So who exactly is Savannah Guthrie, about to assume one of the most visible jobs in all of television news?

Guthrie -- who is expected to be named co-anchor of "Today" Thursday morning (NBC declined to comment) -- is a veteran newswoman who has spent the bulk of her career at NBC and is currently co-host of "Today's" 9 a.m. edition. On the air, she's clearly smart, congenial and well-prepared, if perhaps on the reserved side. But it's her off-air background that sets her apart.

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In the late '90s, after working as a reporter for a Tucson TV station, she struck out in a new career -- the law. "I was a little burned out," she told a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star in 2005. "I was a little sick of local news." She headed to Washington, and Georgetown University, where she got her J.D. degree, graduating magna cum laude in 2002.

The punch line: Guthrie will be the first lawyer to anchor "Today" in its 60-year history.

Well-liked at NBC, with a rep as someone who doesn't take herself too seriously, there are (or were) some at the network who didn't think she was quite ready for the big move to the 7 a.m. mother ship. She's not particularly well-known to viewers, and familiarity is coin of the realm in these jobs. Moreover, her face time with the "family" -- or at least head of the family,Matt Lauer -- has been somewhat limited simply by virtue of her 9 a.m. role. She's also a serious anchor-reporter, exhibiting almost none of the looseness -- or glibness -- that these jobs sometimes demand.

Other than law -- Guthrie, 40, briefly worked in the area of white collar criminal defense. In 2007, she joined NBC News. She arrived as a legal specialist, but quickly segued to politics and Sarah Palin -- absolutely the best candidate to cover for someone new to the beat seeking some sort of visibility. Guthrie got plenty of that, and other assignments followed, notably White House correspondent, then co-host of MSNBC's "Daily Rundown."