What Can You Do With A Law Degree

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Have you decided that you want to continue your pursuit of higher education beyond getting your bachelor’s degree? Are you considering law school?

Before you take on the additional steps and expenses of taking the LSAT (law school admission test) and applying to different law schools, you should probably familiarize yourself with the options available to you if you do obtain a law degree, also known as a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree.

Although many people who get their J.D. plan to become a lawyer, it is highly competitive, and some people can get burned out from putting in too many hours and want to explore how else they can put their hard-earned degree to use.

So what careers can you pursue when you’ve successfully completed your three years of law school?


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Lawyers provide advice for their clients in legal disputes and issues. A lawyer’s client can be a:

  • Government agency
  • Business
  • Individual

Lawyers can be retained to provide representation in court, research and prepare contracts, power of attorney, wills, and lawsuits. According to the United States Department of Labor, the profession is expected to have average growth over the next eight years.

Competition is stiff because there are more law school graduates than jobs.

 However, there are also a lot of different types of law you can choose to work in. For example:

  • Criminal
  • Business
  • Corporate
  • Immigration
  • Family
  • Environmental

In addition to graduating from law school, to become a lawyer, you also need to pass another test known as the bar exam for the state or states you wish to practice law in. Most lawyers work in private legal offices or for the government, and most say their work environment requires putting in more than 40 hours a week.

In exchange for the long hours, the median salary for lawyers in 2017, was close to $$$.

Judge Or Hearing Officer

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Once you’ve obtained your law degree, if you’ve tried your hand at being a lawyer for a few years, your law degree can also be useful to move from the courtroom floor up to the bench as a judge or magistrate.

Judges oversee hearings and make legal decisions by researching the law and applying precedents to come to a conclusion on how to resolve outstanding issues that are presented to them. Judges can preside in local, state, and federal courts. In 2017, the median salary for judges was just under $$$.

There are also administrative judges and hearing officers that listen to issues for government agencies, like the FAA (Federal Airline Administration) or SSA (Social Security Administration). In 2017, the median pay for administrative judges was close to $$.

Magistrates and judges are usually elected or appointed and can work more than 40 hours a week by being on call for emergency orders, and the profession is expected to have average growth over the next ten years.

Mediator Or Arbitrator

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Mediators and arbitrators usually oversee a legal argument between two parties outside of the courtroom. Some contracts may have a clause that requires arbitration or mediation as a step before pursuing litigation. Like a judge, an arbitrator makes a decision that can be binding but appealed. A mediator will try to help the parties find a middle ground.

Although you can become an arbitrator or mediator with a bachelor’s degree, most have their J.D. or are lawyers or judges. You have to hear the facts presented by both sides, apply the letter of the law to attempt to resolve the conflict, and write your decision in a way that’s understandable for all teams involved.

Arbitration or mediation can take place in settling:

  • Credit card disputes
  • Landlord/tenant issues
  • Contract resolution

There is no national standard or test for mediators and arbitrators, but in some states, they do have to obtain specific certifications. The profession is expected to have faster than average growth over the next ten years as companies seek alternative resolution methods that are faster and cost less money than going to court.

In 2017, the lowest salaries for mediators and arbitrators was around $, and the highest was close to $$$ with the median pay being about $$.


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If you like researching, writing, and talking about the law, but don’t necessarily want to endure the potential burn-out that is associated with being a lawyer, then you might be interested in becoming a law professor.

Besides providing guidance for future lawyers, law professors mostly spend a lot of time researching and writing articles to publish in law reviews and casebooks. Many law schools who hire professors are looking for teachers whose publications can bring prestige to the academy’s name. They are also expected to be active in committees like the American Law Institute and American Bar Association.

Although the pay can vary based on if you’re teaching in a public or private institution, the median salary for law professors was just over $$$ in 2017.

Legal Librarian

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Have you ever seen a law library? It can be intimidating to be faced with walls of thick tomes filled with laws dating back to when the country was first founded. And who better to know where to find the right information than someone with a law degree?

If you think the long hours and pressure of being a lawyer might not be the right career move for you, a J.D. can also be useful for a law librarian. Law librarians can work for:

  • Law firms
  • Academic institutions
  • State and county law libraries

Law librarians at some universities can be tenured faculty members that can teach legal research classes. They can also help law professors with their research and work at the library to assist students who need to be pointed in the right direction. As a legal librarian, you can also research and contribute to law journals and publications.

The median salary for librarians working for government libraries was just under $, and it was around $$ for librarians in higher education settings like universities or colleges. The salary might seem lower compared to lawyers, but most typically have flexible and predictable schedules that don’t exceed 40 hours a week.


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Many politicians, including members of Congress, have law degrees. Almost two out of every five senators have been a lawyer. Studying the law is a valuable asset for those who are interested in shaping public policy.

Salaries for politicians can vary widely based on if the position is regional or national. If you don’t want your knowledge of the law to limit you to being stuck in an office and instead want to use what you’ve learned to interact with people, then politics could be the right field for you.

Being a political figure involves campaigning, becoming involved with your constituents, knowing how the laws are written, who they affect, and how they can be changed.


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If you want to go into business for yourself, knowing how to protect your business legally with a law degree can be a tremendous asset. In law school, you can learn:

  • How to raise funds through securities or IPOs
  • How to form your business or corporation, partnership, or LLC
  • How to understand, negotiate and draw up contracts
  • Real estate law to acquire space or tenancy for your business
  • How to handle issues that would require a lawyer

Salaries for entrepreneurs vary widely.

Nonprofit Sector

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If you’re interested in using your law degree to try to do some good, you can explore working in the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits are usually charities, educational or religious organizations that are trying to improve society. They are called nonprofits because they use their revenues to serve their cause and not for the profit of private investors or individuals.

If you’re passionate about providing legal services for those who can’t afford it, or environmental law, or lobbying for a particular cause, then a nonprofit organization is where you’re going to find the most satisfaction for using your law degree. Salaries can vary depending on how well funded the nonprofit is, and although the organization is not dedicated to profit, the employees are paid.


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Lobbyists work with organizations to advance their position with the government and influence the public with advertising and swaying politicians. A lot of lobbyists are lawyers familiar with government agencies. They can:

Prepare testimony in legislative hearingsResearch and give information to government members and their staff

Create campaigns to draw congressional support

A lobbyist’s salary can range from over $ to around $$ depending on the organization.

If you’re interested in going to law school, there are various paths you can take when you get your law degree. From the traditional choice of becoming a lawyer to the lower stress option of becoming a professor or legal librarian, there are many roles you can fill in today’s society and workforce.

Author: Sarah Landrum

Sarah Landrum is a freelance writer and blogger with an interest in all things college and career. For more great tips, catch Sarah on her blog, Punched Clocks. While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on social media.

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