Seton Hall Law Featured in US News - "Use a Law Degree for Nonlegal Jobs"
Some people go to law school knowing they don't intend to practice law because they plan on pursuing a law-related job in communications, politics or business.
“We know from experience that a fair percentage of our students already are coming to law school intending to do something other than practice law," says Kathleen Boozang, dean of the Seton Hall University School of Law.
She says this trend is particularly pronounced among enrolled students in Seton's part-time weekend program, who typically also work full time. Many of these students, she says, are currently employed in jobs where a J.D. is an advantage but not a requirement.
Legal career experts say a J.D. is relevant in a wide array of fields.
"A J.D. is a very powerful degree to have in your tool belt regardless of the field you end up working in," says Lisa Bertrand, who earned her J.D. from Georgetown University and has held both legal and nonlegal jobs.
Bertrand, who is now a graduate school recruiter at the New York Institute of Technology's School of Engineering and Computing Sciences, says prospective law students with an interest in nonattorney jobs should see whether their target law school offers second- or third-year electives in topics relevant to their desired career path.
Experts advise law school hopefuls with an interest in nonattorney jobs to make sure a J.D. will make them marketable for positions they desire.
"Law school is a challenging three years; it’s in many ways grueling, and it’s not for everyone. And for the people who aren’t sure they want to go, it’s really true that it’s advisable to take some time off to know what you want to do," says David Helfenbein, an alumnus of the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and a senior vice president with the Main & Rose strategic branding company.
Here are three law-related fields where experts say a J.D. is a compelling advantage.
• Crisis communications: Helfenbein – who specializes in branding, crisis communications and government relations – says his law degree regularly comes in handy when he represents clients with public relations troubles. Crisis communications is a challenging form of public relations work that involves representing individuals or companies facing litigation or criminal charges or receiving other negative publicity.
“People in crisis communications have to be very careful with the words that they choose just as lawyers have to be very careful with the words that they choose," he says.
Helfenbein adds that crisis communications work often involves collaborating with a client's attorneys to ensure that no public statements released on the client's behalf put the client in legal jeopardy. “We are in many ways a public-facing component of a legal defense," he says.
• Politics: Some experts say lobbyists have more credibility with politicians if they have law degrees, and many experts say a law degree is an advantage for government relations careers.
"A lot of people in the political realm have law degrees, because it helps them understand the governing process beyond the basics that we learn in elementary or high school," says Helfenbein, who has held a number of political positions and appointments.
But Roger Austin, a Florida-based political consultant with a J.D. from the University of Florida's Levin College of Law, emphasizes that a law degree isn't a requirement to work in a policy or political job. He says he knows many successful policy professionals who never attended law school.
However, Austin says he uses his legal training when assisting state and local politicians with their political campaigns, ensuring that all contributions comply with campaign finance laws.
• Compliance: Boozang of Seton Hall University says compliance jobs are also a natural fit for law school graduates. "We know that so much of the business world, so much of industry is heavily regulated," she says.
Experts on legal careers say that occasionally executives at companies in highly regulated industries decide to attend law school so they can understand the laws that govern their business. One such executive is Matthew D'Ambrosio, a senior vice president and global chief compliance and ethics officer at Walgreens Boots Alliance – the health and wellness company that owns Walgreens and Duane Reade pharmacies.
D'Ambrosio says he has no regrets about earning his J.D. in health law at Seton Hall University in 2001, because he uses his legal expertise on a daily basis to ensure that his company complies with government regulations.
He adds, "I don’t think I’d be where I am today without my legal training."
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