A law or legal degree is among some of the most versatile academic credentials, as some industries would fail to operate effectively without legal or regulatory oversight. This means there are wide-ranging career opportunities for people with legal training.
Lawyers, paralegals, and legal assistants are often sought after by large corporations. Hospitals, pharmacy chains, insurance companies, medical-equipment manufacturers, and a slew of other employers beyond the healthcare industry also hire law professionals to help them navigate the nuances and intricacies of new and existing laws that have far-reaching implications.
Showing employers and recruitment specialists that you have a unique insight into a particular specialty area may help you stand out in a large pool of job candidates. And one way to acquire specialized expertise and skills is to earn a Master of Legal Studies (MLS) or a Master of Laws (LL.M.), which requires an earned Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree.
The job titles for law and legal studies graduates are numerous, so we compiled some legal career options and a guide by work setting, job title and type of degrees for students to browse:
The legal career guides below share general steps to begin or continue your legal career. Be sure to check with relevant universities and states for credentials, licensure and other information.
How to Become a Paralegal
The prefix “para” means beside or side by side. Paralegals work closely with attorneys. Paralegals conduct client interviews, locate and interview witnesses, conduct legal research, draft legal documents, summarize depositions, and more.
These specialists ensure that projects and tasks are carried out and completed “by the book.” In other words, compliance officers have the responsibility of carefully examining and evaluating all aspects of a project and making sure all stakeholders adhere to all laws and regulations within a governing contract.
This profession can take you to a variety of settings including the financial services industry, telecommunications companies and healthcare facilities. Tax examiners and construction and building inspectors are just two types of compliance professionals.
A Juris Doctor qualifies you to sit for the bar exam to become a practicing attorney – and may open the door to a challenging but rewarding legal career. Lawyers have the opportunity to provide services in a specialty area of their choosing such divorce law, property law, and tax law.
A mediator, as a neutral third person, facilitates communication and negotiation between different parties and helps them reach a mutually favorable solution. Mediation areas may include business, family, employment, intellectual property, and more.
While different types of law degree programs may appear to have some similarities when it comes to the foundational courses offered, each degree has its own set of requirements,unique elective course offerings and career options. Read the guide below to learn more about legal career options associated with each degree type.
What Can You Do with a Master’s in Legal Studies?
An MLS is a graduate degree for people who’re interested in working in law but who don’t want to become a licensed attorney. With a master’s in legal studies, you can pursue a career in many of the same niches as those with a J.D can, such as taxation, labor law, or intellectual property.
A Juris Doctor degree may qualify students to sit for the bar exam in most states. Apart from becoming a lawyer, there are a number of careers you can pursue with this degree, even without passing the bar exam.
This graduate degree equips you with the expertise to go beyond handling accounting matters to advising businesses and individuals on tax strategies. You may help corporations legally limit their tax liabilities, or work with families to flesh out estate and retirement plans.
Arbitrators. Claims adjusters. Mediators. Ombudsmen. Jobs in dispute resolution have many labels. But what they tend to have in common is that they call for someone with diplomacy, strong communication qualities, deep listening skills, problem-solving chops, and emotional intelligence.
Below is an overview of three common work settings where students can pursue a career in the legal industry.
Work in Law Firms
Law firms hire people with varying levels of legal training, from attorneys with Juris Doctor (J.D.) degrees on their walls down to legal assistants with two-year associate degrees. Hires may be expected to complete tasks including researching case law, writing briefs, and preparing cases for depositions and trials. The responsibilities you are given is typically based on your level of education, years of experience and whether or not you are a licensed attorney.
Legal practices can be small with less than 100 employees, or multinational. They may handle civil or criminal cases, or both. Some law firms specialize in acquisitions and mergers, environmental issues, estate planning, divorces, tax law, or a myriad of other niches.
With so many agencies to choose from, the key is to look for roles that match your interests, educational training, or professional background. If you’re an MLS graduate who’s passionate about urban planning, for example, you might decide to work for your city’s zoning board. If you have a desire to help abused or neglected children, you can become a member of your state’s child welfare services department, helping to write and review statutes that protect vulnerable children. Other career options include becoming a workplace inspector for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or patent attorney for NASA.
Private employers include businesses, health organizations, educational institutions, consultancies, nonprofits, and more. Depending on the employer, certain positions may require a J.D., a master’s-level law degree such as an MLS, or simply a bachelor’s or degree with or without legal concentration.
Types of legal jobs in the private sector include:
No matter the job title, legal professionals in the private sector act as legal advocates on behalf of their employers, employing sharp thinking, attention to detail and their robust knowledge of legal terminology and best practices. If you’ve earned an MLS degree, your program may have taught you compliance skills, which can be particularly useful in contracting and sales departments of large firms — or, conflict resolution skills, which can come in handy if you end up working in the human resources or labor relations department of a company.
Information on this page was last retrieved in November 2021.