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What can you do with a law degree (other than practising law)?

Ian Cooper

Career Counsellor
Here is the list of 10 career opportunities that you can choose rather than becoming a lawyer.

Photo by Sora Shimazaki

Many people may assume you earn a law degree because you want to practice law. That’s certainly a good reason — opportunities abound for lawyers.

You can go in-house for a corporation, work at a local law firm, or join a giant like Allens, Clayton Utz, or DLA Piper. You can become part of the justice system, serving as a prosecutor, lawyer for the defence, or even one day as a judge.

But what if you don’t want to put your law degree to use in the traditional way? Maybe your passion for becoming a lawyer has waned, or you just wonder what else is out there.

If so, you’ll be in good company. Based on our anonymous survey of over 500 law grads, more than one-third of grads with law degrees don’t go on to become lawyers.

Fortunately, if you’re one of them, you’ll have lots of career opportunities. The basic training that goes into earning a law degree — honing your critical thinking skills, learning how to break down complex cases and craft strong written arguments, and developing the ability to speak clearly and persuasively on important issues — gives you a useful springboard into a wide range of roles in government, banking, consulting, and more.

This means that if you’re trying to decide on a major and don’t feel pulled in any one particular direction, studying law may not be a bad option. You’ll stretch your mind and boost your powers of reasoning considerably and come out of school as an appealing candidate to many employers. 

We dug through our survey data to come up with some of the most common roles that grads pursue outside of the legal sector. Here are just a few of the possible career paths that you can walk.

Most common sectors chosen by law grads, based on our survey of 550 grads.


Most common departments that law grads work in are outside of the legal sector.

10 top career options for law students who don’t want to be lawyers

1. Corporate tax consultant

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As a corporate tax consultant, you’ll help advise client businesses on how to navigate tax issues. Many tax consultants work for Big 4 firms like Deloitte, where they’ll work on everything from ensuring that clients comply with appropriate tax laws to developing ways to minimise the tax impact.

If you do join a large professional services firm, you’ll likely be assigned to a team serving major clients shortly after coming on board. Expect a lot of administrative work, time spent reviewing client documents like tax returns, and exploring relevant regulatory provisions. 

Corporate tax consultants tend to work slightly lighter schedules than other specialties of consulting, typically clocking between 40 and 50 hours a week. However, those hours will likely go up during tax season. Your starting salary will probably be somewhere around $60,000, although this can vary a little depending on which firm you join. 

For one law grad who joined KPMG as a corporate tax consultant, a big part of the appeal was being “empowered with responsibility from an early stage.” He also enjoys the “exposure to interesting work and reputable clients,” although he says that his compensation doesn’t account for the long hours he has to work during busy periods of the year.

2. Management consultant

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As a management consultant, you’ll be part of a team of outside experts hired by companies, governments, or NGOs to help their organisations solve problems. Typically, you’ll join a major international firm like McKinsey, Accenture, or Capgemini that serves a roster of high-profile or powerful clients by working to improve their performance or tackling knotty issues beyond the scope of each client’s in-house capabilities.

Especially as a grad, you’ll be doing a lot of work on the ground. You can expect to spend significant amounts of time meeting with client stakeholders — either in person or over Zoom — and conducting interviews to help you better understand how their organisation works. You’ll also conduct literature reviews, plough through data, and work with your team to create a final report to the client recommending a course of action.

Management consultants tend to work long hours. You can expect to put in at least 50 to 60 a week and to quickly be assigned a heavy workload. You’ll likely earn a starting salary of around $65,000, although as you become more senior, your earning potential will rise considerably.

One law grad who joined Nous Group as a management consultant says that you do need to be mentally prepared for what you’re getting into, noting that her team is “expected to work on average 9.2 hours a day — I have some colleagues who would be working significantly more than that.” But she also observes that she loves the autonomy that comes with her role and the chance “to be involved in a great range of different projects.”

3. Risk advisor

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Risk advisors or consultants deal specifically with helping businesses or other organisations to anticipate and mitigate risk. This could include everything from the failure of a new product launch to a market downturn to political instability — anything unexpected that could harm a firm or its interests. 

As a graduate in risk, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself at a big professional services, accounting, or consulting company, where you’ll be a part of a team of experts working together to make your clients more resilient. Expect to spend at least some of your time in the field — visiting clients to speak with stakeholders throughout their organisations, conducting audits, and making recommendations (or as a fresh grad, assisting more senior team members in doing so). You’ll also conduct research, write reports, and handle administrative tasks.

