Where do you want to work?
The Bachelor of Laws, or more commonly referred to as an LL.B. (after the Latin Legum Baccaleureus), is a pre-law undergraduate degree for students who intend to practice law. The degree itself isn't required in order to go into the next stage -- the JD, or Juris Doctor, which is the lowest degree necessary to be allowed to practice law -- but of all the options for pre-law bachelor's degree, the Bachelor of Laws is the most specific to studying and understanding the judicial system.
Typically a person who achieves an LL.B. will go on to get a JD, and possibly beyond, and in that case job prospects are relatively clear -- that is, you'll become a lawyer, with the main differences being in your law specialization. For those who do not go on to the JD but who do achieve the LL.B., the job market can look a bit murkier. You might be wondering; what sort of jobs are there for a lawyer who isn't allowed to practice law?
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a map, just for Law Majors such as yourself, to navigate your way through the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who prefer step by step navigation on your path, keep reading. We'll give you the rundown on:
First thing's first: what skills you'll need to get started.
As a lawyer, your skills might seem almost indistinguishable from academics at times. You have to locate information -- often obscure or arcane -- and be able synthesize it into ideas and solutions that work within a variety of legal contexts. The difference is that failure in the judicial world doesn't result in a failed grade or in a bad review, but can mean death or imprisonment for your client.
The stakes are extremely high, and so attention to detail is key. But this attention falls under a number of different skillsets, all of which manifest as plates that a lawyer or legal professional must keep spinning in order to remain successful in their practice.
Let's take a closer look at what this means for Law in particular:
This is a big one -- as a student of any kind, the research you do for your school projects and essay assignments will come in handy when it comes to sorting through data or information in your eventual career, but as a lawyer, research is a major part of the job. Your ability to do your job successfully and consistently depends on your ability to find and retain hyperspecific information about the law, its history and its minutiae. You need to know how to find information that you don't have, and how to prepare for cases where its unclear exactly what sort of law knowledge will come in handy at any given time.
Critical and analytical skills
Another important point on top of research is your ability to analyze the data that you have in order to discover how laws apply to certain situations. This is how cases are made and broken, where loopholes are discovered and unfair or illegal laws are stuckdown. Your attention to detail and your ability to quickly understand and synthesize new information into opinions and solutions is essential to success in law.
This is a bit of a given, but when it comes to the law, being able to communicate ideas is of eminent importance. Working on cases requires a substantial amount of writing, and again, attention to detail is key. One misplaced word or incorrect date and an entire document can be rendered invalid, or worse, can legally mean the opposite of its intended use. Words have a very literal power in the world of law, and the ability to use them correctly and accurately is critical to your success.
Internships for Law degree students are a little tougher to find for those who are not actively in JD programs, or who don't yet have professional connections to law firms. The opportunity for them exists, but more often at smaller firms with fewer resources, and you might find yourself competing with more qualified JD students.
Internships are typically required for JD students, and in fact multiple internships are needed at the end of every year of classes as a capstone to that year's work. As such, they occur over the summer, and the intern is often called a "summer associate."
The term for internships after your first year of JD is "1L," and for the second year, "2L." There are also internships available for law graduates, but most firms look primarily for 1L or 2L candidates, especially 2L -- they're a little more experienced, and they're the most likely to take a job at their place of internship than 1L associates.
The differences between 1L and 2L internships are mostly found in the responsibilities that are given to interns. Interns of all stripes are required to help draft legal documents, attend court proceedings, undertake research on the behalf of senior firm members, and various other low level assignments. However, 2L internships are given some additional responsibilities like writing briefs, and may even be called in to help discuss or brainstorm strategies with practicing firm members about ongoing cases.
Before you settle on an internship or placement, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
Jobs for Law Majors tend to be fairly straightforward -- law majors tend to become lawyers. However, not everyone who gets a law degree goes on to get the necessary advanced degrees required to practice law. School is hard, situations change, and not everyone has the time or resources to finish their education.
