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After you graduated from law school, you landed your dream associate position — the right location, the right firm, the right salary. You knew you’d be working hard, putting in long hours — including weekends — but you figured the satisfaction from a job well done would be enough to ease the pain. But now you’re beginning to realize that you may have chosen the wrong career path, and you just cannot envision yourself practicing law any more. Or maybe you feel like putting in a few more years would be a good idea, but this isn’t what you want to be doing 10 years from now. So what do you do? Sure, you could turn your back on the law entirely, but there are plenty of career options for those with an “Esq.” affixed to their names that don’t actually involve practicing law. Whether you’ve decided you need to get out immediately or you want to practice for a few years but can’t see yourself trying to make partner down the line, you need not waste your pricey law school education. Here are some examples of people who scrapped their legal careers and found options that suited them better — and allowed them to use their legal training. The first batch practiced for a while after law school and generally enjoyed it, but found opportunities that suited them even better. They are living proof that you don’t have to be a lawyer forever, even if you do enjoy it initially. Circumstances may change, opportunities may arise and you always have the option of leaving the profession. Jason Lisi practiced tax, trusts and estates, corporate transactional and bankruptcy law for 2 1/2 years but switched career tracks when he got an offer from a legal publishing firm. Eventually, he started his own company — an Internet marketing company that creates Web sites for law firms — and he said his legal training has proved invaluable for its growth. “The market I’m going for are lawyers simply because I understand their challenges [more] than the challenges of companies in an industry in which I’ve never worked,” he said. Lisi suggested that young attorneys who are unsure if they have chosen the right career try to practice for a while in a small firm in order to “have the greatest opportunity to observe firsthand the actual day-to-day practice of law.” Robert Nourian, a principal with Coleman Counsel Per Diem, practiced for five years after graduating from law school before leaving the profession to go into the recruiting business. He advised those who are on the fence about their legal career to practice for a while before making up their minds. “My advice would be, if you’re 100 percent sure and there’s some other alternative that you have, think about pursuing it,” he said. “But absent that 100 percent, I would definitely practice for a while to see what it’s like actually practicing, because only then can you really be sure.” Nourian didn’t dislike the law, but he ultimately decided he would be happier and more fulfilled as a recruiter. “I enjoyed the practice, and I enjoyed the people I worked with very much. I just didn’t see myself pursuing it for the rest of my career,” he said. “If you’re going to achieve the highest levels of success, you have to dedicate yourself to building a practice. … I could see myself doing it, on one hand, but on the other hand, it was a very long road and I could see myself using my talents and my energies doing something similar but in a related field.” Elaine Petrossian practiced for six years as an associate at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, then at Reed Smith, before leaving the law to work as an assistant dean in Villanova Law School’s career placement office. Petrossian enjoyed her time as a practicing attorney but wound up using her experiences as an associate to launch her new career. During her time at the two firms, she became involved in recruitment and training, which rekindled an early interest in education. “I think what I began to realize over many years was that a lot of the most gratifying and rewarding experiences I had as a lawyer related back to aptitudes and prior career interests I had in education and mentoring and training,” Petrossian said. At Villanova, she now uses many of the skills she gained as a practicing attorney. “I was a litigator, so I feel that I use my language skills and my fact-finding skills all the time,” she said. Not all ex-lawyers have as sunny a view of the profession as Lisi, Nourian and Petrossian. Some practice for a period of time but hate it from the start, but they, too, can find new careers in related fields. Nathan Koppel, a legal journalist, went to work in the commercial litigation department of a large Houston firm, Fulbright & Jaworski, straight out of law school. “It took me all of two days to realize I had made a terrible decision,” Koppel said. “It was a very demanding group at the firm. … [It was a] typically grueling schedule; and I just wasn’t ready to work that hard. I still had a lot of growing up to do, I think.” After leaving the firm, Koppel went to work for his father, a lawyer with a general practice, but he left after a short time “to preserve the health of our relationship.” Following a stint as a Los Angeles entertainment lawyer, he found legal journalism. Koppel now works as a senior reporter for The American Lawyer, which is owned by American Lawyer Media, owner of law.com and publisher of The Legal Intelligencer. “[Legal journalism is] much more suited to my temperament, I’ve found,” he said. Amy Stone worked as a litigator for about five years after law school but found that she was “miserable in every job.” She then went to work as a recruiter for a pharmaceutical company, where she spent five years, but she recently returned to a profession where she can use her legal training: She is a sales representative for Westlaw, where she trains attorneys to use the legal search service. “It was a good way, I thought, to use my background that I spent so much time and money trying to get,” Stone said. Some lawyers who have left the profession and gone into related fields were not as unhappy as Koppel and Stone. Rather, they had a sneaking suspicion during law school, or maybe even beforehand, that they might be happier in another field. They, too, eventually found the right careers. Gina Rubel, who has always had a passion for communications, owns a public relations company that caters to law firms. “I had majored in corporate communications at Drexel,” Rubel said. “I loved communications. I went to law school believing that that was the medium I wanted to communicate in. After practicing, I realized I loved proactive communication more than reactive or argumentative.” Rubel discovered that her true interest was public relations while clerking for a pool of Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas judges right after graduating from law school. Convicted murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal’s Post-Conviction Relief Act petition was pending at that time and media from around the world were calling for comment. Rubel wound up handling most of the press inquiries, and she realized that was what she really wanted to do for a living. “I wanted to teach lawyers how to communicate,” she said. “My challenge and my goal has been to help attorneys to get their message across in other [media] outside of litigation.” Rubel said her legal training has helped her to build a successful business, because she understands how law firms work and what kinds of messages they want to send out. “What’s nice is [I] have an … understanding of the legal [terms] that my competitors cannot provide,” she said. “I already understand who [my clients] are, who they’re trying to reach and how to reach their audience.” Janet Crawford and Eric Metz both started out as attorneys and eventually wound up special agents in the Philadelphia field office of the FBI. Crawford knew halfway through law school that she did not want to practice law. “It was boring,” she said. “I couldn’t see myself sitting in an office writing wills for the rest of my life. … [But] after I tortured myself for a year and a half, I figured I would get my degree because it would be good for something.” After graduation, Crawford went to work in a district attorney’s office, and it was there that she was bitten by what she calls “the law enforcement bug.” She heard that the FBI was a great place for someone with a legal background to pursue a law-related career, so she applied. Twenty-four years later, she is still thrilled with her career switch. Metz realized in his third year of law school that he did not want to practice, but he did some general litigation work for a few years before joining the FBI. Now, he couldn’t be happier, and he uses his legal education in his new line of work. “Oh, my God, it’s so great,” Metz said. “I really do apply what I learned in law school on a daily basis. I work in drug interdiction, so I really do apply constitutional issues. … [It's just] applying them as you’re putting handcuffs on someone vs. going back and using Lexis.”

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