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From Arts to Law: Two Lawyers' Career Paths

Two unrelated but parallel stories caught my eye this week. Both portray lawyers who chose careers in the legal profession over promising futures in the arts.

One is Sergiu Gherman. A talented piano virtuoso from the Eastern European country of Moldova, Gherman's life took a dramatic about face when, in the middle of pursuing his doctoral degree in classical piano, he decided to go into law and enrolled at the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida. "Are you crazy or something?" one of his closest friends protested at the time.

Gherman's journey from Moldovan musician to Florida lawyer is recounted in a story this week in the Lakeland, Fla., newspaper The Ledger. He started playing piano at age 7 and went on to study on full scholarship at the prestigious Gheorghe Dima Music Academy in Romania, where he received bachelor's and master's degrees. A former piano teacher helped bring him to the United States, where he enrolled in a doctoral program at Temple University in Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, he was impressed by a lawyer who helped him with an immigration issue. It was then that he decided he wanted to become a lawyer. "I wanted to have an impact, particularly for someone who really needed my services." Today, he is a lawyer with the Bartow, Fla., firm Frost Van den Boom & Smith. And in April, he became a U.S. citizen.

Shelton-tabor_valerie_ Meanwhile Texas Lawyer profiles Valerie Shelton-Tabor, a Dallas public defender who glides between pleas and pliés. A full-time lawyer by day who represents indigent defendants who face felony charges, at night she switches to her role as director and co-founder of the Contemporary Ballet of Dallas. And in case she doesn't have enough to do, she is the mother of two children.

Like Gherman with piano, Shelton-Tabor was on a path toward becoming a professional dancer before she veered off into law school. During her youth and through college, she studied dance, attending Southern Methodist University on a dance scholarship and graduating with a fine arts degree in dance performance.

But as she neared her graduation from SMU, she was feeling burned out on working so hard at dance. A roommate studying for the LSAT dared her to take it too. She did and scored well and soon found herself at the University of Oklahoma College of Law, where she stopped dancing "cold turkey" and thought she would never return to it.

In 2001, a friend and fellow dancer from SMU invited her to help start a dance company. The idea appealed to her and soon the two women had scraped together the money to get it started. Later, the company started an affiliated dance school.

Spending increasing numbers of hours on dance, Shelton-Tabor this year shifted her focus back to law. She sold her interest in the dance school while keeping her interest in the company. She switched from a part-time job as a district attorney to a full-time job as a public defender. She continues to teach two nights a week and to help direct and choreograph the dance company.

Shelton-Tabor told Texas Lawyer that she sees similarities between dance and law. "You have to learn to let some of it go. The fact that an officer didn't testify well, you have to recognize you can't control that. The fact that a technician didn't turn on a lighting switch, you can't control that."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 27, 2009 at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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