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In-Depth Jobs

Issue no 16, 17-23 July 2021

                                      Alternate Career Opportunities for Law Students   

Debolina Saha Narayanan & Shubhaankar Ray

I n today's world, a career in law is considered an extremely lucrative choice. Several students aspire to become successful lawyers and for many getting admitted into a good law school is a dream come true. However, the practical understanding of what law as a profession entails only become clear to many students during their study at a law-school. In the university, the study of law coupled with internship experience, with independent litigators, law firms, corpor-ates, think-tanks, non-governmental organisations, start-ups and editorial board of journals, often times act as a revelation tool-kit for law-students that there are more professional options available to them post their graduation in law. Gone are the days when law schools only produced litigators and law-firm partners and while this revealation has come as a boon to many, to some such a wide[1]variety of available professional choices only pose confusion on how best to use a law-degree to their advantage. Today a degree in law has become a useful, integral introductory tool for multiple jobs and today's job-market prizes the invaluable skills and experiences of a law student in multiple career trajectories. Therefore, it would be helpful to outline the various alternate opportunities available to law students other than the traditional main stream law careers, and in the processshed light on the factors which must be kept in mind when making a career decision and deciding on the best way to use one's law degree.

The Dilemma in Moving to an Alternate Career to Law

Students would do good to realize that a deviation in their otherwise long-term goals is not a problem at all-infact it is most natural! It should not come as a surprise to many that most students, in their initial law school years join a law program with a mind-set of becoming a successful lawyer in the traditional sense of the term but later when exposed to a myriad of legal subjects at the university classrooms and networking opportunities made possible by alumni initiatives, have a change of mind and opt for non-traditional legal careers.

While it is fine to have a change of heart and opt for a different career, one must always have a plan and strategy towards achieving the new goal. As can be anticipated, following an alternate career will often be a difficult choice given that only few students previously would have walked the path and more often than not clear guidance would be missing and information on the new alternate route sorely lacking. Added to this feeling of a completely lonely journey would be a constant burdensome feeling that opting for a nontraditional career in law may have just watered down all chances in securing an excellent paying law-firm job which a law degree from one of the top national law colleges in India would have assured. However, this is certainly not the case.

Studying law in itself exposes a student to certain basic skill[1]sets that are highly prized in various professional fields. For example, analytical and problem-solving skills of law[1]students stand in good stead in any profession including entre preneurial ventures, working at think-tanks, state and central government administrative positions, academic institutions and other upcoming non[1]conventional law professions such a legal journalism. Therefore, law students should never be of the impression that there is dearth of avenues for them to pursue and instead make an intelligent decision to closely introspect their personality traits, geographical situation, personal considerations, aptitude and the particular job requirements to excel at their chosen alternate careers before deciding on a non-traditional career path in law.

In the following section we shed light on the factors one must consider while making the shift to available alternative career options.

Considerations to be Kept in Mind While Making the Shift

Whenever one wants to shift their career trajectory, they have to internally assess what qualities in them would help propel them to new heights in their chosen alternate career avenue. Every profession requires hard-work and diligence and law students fare a little better in this avenue given that legal studies by their very nature involve long hours of study and extreme diligence and focus. This along with some of the qualities outlined below, make law-students prized candidates for many careers. Students would therefore need to honestly introspect on the qualities as outlined below and any other qualities that may be required in their chosen alternate legal career to better understand their chances of success in the chosen field.

a.       Excelling in Communication Skills[1]

Effective communication is 'key' to being a successful lawyer and law students are apprised of the importance of excellent communications skills from the first year of law-school itself. As a result, most law students excel in coherent and clear succint mode of speaking and large part of law-school is spent by students in reconciling different perspectives of various scholars on the same topic of discussion and building narratives to help convey the broad understanding of a topic-at-hand to an audience better. This in-turn allows law[1]students to develop their oratory and writing capabilities, which skills are considered invaluable in several professions.

b.      Prioritising, Multitasking and Meeting Deadlines

Law students are well-versed in prioritisng work, multi tasking more than a handful of tasks all at the same time and meeting extremely tight deadlines. In fact while at law school, law-students are taught to work as per a regular schedule, bifurcate their activities into smaller, more achievable tasks and coordinate amongst various parties and jointly work with various stake holders, which in-turn promotes team-spirit and a well-organised clearly defined structured road map for success. Such qualities again prove to be invaluable assets at the job front.

c.       Researching on and analysing skills

As law students, from the very first year of law school, engage in producing research projects and activities, they inculcate the habit of sifting through large data and analysing complex topics based on their reasoning power. Needless to say, law-students therefore develop a firm grasp on logical and deductive reasoning that allow them to offer optimal solutions to any problems at a job. This innate problem-solving ability again makes a law-student invaluable to any employer.

