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Counsel to Counsel is a podcast for attorneys who are looking for insights to help increase their overall career satisfaction.  You can find it on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.  You can also listen to episodes from this home page.  In each episode, I introduce you to consultants who have been shaping the legal industry and attorneys who have done interesting and sometimes unconventional things with their careers.  My guests will share with you tips on how to achieve greater career and marketing success.

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.

Rhonda shares some great advice for any lawyer who is looking to apply their legal training in a non-traditional way. 

My Own Path to an Alternative Legal Career Started Right After Law School 

Back in the 1980s when I was thinking about law school, there was a widespread belief that a law degree opens a lot of doors.  The message I got was that earning a law degree would provide lots of opportunities beyond the traditional practice of law. During college, I had been a community organizer and I thought that earning a JD would help me further develop that career.  I wasn’t particularly interested in practicing and I hardly knew any lawyers.

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.

Rhonda is the Director of New Markets at Northeastern University School of Law where she creates opportunities for students and recent graduates in new, emerging and growth areas. She leads an outreach campaign designed to develop strategic partnerships with a wide range of employers in different industry sectors.

Rhonda develops programming to showcase lawyers using their degrees in innovative and interdisciplinary ways and collaborates with faculty and staff on developing curricular enhancements to incorporate knowledge and skills desired for success in New Markets.  She also advises law students and recent graduates on career paths.  

She is active in NALP, the National Association for Law Placement and has served as a panelist at recent conferences. She also co-chairs NALP’s JD Advantage Work Group.  Prior to joining the staff at Northeastern, Rhonda had a long and successful legal career. She has held both legal and business positions, most recently serving as a Senior Vice President and Senior Associate General Counsel and Senior Reinsurance Officer at Lexington Insurance Company.  

Prior to that, she was a partner with Prince, Lobel Tye LLP and Morrison Mahoney LLP in Boston, focusing her practice on reinsurance, insurance coverage and complex commercial litigation and arbitration matters.  

She holds a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law where she actually graduated a year before me! 

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