Legal Skills You Can Use in Any Job

10 Legal Skills That Are Transferable to a New Career

Two colleagues making notes on paper
••• Sam Diephuis/Blend Images/Getty Images

Legal skills can come in handy in any job. If you’re considering a career change, and you’re concerned that your background as a lawyer has made your skill set too specialized, you will want to think more broadly about what you can actually do.

As a lawyer, you’ve developed many skills that you can put to non-legal use. Here are ten skills you will want to capitalize on for your career change.

Clear Thinking

The biggest advantage of a legal education for non-legal work is that it taught you to think more clearly. Yes, all those hours suffering through the Socratic method were good for something. It’s easy to forget when you spend time with other attorneys, but most people haven’t been trained to focus intently on the facts of a situation, research options, and make specific, reasonable arguments about what to do.

  • Focus intently on facts through disciplined clear thinking
  • Research options for actions
  • Make specific, reasonable arguments in favor of a course of action

Where You Can Apply This Skill

Disciplined, clear thinking is valuable across the board, from business situations to government deliberations and more.

Clear Writing

Although you wouldn’t believe it from some legal briefs, lawyers are typically fairly clear writers. They need to write clearly, factually, unemotionally, logically, and

  • Able to write clear, straightforward, factual sentences
  • Make arguments that are logical and evidence-based
  • Put forth information unemotionally
  • Deliver grammatically accurate and appropriately spelled sentences

Where You Can Apply This Skill

This is a skill that you can use in many contexts, including traditional marketing, content marketing, technical documentation, PR, freelance writing, and many other career paths.

Attention to Detail

Lawyers can be a bit pedantic, but that attention to detail is valuable! Rather than glossing over things, lawyers are trained to focus on the details (and, hopefully, identify the most salient details from a sea of information).

  • Able to focus on details
  • Identify the most significant details
  • Use these details to generate solutions to problems

Where You Can Apply This Skill

If you’re tired of focusing on legal details, consider other areas where this skill set might come in handy. A few ideas: QA testing, product management, copy editing, and so on.

Dealing with Difficult People and Situations

One reason many lawyers burn out is that they’re constantly dealing with conflict. Even if you want to leave all of this conflict behind, the reality is that you’ve probably developed some useful coping skills and techniques.

  • Dealing with conflict
  • Can listen deeply so the participants feel heard out and listened to
  • Coping with difficult people and situations
  • Able to initiate conflict when necessary
  • Able to focus on the real issues of a conflict
  • Able to resolve issues with difficult people and situations

Where You Can Apply This Skill

These are skills that you can apply in any job as a manager or as a corporate attorney specializing in company-specific issues. You’ll be the calm one in a corporate meeting when everyone else is stressing out over a minor personality conflict between coworkers.

A Great Work Ethic

Lawyers (and law students) work longer hours in more stressful conditions than many other jobs. If you survived law school, passed the bar exam, and practiced as a lawyer, you’ve probably got (or developed) a very good work ethic.

  • Able to work long hours
  • Able to overcome stressful situations
  • Able to concentrate, focus, and get the job done

Where You Can Apply This Skill

A very good work ethic will serve you well in any career that you ultimately choose to pursue. Examples include management, professional researcher, training and education, administrative law judge for state, local, or Federal civil service positions, and university administration positions.

Identifying and Solving Problems

From the earliest days of a 1L (first-year law student) year, when you started “issue spotting,” your legal education has trained you to spot potential problems. In certain contexts, this trait is annoying, but it’s also useful! Any new undertaking is bound to face bumps in the road.

  • Spot potential problems
  • Come up with appropriate solutions
  • Share problems and potential solutions with others in a non-threatening, nonconfrontational way

Where You Can Apply This Skill

As long as you can focus on productively pointing out potential problems and offering solutions, your legal risk-radar can be put to good use in a variety of contexts. Problem identification and solving problems are key, for example, to succeed in any management role.

Research Skills

Lawyers are very good at tracking down answers—it’s what you get paid to do as an attorney. Excellent research abilities come in handy in almost all jobs these days, whether you need to track down the ingredients for a fancy cupcake recipe or figure out if the name of your company’s new product is offensive in a foreign language.

  • Identify needed facts, information, and sources
  • Verify facts, information, and sources
  • Apply the necessary facts, information, and sources to solving problems and providing answers

Where You Can Apply This Skill

Queries that might stump the average person are nothing to an attorney. You’ve been looking for obscure precedents for years—transitioning these skills to a non-legal context should be a piece of cake. Examples of careers that can use your research skills include librarian, professional researcher, college professor or administrator, Human Resources Manager or Corporate Council. You will also find opportunities in state, local, and Federal jobs.

Public Speaking Skills

Part of being a practicing attorney is speaking in front of people, so it is definitely something that you learn in law school and likely already had in your skill set before you decided to go to law school.

  • Gather and organize supporting information to deliver to an audience
  • Deliver the information coherently to a group
  • Exude confidence and collectedness when sharing information with a group
  • Prepare any visuals or video needed to illustrate your key points.

Where You Can Apply This Skill

In any position in which you are managing other people, you will have the opportunity to speak publicly, even if your audience is relatively small. Knowing how to be confident and collected while delivering information to a group of people is a skill that many people struggle with, and definitely, public speaking is a skill that belongs on your resume.

Synthesizing Ideas

The logical reasoning that was stressed so much on the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) and in law school will come in handy in the future, whether you end up in a legal role or not. Having the ability to figure out how to take something from an idea to an actual product or service is crucial, and not everyone is blessed with understanding how to get from point A to point B.

  • Exhibit logical reasoning
  • Connect related and unrelated pieces of information to a whole situation
  • Take an idea and make it into a product or a service
  • See the possibilities inherent in any situation

Where You Can Apply This Skill

The logical reasoning that you likely fought with and learned will help you see the possibilities, and you’ll be the one laying out concrete solutions. As with others of these ten skills, careers that can use your synthesizing skills include librarian, professional researcher, college professor or administrator, management and other professional roles, and Corporate Council. You will also find opportunities in state, local, and Federal government jobs.

Working Well With Other People

More than anything, law school taught you how to work with other people. Whether it was in study groups, on the law review, in moot court, or in an internship or externship, you likely had to continuously work alongside others. 

  • Listen to carefully understand
  • Speak courteously, tactfully, and clearly
  • Read nonverbal communication by understanding body language, tone of voice, and posture signals
  • Paraphrase and share feedback to ascertain understanding
  • Ask questions to clarify content and context

Where You Can Apply This Skill

This skill is crucial in the realm of any job, and likely something that is listed on most of the job postings you’ll come across. All of those hours that you spent working closely with others will definitely pay off down the line.​​ You can work well with other people in careers such as education and training, management, Human Resources, state, Federal, and local government professions, college or university admissions, administration, and professor roles.

The Bottom Line

If you’re feeling trapped in your legal career and you’re not sure how to make a change, inventory the legal skills you’ve developed that can be applied in other contexts. You’ll likely find you have a plethora of useful skills, which employers would be happy to have you employ on their behalf.