Multiple avenues exist for law firm attorneys to work in non-traditional professional roles—which recent survey data from Bloomberg Law supports. Amid economic uncertainty and recent firm layoffs, this may be welcome news to attorneys, particularly those who have more than one professional specialty.
Bloomberg Law’s 2023 Legal Ops and Tech survey asked practicing attorneys two questions delving into the state of alternative jobs at law firms: (1) What percentage of attorneys at your firm have non-billable jobs/specialties? and (2) Which professional titles exist at your organization?
In response to the first question, the 274 law firm respondents reported that an average of 10% of attorneys at their firms have non-billable jobs. This number does not surprise me today, but when I went to law school, although I frequently heard: “There are so many different things you can do with your law degree!,” no one ever told me what those things were.
Regarding the second question, these respondents reported a wide variety of alternative legal jobs at their organizations. The non-traditional roles ranged from diversity officer and knowledge management director to project manager and data scientist. The most popular non-traditional role reported was chief financial officer, with 42% of respondents reporting this position at their firms.
It’s notable that 20% of the survey participants said that their firms had legal ops roles. Although legal operations is more often associated with corporate legal departments than with law firms—borne out by this 20% statistic, which is lower than the percentage of in-house respondents who reported the same (54%)—it’s evidence that at least some law firms are realizing that their business and workflow can benefit from legal ops.
Alternative Legal Learning in Law Schools
Law students may also be eyeing some of these non-traditional positions.
According to data from Bloomberg Law’s most recent Law School Preparedness Survey, half of 1,318 law student respondents reported they have learned about alternative legal careers. Forty-eight percent of these respondents learned about it through their law schools. Some law schools, for example, are prioritizing teaching business and legal-adjacent skills to law students alongside more traditional curricula.
While I didn’t learn anything in law school tangential to the practice and history of law, I’m excited to see that lawyers (and law students) today can use their law degrees to do “different things.”
Non-Traditional Legal Job Options Growing?
At the end of last year, I predicted that more attorneys will have the chance in 2023 to work at law firms in non-traditional roles. Just a third of the way into 2023, it’s too soon to tell whether the number of legal ops and other non-traditional jobs at firms has increased.
But regardless of any possible trend, the reported diversity of opportunities is a positive development for firm lawyers—particularly those with financial skills or project management backgrounds—who may be looking to do something different. If they want to make a change, the jobs are out there.
Bloomberg Law subscribers can find related content on our Surveys, Reports & Data Analysis, Legal Operations, In Focus: Lawyer Development, and In Focus: Lawyer Well-Being pages.
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