Alternative Careers

Many law students and graduates at some point consider pursuing a career outside the traditional practice of law.  Their biggest obstacle is figuring out exactly how they can use their law degree in settings other than traditional law practice. The accustomed paths are relatively narrow and well-defined, whereas the non-traditional path is extremely broad and has many branches, none of which is particularly clear-cut.  You don’t find a non-traditional law job “off-the-rack.”  It is a “custom fit” based on your interests, passions and talents.  Careful self- assessment and much research are required.


NALP has a number of resources for attorneys interested in exploring alternative careers, including a sample resume for an attorney transitioning to an alternative career, narratives by successful career changes, and a comprehensive list of relevant web sites. 

List of Non-Traditional Jobs for Law-Trained Professionals
(includes a review of key skills and background needed for a wide variety of non-traditional jobs)

Useful Articles:

Published twice per month by Career Education Institute, the report provides over 100 pages of non-law firm positions for students and alums.  Positions include business, education, government, policy research, the judiciary and international affairs.

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Alternative Career Program Series

1. What Else Can I Do With a Law Degree? (video – about 1 hour)

This Spring 2014 panel discussion, organized by the CDO, featured former attorneys with non-legal roles in business, lobbying, and advisory work.  Panelists included Ryan Coulson (a wealth planning strategist for the California region of Wells Fargo Private Bank), Leila Abdi Kanani (founder of Intermix Legal, a network of freelance attorneys serving small and medium-sized law firms), Bruce McDougal (responsible for regulatory strategy for BlackRock’s securities lending business), and Leah Newkirk (who develops policy and directs federal and state lobbying efforts on behalf of the California Academy of Family Physicians).  The panelists shared their insights about career transitions, preparation for non-legal roles, and strategies for finding “alternative” career opportunities.

2.  Policy Jobs (MP 3 about 1 hour)

This program, presented by the CDO and the student-run Society for Law and Public Policy, featured panelists who utilized their law degrees to advance public policy.  Panelists included Jennifer Dunn (a long-time legal and policy expert on health and women’s rights issues), Aarti Kohli (a former Judiciary Committee and Immigration and Claims Subcommittee counsel to Representative Howard Berman [D-CA] & immigration policy consultant),  Kate Gordon (the Co-Director of the Apollo Alliance) and Ann O’Leary (who formerly served as a assistant to President Clinton in the Domestic Policy Council, a senior policy adviser to the Deputy Secretary of Education, and from 2001 to 2003, a legislative director for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton). 

For more information about Policy jobs, visit the CDO’s Policy/Politics webpage.

3.  Non-Lawyer JDs Working in Law Firms (MP 3 about 1 hour)   

A panel presentation of JDs who are working in law firm recruiting and professional development.  Panelists included Mike Gotham, Director of Attorney Recruiting and Retention at Perkins Coie, LLP, and Katya Miller, Director of Professional Development at Townsend & Townsend & Crew.

4.  Careers in Management Consulting for Law Students (MP3; Spring 2010) — a panel of consultants from McKinsey & Company provides insight into how law students can use their JD to pursue a career in management consulting.

5.  Podcast:  When Lawyers Become Business People (CDO Program, March 8, 2010) — featuring Charley Moore (’96) — the founder of — Harvey Rowen (’67) — CEO of Starmont Asset Management, LLC.

Print Resources

What Can You Do With A Law Degree:  A Lawyer’s Guide to Career Alternatives Inside, Outside & Around the Law, Arron, D. (Decision Books, 5th Ed. 2004) (#243R in the CDO Library).

The Creative Lawyer, Melcher, M.
(ABA, 2007) (#258 in the CDO Library)

Lawyer’s Career Change Handbook: More than 300 Things you Can Do With A Law Degree, Greenberg, H.
(HarperCollins, 2002) (#252R in the CDO Library)

Nonlegal Careers for Lawyers, Munneke, G. and Henslee, W.
(ABA, 4th Ed. 2003) (#257R in the CDO Library).

Judgment Reversed: Alternative Careers for Lawyers, Strausser, J.
(Barrons Educational Series Inc., 1997 (#244R in CDO Library)

Landing a Non-Traditional Legal Job
(Federal Reports Inc., 1995)(#245 in CDO Library)

Changing Jobs: A Handbook for Lawyers in the New Millennium, Staudemaier, H.M., Ed.
(3rd Ed. 1999)  Includes a chapter on Nontraditional Careers. (# 253R in CDO Library)

Vault Guides

Vault is a subscription-based service that generates a variety of career-related research guides, including an entire section devoted to Alternative Careers, including careers in business consulting, investment banking, finance, and venture capital.  Berkeley Law subscribes and is able to give you free access. Visit our web portal.