Hot alternative legal careers for 2013

Have you been wondering what the options are for lawyers in alternative legal careers? It can be hard to figure out exactly what those careers are, and how you can find them. I recently moderated a panel for the New York State Bar Association on this ever popular topic and here are some career ideas from the speakers:

Development/Fundraising:
Sonia Bonsu found that volunteering paid off. It opened up a new career path to her, and helped her land her current position, as Director of Annual Giving for the Calhoun School, a private school in Manhattan. Bonsu, who is an alumnus of the Calhoun school, had sat on their board as a volunteer, mentoring students. When the Director of Development position opened up, she landed it. It helped that she had also worked after law school as a Deputy Director of Finance to a political campaign, and was familiar with fundraising.

Her current position also enables her to tap into her interest in finance, and educational administration, as well as satisfying her need to help others. “I get to give back to an organization that gave me so much,” she said.

To check out job listings for careers in higher education: www.higheredjobs.com; for careers in fundraising check out The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Legal Recruiting:
Elizabeth Carline practiced at both a large law firm (Nixon Peabody), and a smaller firm, before she decided that a career in law firm administration would be a better fit for her. She networked extensively through LinkedIn, meeting with many others in law firm administration. Then she took her networking efforts one step further — she attended the National Association of Law Placement national conference, where she interviewed for several open positions in Legal Recruiting. Employers were impressed with her efforts to attend the conference. She landed several offers, and accepted the position of Legal Recruitment Coordinator at Weil Gotshal & Manges in New York. Like many others transitioning into a totally different career path, networking was the key.

“Once that job posting goes up on the board, knowing someone in the law firm makes such a difference,” she advised. “It can really give you a leg up.”

Stephanie Biderman, who is a Managing Director for Major, Lindsay & Africa, also parlayed her law degree into a career in legal recruitment. She currently places associates in positions in major law firms. She also networked extensively, to find out what the options were.

“I used every connection I could possibly think of,” she emphasized. That helped her figure out that legal recruiting would be a good option, where she could still be “in the legal world,” without practicing law. “I could not be happier,” she said.

To check out job listings for careers in legal recruiting: www.nalp.org

Finance:
Seth Finkel spoke about using his law degree as a springboard for his career in finance. Seth, who is currently a Managing Director at Neuberger Berman, knew from the beginning that he would do something business related with his law degree.

“I always had an interest in finance,” he said. After working at Coopers & Lybrand, and getting an LL.M. in tax from NYU, he joined Neuberger Berman. He has found that his legal background has been extremely helpful in finance. “The background, education, and credentials have been critical,” he emphasized.

To check out job listings for a career in finance: www.efinancialcareers.com

Non-Profits/Higher Education:
Sara Rakita spent several years as a public interest lawyer before assuming her current position at NYU Law School, as Associate Director of the Public Interest Law Center. She spent five years at Human Rights Watch, primarily in Africa, as well as serving as a long term consultant to the Ford Foundation. When she wanted to return to New York, she found that this position tapped into her knowledge of the public interest world. “It was the perfect opportunity, where I would get to help students.”

To check out the job listings for a career in the nonprofit world: www.idealist.org

To watch the full webinar from the program, and hear more advice from the speakers, go here 

Hillary Mantis consults with law students and lawyers in career transition, as well as pre-law students considering law school. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers. You can contact Hillary at altcareer@aol.com.

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