September 23, 2021

Preoccupations: From Prosecutor to Defense Lawyer: A Career Switch

In moving to my current job, I made a 180-degree turn from what I had been doing, while still staying in the same field. I’m a criminal defense lawyer at the Bose Law Firm in Springfield, Va. Before that, I worked as an assistant commonwealth attorney in Virginia, similar to an assistant district attorney in some states. Today, I defend people I might formerly have prosecuted.

I have to look only at my family and friends for other examples of big career shifts. My brother used to work as an actuary for an insurance company, and now he’s a benefits manager for a school district. In his last job, he calculated the premiums for people buying retirement policies; now he selects benefit programs that suit the district’s needs.

A friend of mine went from working in counterintelligence for the military to working in the real estate field. In his last job, he checked government buildings for recording devices and worked long periods alone. As a real estate agent, he shows houses to prospective buyers and constantly interacts with the public.

There are several reasons why people change jobs — including bad bosses, long commutes and finances. In my case, it was largely money — I had paid my way through law school, and my student loan debt had been draining my finances. I knew I could command more money working for a law firm.

I had several other reasons for a career move. I was ready to start a family, so a higher salary would help with those expenses. In addition, I had accomplished some personal goals, successfully prosecuting murders, sexual assaults and other violent crimes, and it was time for a change. It’s not uncommon in this field to change sides the way I did — all the lawyers at Bose are former prosecutors or police officers.

As a prosecutor, I enjoyed helping victims and working closely with law enforcement. But everyone has a right to legal representation. This side of the law has its own rewards, too, like helping people get a fair and just outcome.

So much of how you feel about such a big career change depends on your background and your personality. I’ve always considered myself a public servant; I joined the Marines directly out of high school. Lawyers who are friends of mine still see me as a prosecutor and are surprised that I made the switch.

Similarly, strangers always seem more interested in my past career, and they seem able to picture me more easily in that position. It’s an indication that I was a natural for that role. But because I know people who’ve made similar switches, it’s not that odd to me. I think that people are courageous for trying something totally new or foreign to them.

I’ve been at Bose for two years, and I’ve done a lot of self-reflection in that time. I always tried to look at all sides of a case as a prosecutor, but in the end I thought people who committed crimes should have considered the consequences of their actions beforehand. Law school helped me to deal with ambiguity and to realize that not everything is hard and fast, that there are shades of gray and different ways to interpret people’s actions. But I still believed that criminals needed to take responsibility for what they did.

My wife used to remind me that some people are not career criminals; they’ve just made a mistake, and that insight drives me now. There are truly two sides to every story. Some people are simply innocent. And good people can find themselves in bad situations, and we need to consider how to help them.


A  DRASTIC career move is affected by how well you handle change. Some people adjust better than others. You have to give yourself time to become accustomed to any new job. I’ve never thought of myself as a chameleon who could adapt to ever-changing situations, but I have learned to be more flexible. The initial discomfort of trying something new wears off. We all need to show different faces at different times. Not only that, but working in a job so diametrically opposed to my previous work has helped me to grow.

As told to Patricia R. Olsen.

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Bucks: Selling Your Car? Try Making a Video

Thinking about selling your car yourself, instead of trading it in for credit toward a new one? Some amateur video recording and smart use of the Web may bring you more offers and a better price, advises the automobile site

In a recent post, Philip Reed, the site’s senior consumer advice editor, suggests making a video of your car and posting it on YouTube, which attracts millions of visitors daily. Most digital cameras and many phones now have video capability, so it’s easy to shoot a virtual “walk around” that mimics what salespeople do at dealerships to show off cars to prospective buyers.

A video ad, he notes, gives shoppers “the sense that they are standing beside your car, listening to you describe the key features and options while they enjoy total anonymity and no risk.” After you post the video, you can create an ad on a classified ad site, like Craigslist, and include a link to the video.

His main tips for making an effective video car advertisement:

  • Park your car in an attractive location free of noise or traffic.
  • Briefly rehearse what you want to show and say in the video.
  • Start your walk around facing the front left headlight and move clockwise around the vehicle.
  • Provide basic information, including the vehicle’s year, make, model, mileage and any special features or damage.
  • Keep it under 2 minutes.
  • Don’t mention price in the video; you may want to change that later without having to reshoot.
  • There are some caveats to do-it-yourself sales. Using the Web and meeting potential buyers in person raises safety issues, which Mr. Reed recently addressed in a separate post. Some highlights for playing it safe:

  • Vet callers on the phone by asking questions. If anything seems suspicious, hang up.
  • Don’t go alone to a meeting.
  • Meet in a public place, like a mall parking lot.
  • Tell the prospect you want to see a driver’s license before a test drive. If you’re uncomfortable negotiating with strangers, he adds, you may want to sell the car through a dealer. You may get less money, but you’ll have peace of mind.
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    You’re the Boss: Checking In on Four Marketing Makeovers

    Trevor Byrne decided to keep his store's name.Courtesy of AUM Framing and Gallery Trevor Byrne decided to keep his store’s name.

