What can you do with a law degree? – Forbes Advisor

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While some law degrees serve those who plan to become lawyers, other career options suit people who have a law degree but do not intend to practice law. So what can you do with a law degree? Depending on the type of degree, you could become a practicing lawyer or a judge, or you could work in various non-legal positions that require legal knowledge.

In this article, we discuss career options for people with a law degree.

What types of law degrees are there?

Below, we explore several types of law degrees. Some are aimed at future lawyers and judges, and others are more appropriate for professionals looking for a career outside of law.

Doctor of legal sciences

If you have already earned your juris doctor (JD) and master of laws (LLM) degrees and want a more advanced legal education, a Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) can help you achieve your goal. The SJD is the highest level of law degree and generally attracts those who plan to become law professors or scholars.

If you plan to earn an SJD degree, you should expect to commit to two years of full-time study. You may also need more time to complete your thesis. Program length varies by school and program, so check with your university for details.

You must have already obtained a JD degree and an LLM degree to start an SJD program. Individual universities may set other requirements, such as a personal statement, letters of recommendation, or research proposal.

Because SJD students have already earned JD and LLM degrees, they already have knowledge of the law and legal principles. Thus, there is no standard curriculum for this degree. Courses for an SJD degree may include a combination of individual study, seminars, and legal research.

Juris Doctor

A juris doctor is a law degree that qualifies you for the bar exam. If you’re wondering how to become a lawyer, the JD is the most common course. Judges, hearing officers, and people planning to work in academia also typically earn JDs.

It usually takes about three years of full-time study to earn a JD. Some universities offer part-time options, which last four to five years. Joint degrees, such as a JD/MBA, can also take four to five years.

You must have a bachelor’s degree to enroll in a JD program. Other admission requirements vary by school, but often include essays, letters of recommendation, LSAT or GRE scores, and personal statements.

Typical courses for a JD degree include:

  • Contracts
  • Offenses
  • Legal research and writing
  • Constitutional law
  • Wills and trusts
  • Criminal prosecution and investigation
  • Inheritance and gift tax
  • Introduction to Federal Income Tax
  • Antitrust law
  • Labor law
  • Patent law
  • Immigration law

Master in Dispute Resolution

A master’s degree in conflict resolution is a great option if you don’t plan to become a lawyer, but your job requires skills in negotiation, mediation, and conflict resolution. Individuals with this degree work in fields such as business management, labor relations, human resources, and social work. Some universities offer this degree as part of a joint JD program.

It usually takes two years to complete a Masters in Conflict Resolution, but some universities offer longer part-time programs or accelerated options. Check with your future university for more information on its programs.

A bachelor’s degree is required to pursue a master’s degree in dispute resolution. Universities may also have other requirements, such as letters of recommendation, personal statements, or interviews.

Typical courses for a Master in Conflict Resolution include:

  • Mediation theory
  • Arbitration Practice
  • Negotiation
  • Conflict management

master of laws

A master’s degree in law is also called LLM, which stands for the Latin term “Latin legum magister”. This term translates to “master of the laws”. An LLM helps lawyers who have already earned their law degree to specialize in a specific area of ​​law, such as human rights law, tax law, international law, or intellectual property.

Expect to spend one year of full-time study or two years of part-time study to earn your LLM degree. At some universities, you can spend up to three years in a program.

You must already have a JD to start an LLM program. Universities may also require personal statements, interviews, or letters of recommendation.

Typical courses for a Master of Laws include:

  • Fiscal law
  • Trade Law
  • international law
  • human rights law
  • environmental law
  • copyright

Master in Legal Studies

A Masters in Legal Studies is for professionals who do not plan to practice law but need legal knowledge to do their jobs effectively. Individuals who earn this degree can work in a variety of positions such as human resources manager, management analyst, compliance officer, health services manager, and labor relations specialist.

The time it takes to earn a Masters in Paralegal Studies usually ranges from two to four. Some universities offer programs that last a year or less. Others offer programs that last up to five years.

A bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for obtaining a master’s degree in legal studies. Most universities also require letters of recommendation, personal essays, and interviews.

Typical courses for a master’s degree in legal studies include:

  • American law and the legal system
  • Writing and legal research
  • Legal procedures
  • Ethics
  • Information and archive law
  • Law and strategy
  • Law and Organizational Management

Legal Careers

Arbitrator, mediator or conciliator

Median annual salary: $49,410
Projected job growth (2021-2031): +6%
Job description: Arbitrators, mediators and conciliators help settle disputes between parties. Their duties typically include the following.

  • Help parties resolve disputes by facilitating communication
  • Assess legal records, documents and other evidence
  • Ask the parties concerned
  • Apply laws and regulations
  • Work in the interests of all parties
  • Negotiate to reach mutual agreements
  • Preparation of regulations


Median annual salary: $128,710
Projected job growth (2021-2031): -1%
Job description: Judges are responsible for supervising court proceedings in a courtroom. Their tasks may include:

  • Presiding over hearings
  • Search for laws and regulations
  • Read documents, such as motions and claims
  • Analyze information to determine if it supports claims or charges
  • Ensure that legal proceedings follow the rules and the law
  • Drafting opinions and decisions for court cases, claims and litigation


Median annual salary: $127,990
Projected job growth (2021-2031): +10%
Job description: Lawyers provide legal advice and representation to individuals, businesses, organizations and government agencies. Their daily responsibilities may include the following.

Representation of clients in court and in legal matters
Research and analysis of information
Interpret laws and regulations
Argue on behalf of clients in court
Preparation and filing of legal documents

Non-Legal Careers for Law Degree Holders

middle school teacher

Median annual salary: $79,640
Projected job growth (2021-2031): +12%
Job description: Professors teach students the subjects they need to know in order to graduate. A teacher can carry out the following tasks in his daily work.

  • Create a syllabus for their courses
  • Development of lesson plans
  • Teaching courses
  • Assessment of student work
  • Collaborate with colleagues in curriculum development
  • Be part of academic or administrative committees


Median annual salary: $48,370
Projected job growth (2021-2031): -9%
Job description: Journalists report local, national and international news for television, websites, newspapers and other media. Their duties typically include the following.

  • Conduct research, surveys and interviews to gather information
  • Analyze and interpret information intended for the public
  • Writing reports and articles
  • Revision and editing of reports
  • Updated reports with new information

political scientist

Median annual salary: $122,510
Projected job growth (2021-2031): +6%
Job description: Political scientists study and analyze the origin of political systems, governments, political trends, and policies. Their responsibilities may include:

  • Research into political topics, systems and theories
  • Collect and analyze data on public opinions
  • Assessment of laws and policies
  • Monitoring of political decisions and current events
  • Provide economic or political forecasts
  • Presentation of research results

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