By Brooke Faulkner • April 03, 2017•Careers, Other Career Issues
Some of us knew from the very beginning that we were headed for law school, while others didn’t realize it until they were well into their undergraduate education. Others still had different career paths in mind, and followed them only to somehow still end up with a JD. It doesn’t matter how we got here: we all have our areas of expertise, and we all have something great to bring to the table. Many consider a career shift later in life, and just about every profession can have something great to offer the legal field. Here are just a few.
Probation And Parole Officers
Individuals who work one-on-one with those under the supervision of probation and parole already have an in-depth understanding of criminal law, which is a great first step toward a legal career. What they also have that many law-specific students might be lacking, is an understanding of the life circumstances that lead to repeat criminal behavior, and the best practice models of how to keep offenders from reoffending.
Probation officers often have a much larger caseload, and work with people who haven’t necessarily been incarcerated. Parole officers work with smaller numbers of people, but they have all been in jail or prison, and they are all at a much higher risk of re-offending. According to Portland State University, there are many differences between the two; they each work face to face with those who are at risk of staying in the system, and they each have a vested interest in helping people truly rehabilitate and keeping them from being incarcerated repeatedly.
This intimate knowledge of criminal behavior, and the hands on experience of being able to usher most offenders back into productive roles in society, can be a great asset to anyone looking to become a criminal lawyer. Their experience with law will give them a leg up to breeze through law school, and their experience with those post-trial will help them be more compassionate and understanding in pre-trial situations. Their expertise will help them better advocate for a fair and productive use of local, state, and federal resources when it comes to the question of crime and punishment.
Nurses And Nurse Practitioners
The medical and legal fields are two of the most demanding, educational and certification wise. If someone can earn a nursing degree, they definitely have the chops to make it through law school. But, why would they want to, given that they’ve already invested so much time and effort into a lucrative career?
There could be many reasons for this, both personal and professional. Maybe working so closely with people on a daily basis is too draining for anyone not deemed a social butterfly, or maybe the physical demands of the job have taken their toll and it’s a question of health and safety. No matter what the reason, anyone with a background in nursing would bring a wealth of knowledge to the sticky and ever-changing cavern that is medical law. Those who practice in this area are required to not only have a substantial amount of auxiliary knowledge of the healthcare field; they are also required to keep up with the vast and oft-occurring changes to healthcare and medical malpractice law.
A background in nursing will relieve a large amount of this pressure, but that isn’t the only draw. Those who make great nurses will, scientifically speaking, make great lawyers. According to Maryville University’s Nursing School, there are five necessary skills to succeed as a nurse practitioner. These include conscientious compassion, ethical decision making, critical thinking and reasoning, effective communication, and attention to detail in the client-professional relationship. If these sound familiar, it’s because they are all very important skills that make up a good lawyer. Some of them are so important, in fact, that they have their very own class dedicated as a portion of earning a law degree.
A career shift from nursing to law might also be ideal for practitioners who work in high risk or low income areas that see a lot of of abuse and neglect. Nurses working with women and children anywhere see situations where abuse may be present, but the only power they have in their current role is to notify the authorities. This can become especially draining when someone works in a situation or locale that brings in high amounts of these instances, and a degree in law can allow nurses to advocate for the victims they so often see and give them a voice that can help them out of their current situation.
Small Business Owners
It is a dream of many to one day own their own little business, often some sort of passion project that leaves their little stamp on the world. Or, for the more entrepreneurially-minded, maybe whatever brilliant idea comes to them as a clear way to make a lot of money fast by meeting an unfilled demand. Either way, anyone who’s run their own business knows that it is extremely exhausting. This is mainly due to the fact that small business owners have to wear many, many hats throughout the day, practicing a different set of skills and abilities with each turn of the hour.
This wide variety of skills can translate into a wide variety of assets in the field of law. Those who own a small business have to not only figure out how to finance their initial endeavor, but how to keep it afloat once the doors are open. They also handle their own payroll and accounting more often than not, and need to keep up with their taxes and the latest in business tax law, not to mention the plethora of rules and regulations that affect small businesses. They also need to know how to manage employees, as well as keep clients and customers happy, which translates to the menagerie of people skills needed to be a respected and persuasive lawyer.
Anyone transitioning from owning their own business to law school will find a comfy home in either business or financial law. Their own personal experience navigating the red tape of operating a business on the up and up will give them an advantage when helping other business owners navigate the same, and the world of finance law has a few careers poised for growth over the years that require people with backgrounds in accounting and tax law.
Computer Science And Technology
Women are becoming more and more prevalent in the technology field, despite the fact that they still face a number of obstacles in their careers. At first glance, it would seem that women who can overcome the biases they face in the tech industry would be well equipped to deal with the speedbumps female JDs have to navigate. At second glance, you might ask how technology and law are really related, and how can women from that industry make good lawyers?
Well, the answer to that is pretty simple. The technological boom we’ve encountered the last half century, along with the almost exponential growth of the last ten years, has resulted in a lag in regards to making, implementing, and enforcing laws that have to do with technology, especially when it comes to internet and network security.
The field is still growing, and as it does new threats to security are also growing, and hitting the tech industry and the consumers who utilize it from every angle. There is about to be a great need for individuals who understand both the latest in computer science and technology, and the law in general. Bridging the gap between them isn’t necessarily easy, but it can be done, and it will be necessary, especially in the coming years. I’d go so far as to say that if you currently have a career in the tech industry and understand its ins and outs well, you’d better go running to your nearest law school and get your degree, because we are going to need you and hundreds more like you in the very near future.
There are so many other skills that have a place in law, too many to mention here. Perhaps we’ll discuss more in a future series of pieces, but for now, share this with anyone you know in these fields who might want a career change.