By Jenny Rough
For everyone who has wanted to turn a hobby into a career, take a look at this alumna. Yifat Hassid has pinpointed her true passion and forged a path to small business ownership. She shares the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and offers valuable tips for anyone who dreams of being their own boss.
Hassid thought her future was in real estate law, but after graduating from Pepperdine's School of Law in 1998, she began working at a criminal defense firm. “The first time I went to court, I was completely hooked,” says Hassid. When she absorbed all she could from the firm, she opened her own practice but soon learned that it involved more than just renting office space and getting a license.
The most important step was setting up a network of contacts. “I learned the value of being there for others and the value of allowing others to help me,” she says. Bar associations were good places to start networking, as well as keeping in touch with her former Pepperdine professors. “I still e-mail [my professors] with questions and they respond immediately,” she says. She even finds herself in court referring to lessons she learned in her evidence and trial prep classes.
In addition to professional support, Hassid suggests building two other support teams: one emotional and one professional. “You need a cheerleading squad to tell you you're the most amazing lawyer, even if they have no idea what you do. Then you need people you can turn to for straight answers, like how much to charge a client,” she says.
When it comes to defending criminals, Hassid says, “Most of my clients are sick to their stomachs about what they did but we all have the right in this country to acknowledge our mistakes and clean up. My job is to make sure my clients are protected and get a fair sentence.” Although her business turned a profit by the end of its first year, that's not how she views success. “I feel most successful around Christmas when I get cards from clients and letters from jail. I love them,” says Hassid, who keeps a stack in her office to read on a bad day.
Pepperdine's Christian mission is something she appreciates as well. “I'm Jewish but the concept of the mission is identical in both faiths,” she explains. “There's so much gray area in the law. It's good to turn to my faith and remind myself there is black and white – right and wrong – and there are things I shouldn't do just because I can.” To contact Yifat Hassid, please e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article first appeared in the Pepperdine Voice Magazine, Summer 2005.