With some of the highest earning potential of any field, those who build careers in the legal industry enjoy good salaries, benefits, and working conditions. Whether you are considering a career as an attorney, legal assistant, paralegal, or law office manager, a variety of online resources are available to help you learn more about the legal profession.
Student and Professional Organizations
Offering networking and educational opportunities, discounts, job boards, mentorships, and a variety of other resources, membership in a student or professional organization is essential for young professionals hoping to build a career in law.
- American Bar Association (ABA) – Since 1878, the ABA has been “committed to supporting the legal profession with practical resources.” Its nearly 400,000 members include lawyers, students, law librarians, and paralegals, among others. Members enjoy access to an online job board and networking opportunities at national meetings, special forums, and local pro bono and advocacy events. Subscriptions to the ABA Journal and the weekly newsletter eJournal are included in the membership. Members also receive discounts on Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs, legal books, and certain travel expenses.
- American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – With the help of its 500,000 members and supporters, the ACLU strives to be the “nation’s guardian of liberty,” preserving individual rights and freedoms. The focus of this organization is primarily advocacy and service, and its members benefit from opportunities to participate in each. At local ACLU affiliates, all members can volunteer and/or offer pro bono services. In addition, internships and open positions across the country can be found on its Career Opportunities page.
- American Inns of Court – The 29,000 members of this legal association include law students, attorneys, judges, and legal scholars. With a mission to “foster excellence in professionalism, ethics, civility, and legal skills,” the Inns of Court offers professional development, and educational and networking opportunities during its informal meetings. Members enjoy subscriptions to The Bencher, the association’s bi-monthly journal of legal ethics, mentoring, and professionalism. Young Inns of Court members are also eligible to apply for the Pegasus Scholarship, a grant to support six weeks of legal study in London.
- Association of Legal Administrators (ALA) – Since 1971, the ALA has “provided support to professionals involved in the management of law firms, corporate legal departments and government legal agencies.” Members include managing partners and associates, human resource and financial managers, and principal administrators and students. Educational and networking opportunities are found at annual and regional conferences and through the Certified Legal Manager (CLM) Program. Members enjoy access to the ALA Management Solutions reference service, a Reference Desk and Peer Consulting. Other services include the Career Center, Job Bank and ALA’s Legal Marketplace.
- Federalist Society – Since 1982, the Federalist Society has styled itself as “a group of conservatives and libertarians dedicated to reforming the legal order” and protecting the principles of limited government. Today, over 40,000 lawyers, scholars, and students (including Chief Justice John Roberts) are members of the society. Members enjoy subscriptions to the newsletter The Federalist Paper, as well as the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. Members also enjoy continuing education programs and networking opportunities at practice groups and regional and national conferences.
- National Association for Law Placement (NALP) – An organization of professional development and career professionals who specialize in legal employment, the 2,500 members of NALP are committed to ensuring a “fair and ethical hiring process.” Members include bar associations, nonprofits, law schools, and individual affiliate members. Benefits include subscriptions to NALP Bulletin and NALPnow!, as well as an online membership directory and other online resources. Webinars, an Annual Education Conference, and other events, including the Newer Professionals’ Forum and the Legal Recruiting Summit, offer educational and networking opportunities.
- National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) – Focusing on the paralegal profession, NALA’s mission is to “provide continuing education and professional development programs to all paralegals.” The group’s 18,000 members enjoy access to NALA NET, an online library of case law and other resources, networking opportunities at its annual Membership Forum and Meeting, and a subscription to Facts & Findings, a bi-monthly journal.
- NALS: The Association for Legal Professionals – “Dedicated to enhancing the competencies and contributions of members in the legal services professions,” NALS provides professional development and other assistance to legal secretaries, assistants, administrators, paralegals, and office managers. Through its national organization, state associations, and local chapters, NALS offers a variety of opportunities to network in seminars, meetings, and conferences. A Legal Training Course and NALS WedEd help legal professionals build skills and competencies. Members also enjoy access to the NALS Library of resources and its Career Center.
