What Non-Legal Career Path Should I Take And How Do I Land A Job?

Q: I am Canadian and have graduated this year with both civil and common law degrees and before my legal education I finished a BA in international political science and French. I am also bilingual since my civil degree was in a French law school in Montreal. However, I don't really want to be a lawyer. I love research as well as public speaking and I don't know where to begin to do my job research. I was trying to limit my search by the areas of law that I am interested in, in order to perhaps find non-profit organizations, associations, etc. with related work. But my problem is that I can't narrow my choices. I span from international legal issues to tort law.

How do I begin limiting my choices? Or perhaps I'm going about this in the wrong way? How difficult is it for someone who just graduated from law school to immediately seek non-legal jobs? Is it better to work as a lawyer for a few years and then change? Perhaps I would be taken more seriously? If you don't mind, I would appreciate any words of advice you may have. Thank you very much.

A: I'll try to answer your questions in the order you asked:

1. Rather than trying to limit the areas of law that you are looking into, first undertake a thorough self-assessment of your skills and interests. Once you have a good handle on those, then do informational interviews with practitioners from some of the areas you are considering to see if the skills and interests you have fit with those practice areas. After all, the skills needed to draft an appeal are very different from those required of a trial attorney -- the former needs excellent research and writing skills, along with good analytical ability, whereas the latter needs good presentation and persuasion skills, along with some amount of charisma and stamina. Of course, I'm generalizing and abbreviating here, but hopefully, the example will help you understand the point.

2. If you want to use your legal skills in some field strongly related to law (for example, as a human resources/personnel manager, with a background in labor law, or a trust administrator for a bank, with a background in estate planning), I would suggest that you take a legal job in a relevant field for a year or two, for the credibility it will give your resume.

3. If you don't want to work in a field that is related to law, then practicing law isn't necessary. You have the degree, which gives you the basic information and skills, and you can represent to an employer that you have lawyer abilities that you gained in school for the purpose of using them in the business (or real estate, or publishing or whatever) world.

4. If you like legal researching and writing, you might want to look for a career job with a court or a legal publisher, or a law firm that handles only appellate work. Or maybe you could apply your research and writing skills to a job with a think tank. If working for such a research organization does interest you, keep in mind that there are two types -- those that are privately funded by an entity that hires the research for its private interest, and those that are funded by government agencies in order to research an issue of public interest. To find out more about these research entities, where they are, what subjects they specialize in and how to get a job with them, visit the public library to review the two directories on Research Centers that Gale Research, Inc. publishes.