Your Law Degree and the Job Market: How Finance Can Be a Plausible Career Path

by Cameron Tyler on June 25, 2012

The economy isn’t exactly ideal for any profession, but lawyers in particular are struggling a bit more than others when it comes to securing employment in an increasingly competitive environment. An article in “The Wall Street Journal” detailed the struggle many lawyers are facing in the job market today, citing a story of one lawyer in particular, Alex Barnett, who spent 14 years as an all-star attorney in high-profile class-action lawsuits before being laid off in 2008.

Finding no luck in the job market, Barnett took an unusual change of direction by choosing a career in stand-up comedy instead. Although this story may have come with a more-or-less happy ending, there is more of a message to derive from this anecdote than the “one door closes, another one opens” concept.

A Realistic Outlook on Job Availability for Lawyers

If a highly experienced and well-established lawyer can’t find a job in today’s market (with an Ivy League degree, no less), the outlook for those recent law school graduates isn’t exactly promising. However, the market isn’t necessarily a dead end, either. It simply poses an additional challenge for these professionals to work around by getting creative and developing a professional edge to put them ahead of the competition.

One way many lawyers are working around the job market is by choosing professions closely related to their field, which are much more natural to break into when considering what they’re used to through formal training and experience. Although you can certainly pull an Alex Barnett and head down a drastically different career path like comedy, earning a master’s degree in finance is perhaps the more logical route for not letting your training go completely to waste.

Why is Finance a Good Fit for Lawyers?

The link between law and finance may not initially be self-evident, but a closer look at the two professions reveals that they have more in common than you might think. According to Brian DeChesare of Mergers & Inquisitions, lawyers have in their favor the following three basic advantages when breaking into the finance industry:

  • An Understanding of the Corporate World: Whether you’ve already gained a bit of experience in the industry or just have an academic understanding from your higher education training, you have a better conception than most of how the business world works. You’re prepared for the “eccentric” characters you may have to deal with on a daily basis, and are experienced with the often chaotic and ever-changing mood of business.
  • A Reputation People Can Relate To: If you already spent several years at a well-known law firm, professionals in the finance industry will feel more comfortable welcoming you on board because you’ve proven yourself in a business setting. Even if you’ve just graduated from college, discussing this training experience will give hiring managers a more concrete understanding of your potential.
  • Networking Opportunities: Former professors, classmates, clients, partners and other individuals with whom you’ve established connections during your training and experience in the industry can help you develop your network. Having a strong and expansive network will ultimately put you in a better position to cross over into another industry, such as finance.

Failing to find work in your industry can come with a great deal of discouragement, but it doesn’t mean all hope is lost. In fact, this plight can be seen as a new opportunity to expand your professional horizons and learn an exciting new trade. Many professionals find themselves bored with the day-to-day, even in a field they love. However, these jaded workers often don’t have the courage to change career paths on their own. So although it may not have come about in the most ideal circumstances, lacking job leads in law can be a disguised opportunity to venture into the challenging and mentally stimulating world of finance.

Cameron Tyler

Cameron Tyler

Cameron Tyler

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