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For some, having a J.D. doesn’t open the door to a courthouse. Instead, it can take its holder to the streets as a cop, to the classroom as a teacher or to the newsroom as a reporter. It took Mark Lambert halfway around the world. Lambert, who earned his law degree in 1987 from Baylor University School of Law in Waco, works for the U.S. Foreign Service as the human rights officer for China in Beijing. The J.D. has been a boost to his career, he says. “I was a history major in college,” Lambert writes in an e-mail from China. “Have you looked at the want ads for history majors?” Students earning their law degrees have options. For those who have decided against the practice of law or who want to do something else for a while, a legal background gives them a wide range of choices. After law school, Lambert worked in the private sector in international shipping in San Francisco, then joined the Foreign Service in 1990. He has been posted to Bogota, Colombia, where he worked on anti-kidnapping and counter-narcotics issues; Tokyo, where he dealt with political-military affairs connected to the U.S.-Japan security alliance; and Washington, D.C., where he worked on countering weapons of mass destruction and then on U.S.-Japan relations, including preparation for the global climate change talks in Kyoto. “My law degree helps a great deal at times, particularly promoting rule of law issues in China and understanding legal issues in Colombia, Japan and China,” Lambert writes. “Increasingly, the international community is promoting international norms in the form of UN covenants and other multi-lateral agreements. A legal background is very handy when working with such things.” The biggest single skill his legal education gave him is the promotion of positions in a forceful and passionate, yet controlled, manner, he adds. OPTIONS ABOUND Law students who have chosen alternative paths and career services officials say a J.D. can be a ticket to a satisfying job where the practice of law is not the primary focus. A survey by the National Association for Law Placement showed that 79.8 percent of the class of 2000 law graduates got an initial job in the legal field and 10.6 percent went into other fields. The rest were continuing their education, still looking for a job or not seeking employment. “After their first year, some students have decided that although they like the theory of law and enjoy legal theory and research, they don’t really want to practice,” says Karen Rolfini-Beckenstein, director of career services at St. Mary’s University School of Law in San Antonio. “They come to me for ideas of what they can do.” She has plenty. There are jobs in academia, law enforcement, journalism, business, politics, human resources and public administration. Some graduates choose careers that are closely linked to the law, such as court administration or mediation, but don’t involve writing briefs. Larry W. Prescott, who received his law degree from Baylor in 1970, uses that background with his Houston-based company, Prescott Legal Search, an attorney recruiting service that he founded in 1981. Vickie L. Milazzo, a registered nurse and a 1987 graduate of South Texas College of Law in Houston, trains nurses at her Medical-Legal Consulting Institute of Houston on how to use their health-care knowledge to consult on court cases. “My law background is particularly useful when teaching legal nurse consultants legal concepts such as legal elements, litigation process, torts and discovery,” she says. Milazzo says she became fascinated with the legal world while working as an independent consultant. When she began law school, she was open to the idea of practicing law, but decided on a different course. “I knew I would use the [legal] knowledge no matter what career decision I made,” she says. “By the time I graduated from law school, I was training legal nurse consultants nationwide. So I chose to pursue my first childhood passion, teaching, instead of law. Also, I loved entrepreneurship and owning my own business.” Rolfini-Beckenstein, who has been a practicing lawyer and a staff attorney for a judge, says grades don’t predict who will choose an alternative path. “Sometimes it’s a matter of maturity,” she says. Some students never have been sure about what they want to do with their lives, she says. Others feel the quality of life is important and don’t want to sacrifice it for an 80-hour work week at a firm. Some have other priorities, such as a spouse and children. Rolfini-Beckenstein has four different tests she uses to assess student skills and interests. “It’s a lot like dating,” she says of the quest for a career that fits. “You have to know what you want so you can get what you want. You have to set standards. You have to have an employer who has the same standards.” Robert Van Pelt always knew what he wanted. The problem was that he was being pulled in two directions when it came to his career. He knew he wanted to be in law enforcement — in fact, he has a master’s in criminal justice management — but he also had a desire to be a lawyer. So Van Pelt decided to have it both ways. After working for a decade in the Harris County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy, he began night school at South Texas College of Law. After three-and-a-half years of classes, during which time he continued working as a deputy and was assigned as a bailiff/process server in district court, Van Pelt graduated with his J.D. in December 1992 and passed the bar the following February. Today, he’s a lieutenant and the spokesman for the sheriff’s office. Someday, after he retires as a law enforcement officer, Van Pelt says he might practice law and plans to go into politics. For now, he wants to continue to move up in rank and foresees many more years in law enforcement. “It’s helped me so much in my career,” Van Pelt says of his law degree. “Being legally trained, I can look at situations from a different viewpoint and understand it from a different aspect. It’s been a real asset.” His legal background helped Eddy Duffer jump into a career with the FBI. Duffer, a fellow 1987 law graduate with Lambert at Baylor, works as a special agent in Reno, Nev., conducting criminal investigations. In many cases, applicants to the FBI must have three years of work experience on top of a four-year degree, but lawyers are exempted from that requirement. Duffer was competing only against other lawyers for a spot with the agency and began work there when he was 24, younger than most beginners. “It makes you more competitive,” Duffer says of the law degree. It also aids in his work. He is a legal adviser at his office and knows the ins and outs of preparing for trial when he has to testify in one of his cases. Van Pelt, Duffer and Rolfini-Beckenstein say that law graduates should take the bar exam while the material is still fresh in their minds, even if they think they’ll never practice law. Passing the bar gives a graduate more options down the road. Mike Androvett agrees. He’s still licensed as an attorney in Indiana even though he has his own company in Dallas, Androvett Legal Media. Continuing legal education classes keep him current with trends in the law, he says. Androvett combined a communications and political science degree with a J.D. in his former job as a broadcaster for television stations in Indianapolis and Dallas and now as an advocate for lawyers. His company handles public relations, marketing and advertising for those in the legal field. The law degree helps him in his work with the media and in his dealings with attorneys, he says. “There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not glad I did it,” Androvett says of getting the J.D., which he earned by going to night school at Indiana University School of Law while working full time in Indianapolis as an on-air TV reporter. “It’s a good leg up. It broadens your horizons.”

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