Attorneys look for '300 Ways' to jumpstart their careers

Issue June 2003

Diane Gold thought her dream legal job would be handling residential real estate transactions.

Hindi Greenberg & Abigail Shaine
Hindi Greenberg (left), author of the best-seller "The Lawyer's Career Change Handbook," stands with MBA Executive Director Abigail Shaine during the MBA's recent seminar "300 Ways to Use Your Law Degree: Career Options In and Out of the Law."

So when she graduated from law school three years ago, she followed her dream - only to find out several months later that she didn't enjoy the work. And since that time, Gold has felt frustrated because she didn't know what else to do with her legal career, or even whether she wanted to continue being a lawyer. That was until she got the courage to leave her job and pursue new opportunities.

"I'm looking for a new challenge. That was not challenging to me," Gold said. "I stayed in the job six to 12 months longer than I should have because I didn't think I could do anything else. (My friends and family) said that I should leave and finally I got up the gumption to go."

Now she is pondering her next career move. And on May 16 she was joined by 250 other lawyers also confronting how to use their law degree differently when they attended the MBA's daylong seminar, "300 Ways to Use Your Law Degree: Career Options In and Out of the Law."

Featured speaker Hindi Greenberg, author of the best-seller "The Lawyer's Career Change Handbook," offered insights to participants about what it takes to achieve career satisfaction.

Greenberg used her own experience as an example. Once a business litigator who worked for both a small and a large firm, Greenberg wasn't happy with her legal career. But it took several years for her to come to this realization. Now she is a career counselor happy with the work she is doing.

Greenberg offered advice on how to achieve career satisfaction within one's current work, conduct career assessments to decide whether a job change is necessary, develop job-change strategies, assess the benefits and detriments of various job choices and discover alternative career options using a legal degree as a basis.

She spoke of a number of career choices that are directly related to the law, indirectly related to the law and those for attorneys who no longer want to practice law. The options ranged the gamut of working for a school district, which encounters such legal issues as employment contracts and First Amendment issues, to a local bar association, which develops programs for attorneys.

Following a networking lunch, attendants heard from a variety of high-powered area professionals who have used their legal education for a variety of careers.

Speakers included MBA Executive Director Abigail Shaine; Anthony Benedetti, general counsel for Committee for Public Counsel Services; Dennis J. Calcagno of Northeast Mediation & Arbitration; Beverly Coles-Roby, dean of Student Affairs for Suffolk University Law School; Jerry Howland, headmaster for Another Course to College; Stephen Kurkjian, investigative reporter for The Boston Globe; Jedediah Mannis, executive director of The Shelter Island Fund, Cambridge; Judy S. Loitherstein, Employment Law Training and Consulting, Brookline; Raquel Ortiz, law librarian at Boston University Law School; Risa Sorkin, a contract attorney in Cambridge; Lisa Terrizzi, human resources analyst for Harvard University; and Dave Delaney, general manager of Columbia Buick Pontiac GMC, Inc. in Hanover.

After lunch, seminar attendants sat with the individual speakers during 20-minute, small-group roundtable discussions to learn more about the speakers' careers and how they attained their positions. They also listened to advice from Greenberg on how to draft resumes, while Shaine gave tips for successful job interviews. Also, Jeffrey Fortang, staff psychologist for Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, offered suggestions on stress management.

The seminar gave lawyers an opportunity to step away from their current jobs so that they could reflect about the process of changing careers and also hear about different options.

Gold said she wants to help people, but in a different area of law than real estate.

A similar sentiment prompted Kelly Belt of Quincy, who has been out of law school for four years, to attend the seminar.

Though she began her legal career in family law, she now wants to try something new, because she wants to work in an environment in which she can attain a higher level of respect and more thoroughly enjoy her career.

Though both women may have been disheartened early in their legal careers, each said she looks forward to finding something new so she can wake up each day and enjoy going to work.

Those who attended the seminar represented lawyers with a vast array of legal experience, from law students and lawyers with one- to five-years experience to seasoned lawyers with 15 years or more of experience.

One man, who declined to give his name, has been practicing law since he was admitted to the bar in 1971.

"This is not fun anymore," he said.

The man said he isn't sure what he would like to do next with his career, but said he was interested in learning some good ideas.

Another attorney, who also declined to give her name, said the seminar was helpful to her as she thinks about different career options. An attorney for more than 15 years, she works for a state agency and is thinking about trying something different.

"I think the seminar is giving me ideas in areas of how to think about (making a change) as opposed to what to look for," the woman said.

She said she's not sure yet what she wants to do for her next career move, but is hopeful the tips she learned will help her find that option.