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Dennis Codon is doing it backward. At an age when most in-house lawyers ruefully recall the punishing hours they spent at law firms, Codon has taken his first job at a firm. The 54-year-old, who resigned as GC of Unocal Corporation in December, began work in March at Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi. Codon’s new identity: a partner in the corporate governance practice, at the Los Angeles office of the large Minneapolis-headquartered law firm.

Doing things his own way is nothing new to Codon. He started his legal career on the sly, attending Southwestern University School of Law at night while working as a sales representative for Unocal, a gasoline retailer headquartered in El Segundo, California. Codon didn’t tell his colleagues about his lawyerly aspirations until a promotion required a move to Phoenix. “That’s when I said, ‘I can’t go,’” he recalls. “‘I’m in my third year of law school.’”

Within a week, Codon had landed a job as an administrative assistant in Unocal’s legal department, where he worked until he passed the bar. Over the next 20 years, Codon made his way up the ranks. In 1992 he was made vice president, general counsel, and chief legal officer, a position he held for ten years.

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