But whether a person moves on to higher education from their LL.B. or stops at the undergraduate level, there are still jobs available for people with specialized knowledge of the law. Legal secretaries and paralegals are both careers that require this kind of specialized knowledge but which do not always require a JD, and there are many other positions related to the practice of law and to the judicial branch of the government that can be explored for those who have the interest and the experience.
With our map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.) But here, we wanted to call out some of the most common jobs for recent Law Major grads.
Here are a few of the most interesting jobs for recent grads such as yourself:
Law Clerks are the most junior members of a law firm who support attorneys and other higher ranking members by helping them prepare and organize legal drafts, undertake research into obscure laws, and help assemble materials needed for cases.
Counselors assist individuals by providing advice and resources related to a particular field or subject, such as marriage, careers, health, or education. A master's degree may be required depending on the particular field of counseling that is being entered into.
Legal Externs serve a variety of functions for senior members of their employer's firm, including drafting legal documents, anlayzing or summarizing information, undertaking research, and helping to prepare case materials. Legal Externs are often students in pre-law or JD programs who are hoping to go on to practice law professionally.
Understand Market Trends
This can be more or less important depending on the branch of law that you're working with. Some areas, like litigation, commercial and IP law, and healthcare law, tend to be relatively in-demand -- for other branches, you'll need to have a good awareness of the market to know what kind of demand there is for lawyers with your specialty.
Also important to know is where geographically these lawyers are being hired. Say for example that you've been looking for jobs related to property or real estate law in the state of NY, but that those jobs were more in demand in places like NC or GA. While it's possible (though not necessarily true) that those Southern firms wouldn't be as prestigious as the ones you'd find in the Northeast, the opportunity to work and gain experience in your law specialty might be worth the relocation.
Either way, it's important to keep an eye on how well your field is doing in general, and where that field is experiencing the greatest amount of growth. It might just keep you employed.
Err On the Side of Over-Marketing
Whatever you do, you should market yourself as much as possible, even -- or perhaps especially -- to firms that aren't actively hiring.
While they may reject you out of hand, it's also true that almost any firm can be talked into hiring someone with the right qualifications and skillset. For this reason, it's also good to look into hiring and recruiting firms to help you locate potential opportunities and market yourself to potential employers as widely as possible.
On a similar note, networking is extremely important for the legal profession in relation to other job markets. While there are many jobs available for practicing lawyers, it might come as a suprise just how few firms there are to work for. Networking is essential, as your reputation depends upon your relationships with other lawyers and the number (and quality) of cases that you've been able to successfully close.
So attend as many law-related events as you can, and reach out to old contacts. Make sure to maintain your business relationships once you have them -- you never know who's going to be the one to come to you with word on a new position opening up, or of a firm in sudden need of someone with your law specialization.
Credentials can for certain law-related positions be used in lieu of higher judicial education. However, most positions that only require a certification typically are not allowed to practice law, but may only assist licensed practitioners or practice law in association with licensed practitioners. An example position like this is the Paralegal, an individual who can practice law on behalf of a licensed lawyer, but who is only required to have a CP or CLA designation (which is attained through professional organizations like the NFPA and NALA).
Pursuing an advanced degree
Obtaining a graduate degree in your course of study can serve as an excellent way to separate you from the herd - but you must first decide whether it's worth your time.
Not all law-related positions require higher education -- however, if you want to practice law on your own in any capacity, you're going to want to get at least a JD, as this is the minimum education required in order to become a licensed practitioner.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with Law degrees normally consider:
Juris Doctor (JD)
Master of Laws
Doctor of Juridical Science
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
Originally the National Association for Legal Secretaries (hence the acronym), the NALS is a professional organization dedicated to legal professionals of any kind, including legal secretaries, attorneys, paralegals, office managers, legal assistants, etc.
The American Bar Association is the main governing body when it comes to certifying lawyers and legal professionals. Passing "the Bar" is a requirement for practicing law in any capacity within the US.
Another professional legal organization, the NLA deals specifically with lawyers, offering various professional resources such as training, education, networking, and conferences.
Enter "Law" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to Visual and Performing Arts Majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.