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Changing careers and learning the law: Stories of pursuing passions and personal transformation

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(BPT) - A professional could have many reasons to choose to make the switch into law later in their career — a personal passion, a current skill set that can transfer to a legal position, or simply a new way to earn a living and provide for family. Whatever the reason, making a major life change can seem daunting, but for those who complete their journey, the end goal can be truly rewarding.

The following graduates of Concord Law School at Kaplan University, the nation’s first fully online law school, might have diverse backgrounds, skills and life stories, but they both have one thing in common: their choice to leave behind one career to earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree and become an attorney.* In these inspiring stories, graduates share some of the valuable lessons they learned on their journey toward making their dreams a reality.

Dawn’s story: Learn to make technology work for you

Dawn Kennedy, JD, who served in the Navy and held various jobs over the years along with raising her family of five children, earned her JD in 2015. She currently practices administrative law and has found that embracing technology has opened her up to new possibilities.

“In today’s world, technology powers everything we do,” said Kennedy, “so getting comfortable using different types of technology can make a huge difference in how you learn about the law and practice it once you’ve earned your degree.”

This can be seen in Kennedy’s virtual office, where she uses a secure portal and software like video conferencing to engage with clients. “Having earned my degree online, I learned how to communicate complex legal ideas to others without being there in person,” Kennedy explained. “Had I been in a traditional brick-and-mortar institution, I don’t think I would have learned how to make a virtual office work for me as effectively.”

Her virtual office has also given her the freedom to use her law degree to give back to the community that she cares for so deeply — the military — by joining the Military Pro Bono Project.

“Understanding and feeling comfortable with today’s technology not only makes virtual practices like Dawn Kennedy’s possible, it allows for greater access to justice,” said Martin Pritikin, dean of Concord Law School. “Because of the lower overhead costs and the ‘borderless’ nature of virtual offices, today’s attorneys are able to provide legal services to traditionally underserved communities, expanding access to justice around the nation.”

Dolan’s Story: Marrying previous experience with a new career

Dolan Williams, JD ’15, left behind a lengthy career in higher education where he worked in a variety of positions, including managing student schedules, credits and academic processes and assessing situations involving codes of conduct. He applied that knowledge and extensive experience to bolster his current career as a San Diego-based attorney. When making the career change, Williams found a way to use his skill sets and intimate knowledge of the inner workings of education to land him his first job at a prominent, mid-size law firm specializing in education law with a long client list of charter schools.

“My previous career, and my ability to transfer those skills and knowledge to law, was the primary reason I won that position,” said Williams. “I was able to connect with clients in a way that they understood, and speak their language when it came down to educational acronyms and regulations, so it was a good fit. I had the opportunity to practice law in a space I was already proficient in.”

For those looking for a new career later in life, Williams advised marrying past and future by showcasing previous industry experience as an asset and a springboard into differentiating oneself from competition. “I fused together what I’ve done before with where I was heading, and I made sure employers and now the clients at my own firm realize that my non-traditional career path actually enhances my offerings, and provides unmatched value,” added Williams.

The choice is yours

These graduates chose Concord Law School’s fully online program because it offered them the flexibility to earn their JD without interrupting their work-life balance. In the end, it’s up to you to decide what JD program best meets your lifestyle needs. For more information about Concord Law School, visit www.concordlawschool.edu.

For comprehensive consumer information, visit kaplan.edu/info. Concord Law School cannot guarantee employment or career advancement.

This testimonial was solicited by Concord Law School. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individual; student experiences may vary.

* Note that JD program graduates do not qualify to take the bar exam or to be admitted to practice law in jurisdictions outside of California without additional experience, education, or petition.