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What to Do Before Going to Law School: Job Ideas

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 16, 2015 12:59 PM

Ah, to be a lawyer. The prestige, the wealth, the simple nobility of the legal profession! Sound good? Of course! If only real life matched the fantasy.

The fact is, a career in the legal profession isn't for everyone. The hours are grueling, the work draining, the job prospects shaky. But if you love it, you love it. Luckily, for those considering becoming a lawyer, there's plenty of opportunities to test out the legal profession before getting a J.D.

Don't Pay for a J.D. If You Don't Need To

More than half of students planning on getting a J.D. expect to use it to pursue a non-legal career. If you ask us, that's bonkers. Why go in to a program that will steal three years of your life, a good chunk of your liver, and way too much of your future earnings if you're not planning on a legal career?

Working alongside lawyers, but not as one, is a great way to test the waters. If you take a job in the legal industry, pay close attention to the esquires who surround you. Does the work they do seem worthwhile? Would you be satisfied in their shoes? Consider pre-law work an extended recognizance mission.

The Basics: Legal Assistant, Secretary, Paralegal

Working in a legal support position has several direct benefits. First, you'll be learning some basic legal skills, low case management, dealing with clients, working with evidence, cite checking. In fact, those are skills you're not likely to learn in law school, so they'll give you a leg up in the legal market.

These jobs are usually firm jobs as well, so they're a good way to check out the industry before you pay for a law degree. Of course, there are other legal support positions you could find, such as a librarian in a big firm, legal marketer, or ediscovery intern. These positions, however, often require more specialized knowledge and are less similar to what actual lawyers do. A summer working as a legal secretary will give you more insight than a year of developing websites for lawyers.

Bonus: Specialize With Engineering, Accounting, or Business

Several non-law jobs can prove extremely helpful when you do begin working as a lawyer. For example, IP firms generally demand some sort of science or engineering background from their lawyers. The exciting world of tax law is much easier to navigate with a background in accounting. A background in business can help you understand how a merger actually works or how to successfully set up your own solo practice.

With a little forethought, you can set yourself up for a successful, happy legal career -- or find out that the profession is just not for you.

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