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What if your life took a different direction? Legal Times surveyed a handful of D.C.-area attorneys and asked one question: If you weren’t practicing law, what would you be doing with your life? Fantasies included being a ski bum, a Broadway producer, a sports manager, a Peace Corps volunteer, and a veterinarian. JACK OLENDER Jack H. Olender & Associates I think if I weren’t a lawyer — which is the best thing in the world I could be doing — I would be in show business. Being a singer-producer, putting on shows, that’s what I’d do. I wouldn’t be involved in the movies — that would require too much technical skill and a characteristic to succeed that I’d rather not have. I’d like to do Broadway shows, the theater, song and dance. My voice isn’t good enough, but maybe in my dreams that would be a great thing. I loved The Producers; it made the most impact. Even though the subject matter is horrific, it is funny and good and relevant. Another show that made an impact — it was probably the first one I’d seen — was Porgy and Bess. It is the American opera; it is one of the greatest shows I’ve seen. I try as a trial lawyer . . . in some ways to use some of those skills — the production, putting on a show, there’s a theatric quality. There’s thorough preparation and herding the people together to show up at the right time and the right place. Everything has to be scheduled perfectly. But it really comes down to productions. I gave theater no consideration, though I did write some songs and have fun with that sort of thing. Some were love songs, some comedy, some religious. They would be sung with a band. These were written when I was a high school student; that was the early ’50s. At that time you had Frank Sinatra. You had songs with real stories and messages. They would tell a story. DEBRA PATALKIS Drinker Biddle & Reath I can’t think of anything I’d rather do than practice law. But if I were to indulge my true love, my hobby, forget about the money and responsibility, I’d be doing ski patrol. I love the Rockies, so if I had to pick a place, it would be Snowbird in Utah. I go skiing every chance my work allows, and I have the operation scars to prove it: a broken leg and blown-out knees. The only drawback would be having to get up at 5:30 every morning to take your ski-patrol shift and having to launch the dynamite to clear out the snow. It’s not only skiing around and telling kids to slow down, but that’s also the fun part. What I like best is going fast, picking up speed. That would be a great life, work being a hobby. And during my summer months, when the snow melted, I’d go to the Virgin Islands. I haven’t done that before, but I’d be particularly well suited; I clerked for a judge in St. Croix and know the area and have connections down there. During my free time I could split time scuba diving and sailing, two other hobbies that I love. PERRY ROSEN Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld That’s actually a question I ask associates in interviews. And sometimes they turn it back on me, so I’ve given this some thought. If I could do anything, it would be managing the L.A. Dodgers. I love baseball, and it seems like a great way to earn a living: putting on a uniform, going to the ballpark, and coaching a team. In a younger time I might have said I want to play, but now managing seems like a great way to make a career. The pressure is about the same as having to win a multimillion-dollar trial. What I love about litigation probably is found in athletics; I was an athlete in school and loved competition. If we’re being a little more realistic, I think public relations is a field I’d enjoy. I thought about that a bit while in law school. . . and PR seemed like it had a lot of the qualities that attracted me to being a lawyer. You’re still trying to convince someone that your argument is best. KEITH MENDELSON Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice I might have been a country director for the Peace Corps. I was a volunteer for the Peace Corps right out of college, around 1976. I was in West Africa, a country called Togo, and I was in an agriculture program. I lived out in the bush, rode a motorcycle around from school to school, and we built school buildings and helped with agriculture projects. At that time they were still under the colonial education system, and the government wanted to make the education a little more relevant to them, to the people living in rural areas especially. And this is still going on to this day; a lot of people in the rural areas migrate to the city thinking that’s where the jobs are. . . . Every country that the Corps is in has someone that runs the program, and I could see myself doing just that. You oversee volunteer work, work with international groups, and work with the local government. I’ve always had in mind going back and living in the Third World and doing something that would be helpful and relevant to those people. KRISTOPHER HENMAN Troutman Sanders Being a sports agent is something I’d love to do. I’m a sports buff, like every guy, I’d imagine, and doing something like that is right in my wheelhouse. . . . I’d be an agent for only basketball or football. . . . It would be a pretty amazing job, especially the money those guys make — get one nice, big contract and retire. The approach I’d take might be a little different than what I see now. There is something to be said for the Redskins now. There’s a lot more to be made if you are loved by the fans than if you aren’t. If you are a Hall of Fame player, then fans will love you. People who are team players get endorsement deals and things like that for the kind of person they are. That’s a marketable quality, just like being a really good player is. I wouldn’t take too much less than market value; you don’t want to roll over. But there is something to be said for taking hometown discounts. DOUGLAS MELAMED WilmerHale I could see myself going in several directions. I always thought of being an architect. When I was a kid I thought it would be cool; buildings just turn me on. But I don’t have any artistic talent, so I don’t think it was ever more than a pipe dream. If this were something now, I’d say being a professor would be a great life. I’ve always been attracted to academia. Now, if we’re talking a complete fantasy, I wouldn’t mind being . . . a general manager of a sports team. If I had my choice, I’d want to be the GM of a football team; my hometown Minnesota Vikings would be great. Running the business side doesn’t interest me — might as well run a hardware store if you’re just doing the numbers part. But player management, deciding who to sign, making all those decisions, I’d love to do. That would be a complete fantasy job. JILL ALVAREZ Nixon Peabody I would be a veterinarian. I love animals; I have two Labs. I love science and think it would be a wonderful way to spend the day — taking care of animals and dealing with people. That’s why the decisions you make at 18 affect you for the rest of your life. . . . I did very well in science classes and took advanced-placement classes. But then I realized how much time was involved with becoming a vet and went with law instead. I think it’s interesting because, in a way, I’ve come full circle. I started out as a tax attorney and now I’m dealing with FDA issues . . . that I always was interested in. I love the science part of my job, and I have fun when people explain things to me. So, in a sense, I’ve picked back up on the science, and in that way I’m not too far from the field I liked as a kid. I’ve even tried to bring my practice into veterinary law, but it’s a small niche practice and is very hard to do. It’s funny when you’re asked something like this. I had a friend that went off to Vermont to draw comics, and that was at the age of 40. Imagine that. RONALD BIRCH Birch, Horton, Bittner and Cherot What I would have done is work in a Third World country, most likely in Africa. I had a decision to make when I went to law school about pursuing a doctorate in African studies. At the time — this was during the Kennedy administration — there were all of these countries emerging from colonial status to independence, and there was the question which direction they would go — dictatorship, socialism, democracy? A program was set up at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania to train students for this kind of work; it was like an intensified Peace Corps program. I would have been working with emerging leaders in the countries — not really as an ambassador type, more in an educational role. Ghana and Rhodesia were the two main concerns at the time, and that’s probably where I would have gone. A lot of my career has been dedicated to the indigenous people of Alaska, allowing them to express themselves in self-government. One of the first cases I worked on was a land claim, and this allowed the people to incorporate their existing culture, saving the best parts of it, into a corporate model. In a crazy sort of way I’m doing the same thing with my career, or something very similar, that I was trying to choose between years ago.
Nathan Carlile can be reached at [email protected].

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