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Beyond Law – Finding Success in Alternative Careers

How Lawyer Skills Translate to New Careers

A lawyer’s education and experience ensure a skill set that readily transfers to virtually any corporate role, from marketing and business development to labor relations and human resources to environmental, health & safety, risk management, and compliance to real estate development, government relations and a host of other careers. Alternative careers for lawyers abound.

Think about it. You’re smart, analytical, strategic, and a good communicator, both verbally and on paper. You know how to argue, present, negotiate, issue spot, and problem-solve. You know how to manage projects and you’re detail-oriented. You excel in working under pressure, thinking on your feet, and meeting deadlines, and you’ve been trained to adapt to changing circumstances.

ex judicata is here to help

ex judicata was created to help those JDs who have decided to leave the practice of law, or are thinking about it, to find viable new career alternatives.  We’re matching nonpracticing lawyers with opportunities in Corporate America and helping to ensure you are well-prepared for that new career.

In some cases, we’re assisting law firm associates early in their careers move to entry-level executive positions. In other cases, we’re working with more seasoned attorneys—senior associates, in-house counsel, and partners—and introducing them to companies that want to hire people with their unique expertise as executives or in some cases as potential board members. No matter the stage in your career, ex judicata is here to help with resources all which go to providing alternative careers for lawyers.

So, how do you position yourself for that next role?

Here are some tips to set you on your way. We’ve already taken the first step, which is identifying your transferable skills.

Brainstorm with a friend, someone you know in business, and/or a family member. Each will offer insights and identify transferable skills. Next, consider where your interests lie, and the competencies required. Then showcase your skills in your resume and cover letter in relatable ways.

If you lack certain proficiencies, acquire them. Lawyers can gain experience outside of the legal field through pro bono work, volunteering, taking on leadership roles in professional organizations, and taking courses to better align themselves with what is required for advancement in Corporate America. For example, if you are moving into any kind of business role you will need an understanding of basic financial principles to be successful.

Since the vast majority of JDs do not have a grounding in “the numbers” (i.e., what is a statement of cash flows?, what is a balance sheet?, how to properly read a P&L statement), ex judicata created a course, Financial Fluency for Lawyers Moving to Business.

It is taught by Professor Matt Barrett of Notre Dame Law School who literally wrote the book used in 90% of U.S. law schools, Accounting for Lawyers.

Build and leverage your network. Connect with professionals in the industries that interest you, attend events, and spread the word that you are looking to make a change. The latest research on network theory shows that the best opportunities come from second- and third-order contacts. So, you let people in your first-order network know what you want and what you’re looking for and they can broadcast it or be on the lookout on your behalf. Join industry associations, get involved, and talk to the members. Cultivate relationships with professionals in industries that interest you so you can learn about job opportunities and gain insight into what skills are valued in that particular field.

Tailor your resume and cover letter. When applying for nonlegal roles, tailor your resume and cover letter to highlight relevant experience and skills that fit the job you are applying for. Focus on the skills and experience that are most relevant to the role and avoid using legal jargon. You can do this by looking at the job requirements and then reflecting in your resume how your experience translates and meets the requirements. You can use examples of work you’ve handled to demonstrate the necessary skills. For example, the fact that you led a team of lawyers in negotiating a Big 4 accounting firm’s acquisition of corporate headquarters and guided it through zoning, land use, and development of its ground-to-completion project speaks volumes about your ability to manage large-scale projects and lead a team.

If you want personal assistance, ex judicata has you covered here as well. Check out our Career Corner where we have hand-picked experts from around the country who help job seekers to create and present their own unique personal brand. Rewriting your CV and LinkedIn profile is part of this. Again, everything we do at ex judicata goes towards helping to provide alternative careers for lawyers.

Consider entry-level roles in your desired field to gain experience and build your network. Even if the role is not a perfect fit, it can be an opportunity to get your foot in the door and prove your worth to your employer.

Prepare to explain in an interview how your skills make you qualified for the role. In transitioning from law to another field, carefully consider how your skills will translate well to another role and be prepared to discuss with interviewers what makes you a great candidate for the job.

Know that if you’ve reached the point where they want to interview you, they already see your value. You just have to hammer it home!

To help, ex judicata has conducted 35 one-on-one interviews of JDs who have done everything from opening a whiskey distillery to starting a hedge fund to becoming a New York Times bestselling novelist. Click here to see their stories. These are just 35 of the dozens and dozens of alternative careers for lawyers

Some Nonlegal Roles to Consider: There are many positions across multiple industries that lawyers are well-suited for, They include jobs focused on:

  • Analytics
  • Brand Management
  • Business Development
  • Claims
  • Communications
  • Compliance
  • Data Privacy
  • DE&I
  • Ethics
  • Finance
  • Governance
  • Human Resources
  • Investigations
  • Project Management
  • Risk Management
  • Strategy
  • Underwriting

It can help to see how your skills translate for specific roles. So here are some examples:

  • Business Developer. Business development is integral to law practice. With strong analytical and strategic thinking skills, lawyers are able to identify new opportunities, assess market trends, and develop effective strategies for growth, and with excellent communication skills, they are good at building relationships with prospects.
  • Compliance Officer: Lawyers are very well-suited to a compliance officer role, which melds legal and regulatory knowledge. A lawyer can help ensure that the organization is meeting all relevant legal, regulatory and ethical requirements.
  • Strategic Planner: Attorneys have strong analytical skills that make them well-suited for these positions. They are great at researching, handling massive amounts of data, evaluating investment opportunities, and assessing risk.
  • Human Resources Officer: Attorneys who are experienced in dealing with personnel issues, including hiring, firing, executive compensation, employee benefits, and disciplinary matters, make them excellent candidates for human resources roles.
  • Project Manager: Lawyers manage complex projects and handle multiple tasks simultaneously, which makes them ideal for project management roles.
  • Risk Manager: Lawyers are excellent in identifying, assessing and managing risks. That makes them exceptional candidates for various risk management roles. They can help organizations identify potential risks and develop strategies to mitigate or avoid them entirely.
  • Policy Analyst: Lawyers know about legal and regulatory issues, which makes them ideal candidates for policy analyst roles. They can help assess the impact of policies, regulations and trends, and develop effective strategies to achieve organizational goals.

Conclusion

With a diverse and very valuable skill set that translates well to business, lawyers do not have to stay at a firm or in a legal role. They can and should look beyond law for opportunities in business, not-for-profits, government or academia, depending on their interests and goals. The ex judicata job board, the first-ever portal where 100% of the jobs are for nonpracticing lawyers, is a good starting point.

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