February 7, 2013

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Bringing a legal mind to business, Jazz Arts Group

From finance to education to nonprofit organizations, Dan Weiss ’85 has pushed the boundaries of his law degree to new limits.

The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law alumnus put his critical-thinking skills learned in law school to the test while enjoying careers in music, teaching at the graduate level, and small-business consulting. His admittedly “unconventional” experiences since his last days in Drinko Hall have helped him shape his career into one that is constantly changing to be exactly what he’s looking for.

After graduating from Moritz, Weiss started working for his family’s home furnishings business. He said working for his family felt like a “natural” career path, and his knack for enhancing small businesses combined with a law degree gave him an advantage.

“Nonlawyers don’t always recognize the legal issues when they appear, but if you have that legal training, you can identify those issues and identify potential pitfalls that may cause problems for you in business,” he explained.

Weiss worked his way up to various executive positions in finance over the next 15 years. While his law degree worked in his favor, he does wonder if he should have done things differently.

“Sometimes I wonder if I should have pursued the dual degree — the MBA and law degree,” he said.

But Weiss is not one to dwell on the past. He currently is teaching MBA classes at DeVry University, which have given him a better understanding of the business world as a whole. In addition to working and teaching, Weiss is an amateur musician, playing guitar and piano.

“One of my fondest memories of law school is playing in the annual talent show with a group of fellow musicians — that really was a lot of fun for us,” he said.

His love for music led him to seek out the Jazz Arts Group in Columbus. JAG is the third-largest performing arts organization in the city and serves as an international model for promoting jazz education around the world, Weiss said.

“It is a model for other organizations and other cities that want to promote jazz music, which is America’s indigenous art form,” he said. “It’s a fascinating organization.”

Weiss has worked with and supported the efforts of JAG for about 10 years. He served on the board of directors for eight and a half years, during which time he also served as president of the board. At the end of 2011, he was asked to serve as the interim executive director. During his time as interim executive director he focused on stabilizing the finances of JAG.

He has since stepped down from the position and is happy being a supporter and audience member. Weiss is currently using his diverse skill set to promote his new consulting business, Counterpart CFO, offering “shared” CFO services to organizations that don't need a full-time CFO.

“I’m researching ideas, companies, networking, talking to people I know about opportunities,” he said. “I can’t overstate the value of networking.”

Weiss explained that networking means that students should look for ways they can help potential employers.

“Think in terms of, ‘What do I have to offer to others?’ I think the mistake that a lot of people make is, ‘What can other people give me?’ Don’t ask for a job. Find out what other people’s problems are, and determine how you might be able to help them solve those problems,” he said.

This mindset, to help owners operate their businesses more effectively, is what has driven Weiss to launch Counterpart CFO. “That’s what I like to do, that’s what I have a knack for,” he said.

Although his past careers are not related to consulting, Weiss feels that the critical-thinking skills he learned during his time at Moritz will benefit him in any career. “Whether its business, marketing of any kind, engineering — all these things require critical thinking skills that are so effectively taught in law school,” he said. Weiss encourages students to think outside the box about pursuing careers with a law degree.

“Career changes have become the norm. Right now, do what you want to do with your life. After you do it for a while, you may change your mind,” he said.

This article was written by T.K. Brady.

SideBar is a monthly electronic newsletter for Moritz College of Law alumni. Questions regarding this publication should be directed to moritzlawnews@osu.edu.