A Juris Doctor (J.D.) opens the field to a myriad career opportunities. Many law graduates seek big money working in the legal department of large corporations or law firms. Other attorneys head for public service, toiling as public defenders and possibly aspiring to becoming a judge. Although practicing law is the norm for many attorneys, some lawyers choose to become educators and advisers so they can pass along their knowledge and love of the law.
A law degree is the first step to becoming a law professor. However, a degree alone won't land you a teaching job. Many law schools, especially top schools, hire attorneys with experience practicing law in addition to being published in reputable law journals, such as the "New York Law Journal" or "National Law Journal." Some schools look favorably upon candidates with federal government work, such as positions as a federal law clerk, work at the U.S. Attorney's office or the federal public defender.
Like attorneys, law professors work within different disciplines of the law. Determine if you want to educate students in a hands-on or traditional academic setting. For example, clinical law professors educate students about hands-on courtroom criminal and civil law tactics. These professors arrange mock trials, witness cross examination and jury selection clinics. Academic professors teach legal theory, and discuss contracts and constitutional application within the surroundings of a lecture hall or classroom.
Some attorneys maintain a job at a law firm or in public service while teaching as an adjunct professor. Typically an adjunct teaching job is a supplemental position and does not provide opportunity for tenure or a full-time teaching position. Attorneys teach classes based on their legal concentration, such as immigration attorneys teach immigration law or public defenders teach criminal law.
A law degree comes in handy in the academic world in general. Courses pertaining to legal matters outside of law school need professors with strong legal backgrounds to teach courses in journalism, medicine, economics and philosophy.
To teach subjects other than those offered in law school, applicants must have a certain number of credits or an undergraduate degree in a specific subject. For example, if your undergraduate degree is in economics and you have a J.D., you could qualify to teach economics at the university level. Every university requires different qualifications so check with the school before you apply.
With society becoming more litigious than ever, some attorneys are opening their own businesses as educators and consultants to educate the public on legal issues.
For example, corporations hire a staff attorney to teach and advise employees and senior management on employment law issues. The staff attorney holds seminars and classes for existing and new employees to review issues of discrimination, sexual harassment and theft.
With a law degree in hand, attorneys with dynamic personalities become motivational speakers or conduct educational seminars open to the public on legal matters that include tax law, personal injury law or immigration issues.
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