Work & Purpose

Law Degree Earned Years Ago Leads to an Encore Career

After decades working as a writer, Janice Fuhrman put her law degree to use by helping people 60 and older who can't afford legal representation

Editor's note: This is Janice Fuhrman's story in her own words.

When I entered law school in 1979, I found law fascinating and felt I had some aptitude for it. But I was also experienced in and excited about journalism.

After graduating from Hastings College of the Law and passing the California bar exam, I decided to return to writing. I missed being close to the news, to new worlds unfolding each day.

I worked in Washington, D.C.; Honolulu; Tokyo; Seoul; Lake Tahoe; and the Napa Valley for news services, newspapers, television stations and myself. I wrote about the law, the governments and cultures of Asia, entertainment, travel, and food and wine. It was occasionally glamorous, sometimes exciting and always stimulating.

When I turned 50 several years ago, I started thinking about what I had missed in the world I left behind. I began volunteering in the field of elder law because it was relevant due to my elderly parents, dynamic because of the country’s unprecedented number of seniors, and meaningful – seniors are such a vulnerable class.

Giving back to the community was part of my decision. Had I ever really been of service to anyone as a writer? Maybe – but if so, it was pretty indirect.

Though I continue to write, I work part time at the Senior Self-Help Clinic in Martinez, Calif., the only drop-in legal clinic of its kind in the state. And I volunteer at Contra Costa Senior Legal Services in Richmond, Calif. At both places, I assist low-income seniors (60 and older) in cases that involve such issues as elder abuse, consumer credit and housing.

For decades, I thought my legal education had been a waste of time; today I’m grateful it opened a door I can walk through at this stage in my life. Though I still have much to learn, I'm optimistic I will have a satisfying encore career.

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