A handful of us in law school are here because we’ve hit the pause button on a career that’ll be enhanced by legal training, which has the potential to open up some interesting career paths beyond the traditional degree-article-firm job trajectory. In my case, a suspended academic career with an accompanying consulting practice tied to law means putting myself back on the other side of the classroom so that I might morph my work into something that can only come from the training that comes with a legal education. It’ll be worth it, right?
A survey of colleagues over the years show some of the interesting hybrid careers that can fall out of putting a layer of law on top of what one has already had some success doing.
One friend has a doctorate in language acquisition and second language learning, and, bolstered by that training, she went into criminal law and now works to address the legal issues that arise owing to weaknesses in legal translation in the courtroom.
Two others came out of high tech and transitioned nicely into intellectual property, bringing their specialized and current knowledge of their fields to guide patent applications and mount pretty formidable infringement cases.
One went from psychology to law, and now does mental health advocacy, including helping agencies seek funding.
The value of these lawyers comes from spending years honing a craft that then informs their legal work with a depth that cannot otherwise be acquired.
Law, we now know as law students, touches on literally every aspect of life and legal issues will always spring up. So whatever it is you did in a past professional life, you can probably parlay that into a career that aims to solve the problems that are endemic in that area. I used to teach and I’d get students in my office with all kinds of career anxiety, so I got pretty good at spitballing ideas. Here’s a few:
- Were you a teacher? Teachers’ unions need your help, especially in provinces that keep defunding education. More on-the-ground work might see you representing individual teachers or schools in disputes.
- Were you in health sciences? This one would be full of opportunity. Health tech, recalls, epidemics, policy, no doubt in my mind that another Imperial Tobacco is right around the corner, what with all the vapers in the doorways.
- Maybe you come from social work? What can you and your expertise bring to some of the issues we need to be confronting in BC right now? Not a day goes by that we aren’t troubled by headlines regarding the homeless, the addicted, the mentally ill, housing crises and there are tons of legal issues arising all the time.
- Environmental sciences or activism? You won’t be out of work in this province because, pipelines. Environmental agencies and First Nations are going to need your expertise to help make their case.
(You’ve probably noticed that I’m rather social justice minded, so perhaps the business minded can weigh in with their own ideas down in the comments.)
While it seems like jumping ship and going into law is a surefire way to do a mid-life career change, I suspect the hybrid route is one that could have some obstacles. You’re not immune to the thinning articling market, for example. And while no one likes to think it the case, age discrimination is a thing, and might work against you if you’re out there looking for something entry.
But a nice byproduct of the metamorphosed career is being hooked into a field that already knows your name, and that can’t be bad for business.