10 Careers Beyond The Law Firm

A few weeks ago, @Mochievous, a lawyer and fountain of twitter wisdom shared a number of career options for lawyers who feel stuck in law firms. In my experience, when we are in university we were only exposed to the traditional careers for law graduates, such as practising in a law firm or working bank or becoming an advocate. I only found out about the option of legal entrepreneurship and running a legal consultancy after I was admitted as an attorney. 

There is a misconception that lawyers are stuck in a certain practice area and can only work in the jurisdiction they have been admitted into. Here are options to get you to look at your law degree with new, excited eyes!

We have options

1. Risk Management

This is really the bedrock of corporate legal practice. If you are interested in this area, there are many affordable professional certifications you can do. Do the exams, then use it as leverage to negotiate higher pay or better still, move to another industry.

Getting an additional qualification will help you to move up and out of your present situation, click here to find out how to earn qualification in risk management.

2. Corporate Governance

Corporate Governance for Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs). A lot of SMEs are stuck in this area & are often looking for advice. For this, you might have to dabble into some business development because if you are useful to SMEs beyond "legal advice", they are more likely to hire you. You can do this as a side hustle :)

3. Finance

The general perception is that lawyers are not good with numbers, but if you do not fall into this category you can consider writing exams to become a Chartered Financial Analyst. This can help you step into a career in Investment Banking and makes you a double threat with your law degree.

4. Management Consulting

Top management firms like McKinsey hire for a problem solving skill set as opposed to a degree. The interview processes are quite tedious, but if you survived board exams, law school and made billable hours- this is something you can handle. In addition, management consultants earn high salaries.

5. Tax Advisory

Although this is a specialised area, tax is essential in any transaction. You can decide to study a post graduate diploma or an LLM degree in tax. This will allow for you to work in public or private sector and internationally.

6. Policy

As lawyers we are trained to implement policy, and there is an opportunity to get on the side of preparing and drafting policy. There are courses that are available to learn about Policy Development and Management.

7. Development 

The continent has a number of agencies and non profit organisations that work in development, which would also feel like a natural transition as an attorney. Look for openings within the Development Bank of South Africa, African Development Bank, etc. 

8. Project Management 

There are various courses available, including online courses on a platform like Udemy to equip you for making the transition.

9. Transportation and Supply Chain 

Infrastructure development is high on the agenda across the African continent, this is especially important to promote trade and the simple movement of goods and people. There are courses offered online and even through polytechnics. 

10. Compliance 

compliance officer is an employee of a company who helps that company maintain policies and and procedures to remain within an industry's regulatory framework. Don't be afraid to apply for jobs in compliance. 

You don't have to feel stuck in thinking that a law degree is limiting, but rather look at it as a foundation to build into other careers. If possible, you can stagger your career as you age- eg 20's in the law firm, 30's in private sector (options 1-5)  and 40's in more public sector work (options 7-8). 

Also consider finding ways to re-purpose your existing skills to serve an new market, for example we consider environmental law is important for mining, construction and extractive industries - however even restaurants need to consider its environmental footprint. 

There are multiple routes to fulfilling career as an attorney, if you look around and become creative in crafting your career. There is also nothing wrong with rising in the ranks of a law firm to become a partner and build your practice in that way. We just want to see you building a successful lifestyle in law!

Bonus: lawyers can also make incredible entrepreneurs, we will talk more about this in a future post. 


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