Whenever someone speaks about pursuing a law degree, often times it is assumed upon completion of their undergraduate studies, they will take the bar and go on to practice in a firm of their choosing. While this might be fulfilling for some, the idea of the traditional route may not be as appealing to others. If you, like me may struggle to envision yourself assimilating neatly into the traditional landscape of the profession do not be disheartened, the degree itself is particularly versatile. There are so many pathways that are available to law graduates and the insight we get into how various systems in society work, can present us with a unique set of skills.
Throughout my journey as a law student, I have often had concerns about the direction I was bound to follow after completing my degree. This led to me to research alternative paths that are available to those who share my concerns. A common alternative for degree holders is business. The skills acquired in law school often times equip one with the acumen to participate successfully in the business world, where the options are limitless. Positions like company secretary and roles in business development or operational management are particularly well suited and many organizations have attorneys on their books performing the more traditional functions. The combination of an undergraduate degree with a MBA or an LLM in commercial law can prepare one to successfully work in these fields.
Law degree holders are also frequently known to venture into the field of non-governmental occupations, working for organizations and initiatives that seek to make the world a better place. This work can involve a myriad of skills that a lawyer would possess, depending on the department. Tasks such as policy development, providing in-house advice and project management are among the many you would be equipped to handle. In this field, you would marry your interest in social justice and economical development with the expertise acquired in the degree.
The legislative dimension of international relations, particularly the ability to analyze arguments and evidence rigorously and develop policy based on the information uncovered, means that these fields also often have lawyers in key roles. Diplomats, risk analysts, intelligence specialists and lobbyists, to name a few. These skills are honed particularly in moot related modules which sharpen your ability to argue in favour of your viewpoint clearly and concisely. Furthermore, the hours spent pouring over textbooks and legal journals prepares you for the intensive research that is required in the field.
There are several other career paths one might follow with a law degree in hand, including working in academia – often pursued by those that have the love for teaching and expanding their own knowledge in the legal field, or in politics – several leaders the world were highly regarded members of the legal fraternity before diversifying into the political sphere as the two are often linked. The options truly are limitless.
People who have left the legal field to pursue other interests, have succeeded and many of the less than traditional options feature similar work to the work we find in law firms. Some of them present new challenges that lawyers find themselves uniquely equipped to handle while still managing to ignite the passion that drove one to pursue the law.
Pheona Wall serves as the Vice President of the Uganda Law Society, the Head of Legal at the National Water and Sewerage Company, but has also managed to pursue her interest in the field of PR and Communications in order to become an established expert in Uganda. This is a great example that a law degree is not a one-track road.
If you seek to do further research on the different ways you can apply your degree in the real world, it would be helpful to consult the following texts: “What can you do with a law degree?” written by Deborah L. Arron and “Nonlegal careers for lawyers” written by Frances Utley. Remember that there is no universal solution and your personal beliefs and ambitions will be your clearest guide. All the best!