Offered by some of the best colleges and universities across the globe, students and legal professionals can learn new skills and develop expertise with free Open Courseware.
- Environmental Politics and Law – Yale – Prof. John Wargo of the College of Environmental Studies uses case studies to help students explore the legal aspects of environmental change and degradation across a number of disciplines. Air pollution, urban sprawl, and consumer products are among the topics examined.
- Ethics and the Law on the Electronic Frontier – MIT – Co-taught by Profs. Daniel Weitzner, Harold Abelson and Michael Fischer, this course examines the interaction between technology, law, and policy. Transparency and privacy, the Fourth Amendment, data mining, electronic surveillance, and the Patriot Act are all explored in this undergraduate level course. Selected lecture notes and a list of suggested readings are provided as well.
- Innovative Businesses and Breakthrough Technologies – The Legal Issues – MIT – Taught by Prof. John Akula of the Sloan School of Management, this course is designed for graduate students. The fundamentals of business law and how they are applied to “new products and innovative business models” are explored. Contracts, regulation, employment issues, and corporate structures are all covered.
- Introduction to Copyright Law – MIT – In this undergraduate level course, students receive an “introduction to copyright law and American law in general.” From the basic structure of federal law to how to conduct online legal research, this entry-level course is excellent for aspiring lawyers and paralegals alike. Specific copyright topics covered include fair use, pirating, and software licensing. Video lectures and a list of suggested readings are provided as well.
- Legal Aspects of Property and Land Use – MIT – Offered at the graduate level by Prof. Balakrishnan Rajagopal, this class explores “key legal issues that arise in the area of property and land-use in American law.” Fundamental legal rules and regulations of land use will be examined in comparison with the laws of other countries (South Africa and India, in particular). Course materials are available for download and a list of suggested readings is provided.
- Podcasts and Events Speakers – American University – Through its Washington College of Law, students can freely access podcasts of lectures and speakers on a wide array of legal subjects. Popular open access videos include “Analyzing the Supreme Court’s Health Reform Decision” and “Fertile Ground: Exploring the Intersection Between the Reproductive and Environmental Justice Movements.”
Open Access Journals
Aspiring legal professionals can keep current on the latest research and trends in the law by perusing academic journals. The scholarship found in the publications in this list appeal to paralegals, law students, and practicing attorneys alike.
- Corporation and Enterprise Law Commons – With research from around the world, this site provides free access to the best scholarship in corporate law. Recent articles available via open access include “Financial Statement Reporting of Pending Litigation: Attorneys, Auditors, and Difference of Opinion,” and “The U.S. Corporate Veil Doctrines.”
- Criminal Law Commons – Supported by the Digital Commons Network, this site contains a collection of academic papers on a wide range of criminal law issues from dozens of contributors. Popular articles include “Right to Counsel Denied: Confusing the Roles of Lawyers and Guardians,” and “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun.”
- Duke Environmental Law & Policy Forum (DELPF) – DELPF “presents scholarship that examines environmental issues by drawing on legal, scientific, economic, and public policy resources.” This semi-annual, open access journal is staffed with students from Duke’s prestigious law school among others, and includes articles of interest to aspiring legal professionals, including “A Conservative Approach to Environmental Law: Be Data Driven” and “Public Wildlife on Private Land: Unifying the Split Estate to Enhance Trust Resources.”
- Environmental Law Commons – Aggregating scholarship from a variety of sources, this site of the Digital Commons Network offers a wide variety of academic papers that explore different topics in environmental law. Recent open access articles include “The Export Clause and the Constitutionality of a Cap and Trade Migration Policy for Carbon Dioxide” and ”Risk, Uncertainty and Precaution: Lessons from the History of US Environmental Law.”
- Federal Courts Law Review – “Dedicated to legal scholarship relating to federal courts,” this journal’s editorial board consists of distinguished judges as well as law professors. Available open access, aspiring legal practitioners will find helpful reviews as well as topical articles including “Wikilaw: Securing the Leaks in the Application of First Amendment Jurisprudence to Wiki Leaks,” and “Rights Under the Ninth Amendment: Not Hard to Identify After All.”