Law students should therefore always be aware of the skill-sets they excel in and accordingly choose their alternate career. Alternate careers can be of two types 'conventional' and 'unconventional'. 'Conventional', as the name suggests are careers often opted to by several law graduates and are not a complete deviation (in the true sense of the term) from the field of law, 'Unconventional', alternate careers on the other hand include careers which are considered substantial deviations from careers that are traditionally taken up by legal professionals and are career paths which are less treaded upon by law students

In the next section we move on to discuss a few of the many potential alternate careers to law both in the 'conventional' and in the 'unconventional' category.


Conventional Alternate Careers to Law

These days law students get opportunities to work at places where they have to put their legal knowledge and skills to use but the ensuing work is not completely in line with what traditional lawyers have been upto in law-firms and in the corridors of courts. Examples for such careers range from in[1]house counsels to administrative roles.


1.       In-house Legal Counsel

The market for in-house legal counsels has been steadily rising. It is a viable alternative for all law students who do not want to pursue a career in litigation or corporate law but at the same time do not want to completely change their field. It is also a lucrative option for law graduates who have been practicing law or working in law firms. Corporations are very open to hiring such people with prior experience. The pay scale of reputed corporations is also most often at par with law firms. An in-house legal counsel job can be structured in two ways. At times corporations have their own legal departments. In such situations the job requires doing everything which a lawyer would be doing but instead of advising clients, one would mainly be advising and briefing the board of the corporation. The other would be where corporations create a separate team of lawyers to work exclusively for them. In such cases one can envision the corporation being the exclusive client of the panel of in-house legal counsels. An in-house counsel needs to be well versed with the business of the corporation they enter. At the same time, they should have a good general grasp of the law. This is because they are asked to prepare documents and advise on a range of matters and subject areas of law. The matters can be something specific to the work of the corporation such as compliance requirements under energy law or even on general aspects such as liability accruing due to oppression and mismanagement in a corporation.

In order to pursue a job and excel as an in-house counsel, students would do good to note the sectors of an economy which interests them. During law[1]school, students can start interning in corporations engaged in their sector of interest and engaging in studies with respect to sector specific laws which in-turn could expedite their process of securing a job. A law graduate can also make this shift after a few years of practicing law, as an independent practitioner or as an associate with a law firm. However, it must be noted that an in-house legal counsel's tasks are not very different from a law firm-lawyer, the difference is mainly with respect to the wide array of subjects that an in[1]house counsel is expected to have a broad knowledge of as opposed to the in-depth knowledge on a specialised subject that is expected from a law-firm lawyer.

2.       Administrative Positions

Administrative positions exist in both the public and the private sector. The routes to such positions are very different in both sectors.

In the private sector, the competition is not limited amongst law students alone, students from other fields such as management can also be seen vying for the same positions. While this does pose an increased competition, law students would do good to view this as an opportunity to show[1]case the skill-specialisations that they bring along. Students can either join generally as a management trainee in organisations that do not require an academic background in business or opt for a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) or similar studies such as company secretariship, to help boost their hiring chances.

Administrative positions in the public sector again can be of two types. The first could involve working with public sector undertakings or government companies and this could resemble the role of an in-house counsel work but would differ in terms of work-hours, locations assigned, pay scale and stability in a workplace. The second would be appearing for the civil service examinations and pursue a prestigious and stable career with the Government. At the same time, one must be aware that appearing for the civil service examinations also require a herculean effort especially if the same is to be balanced with the already demanding course-work of law[1]school. Law students can of course choose to appear for the examination at a later date but they would have to be skilled at managing their job and studies for a competitive exam. While shifting to the public sector to secure an administrative role, can be a great incentive for law students, it is important for students to have clarity on what they aspire to do as a public servant to better orient themselves towards a successful stint with the Government.

Generally speaking, law students are always better suited for administrative roles in various sectors as they often have excellent analytical and problem[1]solving skills and therefore they can put such skills to good use given that administrative roles inherently require gathering information and data from various sources and streamlining such data to understand prevalent trends to optimise the functioning of an organization.

3.       Academics

The term 'academia' is usually considered a synonym for teaching. However, academia is a broad term which also includes research activities. If a law student is to keen to pursue a career in academia then such student must secure high academic grades in law school and hone and develop an aptitude for research and writing articles in order to be able to secure a Teaching Assistant position early on in their career.

Contrary to popular thinking, the path of an academic can also be varied. An academic can be either invested in the teaching industry or be a research associate with a university. The benefits of this career trajectory are multiple. It brings stability, prestige and even the promise of gradual progression. People can choose the subjects that have always interested them and work towards achieving excellence in such subjects. Even though academia is largely about theory, these days the inputs given by academicians are used for several practical purposes including supplementing new legislations and delivering judgments. Academics are also often invited to carry on research initiatives and projects to help those in power to understand the lacunae in various initiatives, and the practical changes that could be brought about to make a difference to all concerned.

While the field of academia can be strewn with benefits, it is a very competitive field. At the very outset, one would need to have various qualifications to pursue a career in academia. A Masters in Law (LL.M.) along with a doctorate degree (Ph.D) are at some places viewed as a 'must have' qualification for the start of a career as an academician. Moreover, even though the profession entails a stable income and professional growth, academicians have to constantly continue their research and publication work in order to excel and increase their reach.

