Has the legal profession lost its luster in the eyes of would-be lawyers?

A survey of pre-law students found that 43 percent planned to use their degrees to find jobs in the business world rather than in the legal industry, while 42 percent said they would attend business school were they not already set to go to law school.

Furthermore, half of the 200 pre-law students surveyed by test-prep company Kaplan Inc. said they planned to use their law degrees in nontraditional legal settings — meaning outside the conventional law firm, government lawyer or public interest law tracks. Of those students, 58 percent said the difficult legal job market was a factor.

(According to the latest figures from the American Bar Association, just 56 percent of the class of 2012 had landed long-term, full-time jobs requiring bar passage nine months after graduation.)

"In addition to putting greater focus on prioritizing and planning, pre-law students are increasingly considering nontraditional career options," said Kaplan’s director of pre-law programs Jeff Thomas. "While we’d always counsel students to go to law school with the intent to practice law, society is filled with lawyers in all types of positions — politicians, lobbyists, authors, law enforcement officials, executives at professional sports leagues and more — which shows that law degrees can be applied to a broad range of career options."

The polled pre-law students predominately said that money was not their main motivation for pursuing a law degree. Only 5 percent responded that salary potential was their primary reason, while 71 percent said that they were motivated most by pursuing a career they are passionate about.

Contact Karen Sloan at ksloan@alm.com.