From Law Firm to Library: Finding a Second Career as a Copyright Specialist
My first job out of law school was as an associate at a big DC law firm, where I rotated through the firm’s pro bono and education practice groups. After a couple of years in DC, I moved to a smaller firm in my home town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina—I learned a lot at the big firm, but I wanted to experience a community law practice where I could see my clients across the desk and advocate for them in a more personal way. I took on a wide variety of cases, and rather serendipitously, while volunteering for the local arts commission, I came to represent several local artists in small-scale copyright matters. My interest in copyright was piqued, and I started looking for ways to incorporate more of this work into my practice. I happen to have a few family members who are librarians, and I live in a town with a great library school. I made appointments to talk with several law librarians and library copyright specialists, and decided to apply to library school. While I was in library school, I interned at two law libraries and also at Duke’s copyright office, and after graduating I was lucky enough to find a job as a copyright librarian. I’ve found that working as a copyright librarian incorporates many of the things I loved about practicing law—my one-on-one copyright consultations with faculty and other members of the campus community have the personal feel of client meetings at a small law firm, while the issues we deal with have the interest and import of big firm matters. I also get to work closely with my general counsel’s office, so I feel well supported on tricky questions. I keep my law license active so that I can volunteer on other issues I care about, such as voting rights. I hope this story will be helpful to anyone currently practicing law who might be interested in finding a fulfilling second career that allows them to use their legal education and practice experience in a new way.