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« Ex-"Big Law" Attorneys From Wilson Elser and Other Firms Overcome Obstacles and Start Their Own Practices | Main | Justice Scalia Offers Different Perspective on Balancing Work and Family »

Four Successful Attorneys Who Pursue Their Personal Passions in Their Professional Practices

It's inspiring, perhaps even thrilling, to see other lawyers who love the work they're doing.  Whether it be professional sports, television show business, video games, or the restaurant business, some lawyers are fortunate enough to blend their personal passions with their law practices.  Chicago Lawyer magazine recently published an article featuring four Chicago lawyers who manage to combine their personal and professional interests in interesting and rewarding careers.

In the article, you'll meet:

  • Irwin Mandel, the lifelong sports fan who, as senior vice president of financial and legal operations for the Chicago Bulls, indulges his competitive spirit as he interprets and applies the National Basketball Association's complex rules about player acquisitions and the maximum amount teams can spend on layer salaries each season.  Being very competitive himself, he looks for ways to use the rules as an advantage for his team.  Mandel grew up wanting to be a professional athlete and calls his job with the Bulls the next best thing to playing the game on the court.
  • William L. Becker, the general counsel for Harpo Inc., the company that manages the various entertainment projects of television superstar Oprah Winfrey.  Originally hired because of his background in employment and entertainment law, Becker now enjoys an in-house practice that involves dealing with a wide variety of legal issues, the mixed bag due in large part to Oprah's creativity and her ongoing flow of new ideas.  Of his dynamic work environment, Becker observed, "I can’t think of a legal issue that hasn’t come across my desk."
  • Deborah K. Fulton, who developed an enduring passion for playing video games when she was a young girl, and who now serves as general counsel, senior vice president, and secretary for Midway Games.  Fulton heads a busy legal department that deals with a variety of matters, ranging from the traditional securities law issues facing a publicly-traded company to the intellectual property questions that arise in an evolving video game industry that merges entertainment and complex technology.  Fulton's job has some interesting perks; for example, she once made a voice recording on one of the company's games.
  • Jay L. Stieber, the general counsel and CFO for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Inc., a group of about 72 restaurants serving diverse fare at eateries that feature themes around which menus are presented.  Stieber, a lawyer and accountant who makes himself accessible to the 53 equity partners who own the restaurant group, stays busy handling legal issues that range from negotiating real estate leases to securing financing for new projects.  Although he probably won't leave his legal and financial work to wait tables anytime soon, Stieber has said he could run a restaurant for a few days and apply the skills he acquired during his 14 weeks of on-the-job training at one of Lettuce Entertain You's restaurants.  He enjoyed every minute of that experience and learned the work quickly.

Read the full stories about these interesting attorneys and their interesting work here.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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It is always wonderful to hear of people who have successfully combined their passion with what they do for a living. Actually, a substantial number of lawyers have been able to do this, and they haven't necessarily had to leave private practice to do it. I have interviewed and written about 5 such lawyers in law firms of various sizes around the U.S. for a chapter, "Building a Practice Around a Passion," which will appear in the 2008 edition of "The Rainmaking Machine" (Thomson/West LegalWorks). It was exciting to talk with them and hear how they forged their own path with support from their firms. So it is possible.

I will also be leading a webcast on the subject this summer.

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