You’ll likely start at around $60,000 in salary, although this can be closer to $70,000 if you land a spot at a top-tier company. Depending on how busy your team is, you can expect to work anywhere from 40 to 60 hours a week — so be prepared for long days at the office.

Working in risk at KPMG has been a generally good experience for one law grad. She says that she “mainly assists in the delivery of fieldwork (internal audit and risk management engagements)” and that she appreciates the “great diversity of work, good culture, and tone from the top.” However, she also shares that the workload can be too high and that balancing competing demands for her time can be challenging.

4. Audit and assurance consultant

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A career in audit and assurance puts you in a position to help ensure the long-term financial health of companies or other organisations. As an auditor, you’ll be charged with going through a firm’s financial history and checking for accuracy, honesty, and signs of trouble.

Like many other positions on this list, grads working in auditing tend to end up at large professional services firms. There, you’ll join a team of fellow auditors or consultants who will tackle heaps of client records to perform small and large-scale temperature checks on a company’s well-being. The keen analytical mind and attention to detail that you honed studying law will come in handy, as you’ll need to spot risks that may be buried deep in the data and suggest solutions to get your client back on solid ground.

Starting salaries tend to be uninspiring, with some grads making under $60,000 and reporting 70-80 hour work weeks. However, others note that the profession typically has busy and slow seasons and that you can expect to work closer to 40-50 hours a week during the latter.

One grad we surveyed took a job in auditing for Grant Thornton and shared that he enjoys getting to work closely with senior partners at his firm. Another grad at the same firm is frustrated by the long hours, though, and says that “the pay sucks, too,” although he does find his work and co-workers interesting. 

5. Digital marketer

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Here’s one you might not expect: roughly 5 percent of all law grads who forgo a legal career work in marketing. As a digital marketing graduate, you’ll either join an agency that helps clients promote their products or services to potential customers, or go in-house and help your company market itself. 

Within the marketing field, you’ll have a diverse array of options. You can become a copywriter, writing ads, conversion copy, and marketing emails. You can learn how to run Google or Facebook ad campaigns, or become an SEO expert. Or you can figure out how it all fits together and build a career as a marketing strategist.

Grads we surveyed made starting salaries that went as high as $80,000, although some earned closer to $65,000. Most worked 40-50 hours a week, with some reporting as many as 60 hours.

One grad who spoke with us shared that his duties at Nestle included being “ responsible for the brand marketing activities of a large well-recognised brand which broadly encompasses communications and product development activities.” He raves about the camaraderie, mentorship, and inspiration he gets from his co-workers, although he dislikes the formal hierarchy that goes along with working for a large, established corporation.

6. Human resources generalist

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If consultants help a company build out a more effective organisational structure, the human resources team actually keeps that structure humming along. As an HR generalist, you’ll be responsible for a broad spectrum of duties that cover everything from recruiting, payslip issues, and supporting workplace morale.

Starting as a generalist helps give you a good sense of the different realms within the HR field. You can expect to respond to daily employee inquiries, create and manage job listings, interview candidates, lead employee training, collect tax forms, be a point of contact for payroll questions, and even delve into labour law. As many of these duties can themselves become full-time roles (especially in larger organisations), you’ll be ideally placed to learn which aspects of HR you like so you can decide what to specialise in later on.

An HR role can be less demanding than some other jobs. You typically won’t have to work more than 40 hours a week and may even enjoy perks like flexible scheduling or the option to work from home. You’ll also probably see your salary start at roughly $70,000.

For one law grad, the transition to HR at the hospitality startup ZEN Rooms has been a good one. He likes having a clear path for progressing his career and appreciates that his diverse group of international co-workers has been “welcoming and very supportive.

7. Policy officer

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If you’re interested in working in government, a law degree can be a great pathway to becoming a policy officer. Policy officers work for government departments like the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (or directly for elected officials) and help imagine, develop, and implement policies that can have a significant impact on your community.

In an entry-level role, you may find yourself aware of the strict hierarchy that can crop up in some departments. Some aspects of your job may also involve dealing with slow-moving bureaucracy, an experience that many find frustrating. However, you’ll also get the chance to roll up your sleeves and jump into doing work that can genuinely help others and help shape the direction of your city, state, or even country.

As a government employee, you can generally expect to work no more than 40 hours a week, although this may be different for political aides. Your salary may start between $75,000 and $80,000.

A grad who works as a policy officer for the Department of Health and studied law in school has had a generally positive experience moving into the field. In addition to strong workplace culture, he appreciates the simple pleasure that comes from “working for the public good.”

