What are the cutting edge alternative legal careers?

Are you interested in finding out more about cutting edge alternative legal careers? I had the pleasure of moderating a panel recently at the New York City Bar Association’s New Lawyer Institute on alternative legal career paths.

The panelists shared with us their own alternative careers and how they got there:  

Mediation/Alternative Dispute Resolution: Glen Parker

Glen Parker is the Civil Court Coordinator for Manhattan at New York Peace Institute, and oversees their delivery of services in the Civil and Small Claims courts of Lower Manhattan and Harlem. He is currently also an adjunct professor at Cardozo, where he teaches the seminar for the Appropriate Dispute Resolution Field Clinic.

While still in law school, Glen became very interested in ADR. He joined several ADR related committees at the New York City and State Bar Associations. He highly recommends this as a way to network and break into ADR. “I got to know the small community of ADR, which was an advantage for me.”

Glen would take leadership roles whenever possible, volunteering to organize events. Because he volunteered so much, he was visible when the right opportunity came along. “It opened doors for me,” he said. “It made a big difference.” Glen also pursued an LL.M. in ADR at Cardozo, to further enhance his ADR experience and qualifications.

Legal Information Provider: Kristen Wagner

Kristen Wagner is a Manager of Product Planning for Lexis Practice Advisor, helping design their content tools and interface. Kristen joined LexisNexis after working at Lawline.com, where she created online Continuing Legal Education programs. Prior to that, Kristen clerked for a boutique immigration law firm in New York City.

Kristen’s position is legally related, and involves doing market research with attorneys to help develop new products for LexisNexis. “Because I have a JD, I spoke the same language as the lawyers I was interviewing to do research,” she said.  She likes the fact that her law degree is definitely an asset in her position.

She recommends that law students remain open-minded about their careers, as she did, and consider what work culture and environment would make them happy. “Keep up and expand your skills even after you land the job, to position yourself for the next one,” she said.

Diversity & Inclusion Consultant: Lois Jeffers:

Lois worked for nine years in the litigation department of Paul, Weis, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP. Then she switched gears, after extensive career research and became an Assistant Director of Career Advising at Columbia Law School. She then transitioned to VallotKarp, where she helps law firms and organizations create and maintain work environments that value diversity and inclusion. She also conducts seminars on issues relating to team development, respect in the workplace, and diversity and inclusion.

When Lois first decided to investigate alternative legal careers, she read career books and attended career panels. “I also networked a lot,” she said. Then she narrowed her job search down to a few target careers, and tried to build her background in those areas. She attended conferences in the professions she was interested in getting into, and conducted informational interviews.

To get experience in her target areas, she did volunteer work, took additional Continuing Education classes, and got a degree in Organizational Psychology. Her approach was very structured, and geared towards developing experience and skills in the areas she had targeted. She then reworked her resume to reflect her skills. Lois recommends finding someone to help coach you through the process.

Resources that our panelists used that may be helpful to you, include joining student committees of your local and state bar association, networking with alumni of your undergrad and your law school, and utilizing the career counselors available to you at your law school to help you define your career interests.

Hillary Mantis consults with law students, lawyers, and pre-law students. She is the author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers, and a Director of the Pre-Law Program at Fordham University. You can reach Hillary at altcareer@aol.com.