Career Options

Whether you've just begun to think about law or you've been drawn to the legal profession from a very young age, we want to help you explore your options and understand the realities.

Types of Legal Careers

A Juris Doctor (JD) can lead to a wide range of law-related careers and can open doors to careers in government, business, higher education, communications, and much more. Law school graduates are administrators, teachers, librarians, and business managers, as well as advocates, judges, and politicians.

The law can be a rewarding profession. At its best, legal practice challenges the intellect, demanding the exercise of reason and judgment. The ethics of the profession require attorneys to promote justice, fairness, and morality; thus, legal employment can bring particular satisfaction to those who seek to work within the law to rectify social injustice.

Lawyers make significantly different career choices, from public interest law and government law to private practice in a firm. The differences among starting salaries alone can exceed $100,000. The need to pay back law school loans can greatly affect the career choices of a new graduate.

Before beginning the application process, consider carefully if a law degree is right for you. It's not necessary to know what kind of law you want to practice, but it's advisable to explore the various career options of a lawyer as part of your decision-making process.

The Realities of a Legal Career

An important step in making a decision is to distinguish between commonly held expectations and the reality of legal practice. Hours can be very long and often include weekends. Legal work can require spending considerable time in tedious, painstaking research. Depending on the type of law practiced and the location, entry into law firms can be difficult, and salaries may not meet expectations. The market for new lawyers is competitive for those seeking positions in cities and firms that are in high demand.

To learn more about these realities, explore internship and externship options:

  • Make sure that you're designated Pre-Law to receive our newsletters, emails, and updates about internships and other opportunities. To request to be designated Pre-Law, email the Pre-Law administrative assistant at or fill out this form.
  • Check out The Career Center website for general internship and externship opportunities.
  • Take a look at various temporary jobs in the legal field that have been posted.
  • Search for internships and jobs related to the nonprofit sector.
  • Review internships in International Law and Public Safety.

Note: Portions of this page are excerpted from the University of Illinois Pre-Law Handbook.