Choosing a university degree can feel overwhelming – like you have to make a life commitment towards a single discipline. But in reality, the opposite is true. It’s what you do with your degree that will define your career.

For those interested in studying law, it’s not uncommon to use your degree as a launchpad for wide variety of careers outside of the law. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that a law degree can be the foundation to many successful careers, without actually practising law.

We spoke to two Deakin University Law School graduates about some of the jobs you can do with a law degree.

Your law degree will open many doors

Deakin Law School graduate Chris Wilson completed his law degree more than a decade ago and has never worked in the legal field. He initially chose a law degree to help him pursue a career in corporate finance but his life took a different direction.

‘I had the opportunity to embark on a career in philanthropy,’ he says. ‘Even though it hasn't been used in the way I first envisaged, it has definitely been a very useful thing for me to have.’

Chris carved out a highly successful career in private wealth management, as a partner at Koda Capital, specialising in philanthropy in the non-profit sector. ‘My role is to work with private clients to help them incorporate altruistic activity into their tax, wealth and family planning,’ he says. His work includes everything from helping clients set up philanthropic foundations to working out what community groups they want to support and developing philanthropic strategic plans.

He also works directly with non-profit organisations and charities, offering a wide range of services to help them deliver on their mission. ‘It's a little bit different,’ Chris says. ‘It’s definitely not law. And even in the finance sector, it's a bit of a unique role.’

Your law degree is a valuable asset in any field

The expertise developed in Chris’s studies has been highly valuable. ‘The law interacts and intersects with nearly everything that I do,’ he says. Whether he’s wrangling trust law, tax law, financing deals or contracts, his legal knowledge proves to be a valuable asset.

The legal background has also been useful in Chris’s work with charity and non-profit boards. ‘Having the legal background to look at things from that angle is something that's really valuable and I do draw on quite regularly,’ he says.

So what would Chris say to someone interested in studying law, but not sure that they want a legal career? ‘I think, like me, they'll find that it's not going to go to waste,’ he says. ‘The law will play a critical role in a lot of careers that people choose and it's definitely a string to the bow that the others may not have.’

Chris says it’s a qualification that can help you stand out from the crowd. ‘That’s definitely been the case for me,’ he says. ‘Even to this day, when people look at my CV, they point to me having that Masters of Commercial Law and see that as a point of interest.’

He’s found that the qualification stands out even more if you haven't chosen a legal career: ‘I think standing out from the crowd is a great thing as you're trying to create a career for yourself.’

While Tim Jackson, another Deakin Law School graduate, is currently working in law as a full-time senior associate, he has also been utilising his legal background on the side in a number of varied ways. ‘In 2016, I was elected as a councillor for the City of Casey,’ Tim says. ‘I was Deputy Mayor for a period of a year as well, while also working.’

While a legal background was not required for the role of Deputy Mayor, Tim found it incredibly useful. ‘I think the law degree gives you an ability to look at things in a very broad and strategic manner and I think that helped me as a councillor,’ he explains. ‘The annual budget that we were overseeing was half a billion dollars and we were making decisions worth millions of dollars every day.’

Tim says he and his colleagues would get detailed reports about items they had to make decisions on every week. ‘I think the law degree helped me decipher those documents,’ he says. ‘The lessons I learned at law school helped me to analyse the material that was coming in front of me.’

Your law degree can help you work in more than one field

In addition to his work in local council, since qualifying as a lawyer, Tim has also started two small businesses and he sits on the board of a not-for-profit that services disadvantaged youth in the City of Casey.

When it came to running the small businesses, the legal background was similarly advantageous. ‘I understood a lot of complexities around starting a business,’ he says. ‘There are a lot of legal documents that you have to deal with when you commence a business, so the law degree helped me be ahead of the game on that rather than having to pay someone to set the business structure up.’ Jackson’s legal background meant he was able to deal with insurance documents, the company structures and trust structures himself.

Tim really enjoys working in law but says he won’t be a lawyer forever. ‘I want to expand other than just doing the law and I know that with the background that I've got from the degree, and my experience, I'll be able to do that,’ he says.

Like Chris, Tim encourages anyone drawn to studying the law to have confidence that the skills they gain will be put to good use. ‘Pursuing a law degree gives you a very good standing in strategic thinking and analysing,’ he says.

‘It's a good base to do a range of things – it doesn't just have to be working for a law firm. Many of my friends that did the degree now work in different careers: some work for politicians, some are advisors for politicians, some work for accounting firms, and some used the law degree to become an analyst. It gives you a really good base and opens your horizons.’

Keen to get a degree that will open up new career paths? Learn more about Deakin Law School here.