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Using your Law Degree to Get a Non-Law Career

August 20, 2012

If you’ve been thinking about taking an alternative career path at the end of uni, you’re probably wondering what potential employers will make of your law degree. To some prospective employers, studying law means you want to be a lawyer; some might even assume that you’re only going to stay in the role until you get your ‘real’ job as a solicitor. How do you demonstrate otherwise? 

 

When recruiting, all organisations are essentially looking for the same thing: employees that are interested in and are capable of doing the work. Here are some thoughts on using your law degree to get a job in a different field…

 

Show your Interest

 

In any job application it’s important to demonstrate your interest in the role you are applying for, but this can seem extra tricky when the role doesn’t directly relate to your degree. 

 

In interviews and applications you should clearly express why you are interested in that particular field, why you want the role, and how it fits in with your overall career ambitions. Maybe your interest stems from an obscure essay topic you had at uni, an article you read, a hobby, or perhaps it arose from an experience you had while travelling. Regardless of what piqued your interest be prepared to talk about it and to elaborate on aspects of the job or industry that you find particularly appealing. The key is to show that for you the role is not just a uni job and that it relates to your broader interests and career goals.

 

Sometimes a clear statement in your cover letter that you don’t intend to practice and would instead like to pursue a career in (XYZ field) can be helpful, but you should also explain why you are keen on a career in a different industry.

 

 

Demonstrate your abilities

 

Your prior work experience (even if in an unrelated area) should help to demonstrate many of your skills relevant to the role, but your legal studies can help here too. 

 

Employers can sometimes assume that a legal background provides a very niche set of skills that are only suitable to lawyering. It’s important to demonstrate that while much of the knowledge is specialised, the skills you’ve developed during your degree are not and can easily be applied to the role you’re applying for.

 

All of those essays, IRAC questions and class presentations demonstrate your written and verbal communication skills, as well as critical thinking and problem solving abilities. Being able to clearly express yourself and tackle problems in a structured way are abilities that are important to most roles. All of those law readings and assignments mean that you’ve also got strong research skills and the ability to understand and apply large amounts of complex information. These are just a few examples; you’ll find that a lot of your law student skills are easily applied in other careers.

 

Some of your law subjects may also be useful in the role: think consumer legislation and marketing, media law and journalism, administrative law and government work, and contract law in a business environment. Even if this knowledge isn’t part of the selection criteria, it could end up being very useful in the role and may be worth including in your application.

 

 

Network

 

If you’re branching out into a field that you have no experience in, try the Friends, Family and Fools approach to networking. Someone you know will have a contact in your dream industry. It may get you that first opportunity, or it might only lead to a chat over coffee about the industry or a week or two of work experience. Either way, it all helps.

 

 

Plan Ahead

 

If you know you’re destined to take an alternative career path but still have a few semesters left at uni, now is the perfect time to get some experience to help you land your first job in your preferred industry.

 

Join a related club at uni, use an elective or two to try subjects from a different faculty, or do a few internships. Even small experiences like these can help to demonstrate that you’re serious about pursuing a particular career path.

 

 

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