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

 J.D. (Juris Doctor) can lead to a wide range of law-related careers and can open doors to careers in government, business, higher education, communications, and numerous other fields.  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. 

There are significant differences in career choices lawyers make, from public interest law and government law to private practice in a firm.  The differences among starting salaries alone can exceed $100,000.  And, now more than ever, the need to pay back law school loans can affect the career choices of a new graduate. 

Before beginning the application process, consider carefully if a law degree is right for you.  Not all pre-law students will know the area of law they want to practice, but it is 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 exploring legal careers is to distinguish between commonly held expectations (especially based on media portrayals of lawyers) 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. The market for new lawyers is competitive for those seeking positions in cities and firms that are in high demand.  Depending on the type of law practiced and the location, entry into law firms can be difficult and salaries may not meet expectations.  

Before committing to a legal education, some basic legal career-related questions to explore include:

  1. What do lawyers actually do? How do they spend their time? 
  2. What are some of the most rewarding aspects of this career?
  3. What are primary challenges of this career?
  4. Which personality characteristics are important for a career in law? What areas of law might be a good fit for my personality?
  5. What does a successful career in the legal world look like? 

The Pre-Law Handbook outlines a number of ways you can explore the field of law and whether it is a good fit for you.