April 17, 2012 6:13 PM
The Careerist: How To Ditch the Law Firm and Land a Dream Job
Posted by Vivia Chen
Lesley Rosenthal has the kind of job a lot of lawyers would kill for: She is the general counsel, vice president, and secretary of New York's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Inc. A former litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison and a violinist herself, Rosenthal arrived at the center in 2005, just in time to help oversee its $1.2 billion redevelopment project.
In the following post—based in part on her book Good Counsel: Meeting the Legal Needs of Nonprofits (Wiley 2012)—Rosenthal gives us the scoop on how lawyers can parlay their firm experience into a job in the nonprofit sector.
How to Get That Nonprofit Job
By Lesley Rosenthal
America’s 1 million charities represent a gorgeous array of goodness. They lead efforts to cure diseases, alleviate poverty, advance education, and ennoble through culture.
But what people don't realize is that these nonprofits tend to have a tiny or nonexistent legal team. That was the case with every nonprofit I've worked with . . . the total number of in-house counsel in each organization had been binary: zero or one.
When I arrived at Lincoln Center, the legal department of the world’s largest and most comprehensive performing arts center consisted of just me and an executive assistant. When friends asked me how big Lincoln Center’s staff of lawyers was, I would look myself up and down and joke, “Oh, around five-foot-five!”
That's not at all unusual: Of the nation’s charitable organizations, only a minuscule fraction has regular access to counsel . . .
Until now. Tectonic shifts in the nonprofit landscape are persuading directors and senior executives that it is necessary and desirable to bring on counsel to oversee the organization’s legal function . . .
To land one of these coveted jobs, you have to be creative and resourceful, sometimes persuading the organization that it’s time to get full-time legal help.
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