It’s not unusual for a person to trade in a high-stress career for, say, a part time gig at the local Barnes & Noble. But based on some of Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox’s recent hires, it appears some folks are choosing second careers as first-year associates. The firm’s electronics practice took on seven first-years this month, two of whom are over the age of 50.
That seems like a heck of a career move, but Donald Featherstone, leader of Sterne Kessler’s electronics practice, says his new, better-seasoned hires are a big asset. “They just have that life experience which allows them to basically hit the ground running.”
Because Sterne Kessler is an intellectual property boutique, Featherstone says law firm experience is not the only thing that counts. The firm also recruits specialists with technical and physical science backgrounds. New associate Ross Hicks, 51, holds a Ph.D. and an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, as well as an MBA with a high technology concentration. He was the vice president of engineering at Transcept/OpenCell Corporation prior to joining Sterne Kessler. Robert Molitors, 52, has an MBA in finance and a master of science in electrical engineering. Before switching to law, he was an information technology consultant and an entrepreneur.
Featherstone, who is 43, does admit there could be a potential to stigmatize older associates in some situations. For someone more “externally focused on developing new business,” he says a different title could prove advantageous when dealing with clients. Still, he says age is not an issue within the office, and there is no mandated retirement age for associates. At the partnership level, 65 is the mandatory retirement age, though exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis.