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 postâ€”based in part on her book Good Counsel: Meeting the Legal Needs of Nonprofits (Wiley 2012)â€”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
Americaâ€™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 worldâ€™s largest and most comprehensive performing arts center consisted of just me and an executive assistant. When friends asked me how big Lincoln Centerâ€™s staff of lawyers was, I would look myself up and down and joke, â€œOh, around five-foot-five!â€�
That’s not at all unusual: Of the nationâ€™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 organizationâ€™s legal function . . .
To land one of these coveted jobs, you have to be creative and resourceful, sometimes persuading the organization that itâ€™s time to get full-time legal help.
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