Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

(On Campus Interviews, Summer Associate positions, Firm Reviews, Tips, ...)
Forum rules
Anonymous Posting

Anonymous posting is only appropriate when you are revealing sensitive employment related information about a firm, job, etc. You may anonymously respond on topic to these threads. Unacceptable uses include: harassing another user, joking around, testing the feature, or other things that are more appropriate in the lounge.

Failure to follow these rules will get you outed, warned, or banned.
Anonymous User
Posts: 273366
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 22, 2011 8:55 pm

Hi TLS --

I am a 3L right now at a top 10 law school. Decent grades, decent extracurricular activities.

I'm also extremely fortunate to be sitting on a market-pay big law offer for post-graduation employment.

But lately, I've been really re-evaluating my priorities in life. The more I approach graduation and get serious about figuring out my future, the more I find myself going back to what I knew I wanted to do before coming to law school, but what I lost sight of in the pursuit for prestige and money. Money will come in time, and it seems people seldom make a lot of money doing something they don't like (I'm sure we could come up with examples if we thought).

I want to be in court. Sooner rather than later. I don't want to do doc review for the person doing the work for the person doing the actual work. I don't want to sit in a room all day with no hopes of seeing a courtroom, arguing a motion, giving an opening, etc. Trials are exciting to me. Civil, criminal...I just want to be in the thick of what I always envisioned lawyers doing and always envisioned myself doing. I can't do big law. I'll be miserable every single minute until I get out of that. While some can deal with that...I don't think I can.

Long-term (3-5 years out), I'll hang my own shingle. I know that. That's the dream. I've actually considered doing that right away, but with crushing loans and the fact law school doesn't teach you anything about practicing law, I'd rather learn how to be an advocate so I don't need to learn both how to be a lawyer and how to start a practice at the same time. But in the short-term...

Anyway, enough with the sob story. What's the point of this post? Two things:

I need ideas for the short-term. Jobs that'll get me into court early and often. Pay is a secondary consideration. $50k? $60k? Fine. I know public defenders or AG offices might fit my criteria, but what else beyond that?

I also want to know how you would handle the big law offer. Would you accept it but continue seeking preferred employment elsewhere? Is that going to come back and bite me in any way?

For what it's worth, I struck out at the initial wave of clerkships, but I am continuing my search and I have a future interview with a judge awaiting confirmation. But I would clerk at the district level if I had an opportunity.

Thanks so much guys.

mrloblaw
Posts: 534
Joined: Fri Jul 22, 2011 3:00 pm

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby mrloblaw » Thu Sep 22, 2011 9:34 pm

It sounds like you want government work: big responsibilities earlier, and if you're at a Top 10, there's probably a halfway decent LRAP to help with the loans.

The downside is that you won't get rid of those loans as quickly as if you'd sat through biglaw and lived like a miser, which means longer until solo practice is a viable option. Decision: would you rather do something you'd marginally enjoy for 5+ years or something you hate for 3-4?

Anonymous User
Posts: 273366
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 22, 2011 9:36 pm

mrloblaw wrote:It sounds like you want government work: big responsibilities earlier, and if you're at a Top 10, there's probably a halfway decent LRAP to help with the loans.

The downside is that you won't get rid of those loans as quickly as if you'd sat through biglaw and lived like a miser, which means longer until solo practice is a viable option. Decision: would you rather do something you'd marginally enjoy for 5+ years or something you hate for 3-4?


Not OP. I personally would love to do gov but I'm not sure there are really jobs out there.

User avatar
okinawa
Posts: 129
Joined: Fri Aug 19, 2011 4:45 pm

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby okinawa » Thu Sep 22, 2011 9:41 pm

.
Last edited by okinawa on Fri Apr 19, 2013 10:38 am, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273366
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 22, 2011 9:45 pm

mrloblaw wrote:It sounds like you want government work: big responsibilities earlier, and if you're at a Top 10, there's probably a halfway decent LRAP to help with the loans.

The downside is that you won't get rid of those loans as quickly as if you'd sat through biglaw and lived like a miser, which means longer until solo practice is a viable option. Decision: would you rather do something you'd marginally enjoy for 5+ years or something you hate for 3-4?


