Non-firm job options: Recent law grads share advice

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When considering law school, students may have the idea that getting a law degree will equal a large salary or a lifestyle similar to television shows that portray lawyers in spacious apartments, wearing designer clothes, and hosting large events.

The reality is that may be true for some. For those who would rather work in politics, as in-house counsel, or start their own business, the salary may be smaller, but depending on one's interests and career goals, it could be more rewarding.

Liane Groth,  who graduated from Indiana University School of Law - Bloomington in May 2005, said while in law school the job search wasn't a priority.

She knew a law degree would help her in so many different jobs that she wasn't quite sure what would be her best fit.

She accepted a job at Bingham McHale because as a summer associate, she was able to work in different practice areas.

While at the firm, Groth accepted an offer to be assistant majority counsel the Indiana House of Representatives for the 2007 and 2008 legislative sessions, which took her out of the office much of that time and made it more difficult for her to keep up with the firm demands.

She worked in the firm's litigation department until earlier this year, leaving to pursue a career with more emphasis on government work. As an employee of the Indiana House Democratic Caucus, she is the campaign manager for attorney Ed DeLaney, the Democratic candidate for District 86 in the Indiana House of Representatives.

Sometimes, she said, "I joke with Ed that I made more at the firm in a week than I do in a month working for the campaign."

She said the job has led to other opportunities, such as work with Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign and the opportunity to network with attorneys and people in the community.

While "it's a lot of phone calls and knocking on doors," she said, she has seen the impact her law degree has in terms of the respect she receives.

Groth hasn't yet thought about what she'll do after the Nov. 4 election because she's been focusing on her work for the campaign. She does miss some aspects of firm work and stays in touch with her friends and mentors at the firm.

Another attorney who started at a firm and later left for another job is Scott Dillon, in-house counsel to Indiana Live! Casino, in Shelbyville.

Dillon graduated from IU School of Law - Bloomington and the Kelly School of Business MBA Program with a JD/MBA in 2003. While in law school, he wanted to be a prosecutor. Instead, his first year out of law school, he worked for Threlkeld-Reynolds doing insurance defense work. After that, he started his own practice representing plaintiffs in employment matters.

He started at Indiana Live! Casino in March 2008. The work is "invigorating and inspiring," he wrote via e-mail.

"My position implicates a broad swath of legal disciplines including gaming law, employment law, contract law, sales law, alcohol and tobacco law, and administrative law," he said.

A lawyer who finished IU School of Law - Indianapolis this year who decided not to consider a firm job is Jennifer Wagner. Formerly a journalist, she decided to go to law school because she wanted another degree.

While she has an interest in criminal law and may some day try for a job as a prosecutor or public defender, she has since helped with political campaigns. She is also a contributor to Capitol WatchBlog.

She took the suggestion from her husband, Gordon Hendry, to start a media and communications consulting business for clients in politics and in the private sector.

Hendry, who previously worked for Ice Miller and the office of former Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, and is now in real estate, has encouraged her to consider working for a firm. But due to the time commitment, Wagner said that isn't likely until her daughter, and any other children she may have are much older.

As for other young attorneys looking for work, Groth suggested young attorneys consider government work. She added jobs are more satisfying when they fit one's interests more than when it's just working for a paycheck.

Dillon advises people to remember to make a good impression on coworkers, opposing counsel, and the judges they appear before in case an opportunity presents itself.

Wagner suggested attorneys volunteer for political offices, even if it's in addition to a full-time job. She also suggested attorneys keep in touch with their law school classmates, because "you never know where they'll end up." •

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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.