Alternative Legal Career Paths: A Diva's View on Law, Leadership

by Vault Law Editors | February 17, 2011

  • My Vault

Known as a diva by her friends well before the term became so ubiquitous, Ericka Hines didn’t think twice when choosing a name for her leadership development firm: Social Change Diva. But Ms. Hines’ idea of a diva isn't a drama queen. It's “the operatic singer that comes from a place of strength.” And the focus for social change divas is “how can you have confidence and humility in your leadership?”

Ericka Hines

As a leadership coach, Ms. Hines helps individuals and organizations—mostly nonprofits and social enterprises—develop their leadership skills and missions. Her services include one-on-one leadership coaching, developing and teaching leadership workshops, consulting with organizations in creating leadership-training curricula and working with organizations' fellows and grantees in developing leadership skills.

Ms. Hines’ path toward leadership development began with law school. From a young age, Ms. Hines wanted to help women—a desire stemming from her experience being raised by a single mother, her own experience as a woman and the spotlight on women’s power at the time—and she concluded that law school was the avenue toward her goal.

But once she was in law school, two experiences convinced her that practicing law wasn’t her path. First, Ms. Hines realized that she didn’t want to work in direct client services after she was forced to prioritize intake between two victims of domestic violence during a law school clinic. “I was fearful my empathy would start to diminish,” says Ms. Hines. She then spent her 2L summer at Equal Justice Works ("EJW") where she found her passion for “helping people develop their capacity to become better lawyers [and] better social change agents.”

After law school, Ms. Hines took a position at the Center for Policy Alternatives as a program assistant, working her way up to policy work focused on making business ownership “more accessible to more women.” Ms. Hines' next position was with the Leonard Resource Group, a public affairs firm at which she worked in two areas: 1. helping businesses connect with Job Corps graduates through a residential training program and 2. working with Youth Council Networks on best practices for local communities spending federal dollars on youth development and youth jobs. Ms. Hines then moved back to EJW where she designed and directed the annual national Conference focused on law students doing public interest work and trained EJW’s fellows.

All of these experiences, while unique, related to each other in one important way: leadership. Throughout her entire career, Ms. Hines worked with leaders, whether it was developing summits for women leaders, working with leaders on how to use federal dollars or working with fellows on the path to leadership. Consequently, Ms. Hines developed a deep interest in how people become leaders and launched Social Change Diva.

While Ms. Hines recognizes that law school may not have been the most direct route to her current career, she values the analytical skills and confidence she gained in law school. “Law school gives people the confidence to believe they can do almost anything short of being a doctor.” But she advises prospective law students to take some time between undergrad and law school. “Your maturity level is really important in law school,” she says. Also important is keeping an open mind. “Don’t plot out your path of what you’re going to do before you get there,” says Ms. Hines. “Be open to the educational experience. You may change your mind.”

Once you take the law-school plunge, though, Ms. Hines recommends using your school’s career counselors and networking to jumpstart your career. Her other tip for law school survival? “Have a sense of humor.” And if you’re interested in pursuing public-interest work, this nonprofit guru advises law students and attorneys to research and “be prepared to go beyond the mission statement of an organization.” She also emphasizes the importance of conveying your passion for the work to the nonprofit organizations.

But practicing law isn’t for everyone, as Ms. Hines knows well. “Do not feel pressure by your family to be a lawyer,” she urges. Instead, focus on the skills you’ve developed in law school and consider those “skills in a larger context” to help you pave your future.

Finally, when it comes to social change, Ms. Hines believes lawyers should resist the belief that they’re the sole solution. The law is important for social change, but the law is just one of “a number of strategies to make social change occur."

Wonderful advice from this “diva for good.”

Social Change Diva site
Learn More About Ericka Hines

Read More:
Alternative Legal Career Paths: Holocaust Restitution to Products Liability to Legal Career Counseling

_________________

Ericka Hines runs Social Change Diva, a minority, woman-owned leadership development firm. She works with individuals, socially conscious companies and non-profit organizations that want to “step into their leadership” in order to move their mission forward. Ms. Hines specializes in curriculum development, training design and facilitation and has extensive experience designing and directing leadership development trainings. She has designed and led over 20 annual education conferences and trainings for groups as large as 1000 and as small as 150. In addition to her training background, Ms. Hines also has extensive facilitation experience running all types of meetings and designing discussion strategies for workshops, retreats and small group discussions.

Ms. Hines has a Juris Doctor from the University Of Georgia School Of Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Wright State University.

FOLLOW VAULT LAW ON TWITTER! @VaultLaw

Filed Under: JD Alternative | Law

Close button

Get tips on interviewing, networking, resumes, and more directly to your inbox.

No Thanks

Get Our Career Newsletter

Interview, resume and job search tips emailed directly to you.