    Last September, Branded featured four small-business owners across the United States who had won a berth in Project REV, a yearlong marketing makeover sponsored by the Deluxe Corporation. Six months later, I was curious about the progress Felicia, Trevor, Tasha and Scot had made with the support of Project REV, Score and their $5,000 in services from Deluxe.

    Felicia Frazier owns Staging by Dwell, a company that gives home interiors a face-lift to increase their appeal to prospective buyers. Since September, Ms. Frazier has developed a logo and business card, has introduced a Web site, and is working on a postcard mailer and e-newsletter. She has joined a networking group and enjoys getting in front of real estate agents and prospective clients.

    Ms. Frazier says she is very happy that she now has a clearer business identity and a Web site that she is proud to send people to. Deluxe’s subsidiary,, developed and is hosting her site for $1,000, with no up-front costs and the payments spread out over 12 months.

    Have the improvements translated into sales yet? “Business in general for me has been kind of slow, due to the winter weather in Ohio,” Ms. Frazier said, “but I’ve gotten lots of attention and compliments for my Web site.”

    She finds it challenging to take care of marketing and manage the business. “I have a very creative background but find myself spending a lot of time on design and layout,” she said. “Wanting to put out the best professional product, I sometimes become paralyzed by perfection.”

    Ms. Frazier credits Project REV for encouraging her to distance herself from day-to-day duties and to get out of the office more. She has joined a networking group, Business Networking International, and enjoys meeting with real estate agents and prospective clients.

    Trevor Byrne, owner of AUM Framing and Gallery in Denver, has also unveiled a new Web site, one created by, as well. When he told me the whole process took a week and a half, I was a little skeptical. Web sites typically have a gestation period that’s somewhere between a wombat and a whale. But the gallery site is professionally organized and designed and meets his needs.

    Mr. Byrne, who bought the 28-year-old gallery last year, is facing some challenges with a few new marketing initiatives. He has introduced an e-newsletter with informational tips on framing and is using a customer relationship management program to send it out. He has found that the gallery’s e-mails are getting snagged in junk-mail boxes.

    He also has some trepidation about his investment in print advertising. He has placed ads in Denver magazines, performing arts publications and a neighborhood newspaper, but so far, when he asks his customers what brought them to the store, they don’t credit the ads. “How long do we keep spending money on the ads if they are not generating customers? We’ve been told that we need to advertise multiple times — up to seven times — before people remember the ads and our name. That’s a large expense if we get no leads.” (My thoughts: every situation is different, but print readership studies have confirmed that it takes up to seven times for people to see an ad and take action. And even if the ads aren’t driving immediate traffic, they are probably generating brand awareness that can support long-term sales.)

    Tasha Oldham parlayed her film-making experience into a company, My Story, that helps businesses market themselves by telling their stories in video. Ms. Oldham reports that, since we last spoke, her world has been transformed. She credits a marketing trifecta: the advice of Score (she even picked up Score as a client, producing six national videos for them), her Project REV counselor and her networking and blogging. “As an entrepreneur,” she said, “it’s good to have guidance and accountability and there are so many valuable, rich resources out there. You don’t have to go it alone.”

    Under the guidance of Score and Project REV, Ms. Oldham threw a party to introduce My Story, which is based in Los Angeles. She held the party in Venice Beach, sending out $100 floral arrangements as invitations to 100 people — keeping costs down by trading video services with the florist and the caterer. The event, she says, was “like a wedding without the groom” and brought together some of the best in marketing, advertising and public relations in Los Angeles.

    Her challenges? “I am a big believer in taking risks,” she said, “either going big or going home. However, as a small business, it is hard to take big financial marketing risks and have them not pan out into dollars. Social media still remains a complete mystery to me.”

    Scot Waggoner, chief executive of a home remodeling company, W.B. Builders, which is based in Edina, Minn., used his $5,000 award buying logoed polo shirts and jackets, developing a print ad, fine-tuning his Web site and improving customer loyalty and referral tactics. The company also participated in a remodeling show this past fall. “We hosted two catered thank-you parties after the show at each of the homes,” he said. “Those were very well received and we got two jobs off of them.”

    Mr. Waggoner said that one of his challenges is that he hasn’t had the time to figure out social media. “I am unfamiliar with a lot of the functionality on social media sites,” he said. “For instance, I just uploaded some pictures of a bathroom remodel to Facebook, and the picture quality was horrific.” Overall, though, he said his makeover had been a positive experience: “I now understand where we are, who our constituents are, and the importance of getting the brand out there.”

    Deluxe has decided that there will be a second season of Project REV. New applicants will be sought this summer, and the new season will kick off at the end of the year. For more information, visit the Project REV site.

    MP Mueller is the founder of Door Number 3, a boutique advertising agency in Austin, Tex. Follow Door Number 3 on Facebook.

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