It is interesting to note that when most lawyers enter their third or fourth year of practice, they start to reflect strongly on their career and questions such as these start creeping into their minds: Should I move to another firm to expose myself to a different work environment? My friends seem to be doing quite well having set up their own firm, should I consider joining them or perhaps set up my own small practice? I am tired of running around, litigation is challenging, (or perhaps) I can’t stand anymore of this kind of constantly long hours required of a corporate lawyer, should I move in-house so I can have a job with more stable working hours? Should I just take a career break to reflect on my life and what I want to do next in my career?
Fret not, all is not lost. There are many career options for a lawyer and highlighted below are some outside of private practice:
- In-house Lawyer
This is a popular choice amongst lawyers who wish to exit private practice. “In-house lawyer” is a broad term and refers to lawyers who are employed by corporations to provide legal support to the corporation.
The typical legal support role performed by an in-house lawyer includes, but is not limited to:
1.1 Providing legal advice in relation to legal issues arising from the operation of the business;
1.2 Drafting/advising/vetting/negotiating the terms in agreements;
1.3 Contract management;
1.4 Ensuring the organisation is in compliance with relevant laws and regulations;
1.5 Legal risk management;
1.6 Monitoring litigation portfolios;
1.7 Advising on company secretarial work; and
1.8 Recovery of debts owed by others.
However, due to the size of the legal department, you may be assigned only to a specific area of work. For instance, you may be hired as a compliance officer to solely take care of the compliance issues of the corporation. This is quite common in financial institutions as their business is highly regulated, hence, they have a dedicated compliance unit within their corporation.
Apart from commercial corporations, you may also consider joining regulatory bodies, e.g. Bank Negara, Securities Commissions, Bursa Malaysia etc. to assist in forming the relevant regulations/policy or to help in enforcing the same.
Joining a consulting firm is also another alternative for lawyers. For instance, trust and/or will companies, intellectual property consultancy firms; tax advisory firms require lawyers who are familiar with a specific area of law to provide legal support to their businesses.
- Civil Service Positions
To serve the Government in your capacity as a lawyer is also another viable option. You may join various divisions in the Attorney-General’s Chambers (commonly known as AG Chambers) or apply for some of the positions in Judicial and Legal Services. Lawyers are also required in the legal departments of most ministries. Some also serve in the police force, either as police officers or prosecuting officers.
- Legal Academia
If you like teaching and prefer a “peaceful” campus lifestyle, you may consider becoming a law lecturer in law schools. You need to have at least a Master’s degree in law to qualify for this role. Teaching may grow to become mundane, especially if you teach the same subject for years. However, if you are passionate about a specific area of law and keep yourself abreast of developments, as well as contribute your thoughts on these developments, attend conferences and engage in discussions with other scholars, legal academia could prove lively and interesting.
- Legal Editor
If you like writing, reading and doing legal research, venturing into an editorial role with a legal publisher may be just the thing for you. Generally, legal editorial work involves editing law journals, law reports and law books etc. You need to have a good command of English and strong legal research skills to be able to function effectively in this role.
- Legal Recruitment Consultant
If you dislike paper work, enjoy meeting new people, feel a sense of satisfaction when you match job candidates with a suitable job and are result driven and resourceful, do consider the role of a legal recruitment consultant (especially with us), for the exposure and networking gained during practice will contribute greatly to a job such as this.
Even with options abound, there are many lawyers whose dream is not lawyering and so after some years in practice, they decide to venture into other areas of work which do not require legal knowledge or experience. The F&B business is one such avenue and many lawyers have seen success in this. Those who love children and education become school teachers; some go into politics; some become professional trainers or even HR practitioners in large corporations. Though these jobs do not require legal experience, the legal training gained comes to good use and it will certainly lend itself, to a certain extent, to perform effectively in any future role you take on.
No matter what career options you pursue, finding a job which matches your strength and interest is paramount. It is no secret, passion in the job comes with interest in the job. Such passion will nurture a more wholehearted commitment. When your heart is in the job, you will naturally go full throttle, which makes way for you to stand out from the crowd. In addition to landing the right job matched for you, you of course also need to possess the right attitude: perseverance, eagerness to learn and acquire knowledge, being open to constructive criticism, being enthusiastic and hard-working and passion for the job and the desire to pursue excellence will go a long way. The combination of any of these two should make you shine in whatever you do.
Written by Eddie Law
The founder and recruitment director of eLawyer.com.my