OP here: I'm not against doing government work if it gets me into court and on my feet. To me, it's more about what I'm doing than where I'm doing it.

I don't need to completely get rid of my debt before I go solo -- just to within a manageable range.

With LRAP through my school and IBR through the gov't, it would take the burden off a bit.

Declining going to the firm, especially if it's for a non-firm option, isn't going to hurt any feelings.


I was more wondering about declining later after accepting now.

But as far as other options... the very, VERY few prosecutor's offices that aren't under a hiring freeze are extremely competitive. Public Defenders jobs are surprisingly hard to get, and I'm assuming you don't have the one thing they really want: demonstrated commitment to public interest and public defenders offices in particular.

You could try the Equal Justice Works defender corps, if they are still hiring at this point, since I believe that is a limited term fellowship and thus would fit well into your plans and won't demand experience. You could continue to look for clerkships, including at the state level in the state you'll be practicing in. Generally, though, the job market for public interest is worse and a lot less stable than the biglaw route. If all you want is experience before hanging a shingle but you aren't willing to gamble having no job, you're probably better off just sucking it up and doing biglaw, and try to get in court experience through pro bono.


Thanks for the advice. My summer work certainly does not demonstrate a commitment to public interest, but I have worked, through a clinic, in public defense and I've been involved with public defense oriented student groups.

mrloblaw
Posts: 534
Joined: Fri Jul 22, 2011 3:00 pm

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby mrloblaw » Thu Sep 22, 2011 9:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
mrloblaw wrote:It sounds like you want government work: big responsibilities earlier, and if you're at a Top 10, there's probably a halfway decent LRAP to help with the loans.

The downside is that you won't get rid of those loans as quickly as if you'd sat through biglaw and lived like a miser, which means longer until solo practice is a viable option. Decision: would you rather do something you'd marginally enjoy for 5+ years or something you hate for 3-4?


Not OP. I personally would love to do gov but I'm not sure there are really jobs out there.


Fair enough. Maybe this is blind optimism on my part, but I'm assuming that if OP is biglaw material, there has to be a public defender in central North Dakota or something like that which would bite.

Certainly get a feel for the landscape and do some legwork before you make such a decision.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273366
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 22, 2011 9:57 pm

definitely not ethical to accept offer and seek other employment. Violation of NALP standards fwiw.

I'd recommend applying right now to any public interest jobs ur interested in. NALP guidelines basically say offers must be help open if someone is waiting for a public interest position.

User avatar
holdencaulfield
Posts: 478
Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2009 7:12 pm

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby holdencaulfield » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:02 pm

Have you explored many boutique or midsize firms?

Anonymous User
Posts: 273366
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:06 pm

holdencaulfield wrote:Have you explored many boutique or midsize firms?


Boutiques, yes, and have some possibilities but they all want clerkships first.

Midsize...I'm not aware of midsize firms that get young associates court experience early. Not being snarky, genuinely not aware of these firms.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273366
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:19 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
holdencaulfield wrote:Have you explored many boutique or midsize firms?


Boutiques, yes, and have some possibilities but they all want clerkships first.

Midsize...I'm not aware of midsize firms that get young associates court experience early. Not being snarky, genuinely not aware of these firms.


this does make sense though. why would you want a completely inexperienced new attorney representing your client in court unless you absolutely had no other choice (like PI)? You may want that, but with no clerkship and zero post-grad experience, are you going to be the most qualified person a firm has for being in court? At least doing research and drafting, they have the time to double check your work.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273366
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
holdencaulfield wrote:Have you explored many boutique or midsize firms?


Boutiques, yes, and have some possibilities but they all want clerkships first.

Midsize...I'm not aware of midsize firms that get young associates court experience early. Not being snarky, genuinely not aware of these firms.


this does make sense though. why would you want a completely inexperienced new attorney representing your client in court unless you absolutely had no other choice (like PI)? You may want that, but with no clerkship and zero post-grad experience, are you going to be the most qualified person a firm has for being in court? At least doing research and drafting, they have the time to double check your work.


