Once upon a time, a profession in law was the brass ring, a career that delivered prestige and wealth. However, a glut of law school graduates, dwindling employment numbers, declining starting salaries and astronomical student loans have taken some shine off the profession’s future. A "Forbes" article, “Why Attending Law School is the Worst Career Decision You’ll Ever Make,” certainly didn’t help to ease the concerns of would-be lawyers. However, there are career options available for lawyers who don’t want to practice law.
Lawyers who love law -- but don’t want to practice it -- may find fulfillment as law teachers or professors. Besides teaching in law schools, they can also teach law classes at four-year colleges and universities, or even teach at junior colleges. Law teachers develop curricula, plan lessons, teach students and grade papers and tests. They also perform research, which is published in academic and legal journals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS, the annual median salary for law professors is $93,330. And Yale Law School states that students who have received their law degree and are interested in teaching complete a one-year course of study to obtain the degree of Master of Laws, or LL.M.
Whether they are elected or appointed, many politicians, or public officials, on the local, state and federal levels have law degrees. On the local level, political choices range from city council member and mayor to city law director and county commissioner. Political careers on the state level include representative, senator, governor and lieutenant governor. National politicians range from being members of Congress to occuping the highest office in the land. The BLS reports that the annual median salary for politicians varies greatly depending on the office. Some local officials work without pay, while members of Congress make $174,00 annually.
Policy analysts help to shape policies and address issues. They identify causes or areas of concern, collect information, and then recommend ways to provide solutions. They also analyze policies for effectiveness, or to see if the benefits justify the costs. Policy analysts may be employed by the federal government or by think tanks or other private organizations. The BLS states that salaries vary among private organizations, but GS-15 level policy analysts who work for the federal government earn $93,000 to $145,500 annually.
There are numerous examples of lawyers who found fulfillment -- and fame -- pursuing other careers. After the success of his first legal thriller, "The Firm," John Grisham left the practice of law and became the bestselling author of several other books that were also turned into movies, including, "A Time to Kill," and "The Runaway Jury." Tim and Nina Zagat met and married while attending law school, but gave up the practice after they founded Zagat Survey restaurant ratings. Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli started singing to earn money for law school, but after graduation, he only practiced law for a year before becoming a professional singer. In the world of sports, announcer Howard Cossell, quarterback Steve Young, baseball manager Tony LaRussa, and NBA Commissioner David Stern all earned law degrees.
- Forbes.com: Why Attending Law School is the Worst Career Decision You’ll Ever Make
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Law Teachers, Postsecondary
- Yale Law School: Degree Programs
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Politician
- Congressional Research Service: Salaries of Members of Congress
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Policy Analysts
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