- Richmond Journal of Law and Technology (JOLT) – The “first law review in the world to be published exclusively online,” JOLT focuses on the application of the law to emerging technologies. Recent scholarship found in this journal includes “Not-So-Open Access to Legal Scholarship: Balancing Stakeholder Interests with Copyright Principles,” and “Inviting Scrutiny: How Technologies Are Eroding the Attorney-Client Privilege.”
- Roman Legal Tradition – Peer-reviewed and freely available online, this journal sponsored by the University of Glasgow School of Law “aims to promote the study of the civilian tradition” of law, both historically and in the modern era. Recent articles include “An Outline of Roman Civil Procedure” and “The Story behind the Translation of the Theodosian Code in Mid-Century America.”
- Stanford Technology Law Review – Striving to present “well-rounded analyses of the legal, business, and policy issues that arise at the intersection” of technology, industry and property law, this exclusively online journal is freely available via open access. Articles appeal to professionals across the legal field and include “The Federal Circuit’s New Obviousness Jurisprudence” and “Employee and Inventor Witnesses in Patent Trials.”
Humorist Will Rogers said, “The minute you read something that you can’t understand, you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer.” Luckily, the books in this list that were authored by attorneys are eminently readable, as well as helpful to anyone considering a career in law.
- Angel of Death Row: My Life As a Death Penalty Defense Lawyer – By 2013, attorney Andrea D. Lyon, the “Angel of Death Row,” had successfully defended nineteen people who were at risk of receiving the death penalty. This story recounts her rise to the top of the criminal defense profession, her credo that even the guilty deserve a shot at redemption, and the secret to her success in the courtroom. It is essential reading for anyone interested in working in criminal law.
- Basic Legal Research – Author Amy E. Sloan provides clear, easy to follow instructions on each step in the process of thorough legal research. Appropriate for paralegal and law students alike, this guide includes examples, sample pages, and resource guides. All major research platforms, including Lexis Advance, Google Scholar, and WestlawNext are covered.
- The Buffalo Creek Disaster – In February 1972, 130 million gallons of water and coal debris from an impoundment dam flooded Buffalo Creek hollow. When the waters receded, 125 people were dead, 1,000 had suffered injuries, and 4,000 were homeless. This book, written by the lawyer who represented the victims, Gerald M. Stern, recounts how the survivors successfully litigated their claims against Big Coal.
- Inside Civil Procedure: What Matters & Why – Underlying the practice of law is a set of procedures that govern everything from how pleadings should look and what they should contain to when they should be filed. Although most books on legal procedure are written in legalese and difficult for the uninitiated to navigate, this one provides simple and clear explanations.
- Reversal of Fortune: Inside the Von Bulow Case – Written by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, this is the true story of how the attempted murder conviction of Claus von Bulow was overturned. An insider’s account of the appellate process, Dershowitz also speculates on ways in which Von Bulow could have been framed for his wife’s near death.
Online Industry Magazines and Newspapers
With reporting, analysis, and commentary, online newspapers and magazines help legal professionals keep up with the latest decisions, claims, and trends in the legal field.
- ABAJournal – This online version of a print magazine of the same name includes breaking news, analyses, and feature stories from one of the “most-respected legal affairs magazines.” Podcasts and a directory of legal blogs can also be found. Representative articles include “Federal appeals court says state must pay for inmate’s sex-change operation,” and “1st Amendment at issue in ban on gay-conversion therapy for minors.”
- Law.com – Part of the ALM network of experts, databases, and other tools, Law.com offers news, surveys, lists, and rankings, as well as international news of interest to legal professionals. On its unique Hot Seat page, read true stories of lawyers accused of behaving badly including “Defamation Claims by and Against N.J. Lawyers End Without Liability” and “Lawyer Suspended After Lashing Out at Judge.”
- Law Practice Magazine – A publication of the ABA devoted to the business of law, Law Practice Magazine includes features like “What Makes Law Firms Succeed or Fail?” and “From the Chair of the ABA Law Practice Division.”
