The ABA Journal wrote last month about the rise of former lawyers amongst the ranks of university presidents. Noting increasing regulations on colleges and the frequent crises facing these institutions, the article describes via several examples why professionals with legal backgrounds are particularly appealing to the boards that hire school presidents. Having experience in resolving disputes, along with expertise in legal obligations and liabilities, lawyers are well suited to these kinds of leadership roles.
The problem is there are very few openings for college presidencies. But beyond the few dozen president gigs that might become available in a given year, there are thousands of other positions in academic management (at the college level and through private high schools) that would similarly employ these skills. If you’re an attorney looking to transition into a career outside of the law, there are deanships, vice deanships, program director roles, and other leadership opportunities in academia that may fit well with your strengths and values.
These jobs can also serve as a pipeline to university presidencies, as the piece describes in relation to law school deanships. And because colleges are public-facing and therefore tend to be PR-sensitive, the push for diversity in leadership is seeing particular success here, which means that women and minorities may be especially sought after for these jobs.