Where should you work after law school graduation?

What Should I Do

Graduation is up around the bend for most 3Ls. There’s a good chance that some of you knew what you wanted to do after graduation before you even entered your 2L year. As you go to classes and learn about new options, your preference may change.

You’re probably asking yourself, “What makes AmeriBar qualified to tell me about jobs?” We hail from a variety of legal backgrounds. In fact, we could go into excruciating detail about each one, but for brevity’s sake, it’s only as extensive as we’ve written below.

We understand that each of you will have different goals for your post-graduation journey. Some people want to pull down a six-figure salary and others want to be able to go home and spend time with their kids. “Best” is completely subjective, so we’ve broken it down into different goals. Naturally, there is going to be some overlap with the jobs, so you may see a few of them more than once.

If you want to make a lot of money.

According to the U.S. News & World Report[1], the median salary for attorneys was $127,990 in 2023. 

Your best bet for getting a higher paying job is to land a job as in-house counsel for a large corporation or as a trial lawyer in a big firm in a large city like San Jose, CA; San Francisco, CA; or NYC. You’re probably not going to pull a large salary in a rural city or working in public interest. Keep in mind that you’re going to have to work a lot to pull in a big salary. Many firms have billable hour requirements–you’re going to have to really work for that $100K job. If you break it down hourly, then it’s not all rainbows and butterflies.   

If you want to make a difference.

Sing with me now, “Heal the world. Make it a better place. For you and for me and the entire human race…” If you want to make this world a better place for you…and for me…okay, okay, you get it, then you might consider a career in the public interest realm such as a job as a Public Defender or District Attorney. Granted, your salary isn’t going to be $100K, and you may have a ton of thankless clients. Ultimately, though, you will be making somewhat of a difference out there in that big, bad world. Another option is to go into human rights law or environmental law. That’s not to say you can’t make a difference in the corporate world, but any job is going to be as fulfilling and meaningful as you make it.

If you want to be your own boss.

Hang your shingle! There’s a lot of apprehension about going out on your own, but never fear–someone does it every day. If you do your research, you’ll see a lot of advice against going out on your own because of the salary concerns and lacking client base and experience.  It can be done, however, despite the naysayers. You will have to be tenacious and not mind developing your own client base. You’re going to have to work your network like crazy, so that’s why it is important to start working on it from your 1L year if you have any inclination that you want to go out on your own.

If you want to get a lot of practice.

You’re going to get a ton of experience as a judge’s clerk or in the public interest realm. Many judges cover different areas of law, and you’ll learn how to handle each of these procedurally. If you go into public interest law, you will have no shortage of clients. You will likely cover a specific area of law and work your way up to higher crimes as you get experience, but you will get experience.

If you want to be able to go home for dinner.

You’re probably not going to want to go into corporate law or work as an attorney in a big firm that requires a large amount of billable hours. You might try becoming a legal professor. The salary is pretty decent, and you’ll generally work a normal 40-hour work week. You’ll have your office hours, plan your lessons, and teach bright young minds of those like yourself. You can also do some of the alternative career paths that have a stable work schedule and hours.

If you want to go to court.

This will be applicable to many attorney positions, but try to avoid areas of law that generally settle before going to court. Again, you’ll get a ton of courtroom experience if you work in public interest. Another good bet is to look into a law firm that handles a lot of court cases and see if they’re looking to hire an associate. You’ll probably get a lot of courtroom time as a criminal defense attorney in either the private or public sector. If you want to see court from the flip side, you’ll make a lot of courtroom visits as a judge’s clerk, but not from a practicing standpoint.

If you don’t want to practice.

If you look for alternative careers for lawyers, you’re going to find a TON of information. You can always be a professor. This is an especially great career for someone who wants set hours and enjoys legal research and writing. If you like a good challenge, you could always be a legal recruiter. There’s also the possibility of going into the corporate world, not as in-house counsel, but as the HR director, CEO, or COO.

If you have a question or issue that you would like for us to address, send us an email at support@ameribar.com. Your question may be featured on our blog.

[1] http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/lawyer