Though an expensive and grueling three years, law school is increasingly being used as a steppingstone to fields other than the practice of law. Post-graduation surveys conducted by the National Association of Law Placement show that the percentage of lawyers in nonlegal government and business work has almost doubled, but not at the expense of the traditional choices.
''Many (law graduates) own and run their own businesses,'' says Janet Krause, assistant dean at the University of Nebraska Law School. ''Because of the nature of the training, they really do a better job.'' Insurance company presidents are often lawyers, and they praise their legal training. ''They can deal with their own legal departments a lot easier. They trust their decisions. They can think on their feet, and they know how to research a problem.''
Mary Kay Moody, placement director at Indiana University Law School, points out that during law school many law students lose their sense of themselves. Peer pressure sets in, and ''it's a big deal to be an attorney in a giant law firm.''
But students who break the pattern have good results. ''Last year I had a manager/legal adviser for a nonprofit religious organization, and the year before, a student who had been a tennis pro before law school but now works as an attorney for the Association for Professional Men's Tennis,'' she says.
Bruce Artim is another non-lawyer success story at Indiana. One year out of law school, he now works in the Office of Management and Budget in the Executive Office of the President. His undergraduate major was history. ''Very practical, '' he says, without a trace of sarcasm. ''It teaches you how to read and write and think.''
After one year of law school he spent two years in a master's program at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and then returned to finish his last two years of law school. He saw his job posted in the Kennedy School Placement Bulletin and thinks his JD degree was a help in getting it.
Is he happy with his choice? ''Oh yeah, very much. What I like best is that I'm working with public policy issues. . . . I have the excitement of wrestling with issues that affect public health.'' He likes the ''broad perspective'' and the fact that he has a ''much different purpose'' than if he were, for instance, trying to get the best deal on a piece of real estate.
While admitting that his salary is probably lower than those of his friends from law school, it is ''offset by the opportunity for interesting work,'' and ''the caliber of people I'm exposed to has been rewarding.''