Alternative Careers Feature: an interview with Brian Jay Nicholls, University of Utah Equal Opportunity Consultant, Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action

As part of this month’s focus on “alternative” careers, PDO is featuring interviews with alums who are in non-practicing jobs.  This week, we feature Brian Jay Nichols, University of Utah Equal Opportunity Consultant, Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action.


1. How would you summarize what you do? 

I handle complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment as well as requests for ADA accommodations at the University of Utah.  Mostly, I meet with employees about their claims, do investigations of those complaints, write reports and recommendations based on those investigations and provide training to University employees in the areas of discrimination, sexual harassment and the ADA.

2.  How did you find this job? 

I had been working closely with the PDO office at the law school, and working with Anneliese Booher allowed her to know my strengths and skills that would help me excel in a position. When this position opened, she recognized that it fit my interests and skill set, and immediately suggested that I apply.

3.  What do you love about what you do?

Being able to have a good work/life balance, being able to work on real time issues and help people solve their problems.  I get instant gratification when I solve a problem, and I’m helping resolve issues that have an impact on real people and their lives, instead of working on disembodied or abstract and disconnected legal issues for a client that I may never know.

4.   What did you do before law school?

I moved from company to company doing retail management.  I managed a variety of stores, from video games to cell phones and mattresses.  It was while I was managing a cell phone kiosk in a mall that I decided that I needed to do more with my life and my career and applied to come to law school.

5.   When you came to law school, what did you think you wanted to do?

I didn’t know.  I wanted to get exposure to many different areas of law and see where I fit best in order to find a job where I could make a difference and end up being satisfied.

6.    Did you ever practice law on behalf of clients?  If you did, do you use that experience in your current work/does it help you in any way?

I did not.

7.    Do you ever wish you were practicing law?  Why or why not.

Sometimes I do, other times I don’t.  At times I wish I was actually in the court-room, or going to hearings, etc.  But from what I understand from other colleagues in my class, they’re not doing a whole lot of that work either.

8.    What advice do you have for law students (class selection, job searching, life)

Be involved in what you like.  Do clinics, research to write articles on topics you’re interested in, be involved with SBA, do Inns of Court.  When it comes to job searching, don’t get discouraged, even though it can be overwhelming at times.  Don’t just limit yourself to looking for firm jobs.  There are lots of areas with lots of companies and organizations that are in need of people with legal training and the ability to look at problems and analyze them, something the critical thinking skills from law school make you uniquely qualified to do.