Jessica Silverstein’s nontraditional legal career path has been all about “working hard to be in the right place at the right time.” Although, according to Ms. Silverstein, “you don’t know you’re in the right place at the right time until you look back.” That’s not to say Ms. Silverstein didn’t work incredibly hard to get to where she is today: principal of Attorney’s Counsel, Ms. Silverstein’s legal career counseling business. Quite the opposite—Ms. Silverstein has built her career through a combination of strong work ethic and her willingness to explore opportunities. By keeping an open mind, Ms. Silverstein put herself in the right places without even realizing it.
From the start, Ms. Silverstein’s career path was unique. Law school was always on her radar. “But I knew I didn’t want to practice,” says Silverstein. It wasn’t until after a high-school trip to Israel and Poland that Ms. Silverstein discovered exactly what she wanted to do: Holocaust restitution.
After she graduated with an undergradute degree from Brandeis University, she enrolled in Brooklyn Law School. Remaining focused on her dream, Ms. Silverstein worked on Holocaust restitution at Millberg Weiss during her 1L summer. Going in a different direction during her 2L summer, Ms. Silverstein took a legal recruiting job at Linklaters (a choice Ms. Silverstein had no idea would be so critical to her future).
After law school, Ms. Silverstein found the perfect position working as a claims administrator with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims in Germany. But a few years into the job, Ms. Silverstein decided she should take a shot at lawyering. She joined a firm and focused on women’s health products liability for five months—enough time for her to confirm what she already knew: she didn’t want to practice law.
That’s when her recruiting experience tapped on her shoulder. Brushing aside the frequent lectures that she must "work as a lawyer to make [her] law degree worth something,” Ms. Silverstein focused her energy on pursuing a legal-recruiting career, beginning with informational interviews to find out as much as she could about the field. She landed a position at Strategic Legal Solutions where she worked for several years. At Strategic, Ms. Silverstein developed a strong interest in resume counseling—a passion that propelled her to start Attorney’s Counsel. Now working full-time at Attorney’s Counsel, Ms. Silverstein consults on resumes, cover letters, interviewing skills and social media.
So what is Ms. Silverstein’s advice for those considering nontraditional legal careers? It’s all about research, networking and informational interviewing. “You can’t do enough informational interviewing,” says the career guru. You should understand your options, research the industry, pinpoint contacts and learn what it takes to succeed in that business. “Every place I went, I tried to learn what I would enjoy about doing that and just as importantly what I didn’t want to do,” says Ms. Silverstein. In paving her career, Ms. Silverstein spoke with her network, her contacts' connections and placement agencies to find helpful resources.
Ms. Silverstein also stresses the importance of updating and adapting your resume based on the job you’re seeking, which may mean having more than one version of your resume.
With your research and resume taken care of, you can also turn to nontraditional-career resources like books, blogs, interviews and programs, such as the New York City Bar’s annual panel on Nontraditional Careers for Lawyers. Attorney’s Counsel also offers services for those pursuing nontraditional career paths, including shaping your resume for your target industry, discussing your options, helping you determine your next steps and referring you to recruiters.
Ms. Silverstein is a unique example of an attorney who has pursued three very different career paths, all for which her JD was critical. “I do believe lawyers can do anything,” says Silverstein. But do JDs need to practice in order to do anything? Ms. Silverstein believes that it depends, but “if you want to use your legal skills and legal degree to do something else, then yes I think you should practice first. Otherwise you have no legal skills,” she says.
For Ms. Silverstein, law school and her legal experience has been worth it. “I’ll always be a lawyer first,” she says with certainty.
Attorney’s Counsel site
Jessica Silverstein is the Principal of Attorney’s Counsel, “a career counseling service that focuses on resume and cover letter review as well as interview skills assessment and social media consulting.” A graduate of Brandeis University and Brooklyn Law School, Ms. Silverstein worked in Holocaust restitution and women’s health products liability before entering the field of legal recruiting and career counseling. Ms. Silverstein serves as the Chair of the Law Student Perspectives Committee at the New York City Bar Association, Co-Chair of the Brandeis Alumni Lawyers Network and Co-Facilitator of the Social Media Affinity Group at In Good Company Workplaces. To read more about Ms. Silverstein click here.
Attorney’s Counsel offers resume review and career counseling globally with most services, aside from interview skills assessments, available online. Attorney’s Counsel offers an initial 15-minute resume review via telephone for new clients. You can contact Attorney’s counsel via its online form or via telephone.
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