clerks are a subset of government lawyers, but warrant separate mention. Depending on how a state’s court system is structured, judicial clerkships are available at both the federal and state levels. Judicial clerks research and draft memoranda and opinions for judges. Often, these intellectually-stimulating and prestigious positions are short-term. Frequently, recent law graduates will spend a year or two clerking before embarking on their legal careers.
Many public interest lawyers work for legal-aid societies, which are private, non-profit agencies designed to serve economically disadvantaged people. These lawyers might represent clients in landlord-tenant disagreements, or negotiate child visitation rights. In Mississippi, public interest attorneys include public defenders. In many jurisdictions courts contract with private practitioners to represent indigent people in criminal cases.
Learn more about public interest opportunities at psjd.org.
Corporations large and small can be another possible work setting for attorneys. Usually, the largest number of “in-house” attorneys can be found at corporate headquarters. In-house corporate counsel advises the company on legal activities related to the company’s business. Large companies often have correspondingly large legal departments and a number of in-house attorneys who specialize in specific issues.
Law-Related Job Titles (pdf)
Law Firm Administration
Sizeable law firms often have a variety of non-practice related employment. Legally trained people work in areas of business development, clerk and attorney recruitment, law firm finances, human resources or managing office work flow. Graduates interested in these law firm positions usually have a business, accounting or human resources background.
Some law school graduates will end up working in the political process as legislative representatives.
Legal Publishing and Journalism
Most law students use either Lexis or Westlaw as research tools during law school. Several print and electronic media concentrate primarily on legal news. For those students with backgrounds in publishing or journalism, jobs with legal publishers as well as print or electronic media might also provide law-related employment.
Higher Education Administration/Academia
Law school graduates often work in law schools as well as colleges and universities. Lawyers teach in law schools, colleges, and at other educational levels. While some people go on to jobs in faculty positions, many other law school graduates work in non-academic portions of colleges as Dean, Director of Admissions, Alumni Affairs and Development, and Career Services to name a few.
Financial planning, investment banking, estate planning
Law school graduates may work in bank trust departments, brokerage firms, insurance companies, development offices for preparatory schools, hospitals and universities. Often an undergraduate major in accounting or finance would be helpful as well as tax law classes, in addition to a legal education.