Jul 12, 2019
In this edition of Counsel to Counsel, I speak with Rhonda Rittenberg of Northeastern University School of Law about innovative ways to use a law degree.
But when I arrived at Northeastern in 1985, I quickly realized that most people attending law school were there to become practicing lawyers and my thinking began to shift. Like the majority of my classmates, I took coop jobs in a number of legal settings working for the U.S. Attorney, working as a public defender, working for a toxic torts boutique and finally, working in-house for a major university. There were aspects of these jobs that I enjoyed but after 3 years of law school, I was pretty convinced that law practice was probably not for me. At the same time, my interest in community organizing had waned so I decided to look for a more traditional role in a law firm.
The job market was softening at that time and I was finding it difficult to land a role as an associate so I took a job investigating housing discrimination with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Six months after that, I saw that Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education was looking for a law school graduate to plan seminars.
One of my NU professors was on the board of the organization and she helped me land the interview. But I will never forget what she told me. She said if I take this job, it will be very hard to go back to a traditional law position. I heard her warning but landed the job and worked at MCLE for seven years. I’ve never looked back.
Since leaving MCLE in the mid-1990s, I’ve been a legal recruiter and a business and career coach. I work closely with lawyers every day to find more career satisfaction and my knowledge of the practice of law is critical to my success. But I’ve been on retirement status from the bar for many years now and very happy I made the decision many years ago.
There has always been a place in the economy for law school graduates to apply their law degrees in non- traditional ways. But after the 2008 recession, law schools began thinking more seriously about steering some of their students in the direction of these roles.
Today, you’ll find lots of lawyers doing non-traditional things with their careers. Some are lawyers who go in-house and transition into business roles at their companies. Today, there are many more options for lawyers who are looking for alternatives right after law school.
Rhonda Rittenberg is Creating These Job Opportunities for Northeastern Law Students
My guest today, Rhonda Rittenberg, has been instrumental in developing alternative career opportunities for students at my alma mater, Northeastern University.