Back in rosier economic times, we started a series of open threads on career alternatives for attorneys, i.e., things you can do with a law degree that don’t involve Biglaw or contract work. These days, we’re starting to think of the series as things you might do if you can’t find Biglaw or contract work.
The latest installment in the series is inspired by a profile in last weekend’s Washington Post Magazine of “Saphira,” a lawyer who traded in regulatory analysis for shimmying in sequins and spangly scarves.
Rachael Galoob-Ortega has been a “professional oriental dance artist,” a.k.a. bellydancer, since 1996. She used to just moonlight as a bellydancer while working full-time as a partner at a small firm, The Salem Law Group. That led to at least one embarrassing incident, recounts the Washington Post. A potential career downside is having to perform for judges inside and outside of the courtroom:
After passing the bar on her first try, she started practicing at a Sarasota law firm representing building contractors. She also joined a belly-dance troupe that performed at high-end soirees. Her two worlds comically collided one night, after she’d spent part of the day discussing the motion docket with a county judge. At a party that evening, she was in the midst of a solo dance, dressed in full belly-dance garb and a long wig, when she shimmied up to a table and recognized the judge. “He said: ‘Oh my God. That’s Rachael Galoob — she was in my courtroom today!’ ” Saphira recalls. “And of course, the room erupted in laughter.”
She winked at the table and moved on.
We hope that after winking, Saphira told the judge, “These hips don’t lie.”
The Oklahoma City University Law grad also has an LLM from Georgetown. She gave up her full-time law job to open Saffron Dance studio in Arlington. The tipster who sent us this story says:
There are lots of belly-dancing lawyers. No fooling. We sometimes call ourselves founding members of Raqs Judicata (Raqs Sharki is the Arabic name for the dance). It’s a great exercise for people who have to sit in front of computers all day long drafting briefs and memos.
Indeed, Saphira has even recruited a Covington & Burling partner teach at her studio. More on that, as well as video of Saphira in action, after the jump.
(Warning: It’s not just shaking the belly. There’s also copious licking of lips and tossing of hair.)
Saphira says lots of attorneys like to channel their inner harem girl:
Even when she was still working as an attorney, she taught belly dancing for years, disregarding how its sensuality might be perceived in a strait-laced profession. She knows there were people who disapproved “because it cuts against how they think somebody’s life should be or not be — [they think] people who are belly dancers are not lawyers,” she says. “But the reality of it is that in D.C. there are a lot of belly-dancing lawyers.”
And many of them are her students, including a handful in the clapping audience of about 75 at Casablanca, who have come on this Friday night to see their teacher perform. They’ve all tied the spangly hip scarves they wear in class over their street clothes, and they start belly dancing themselves once Saphira leaves the stage. She heads to a back room to change out of her costume into a dress, then comes back into the dining area and pulls five of her protegees into a group hug. They’re attorneys for the Patent and Trademark Office, an inspector general’s office, the Environmental Protection Agency and private firms. “We’re all lawyers!” Saphira exclaims happily.
That includes Biglaw attorneys. Saphira recruited HLS grad and Covington & Burling partner Jennifer Johnson (at right) as a teacher. She goes by the name “Catarina” at the Saffron studio, where she is “is noted for her fiery and energetic dance style.” Maybe the Cov’s not so stodgy after all.
Throughout the article, writer Christina Ianzito seems to be in a state of permanent shock that lawyers are capable of being sexy dancers. We’ve seen some lawyers strut their stuff on the dance floor, and can attest that it’s possible to have rhythm along with a J.D.
[Saphira's] goal, she says later, is to teach the dance to women (and currently one man — a lawyer, incidentally) who are “coming from a completely different paradigm in their life how to do this movement and put it on their body in a way that is elegant and complimentary and makes them feel comfortable and empowered.” (Yes, belly dancers with law degrees use long sentences with words such as “paradigm.”)
What’s with the parenthetical aside? We can’t tell if this is a slight to attorneys (and the fancy-talkin’ they learn in law school) or to belly-dancers. Either way, that is one convoluted quote. We get it: she teaches uptight lawyers to loosen up, rotate their hips, and shake their money-makers. See her in action in the video below.
An Advocate for the Shimmy [Washington Post]
Earlier: ATL Series on Career Alternatives