It makes sense, certainly. I'll have some court experience through clinics by the time I start my job, but it won't be much.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273366
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:32 pm

Anonymous User wrote:It makes sense, certainly. I'll have some court experience through clinics by the time I start my job, but it won't be much.


I just feel like, if I were you (and in some ways we are in similar positions) I would stick with the firm for a few years. Being a lawyer isn't all about law and order, and even in litigation isn't usually about being in court, but if you don't care about making partner, you can do well enough to not be edged out for a few years and still get a fair bit of pro bono experience. I guess I don't see the downside to this--you get experience (even if it's not perfect) stability, money, plus the benefit of not committing malpractice like hanging a shingle now might lead to.

User avatar
holdencaulfield
Posts: 478
Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2009 7:12 pm

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby holdencaulfield » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:35 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
holdencaulfield wrote:Have you explored many boutique or midsize firms?


Boutiques, yes, and have some possibilities but they all want clerkships first.

Midsize...I'm not aware of midsize firms that get young associates court experience early. Not being snarky, genuinely not aware of these firms.


The prestige and pay will be much lower, but at least in my area (DFW, Texas) there are numerous second and third year lawyers trying cases from small and midsize firms (10 to 50 lawyers). It's not uncommon for first year associates to argue motions or do voire dire. At my midsize firm, we have a fourth year associate who has tried over 12 cases independently; granted, these are not multi-million dollar cases, but several were significant.

From my understanding of your goals, it would be worth your time to explore less prestigious midsize firms with strong litigation practices. Spend some time on Martindale and Google, and let some firms take you to lunch. You are clearly a highly desirable associate; be clear about your expectation to get in the courtroom from the start. I'd be surprised if you didn't find several firms that are a great match.

What do you have to lose by exploring more options?

CanadianWolf
Posts: 10439
Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2010 4:54 pm

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Sep 22, 2011 10:53 pm

Re-evaluate your options & career goals after spending several years with your biglaw market-pay firm. The economy is bad & probably going to get worse.

User avatar
paratactical
Posts: 5961
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:06 pm

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby paratactical » Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:17 pm

Does your biglaw firm have a satellite office you could try to transfer to in a year or two? IME satellites put associates in depositions and court much more quickly. There's also something to be said for the fact that these biglaw litigators will make you a much better advocate in a courtroom than lots of immediate gratification options were. Feel free to PM me if you want details. I'm a career paralegal who has worked in a variety of different legal situations.

User avatar
holdencaulfield
Posts: 478
Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2009 7:12 pm

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby holdencaulfield » Thu Sep 22, 2011 11:48 pm

paratactical wrote:Does your biglaw firm have a satellite office you could try to transfer to in a year or two? IME satellites put associates in depositions and court much more quickly. There's also something to be said for the fact that these biglaw litigators will make you a much better advocate in a courtroom than lots of immediate gratification options were. Feel free to PM me if you want details. I'm a career paralegal who has worked in a variety of different legal situations.



Paint with a broad brush much? There are plenty of small and midsize firms that have top notch advocates and your statement is 100% dependent on the particular "immediate gratification" firm. Also, experience is what creates great advocates.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273366
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 23, 2011 12:25 am

I'm ten years out. I was in your position. A lot of my friends were too. Most of us are more or less happy now. Here's what I would recommend (and you're not necessarily going to like it):

Go to the big firm. It's going to suck. You're going to be miserable. Still, paying down your student loans to a manageable level and saving up a decent nest egg (after 5 years or so at a big firm, I pay $150 a month in student loans and usually have between $15k and $25k in my money market for medium-term contingencies) is a huge deal. It makes life much more tolerable.

Scramble like hell for meaningful experience. Maybe that's pro bono, maybe that's smaller "favor-for-a-client" cases. The important thing is to get into deps and motion hearings and even trials. It's out there. By the time I was a fourth year associate, I had probably taken 10 deps and second- or third-chaired three or four trials. These weren't fun or interesting cases, but I got to do a lot on them.

Go all out to try to get a clerkship. Your firm will let you take a sabbatical for it, and it opens a lot of doors in terms of AUSA and even some higher profile AG jobs. I didn't do this and wish I did.

