This is the third in a series of blog posts which will shed light on alternative career paths carved out by graduates since 2007, including the strategies and tactics that they have used successfully, and the advice they offer to prospective and current law students.
Consultant, The Annie E. Casey Foundation
Spelman College, BA Sociology and Concentration in Pre-law and Criminology 2003
Columbia University School of Social Work, MSSW Social Policy with a Minor in Law 2008
Northeastern University Law School, JD 2011
Law school – yes
Like so many law students, Natane Eaddy’s interest in law was sparked by a single undergraduate class. “I became interested in child welfare law and juvenile justice in college. I took a course, Violence Against Women, in which we learned about and discussed the criminal penalties (felonies) imposed on children and adolescents who were being prostituted, while their pimps received misdemeanor sentences.”
She decided to attend law school because she wanted an enhanced understanding of how laws are created, how cases are decided, and how law influences policy.
Law practice – no
Unlike many lawyers who take circuitous routes to non-traditional careers, she “never avoided entering into practice after graduating law school. My priority after law school was gaining exposure to my fields of interest regardless of whether I practiced in the traditional sense or not.”
A focused job search
During her job search, Natane outlined three major criteria: 1) opportunities to actively explore and research child welfare and/or juvenile justice policies, 2) exposure to challenging, yet exciting work experiences, and 3) opportunities to learn something new.
She first learned about The Annie E. Casey Foundation (The Foundation) shortly after graduating from college. “Their philosophy regarding child welfare and juvenile justice systems mirrors my own,” she said.
“After I sat for the February bar, I spontaneously looked into a position with The Foundation. I was in a lull with my job search. I had completed an interview for a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) position, which seemed promising, but weeks had gone by and I had not heard back from the program. Rather than allowing my anxiety to build, I did what my Mother always advised me to do: “Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket!”
She was hired as a Consultant, a position that fit with the priorities she developed for her job search.
Combining legal and social work skills
The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s mission is to foster public policies, human services, and community supports that more effectively meet the needs of vulnerable children and families.
Its clients are agencies, and as a Consultant, Natane uses “a combination of my social work and legal skills to assist my team in developing relationships with clients. My research skills combined with my other team members’ technical and quantitative skills are especially useful in helping clients arrive at appropriate solutions for their problems or concerns.”
In her first assignment, Natane and her team were helping a client design ways to improve service systems. “We are always looking for gaps that we can fill with technical assistance that will help their initiatives work as smoothly as possible.”
MS in Social Work – important and useful
The breadth of knowledge and technical skills that she acquired with her MS in Social Work continues to prove useful for working with child welfare and juvenile justice systems. “I also had some work experience in those fields prior to attending law school and continued to seek co-op (internship) opportunities in those fields during law school,” she added.
“An interest or some experience in consulting or child welfare and/or juvenile justice is a critical pre-requisite for this work,” she said, however “a lot of what I have learned about consulting has been on the job.”
The Foundation attracts people who have varying backgrounds and interests. “All of the members of the team I am currently assigned to hold graduate degrees (Masters or Ph.D.’s),” she noted. “Most, if not all, of my team members have been Consultants for a number of years. They’ve provided guidance and access to resources to help me learn and master consulting skills.”
Advice for pre-law, current law or law alumni not interested in law practice
1. Make Career Services Professionals part of your team.
“Reach out to a Career Services Counselor or Advisor. For me, it was imperative to build a support network of people who kept me grounded, while encouraging me to fully pursue my career.” She noted that it is important to recognize that “the Career Services Office staff is available for guidance, not to land that dream job, or any job, for that matter, for you! My law school’s Career Services Office was a great resource for me,” she said.
“My advisor, Val [Valerie Kapilow], was extremely instrumental in helping me develop a realistic approach to job searches. She helped me ‘think past the surface and outside the box.’ Randi [Friedman, the Director], was incredible at proofing my cover letters and resumes and providing suggestions.”
2. Think outside the box and take ownership of the job search.
“Create a job search list – write down your current skill set and a realistic set of priorities for the job you want (such as developing a certain set of skills or working with a specific population or in a specific field), she suggested. “Keep the list handy and view it as a ‘living document’ that you regularly review, adding or removing items from the list.” She added, “Don’t be afraid to rip it up and start again!”
3. Remain open-minded, positive and take initiative.
“Manage the job search as if it were the beginning of your ideal career. Follow up with leads, conduct job searches daily, set up regular job alerts on multiple websites, and attend networking events. Tell everyone you know about your search and about your interests.”
4. Get your foot in the door.
“If there is an opening that offers the opportunity to get a foot in the door or carves the path toward your dream job, even if it’s not completely ideal, go for it,” she said.
Some Schools with JD/MSW Programs
Arizona State, Boston College, Boston University, California Western, Chicago, Columbia, Connecticut, Cooley, Fordham, Gonzaga, IU – Indianapolis, Maryland, Michigan, NYU, Ohio State, Penn, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, SIU, SUNY Albany, SUNY Buffalo, UC-Berkeley, UCLA, UNC, UNLV, USC, UW-Madison, U of Washington, Utah, UT-Austin, Washburn, Washington University, Western New England, Yeshiva.
Lawyers who are also social workers, Washington University Journal of Law and Policy (2001), Bridget Coleman (Washington University JD/MSW 2002).