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Some law school grads find their niche in corporate world

Skills that make a good attorney have other applications, too

Kathleen Boozang, dean of Seton Hall University School of Law.-(COURTESY SETON HALL UNIVERSITY)

On a recent trip to California, Kathleen Boozang, dean of Seton Hall University School of Law, met with an alumnus and had a conversation about the importance of skills learned in law school, such as reading contracts, negotiating deals and spotting potential issues.

The alum wasn’t an attorney.

The meeting was with Hollywood animator Scott Greenberg, a co-founder of Bento Box Entertainment, the studio that created “Bob’s Burgers” and other animated shows.

The encounter wasn’t unusual.

“I spend a lot of time meeting with alumni, and one of the interesting things we’re finding about today’s market is that, while most of our graduates will begin their careers practicing law — and the majority will end their careers practicing law — a large portion will end up in new professions,” Boozang said.

Boozang said a significant portion of law school graduates end up in the business world, either as someone who works their way up the ranks of a corporation or as startup founders.

“And we find that the things (you come away from law school with) — like being articulate and good writers — serve people really well even outside of law,” she said.

That’s something attested to by Mariellen Dugan, who was recently named senior vice president and chief operating officer for New Jersey Natural Gas.

“(A law background) gives you a very disciplined approach to problem solving that is helpful in business,” said Dugan, leader at a subsidiary of the New Jersey Resources Company.

The former attorney for the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General is also very used to talking in front of groups of strangers — no doubt because she’s been up in front of a jury many times.

“Much like in a courtroom or preparing for the case, (in business) we look at the facts and evidence and try to identify the scope of the problem as they arise,” Dugan said.

Law schools, increasingly aware of the way companies — not law firms — are often the landing pad for graduates, are making changes to their own syllabus.

“I think one of the most recent innovative things we’ve done is we require financial literacy as part of our curriculum because we know so many of our students will end up in a corporate setting or just practicing at small firms where it’s essential they know the business side of their firm,” said Boozang, who added that the change came last year.

John Fanburg, managing member of Brach Eichler LLC, said he’s not surprised law schools are responding to the need for increased financial literacy among graduates, which he said is just as useful for those remaining in the legal field.

“We’re typically not exposed always to how to run a law firm business early on — you join a firm and, typically, everything is handled,” Fanburg said. “But it’s important for lawyers at the entry level to have exposure to the business side, because (law firms) want them to have skin in the game and to feel like they’re more than just another attorney.

“I applaud those law schools who are starting to teach it — because that’s the real world stuff.”

E-mail to: brettj@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @reporterbrett

Brett Johnson

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