After 3-4 years at a firm plus clerkship, apply to the AUSA and state AG offices in your city. I speak from experience -- you cannot beat these jobs. Humane hours, really interesting work, lots of responsibility. And you generally don't have to deal with the sorts of sketchy people that a DA or PD does. Yes, the pay is mediocre (AUSA) or less (state AG). There's worse things than doing something you really like for 45 hours a week and "only" getting paid $75k.

(Seriously, I went through a quarter-life crisis a few years ago thinking I didn't want to be a lawyer anymore. Turns out I really like it after all. I just don't like the drudgery of a firm practice. Doing cool stuff for the government is actually a lot of fun.)

User avatar
paratactical
Posts: 5961
Joined: Wed Feb 04, 2009 1:06 pm

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby paratactical » Fri Sep 23, 2011 1:32 am

holdencaulfield wrote:
paratactical wrote:Does your biglaw firm have a satellite office you could try to transfer to in a year or two? IME satellites put associates in depositions and court much more quickly. There's also something to be said for the fact that these biglaw litigators will make you a much better advocate in a courtroom than lots of immediate gratification options were. Feel free to PM me if you want details. I'm a career paralegal who has worked in a variety of different legal situations.



Paint with a broad brush much? There are plenty of small and midsize firms that have top notch advocates and your statement is 100% dependent on the particular "immediate gratification" firm. Also, experience is what creates great advocates.

Whoa, jabroni. Just trying to give the guy some different things to think about. I agree that firm specifics matter, but I disagree that it's just personal experience that makes good advocates. You can certainly absorb things from the experiences of others and from the different courts you can get involved with.

sebastian0622
Posts: 276
Joined: Fri Feb 26, 2010 10:30 pm

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby sebastian0622 » Fri Sep 23, 2011 3:52 am

Building on what the Salinger character said above:

What are your geographical limitations? Any interest in moving to an area where small/mid law rules the day?

Here's the thing: if you live in a big city, small or midlaw is just biglaw without the pay and prestige. If you move to a small city, the best firms are still small. They aren't going to work you to death because they are trying to move up the prestige ladder. The result is that you can make decent money and get a lot...a LOT...of experience early on without putting in a ton of hours.

I would say get to hammering away at areas of the country that have a significant source of rural income (farming, natural resources, ranching, etc.) and find a firm that is 10 or 20 attorneys that is sort of the main firm in some of the small towns or rural counties. They will have you in the courtroom early and often. The key is finding a rural area with some money, not some dump in Kansas. Farming is very profitable in parts of Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois, etc.; places like Minnesota, Georgia, and the Carolinas have smaller areas where tourism and vacation homes provide income...you get the idea. Just follow the money in things like agriculture and real estate. If there is money flow into the area, then the lawyers make money. If not, then the lawyers make $40k. Either way you can get some great experience. Do your research, and good luck.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273366
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 23, 2011 8:50 am

Here's the thing: if you live in a big city, small or midlaw is just biglaw without the pay and prestige. If you move to a small city, the best firms are still small. They aren't going to work you to death because they are trying to move up the prestige ladder. The result is that you can make decent money and get a lot...a LOT...of experience early on without putting in a ton of hours.

GLAD to hear someone finally say this. The conventional wisdom about midlaw on this forum says that it's basically as bad as biglaw without the pay or prestige, but that is not at all what I see in my secondary market. There are some biglaw statelites here, but the most prestigious firms are midlaw (~100-200 attys). The are highly selective, and the lifestyle at these firms is nothing like the biglaw horror stories; it really does seem like these people are out of the office by 6-7.

That said, I can totally see how that would be different in a major market.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Sep 23, 2011 8:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273366
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Life and career re-evaluation -- advice appreciated

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Sep 23, 2011 8:53 am

Are your grades good enough to clerk now? If not on the federal level, at least on the state level where you want to live? Because that seems to me like the avenue you should be pursuing ASAP (even though it's getting late for clerkships, you may have better luck with state court).

You should also find out about the reputation of different midsized or smaller firms in your city and figure out which of them allow for trial experience early. These firms may not hire a ton, but they may give a third look to a 3L with a top 10 school and a BigLaw offer.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.