Among the alumni ranks of the University of Texas—Austin's School of Law are cartoonists, service dog trainers, and wind farm employees, which might explain why it has a Non-Practicing Advisory Council within its alumni association.
"We have a significant percentage (some think maybe up to one third) of alumni in nontraditional careers," says Tim Kubatzky, the school's executive director of development. "There is no single path that takes them there, and many have spent at least some part of their careers in law firms or practicing solo or serving as corporate counsel."
According to Kubatzky, the movement amongst J.D.s toward nontraditional jobs is not a new development. "The current economic situation has prompted more law school graduates to be creative in using their legal educations," he says.
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But according to a recent post by Staci Zaretsky, an editor of Above the Law, morale in law school career services offices is at an "all-time low." The post cites an Alternative Careers Handbook published by the University of Arizona's James E. Rogers College of Law, which mentions "Fidel Castro, dictator" as an example of a prominent J.D. working in a nonlegal profession.
"I was being a little snarky in my piece considering the fact that, according to NALP [the Association for Legal Career Professionals], only 68.4 percent of 2010 grads were able to land jobs requiring bar passage," Zaretsky says. "I can only assume that law school career services offices are feeling the effects of the employment rates."
[Read about U.S. News urging law school deans to improve employment data.]
Many law school career services departments address alternative or nontraditional careers on their websites, and a Google search for "career" and "outside of the legal profession" restricted to .edu websites yields nearly 65,000 hits. Some of those departments, like that of the Virginia Beach-based School of Law at Regent University, connect alternative careers for attorneys to the economy.
"As the legal profession has become increasingly more demanding and entry-level hiring more competitive, many law students are considering other alternatives," according to the Regent website.
Typically, 10 percent of Yale Law School alumni work in a business setting five years after graduating, according to a 64-page Lawyers in Business guide the school publishes. And, jobs in management consulting, investment banking, and venture capital can earn young associates annuals salaries of $100,000 to $300,000, the guide states.