Graduated from law school, the bar exam is out of the way, and your career should we gravitating from new recruit to junior partner. However, instead of this ideal path instead the first two are out of the way, but the career never started. And the student loan offices are now calling or sending notices in the mail reminding you of your obligations.
Did something go sideways? Was this law school thing just a big farce and being an Oregon personal injury lawyer or a San Francisco corporate attorney is never going to happen? Not quite.
Like medicine and engineering, being a lawyer has been and is still generally considered one of the classic professional paths. Unfortunately, the job market today is anything but classical. Global business, the Internet, and an over-abudance of graduates has created a legal field nationally that has far more supply than demand. Add in the fact that a number of businesses have now created streamlined legal documents for the public that they can finish themselves, and even the bread and butter work for many law offices has begun to disappear. That in turn makes things even tighter for the remaining work that is available.
So was a law degree a waste of time for those who just earned one? No. It’s a valuable skill and certification to have, and there is still quite a bit of work that only a lawyer is allowed to perform. However, new lawyers have to be creative in how they find their place in the new world. And fortunately there are lot of growing areas. Compliance is a big boom industry. Whether it be in accounting, health, production or government, compliance investigation is the hot button. Those attorneys who have an aptitude for finance and regulation will easily find a home here.
Patent and computer technology is also exploding. With intellectual property a big stake in the majority of new companies created annually, ownership of ideas is a gold. However, patent and copyright law is highly technical, so not many attorneys go into the field naturally. That means related jobs and careers are far more possible here than other areas of the law.
If you feel the law is there to give people a defense against the might of the system, then criminal defense will always have room for another attorney. It’s not the big six figures field, but there is never a shortage of work. The courts are slammed in every district with caseload that needs to be represented, making the criminal justice field an ideal area to learn how to litigate fast.
Consulting is also a flexible field that can leverage both legal and other knowledge. There’s a growing need for contracted advice, independent review, guidance, expert task completion and growing field in education. A good number of lawyers have gone into teaching a variety of topics with a legal perspective, never having to actually file a lawsuit for years. Risk management, equal employment opportunity, personnel management, contracting, grant guidance, negotiation, financial advising and more all fall into the world of consulting. And multiple large organizations need help to avoid getting into more costly trouble. This includes companies, schools and universities, non-profit organizations, public agencies and even politicians running for elections. There is no shortage of legal advice being needed outside of the traditional legal office consultation.
Of course, the tried and true course of is for new attorneys to still strike out on their own and hang their own shop sign for hire. Whether that is working as an Oregon personal injury attorney or as an independent general counsel for multiple areas of law, the sole-proprietor or partnership law firm has been a century old career path for thousands of attorneys. One still has to be better than good at their job, and networking relationships are critical for being a rainmaker. But there is always room for a new natural advocate.