The Big Picture

In last month’s post, I began with an introduction to my own professional journey in a ‘JD Preferred’ career in Compliance.  This month, I’d like to discuss the concept in a much broader context.  To lay the foundation for future posts (which will be more fun to read, I promise), I’ve got to get some dry information out of the way first here.  Bear with me!

JD Advantage

I didn’t know this until I started doing research for this column, but apparently, this is a thing now.  Starting with the law school Class of 2011, a new term of art entered the lexicon — “JD Advantage.”  It is a phrase that the National Association for Law Placement (“NALP”) and the American Bar Association (“ABA”) coined to describe a category of jobs for which bar passage is not required but for which a JD degree provides a distinct advantage.  The NALP website has a really great analysis explaining it in finer detail. 

Prior to 2011, NALP called these jobs “JD Preferred.”  Although the definitions of the “JD Preferred” and “JD Advantage” jobs are not identical, they state that the kinds of jobs represented by these two categories are largely the same.  Far be it from me to distinguish the two.  I graduated law school in 2010, so I’m clearly behind the times.

In canvassing four major job search websites, I found that ‘JD Preferred’ was listed in the descriptions of hundreds of jobs: Indeed (446), SimplyHired (366), Monster (354), and LinkedIn (7,873, an outlier due to one company posting hundreds of ads for contract positions across the country).  Funnily enough, the term ‘JD Advantage’ came up only three times, all of which were listings for jobs in law schools’ career service offices.  I guess the term hasn’t really caught on outside of law schools and bar associations.  I’m certainly in no rush to rename this column, so ‘JD Preferred’ it stays.

Looking at the ‘JD Preferred’ listings available today, they generally boil down to several categories: 1) contract negotiation/management/administration, 2) compliance/risk, 4) examination/investigation, 5) executive management/consulting, and 6) public policy/government affairs.  These job listings span across many different industries, but financial services, healthcare, and insurance reign supreme.  It’s pretty obvious how a law degree could give a job candidate a huge advantage in pursuing these types of jobs, which don’t normally require a license to practice law (or a JD at all, for that matter).

JD Hybrid

Another interesting concept to consider is ‘JD Hybrid’ jobs.  These types of opportunities are very common in financial services and small start-ups and the combinations are numerous, e.g., General Counsel (“GC”) + Chief Compliance Officer (“CCO”), CCO + Chief Financial Officer (“CFO”), etc.  Hybrid roles are enticing because you are not focused on using one narrow skill set to perform your job.  They are a perfect opportunity to use your Bachelor or Master degree in an entirely different field (e.g., accounting in the case of CFOs) to break up the monotony.  It certainly makes for a more varied day if you tend to get restless focusing on one thing.

Due to cost-cutting post-Recession and technological developments impacting everything we do these days, I suspect that even more roles will shift to a hybrid nature.  Not too long ago, the field of compliance for example, was mostly writing policies, communicating them to employees, and answering ad hoc questions.  It’s still that, but so much more.  In my experience, compliance roles also require major attention to process development, system design, project management and data analytics to ensure an efficient, streamlined and consistent experience for stakeholders.  Gone are the days of Microsoft Office Suite fulfilling all of your working needs.  New tools and systems have added a whole new dimension to virtually every industry. 

What's Next

Now that you (hopefully) have a better understanding of the industrious ways you can use your law degree to expand your career options, I am excited to get into the weeds.  Stay tuned for interviews with a diverse group of professional women occupying different JD Preferred and JD Hybrid fields.  Next up is a two-part installment in March and April with a recruiter to get you firsthand information on what employers value most when it comes to hiring law graduates for these types of opportunities. 

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