Whether we are in good economic times or bad, lawyers have always been curious about non-traditional legal careers. You would like to use your J.D., but you don’t necessarily want to be a litigator or a corporate lawyer.
What are your options?
Here are some of the hot alternative legal careers trending right now, as discussed at a recent panel held by the New York State Bar Association’s Lawyers in Transition Committee. The panel featured four lawyers who have transitioned into different career paths.
Jonathan Bing has what many would consider a dream job. He is a partner at a large law firm in New York, Wilson Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker. And he spends much of his time working on governmental affairs matters for the firm.
Bing landed his position after serving as a New York State Assemblyman in Manhattan for five terms, and working as the Special Deputy Superintendent for the New York Liquidation Bureau. Bing, a graduate of New York University School of Law, recommends that those interested in government affairs get involved in volunteer political organizations, and use networking sites such as LinkedIn, to make connections.
Stephanie Melowsky, a banker with a J.D., joined CMS Bank as a Vice President of Small Business and Commercial Lending. She plays a key role in the Bank’s outreach to local attorneys, as well as continuing to build the commercial loan portfolio.
A graduate of Pace University School of Law, Melowsky has chosen to use her law degree for a career in banking. She enjoys the client relations aspect of the job, as well as the extra knowledge her J.D. gives her when advising clients. Melowsky, who enjoys marketing, has found that combining banking with law is a perfect fit. For others interested in banking, she recommends joining associations that serve the banking and real estate communities, and using LinkedIn to find others in the same field.
Melowsky’s career parallels the choice of other lawyers, who have used their J.D. to find positions that are traditionally held by M.B.A.’s, such as banking, management consulting, and investment banking.
Have you ever thought about working at the law school you attended? Pace University School of Law graduate Crystal Barrow has —she is the Assistant Dean for Career and Professional Development at Pace. Prior to transitioning into a career in academia, Barrow worked for many years as a litigator, including a stint with the New York State Attorney General’s office, and with the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office.
Barrow graduated from Pace University with her J.D. in 2004, and returned last year to assume the position of Assistant Dean. She recommends that those interested in following in her footsteps into a career in academia network through LinkedIn, and check out web sites such as Higheredjobs.com and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Law schools have J.D.’s working in administrative and teaching positions in many different departments. Schools often like to hire alums for internal positions, so it makes sense to stay involved with your own alma mater, and network with them, if you are interested in a career in academia.
Tina Fisher, Senior Appellate Counsel at Appeal Tech, in New York City, has been called the appellate guru by her clients and colleagues. Her firm provides appellate services to many law firms. She assists the legal community in perfecting appeals by answering a wide array of procedural questions that arise during the course of litigation. Her company also handles the compiling, reproducing, serving and filing of all appellate documents.
If Fisher’s job sounds appealing (so to speak), you should try to become knowledgeable about appellate work. Consider also that there are many other types of vendors to the legal profession, who provide services such as computer services and jury consulting. Also check out companies like Lexis, Westlaw, and Bloomberg, for positions that provide services to lawyers and law firms.
For more information, watch the full webcast of the NYSBA Alternative Legal Careers Panel.
Hillary Mantis works with law students, pre-law students, and lawyers. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers, and a Director of the Pre-Law Program at Fordham University. You can write to Hillary at: firstname.lastname@example.org