I am taking a holiday weekend liberty to diverge a bit from my usual topics. As a non-practicing lawyer, reading Is the Versatility of a Law Degree Just a Myth? (The National Law Journal, 1 Dec 2008), I answer yes.” 

The money quote:

“Law schools and placement professionals frequently tout the versatility of a law degree as a path to alternative careers. But even in good economic times, the advantage of a juris doctor degree in landing a job in another field may well be overblown.”

I think a JD is not a useful credential for non-law jobs. When I graduated NYU Law in 1986, I worked as a strategy consultant for Bain & Co. My pre-law school job experience got me the job, the JD got me the “consultant” title, the same as MBAs (in contrast to “associate consultant” for BAs and, in my class, one MD).

I started law school uncertain if I would practice. I heard many lawyers and law placement professionals say how flexible a JD and law practice experience is. I found that with my prior business experience, a few employers (e.g., investment banks) would consider my JD as the equivalent of an MBA. I’ve seen little evidence that the market has changed since then.

Back then, I found many former practicing lawyers with fantastic, interesting jobs. I asked how they ended up not practicing. All had practiced – many for years – and for most, moving to a different career was largely a matter of chance.

That many lawyers end up with interesting non-law jobs does not mean a JD is a path to those jobs or a “flexible” degree. It only means that some lawyers, after they practice some years, can change careers.