July 2016

Drawing from the Past: Reflections of a Second Career Lawyer

By Adam Levine

Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield LLP

Have you ever thought of changing career paths? Or perhaps, you are already in your second career, as an attorney. Career transitions should not be taken lightly, but they are doable and can be rewarding. 

Whether practicing law is your second career or first, there are so many varieties of practice areas that there’s likely to be overlap between the law and your past career, volunteer or extracurricular activities, or even life experiences. That overlap creates opportunities for you to leverage the skills, perspective, and experience you’ve developed, in the practice of law.  

My Journey to Becoming a Second Career Lawyer

I spent 12 years working in architecture, working my way up from a draftsman to a licensed architect.  Throughout that process, I found myself confronted more and more with the legal aspects of projects.  And to my surprise, I enjoyed that side of being an architect.

The first time I seriously considered changing careers was during a residential project I was designing for a family in North County. Because of the local zoning laws, there was a problem that could have kept them from building the remodel they wanted. I had a meeting with a city planner where I was able to help him see that the law was ambiguous, and the family should be allowed to build their project. The plans for their remodel were approved, and the family was very appreciative.

I realized that as an architect, I enjoyed negotiating on behalf of my clients and making the case for why their position was the right one. The more I thought about it, the more parallels I could draw between what I enjoyed about practicing architecture and what I knew about the practice of law.

So, after some serious thought and working with some lawyers to see if I liked the reality of legal work, I decided to take the plunge and go to law school.

I started working at CaseyGerry during my second year of law school. Although personal injury practice didn’t seem to be directly related to architecture or construction law at first, I quickly realized there was more overlap than I had expected. 

On premises liability cases and construction-related injury cases, my understanding of applicable codes and standards helped me to add a unique perspective to the team. And even on less related types of cases, my familiarity with physics and engineering concepts helped me communicate with experts and understand issues. Before long, I was hooked. And the satisfaction that I now feel helping clients overcome their problems is greater than it ever was during my practice of architecture. 

Reflecting on Your Past

I am sure a number of attorneys in our community had different careers before transitioning to the law. Like me, I’m willing to bet they take skills learned from their prior careers and apply them to their legal practice.

When reflecting on your past non-legal jobs or experiences, what knowledge have you gained that helps you as an attorney? Maybe revisiting your own journey can help you identify skills you developed outside of the law and leverage them. After all, while the law influences all aspects of our lives, all aspects of our lives can also influence our practice of law.