Law students who choose academia must ensure that they are ready to pursue the chosen subject and engage in-depth research on the subject. If law students choose to teach then, it is important for them to understand ways in which they can communicate their ideas well to the student body. While this career path is rewarding and stable, it involves long[1]hours of study and dedication, the fruits of which will only become apparent at a much later stage in one's career.

Unconventional Alternate Careers to Law

At times, unconventional alternatives require students to acquire further qualifications in addition to that of law. At other times students can opt for such alternate careers directly after completion of law school. Needless to say, the skills one acquires while studying law play a vital role in suceeding in such unconventional alternate careers.


a.      Financial and Commercial Management

The term is broad as the field of management is rippling with several diverse prospects. The reason management roles differ from administrative positions is primarily because administrative positions involve making overarching decisions about where the future path of the organisation would be headed. It involves amongst others, making decisions on allocation of resources and policy development. While the administration lays down the objectives that are to be achieved, it is the the management that is responsible for achieving those objectives. Also, the spehere of financial and commercial management, like many other work specialisations, amongst others, involve dealing with employees, fostering an environment of productivity, coming up with optimal solutions and completing deliverables under strict deadlines.


i.                    Financial Sector - This is an inclusive and niche sector. In the financial sector, law students may be hired by accountancy firms and insurance companies where such students could routinely become involved in performing tasks like underwriting, due diligence and audits. Law students keen to pursue such careers in the financial sector would do good to add further qualifications to their cap by undertaking finance-related courses, or appearing for the chartered accountancy examination.

ii.                  Managerial Sector - In some places where students in law schools study management related subjects along with their law degree, they can productively apply for managerial positions straight after law school. Many organisations do not prefer law students who have recenty graduated from law school to directly apply for managerial positions. Such organisations in the managerial sector instead prefer students to have qualifications in the managerial sector and therefore students wanting to make a shift to the management sector, must carefully evaluate and identify the set of organisations that they may want to work with. While some large management consulting companies, may directly hire law students from law-schools, such jobs are often viewed by the new hirees as interim jobs. Students who get hired by such firms would do good to pursue a masters degree in business adminis[1]tration at an appropriate stage of their career and then with the added skill-set of a degree in business administration can perhaps strenghthen their stability in such jobs. The managerial sector also provides options to law graduates to keep an eye out for other managerial positions as a recruitment personnel or in the client management business sector. These jobs require excellent communication skills and an eye for detail which law students are trained to develop early on in their law-school years.

Students could also start preparing for a management degree or course immediately after law school or while in their final year of law school along with pursuing internships at management consultancy firms. This would enable students to gain first hand experience of a management firm and help them to make an informed decision on which specific area of management they would be keen to pursue as a long-term career. It is also advisable that students keen on pursuing a career in management must try and make up their mind as early on as possible during the course of law school years itself. This is so, as it is often the early bird that catches the bait. Needless to say, charting out a clear path as early as possible on ways to take advantage of law school that would best prepare students for a career in management, would stand in good stead for all students who are looking to make a shift to this alternate career.


b.      Journalism - Journalism is a career option which many law students think of even well before gaining admission in a law school. These days several law students pursue journalism instead of taking up the conventional court practice of law. In today's world, a new industry called, 'legal journalism' has evolved which keeps all informed about the latest developments in the area of law. The job of a legal journalist amongst others, requires gathering of information on any new laws, reporting on important judgments and major appointments in courts, corporates, law-schools and achievements by law[1]students and law-professionals, either by way of print or online form of reporting.

The groundwork for entering this field can be made at a relatively early stage. In preparation of becoming a legal journalist, students would do good to contact small[1]scale legal news blogs and actively write content for them during their law-school days itself, or better still start writing their own legal news blog to familiarise themselves of the behind-the-scene work that goes into making a news-publication platform a success. Students must be aware that work as a legal journalist requires them to be extremely pro-active and keep an active check on legal developments to maintain a steady flow of information for the target audience. After graduating from law schools, students can get a job as a legal journalist at newspapers, news websites, as well as the Public Relations department of law firms that are often responsible for channeling latest achievements of the particular law-firm to the public.

The good news is that a law degree itself is considered a good qualification for pursuing legal journalism--the essential skill prerequisites being excellent writing and communication skills. However, a diploma in journalism can help parachute a legal journalist's foray into other positions of an organisation. Mainstream journalism could also present itself as a viable option and therefore pursuant to a law degree students can study mass communications and media to make themselves more eligible for jobs as main stream journalists.

While the pay-scale of a legal journalist may not be as promising at the initial stage as compared to what one would receive in a large law firm but there is definitely room for gradual progress in salary in this field. Additionally this alternate career allows law students to remain creative and abreast of all legal developments.


(Debolina Saha Narayanan, Founder[1]Internship Bank & Shubhaankar Ray, University Liaison-Internship Bank) Views expressed are personal


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