8. Financial analyst

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Financial analysts help guide companies toward making sound financial decisions or investments. While some financial analysts work for investment, banking, or consulting firms, others are part of in-house teams at major corporations outside of the financial sector, where they help advise executives in developing strategies for growth.

As an entry-level analyst, you’ll spend a lot of time pouring over sales data, researching market trends, writing up reports making recommendations based on your work. You’ll also create financial models to predict future performance and, as you develop your skills, meet with company leaders to offer input.

You’ll typically work 40-50 hours a week, although some grads we surveyed reported spending closer to 60 in the office. Starting salaries tend to be around $70,000 and can include the potential for bonuses.

When asked what he liked about working as an analyst, one grad who took a job at Shell said that he thought it was “better than working at a law firm.” He mentioned long hours (up to 12 a day depending on what he was working on) were a concern but was excited about the career progression opportunities available moving forward.

9. Account manager

Photo by Christina Morillo

Account managers exist as a bridge between clients or customers and the company that serves them. As an account manager, your job will be to champion your clients’ needs within your team and do what you can to retain their business.

Here, the communications and advocacy skills you learned while studying law will come in handy. You’ll manage a number of client accounts (in some sectors, 8-10 is typical), serving as their primary point of contact with your firm. Depending on your role, you may also be tasked with selling to new clients (as well as keeping existing ones happy) and you’ll always need to make sure that your team understands exactly what your clients need.

Hours tend towards the 40-50 per week range. Your salary will likely be around $65000, although some companies also offer bonuses to account managers who achieve high levels of client retention.

One law grad who joined Procter & Gamble as an account manager describes his job as a mixture of “managing relationships and selling new [product] lines.” He shares that he finds it detrimental to his career progression that he works at a satellite office instead of company headquarters, but that he enjoys the people and the culture within the firm.

10. Financial crimes officer

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If you were originally drawn to study law because of a desire to seek justice or stop crime, you don’t have to work as a lawyer to do your part. As a grad with a law degree, you’re also well-positioned to pursue a career as a financial crimes officer.

As a financial crimes officer for a bank or other financial institution, your job will be to prevent and stop fraud. You’ll take reports and statements from customers who have fallen prey to scams or unauthorised charges, dig through available evidence to figure out if a crime has occurred, monitor suspicious transactions, make recommendations on how to improve security, and collaborate directly with law enforcement officials when necessary.

Most fresh grads can expect to start somewhere between $65,000 to $70,000 a year in salary. If you’re working for a bank, you’ll probably enjoy the perk of what is sometimes referred to as ‘banker’s hours’ — a consistent schedule that seldom asks more of you than 40 hours a week.

A law grad who now works as a financial crimes officer at Bank of Queensland, notes that working in retail banking gives her a strong sense of work-life balance. “BOQ really believes in its staff members taking a lunch break, going home on time, and taking leave, in order to come back to work rejuvenated and focused. BOQ's approach to work-life balance is one of the main reasons I love working at the bank.”

Bonus role: government investigator

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Another role connected with seeking justice is serving as an investigator for a government agency like the ACCC. There, you’ll work to ensure compliance and investigate potential breaches of statutes like the Competition and Consumer Act.

Typically, as a grad, you’ll be doing a lot of research and analysis to help root out troublemakers and support your team in building a case against them that can result in significant financial penalties. This might include monitoring the behavior of major actors in your area of oversight, following market trends, and keeping up with appropriate legal statutes. However, you’ll also spend time in face-to-face meetings with stakeholders.

As a government employee, you’ll typically work no more than 40 hours a week. Compensation is on the lower end at $60,000 to $65,000, but you may also enjoy flexible work options like the opportunity to do some of your duties from home.

One investigator with the ACCC grumbles about dealing with paperwork and navigating bureaucracy but says that on the whole, she feels good about her job. “The people are really friendly, helpful, and dedicated to their work. They are passionate about what we do and it really shows. The work is also diverse and interesting and the outcomes we achieve make a tangible difference to Australians.”

Get creative, be open, and opportunities will come

Students who succeed in a law program tend to be smart, disciplined, and hard-working. No surprise here, but that’s a good recipe for success in the professional world as well.

If any of the roles we mentioned above appeal to you, that’s a good place to start your job hunt. Browse open positions, read up on employers, and see what sticks out at you.

If you’re still unsure, that’s okay too! Try thinking in terms of sector — is there an area of business, government, or society that you find yourself drawn towards? Or focus on your particular talents and look for jobs that will allow those to shine.

Opportunities are out there waiting for you.

Who’s hiring law grads who don’t want to be lawyers?

Prosple Australia makes it simple to find out.

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See a list of current positions outside the law sector that are hiring law grads today!