Law school

5 unique career paths for Law school grads

After graduating from law school, you may think that practicing law is your only career option. However, some of today's law school grads, by choice or temporarily by necessity given the recovering legal market, are securing incredibly diverse careers outside of the law. The unique paths taken by these graduates reinforce the versatility of a law degree, which brings with it a plethora of marketable skills.

Should you attend law school and decide at some point in your career that you want to do more than simply practice law, you may enjoy numerous opportunities across a wide variety of industries.

Here are five nontraditional fields in which you can leverage your law degree.

1. Journalism: Countless well-known reporters, broadcast journalists, and TV personalities studied law as a precursor to a career in journalism. Geraldo Rivera, host of Geraldo at Large on FOX News Channel, graduated from Brooklyn Law School. Jeff Greenfield, former CBS News senior political correspondent, went to Yale Law School. Cynthia McFadden, coanchor of ABC News's Nightline and Primetime, graduated from Columbia Law School. Finally, Star Jones, former host of The View and contestant on Celebrity Apprentice, obtained her juris doctor from the University of Houston Law Center.

What has allowed these individuals to make the jump from law to media? In law school, you learn to synthesize ideas, communicate clearly, and quickly get to the heart of an issue—all skills that are critical in journalism.

2. Real estate: Well-known real estate magnate Sam Zell also came from the world of law; he graduated from the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor Law School before building his global real estate empire. You, too, could transition from law to real estate investing since, in law school, you learn a great deal about negotiating and structuring financial transactions to minimize risk, maximize returns, and be as tax efficient as possible.

3. Nonprofit management: Curtis Welling, a graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School, is currently president and chief executive officer of the AmeriCares Foundation. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, graduated from the New York University School of Law.

While it is common to think of lawyers as impact litigators at leading nonprofit organizations, such as the NAACP or Lambda Legal, it is also important to note that countless attorneys hold senior executive positions at nonprofits as well. The leadership and management training as well as the problem solving skills that lawyers obtain in law school and throughout their careers prepare them well for these positions.

4. Entrepreneurship: You may be familiar with the Zagat Survey, which rates restaurants and shopping in numerous cities and was cofounded by lawyers-turned-entrepreneurs Nina and Tim Zagat. The Zagats met while studying at Yale Law and both practiced corporate law before starting their entrepreneurial venture.

Daniel Dolan, who launched an online dating site called It's Just Lunch, among other ventures, graduated from Harvard Law School before starting his career as a leading "cyber matchmaker." Similarly, I have leveraged my legal training from Harvard Law to found and build my entrepreneurial firms, Stratus Prep and Stratus Careers.

Entrepreneurs, like lawyers, must think both critically and creatively in order to solve challenging problems with limited resources and thereby create value.

5. The arts: Bestselling authors Scott Turow (Presumed Innocent) and John Grisham (The Firm) are both law school graduates—from Harvard Law and the University of Mississippi School of Law, respectively—and their legal backgrounds played a significant role in their literary success.

University of Virginia School of Law graduate Will Shortz used his talent with words to become the crossword puzzle editor of the New York Times. Finally, David E. Kelly, husband of actress Michelle Pfeiffer and a graduate of Boston University School of Law, utilized the writing skills he developed, in part, at BU Law to become a successful film and television writer and producer.

(Published by US News - January 23, 2012)

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