- The National Jurist – The “voice of legal education,” The National Jurist seeks to tell the stories of American law schools and students. Recent articles of interest to aspiring lawyers include “Iowa May Dump Bar Exam for UIowa and Drake Grads” and “3 steps to Improve Your Bar Exam Essay Score.”
- National Law Journal – Also part of the ALM network, this online magazine provides insightful coverage of the latest in legal news. Readers can quickly find the stories most appealing to them under specific sections like Legal Times, Regulation, Legal Education and Supreme Court Brief. Representative stories include “A Wiretap Case in New Light” and “Court Grills SEC Over Costly Conflict Minerals Rule.”
- The New Jurist – Styling itself the “world’s first international online law magazine,” this site challenges its readers to think about the law from a humanist perspective. Representative articles include “Natural Rights?” and “Stand Your Ground.” Lawyers are encouraged to submit articles on topical issues and tips of the trade.
- Paralegal Today – With articles, features, and columns intended to help “every paralegal to attain his or her career goals,” this magazine is filled with the news and advice legal assistants, law clerks, and paralegals need to succeed. Articles are organized by topic and recent additions to the magazine include “Writing Paralegal Resumes,” and “Getting Started as a Paralegal.”
With their informal style, blogs help legal professionals keep up on the latest developments in the field.
- The Careerist – Hiring trends, career advice, and the latest in the legal job market can be found on this site. Recent posts include “Crystal Ball, Oh Crystal Ball – The Careerist’s Top 9 Predictions for the New Year” and “7 Intriguing Quotes from 2013.”
- Constitutional Daily – With a motto of “Blind Drunk Justice,” readers know that the analysis of the latest in legal news found on this site will entertain as well as inform. Recent posts include “All I Want for Christmas is to Sue” and “A Tale of Two Butthurt Profs.”
- The Law Insider – “Dedicated to all things in the business of law,” both law students and lawyers benefit from the practical posts found on this site. Recent posts include “Why Putting Numbers in Your Post Titles Gets More Clicks” and “End-of-Year Checklist: Top Three Employer Compliance To-Do’s.”
- Lawyerist – Sam Glover posts news and information on law firm practice management, technology, marketing, legal ethics, and how to get through law school. Recent posts include “How to Build a Law Practice Incubator” and “The Mistakes Lawyers Make with Social Media.”
- iPhone J.D. – The latest and best in Apple tech for lawyers is profiled and analyzed on this helpful blog. iOS fan and Louisiana lawyer Jeff Richardson’s posts include “WordPerfect Viewer returns to LawBox” and “GoodReader Update Adds Improved Interface.”
- Volokh Conspiracy – Law professors and others comment on the day’s most interesting legal news on this site. Recent posts include “Supreme Court Grants Cert in Both Cell-Phone Search Cases” and “Judge Brody Rejects NFL Settlement Agreement.”
- Whistleblower Law Blog – From the Employment Law Group, aspiring legal professionals find full coverage of whistleblower cases across the U.S. Recent posts include “After Nassar: Title VII Retaliation Claims Are Tougher – But Still Viable” and “SEC Makes Another Whistleblower Payout – This Time at Maximum 30%.”
Who to Follow on Twitter
Keep up with breaking news, opinions, and the latest trends in the legal field by following these lawyers, reporters, and institutions.
- @JeffreyToobin – Legal analyst for CNN and The New Yorker and author of The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court, Toobin posts on the latest news in the legal world.
- @LegalRebels – A special project of the ABA Journal, this feed boasts inspiring tweets about lawyers who are revolutionizing the law.
- @legalresearchpl – Tips and insider help for paralegals, students, and lawyers to improve their legal research from the Advanced Legal Research Instructors at Stanford Law School are found on this feed.
- @loweringthebar – A humorous take on the law from the “winner of the Underhill Prize for legal-humor blogging,” Kevin Underhill.
- @USSupremeCourt – The U.S. Supreme Court’s official twitter feed is dry, but frequently updated with the high court’s rulings and other content.
- @WSJLawBlog – This feed from the Wall Street Journal‘s Law Blog includes links to its blog posts, as well as legal trends and cases of interest.