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Although she looks like a lot of other 29-year-old Manhattan lawyers, Jennifer Ranucci packs a Glock 9 millimeter pistol beneath her charcoal gray blazer. She lifts a matching trouser cuff and explains the contents of her ankle holster, “I just bought a 26, it’s the Glock miniature version of the 9.” Due to the delicate nature of her practice area (so to speak) — foreign counterintelligence as a special agent in the New York field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — Ranucci avoids detailed shoptalk and is obliged to keep her face out of camera range. A former complex litigation associate at Kalison, McBride, Jackson & Murphy of Warren, N.J., Ranucci is just what the FBI is looking for these days: buff young attorneys looking for a bracing alternative to corporate law. Fluency in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu or Russian is a plus. If hired for the often physically demanding job of special agent, “Are you going to be a lawyer, per se?” asked Marsha K. Parrish, a senior special agent and recruiter for the New York field office. “No. You’re an investigator. But we want lawyers because law is part of it. We’re looking for people who know how to read people.” “I enjoy what I do, and I use my legal training all the time — the analytical aspect of it,” said Ranucci, a graduate of Widener University School of Law in Wilmington, Del. Upon her 6 a.m. arrival at 26 Federal Plaza, Ranucci works out in the FBI gym. Two hours later, she is at her desk where, “Every day is different. I could be doing paper work, I could be on the street doing surveillance — “ She paused to reflect on what is now missing from her professional menu. “I don’t have that Sunday night knot in my stomach anymore. I’m not worried about some brief I have to get out.” James M. Margolin, who used to practice public finance law at Hawkins, Delafield & Wood, has likewise found the FBI to be a better pasture, although not a greener one. The current starting salary for special agents is about $65,000 annually, rising to about $85,000 after five years’ service. “But the work [at the FBI] is intellectually stimulating,” said Margolin, 48, a Columbia Law School graduate who has been a special agent in New York for 16 years. After several years working on organized crime matters, Margolin is now a senior special agent in the FBI media unit. He found the choice between Wall Street lawyering and G-man duty an easy one. “Making money for some corporate entity versus working for the government?” he asked. The latter, he quickly decided, is “more noble.” HIRING PROCESS While it was easy for Ranucci and Margolin to decide on FBI careers, the 10-step hiring process was daunting [see sidebar]. “It’s a tough process,” said Ranucci. “But it makes you think, Is this something I want to do? You’re really opening yourself up.” With reference to chucking an associate’s generous salary and the potential for future millions as a partner, she added, “The scariest part is making that change. “My husband is a lawyer, and our friends are lawyers — and a lot of them are not satisfied with their jobs,” said Ranucci. “I went from coming home and telling my husband about the deposition I wrote to saying, ‘I can’t talk about it.’ Now he tells me, ‘Okay, so I’m not going to talk about my deposition.’” Like all special agents, Ranucci and Margolin underwent training at the FBI Academy, located on the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va. The academy, informally known by the movie reference as the “Silence of the Lambs Unit,” trains special agents for 17 weeks. Every day at Quantico, said Parrish, a mock bank is robbed, mock gangsters are interrogated, and moot court is in session. That in addition to the firing range (pistols and shotguns), physical restraint workshops, classroom sessions in such things as fingerprinting and forensics, indoor and outdoor physical training, and evening homework. Since the events of 9/11, the anti-terrorism curriculum has expanded. In purely social settings, how do special agents discuss their careers? “We’re a lot more open than they are at the CIA,” said Parrish. “You get a lot of odd questions,” said Jeanne Schiavo, a senior special agent and recruitment coordinator for the New York field office. “People say, ‘So I suppose you know all about me from reading my file?’” Not everybody has an FBI file, Shiavo and Parrish are quick to note, and there are a number of laws governing the collection of sensitive personal information. Ranucci said her most common question is, “Where do you put your gun when you’re at the beach?” To which Parrish replied, cryptically, “Where do you think?”

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