The path from law school to successful attorney may have detours, but for students who are trying to find ways to break into the industry, positions like paralegals and judicial law clerks get their feet wet.

(Photo Courtesy of William C. Martin)

(Photo Credit: Chris Guillen)

While the latter positions may not make the average $113K a year that lawyers do, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, their salary rates do fall within middle-income brackets of approximately $54K for judicial law clerks and $47K for paralegals.

“When you’re a clerk, you automatically will have a mentor as a judge,” said William C. Martin. “I had the honor of serving under the most distinguished judges, specifically Judge James F. Holderman and Judge Ann C. Williams. They helped shape my career, helped teach me how to practice law in the correct way — ethically, responsibly, thoroughly and being an advocate for my client.”

Martin is quick to point out that he will “not paint the fairy tales that some lawyers try to paint” about the practice. Martin is vocal about a lack of diversity in the industry and law school being too lengthy.

“Law has been and always will be an apprenticeship. You cannot learn how to practice law without somebody showing you how to do it first. You can go out here on your own and make a whole bunch of decisions, but that’s life showing you. Someone has to show you there’s no degree that [proves] ‘I know how to practice law.'”

However, Martin is the recipient of two degrees, a bachelor’s degree in computer systems engineering from Stanford University and a J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School.

After 15 years in practice, including over five years at Jones Day, he decided to explore his earlier dreams of working in the business industry. Although he still practices law on occasion, his primary employment is as a financial adviser for his own company, Great Point Capital LLC.

For lawyers who still want to succeed in the industry despite Martin’s skepticism, he encourages building relationships.

“Your main concern will be the amount of relationships you can build. And I use the word ‘relationships,’ not networking. It’s not how many cards you can pass out at a party. Those relationships are the same ones you’re going to be able to rely upon and leverage later on in your career.”

Shamontiel L. Vaughn is a professional journalist who has work featured in AXS, Yahoo!, Chicago Defender and Chicago Tribune. She’s been an Examiner since 2009 and currently writes about 10 categories on Examiner.com.