cmulder

The Offbeat Path: Interview with Lori Bryant

Hello, and welcome to another interview with a female attorney who is pursuing an un-traditional career path! This month's interviewee is Lori Bryant. Lori and I went to law school together and provided moral support for each other when the job hunt got rough, so I am very happy that you get a chance to meet her through this interview. As always, if you are interested in being interviewed, please contact me at carissa.mulder@gmail.com.

1) Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up, go to school, etc.?

I was born in San Mateo, CA and moved to a small town called Silverdale on the Washington State's peninsula when I was young. I have one older sister and parents who have been married for 43 years. I went to the University of Washington and graduated with a BA in English Literature. I like to bake, read, write fiction and do anything outside. I also love to travel and have been fortunate to have visited
everywhere from Egypt to Argentina to Paris.

2) How did you wind up in your current position? Was this your first job out of law school, or did you have other positions before this one?

When I graduated from law school I knew I wanted to do something with real estate transactions and I wanted to work for the government. This turned out to be a difficult path. I applied for job after job and couldn't even get an interview. In the meantime, I worked as a paralegal for the corporate legal department of a large, west coast bank. The corporate legal world was not for me. I couldn't stomach it and continued to seek opportunities better suited to my interests and ideals.

Finally, I realized I might not be able to jump into my ideal position right away and I might have to get my foot in the door and work up the ladder. This is a humbling realization for someone who had just graduated from law school and was expecting an abundance of opportunities. In June 2011 I was hired as an Administrative Specialist for King County's Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Open Space Acquisitions Unit. I was very clear that my aspirations extended beyond my initial position, but committed two years to the group. It has been just over a year and I was recently given the opportunity to work as a Project Manager/Real Property Agent for the group. I am extremely excited!

3) Can you tell us about your job search? We both know that it was difficult because of when we graduated (2009). 

I found it difficult to find the job I imagined. I am a little unique in the fact that I was determined to be self-sufficient and wanted to be working, so I didn't have the  experience of being unemployed for months on end. In addition to the positions described in my response to Question 1, I also did a stint as a barista for Starbucks and a teller at a bank. Both jobs I had to talk my way into as I was overqualified. While living it, the experience really tore at my self esteem and I questioned whether I had made the right decision going to law school. In the end, I am grateful for the diverse and unexpected friends I have collected along the way. The whole experience has been character building and makes me even more appreciative of the job I [finally] have now.

4) What is your day-to-day job like? What are your favorite aspects of
your job? What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

I work with a group of 12. We acquire land (usually in fee, some easements) on behalf of the Department of Natural Resources and Parks to be turned into parks or trails, preserved for ecological purposes, due to repetitive flooding, and for mitigation projects. Each property that is acquired requires at least two site visits. These can be really fun, because you get to spend the day hiking around a [usually] beautiful property. There are times when I have to pinch myself, because I can't believe I'm getting paid to have so much fun.

The rest of the position is a lot of paperwork and negotiations with landowners. Luckily, my group only does voluntary acquisitions from willing landowners (there have been only a handful of very limited exceptions to this), so negotiations aren't usually contentious. It can be challenging when a landowner has lived on their property for many years or it has been in their family for many years and they don't understand why the appraisal (conducted by outside, non-partisan appraisers) doesn't reflect the value they expected. It is also difficult to see the living conditions of some of the people, but it can be rewarding if they tell you about why their new place is so much healthier for them. I love interacting with people and my co-workers are some of the kindest people I have ever had the privilege of working with.

5) In what ways is your job similar to traditional legal jobs? In what ways does it differ from traditional legal jobs?

My job draws on many aspects of property law and contracts. It is similar to a person practicing transactional law, because we are putting out purchase and sale agreements, completing boundary line adjustments and interpreting ownership interests. It is much lower pressure than a traditional legal job and I don't feel like I have the degree of personal accountability that I would expect in a traditional
legal job. In other words, if I made a mistake, the repercussions wouldn't generally be very severe. Our clients are other county employees who have secured funding and would like us to purchase a parcel on their behalf. It is a collaborative effort and we work as a team.

6) Many people have experienced difficulties finding jobs in this legal market. What advice would you give them?

Determine what your end goal is...specifically. No one wants to hire someone who screams "I'll do anything for any amount of money." As in dating, desperation conjures suspicion, rather than confidence. Only apply to positions that logically suit you and you would actually want to do. Be creative about how to reach your end goal and don't be too proud to take a backdoor method to getting there. Don't obsess over
what your peers are doing. Remember that the rejection you are feeling is not personal. It is not a reflection of your character, your worth or your intelligence. And BE PATIENT. When you finally get the job you've been waiting for, the timing will make sense and you'll never look back. Don't live with regret. Maybe it would be nice not to have spent all that money on law school and now be unemployed, but you did and you can't change that. Look forward and get excited because your whole career is in front of you!

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