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What to do with a law degree

3L, University of Memphis

So you are almost done with law school, or perhaps you are just starting but want to figure out exactly where you will end up in three short years. Either way, career paths after law school vary more than people know. When we first start law school the number one question people ask is, “so, what kind of law are you going to practice?” or, my favorite, “you are not going to be one of those dirty criminal defense attorneys, are you?” But, who says that we have to either be a criminal or civil attorney working for billable hours? Yes, I am aware that many of us will end up working on those billable hours; however, we should also be aware that there are other opportunities outside of the courtroom or research that law school helps prepare us for.

Being an avid sports fan and law student in a town with a rich sports tradition, my favorite path that people take after law school is that of a sports columnist/analyst. Some iconic figures that you may know of that have law degrees are ESPN’s Jay Bilas, a 1992 alumnus of Duke University School of Law, Fox Sports’ Clay Travis, a 2004 alumnus of Vanderbilt University School of Law, and, just to show you that it does not have to be on a national scale, Memphis’ own Geoff Calkins, our lead sports columnist and local ESPN morning show host, is an alumnus of Harvard University School of Law, and former classmate of Chief Justice John Roberts.

Okay, so sports reporting is not your jam, but you still have an affinity for news. Law school helps prepare you for the fast-paced real world and the intricacies of practically every news story. For instance, having a law degree expedited the Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie, an alumnae of Georgetown Law Center, from lonely law school graduate to nationally recognized anchor. The famous Geraldo Rivera, an alumnus of Brooklyn Law School, also is a law graduate who put his analytical skills to use in the news world. Savannah and Geraldo are just two examples of many journalists that have received a law degree.

So journalism is not your thing, you just want an office and to get paid without having to worry about all that research, writing, and court appearances, right? Well, you are getting the right degree. Law degrees are coveted among companies, including nonprofits. Many schools today are offering joint-degree programs that allow a student to obtain a J.D. as well as an M.B.A., and some law schools are even requiring a certain amount of business related law classes to graduate. Law schools are doing this because of the demand in our economic society for legal compliance and quick analysis. Businesses often look to hire lawyers to work in normal business offices, not within the in-house counsel office, so that they can be accessible quicker and analyze certain situations that require little lead time. Basic foundation classes such as torts and contracts give lawyers the conflict-adverse nature that businesses seek. It is simply: to companies, less conflict equals greater returns.

Moral of the story, law degrees are great and open so many doors. They teach us how to be successful in a variety of fields. These three examples barely touch the surface of different career paths a law degree can lead to, I am certain there are hundreds of anecdotes just like the ones told by the above referenced personalities. 


Great post!. Good exploration of alternative career paths.


Great post! I think evening graduating students need a little refresher on how many options we have with a JD! I think remembering that you can tie the law with a passion you had before law school can really create the best career opportunity for you.


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