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Legal Jobs >> Legal Articles >> Feature >> Non-legal careers: Business
  • Feature

Non-legal careers: Business


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Non-legal careers: Business
After graduating from Capital University Law and Graduate Center, Spriggs opened his own law firm, where he worked as a corporate attorney specializing in loan workouts, foreclosures, and turnarounds. But after two years of moderate success, he left his law practice in Columbus, OH, where he was licensed to practice, and headed for West Palm Beach. Choosing not to sit for the Florida Bar exam, Spriggs relied on his undergraduate degree in business and took a job at Ocwen Federal Bank in its legal department. After a year of working in the company's legal department, he decided he made the right choice and worked on advancing his business career. "I realized that the business side of the bank was more fun and offered more career advancement opportunities and better pay than the legal department. I switched to the commercial loan workout department and tripled my starting pay over the next three years," explained Spriggs.

Spriggs eventually left the bank in 1999 to move to San Diego, where he began working at Kelly Capital, a company he was familiar with from his job at the bank. The first year there, he worked as a commercial and mortgage loan trader with modest success.

"During my time in this position, I talked the owners of the company into buying public companies at a discount instead of just buying commercial loans at a discount," said Spriggs. "Since March of 2000, we have entered into two contracts to purchase public companies—one we closed, and one we didn't. In each instance, we made a profit—one modest, one pretty dramatic. I continue to work with a great group of guys—looking for more deals and enjoying my job now more than ever."

Spriggs said he originally went to law school with the intention to practice law, even though he said his career office presented him with the interesting fact that half of all legal graduates would not be practicing law five years after graduation. Spriggs said he did consider getting his M.B.A. and even applied to an M.B.A. program and a J.D. program at two separate schools and was accepted into both. But he chose to pursue a law degree instead. "I originally went to law school so that I wouldn't end up working at a bank; some irony," said Spriggs.

Spriggs, who is now Executive Vice President - Mergers & Acquisitions at Kelly Capital, said he could not be happier with his career choices. "I love my job. I make a great living. I am now an equity partner in the buyout firm I work for," said Spriggs. "I owe most, if not all, of this to my education, and I use my legal education every day. The critical thinking and analytical skills I learned in law school have been invaluable to me over the last 12 years."

Rosanna Catalano, Director of the Office of Career Planning and Placement at Florida State University College of Law, said that she has encountered a number of students who come to her office looking for non-legal work. "An employee with a law degree can be very valuable to any industry or business because many of the skills developed in law school can be easily translated to other work environments," explained Catalano. "Lawyers are trained to analyze problems, suggest solutions, persuade an audience, and negotiate. These are highly valued skills in any profession."

Catalano also added that attorneys are equipped with the knowledge of legal terminology and that wisdom can benefit any type of business that uses contracts. She said attorneys also possess the ability to foresee the potential effects of pending legislation and how various interpretations of the law will affect a company.

Mark T. Morrell is Director of Career and Alumni Services at Regent University School of Law in Virginia and said he has seen a marked increase in students considering non-legal work. He noted that the interest in non-legal work appears to be happening much earlier in the decision-making process for law students he encounters. Morrell said he meets a lot of students who consider working on Capitol Hill, running for elected office, entering financial planning firms, working in public interest, or working in academia.

"I think the reputation of large law firms as 'sweatshops' and society's general distaste—whether deserved or undeserved—of small firm practitioners, especially personal injury attorneys, causes a lot of students to pause and consider whether practicing law, and the lifestyle associated with it, is their ultimate dream," said Morrell.

Linda H. Bowers, a '93 alumnus of Regent University School of Law, serves as Vice President Senior Trust Officer at The Private Bank at Bank of America in Phoenix. After graduating from law school, Bowers opened her own law practice in a small town and enjoyed practicing law. Her transition into banking came after she got married and her husband's job moved them to another state. "I made the decision to go into the banking trust world because it looked like we may move some more and I did not want to be taking another bar exam every few years. I took an estate planning track in law school, and the banking trust world fit perfectly with that training."

She said many trust officers have law degrees. Having a law degree has made "a tremendous difference" in her job because she deals with tax and legal issues on a daily basis.

"Because I work closely with individuals and their estates and business owners, I encounter all types of legal problems," explained Bowers. "I continually work with attorneys who appreciate my ability to understand the problems and issues. Also, my law degree gives me credibility before the professional community and my clients. Without my law degree, I would not have progressed as quickly up the corporation ladder either."

Though she said she does not miss having to keep track of billable hours or worrying about overhead, she does miss the actual practice of law and constantly toys with the idea of returning to practice. However, her work, family, and other commitments keep her too busy to even consider studying for the bar exam.

"I would tell others who are interested in this type of career to be very flexible," advised Bowers. "The corporate banking world constantly changes, as well as the government regulations associated with the industry. Also, this career is not necessarily less stressful than the practice of law. The stress is just a little different."

Bowers said that a career in banking or business can be good if it gives one the opportunity to use his/her legal skills and keep abreast of current legal topics.

"I know one attorney who transitioned into a banking sales position, and he is concerned that he is 'dumbing down' because he is not utilizing his legal skills. He is now trying to move into a position that permits him to do so," said Bowers. "There is no perfect career or job. A person needs to set his/her priorities and be prepared to make adjustments as life hands them new opportunities."


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