10 Hot Legal Careers for Non-Lawyers
Most people think of lawyers when they consider a career in the legal field, but there are a number of other satisfying, lucrative law careers that don't require an expensive, time-consuming education.
The legal market is thriving. Added regulations, economic growth, advances in technology, and increasing caseloads have all fueled the demand for a growing range of talented law professionals in a number of roles, from e-discovery specialists to compliance specialists.
Electronic discovery, commonly referred to as e-discovery, is a $10-plus billion industry as of 2018.
These specialists collect, process, and preserve in electronic form every scrap of evidence and supporting documentation generated by a lawsuit or criminal proceeding. They help to identify and manage electronically-stored information (ESI) in litigation.
Recent changes in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and growing volumes of ESI have given rise to this relatively new profession that takes advantage of the electronic realities of a digital age. The field is expected to grow, generating revenues of $11.6 billion by 2020 and pushing salaries to increased levels.
Nurses who want to expand their career opportunities beyond traditional clinical roles can apply their expertise to the growing and lucrative field of legal nurse consulting—one of the hottest careers in the early years of the millennium, according to CareerBuilder.com.
Legal nurse consultants advise attorneys in medically-related issues of the law, and they earn from $55,000 to as much as $211,000 annually as of 2019.
The increased automation of legal processes has also spawned another occupation in the field of law: the litigation support professional (LSP). This cutting-edge profession combines the legal knowledge of paralegals with the technical skills of information technology professionals.
Paralegals and legal assistants form attorneys' support staffs, and they rank among the fastest growing professions.
Opportunities in the paralegal field are expanding as clients look for ways to reduce the cost of legal services and overburdened lawyers delegate an ever-widening scope of tasks. Paralegal services are typically billed at 25% to 50% of an attorney's hourly rate.
Many paralegals perform the same services an attorney does, but paralegals are prohibited from giving legal advice or negotiating fees for services when they don't have law degrees.
The line between paralegals and legal secretaries can sometimes be thin, but it's there. Secretaries typically don't have hands-on involvement with legal issues, such as research and case management. Their role is far more administrative.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics, paralegals, legal secretaries, and legal assistants earned median pay of $50,940 annually in 2018, which works out to about $24.50 an hour.
Another profession has evolved to assist attorneys with their technology needs at trial as tech continues to reshape the legal landscape.
Trial consultants give attorneys an advantage in the courtroom, drawing on the fields of psychology, sociology, and the law. They employ legal technology to help a jury understand complex concepts, and they can help attorneys communicate important themes.
More individuals and corporations are turning to mediators, also known as arbitrators or conciliators, to settle their legal disputes outside the courtroom.
Mediators are growing in number and popularity as litigation costs skyrocket and the field of alternative dispute resolution expands. In fact, mediation is required in many states as a first attempt at resolution of certain civil cases before they can proceed to trial.
Lawyers rely on jury consultants to gain a winning edge in high-stakes jury trials. These consultants provide insight into juror behavior, and they help attorneys craft arguments and trial themes designed to persuade jurors.
These consultants use empirical data to predict juror predispositions. This can provide invaluable assistance in voir dire and the jury selection process.
Jury consultants began growing in popularity due to highly-publicized court trials, including the O.J. Simpson, Scott Peterson, and Martha Stewart cases. Jury consultant fees can total hundreds of thousands of dollars in big money lawsuits. Successful jury consultants often earn six-figure incomes.
Regulatory compliance became a popular law career option after the Sarbanes-Oxley Act prompted the enactment of a host of regulations in 2002. Compliance specialists work for corporations and consulting firms, coordinating and monitoring the myriad of governmental and regulatory documents that are required by changes in federal law.
Court reporters record trial and hearing testimony, speeches, statements, and law proceedings, creating a verbatim written transcript of the spoken word. Also known as stenographers, they use special stenographic equipment to transcribe at rates exceeding 200 words a minute.
Court reporters also perform broadcast captioning and real-time reporting for webcasts.
Fewer people are entering this profession, creating a court reporter shortage, and this boosts salaries. Some court reporters earn over six figures, according to Forbes.com.
The legal profession relies heavily on support staff in a wide variety of roles. As in any industry, certification and some extra education can help you land many of these jobs.