Legal Aid or Biglaw?

(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.

?

Legal Aid
13
36%
Biglaw
23
64%
 
Total votes: 36

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:15 am

I know this is an odd question, but please bear with me.

I'm a 2L at a school between 30-50. Below median but not by much. No journal. Last year I did environmental PI.

Today I was offered a position with Legal Aid. Unpaid, but I should be able to get grants worth a few thousand dollars. It's in the same city I go to school in so I wouldn't have to deal with moving or finding a place to stay.

I can probably get a biglaw position through connections. Essentially, I know someone in charge of the firm's biggest client. He can call the managing partner's cell phone directly and put in a good word (I've pretty much been told if I want the spot it's mine). The position would be paid, market rate I'm assuming. I would have to move a few states away and find somewhere to live. Also, the firm is the kind of soul-crushing, 'evil' work I swore I would never do.

I'm not interested in biglaw as a career. I'll have ~100,000 of debt but it shouldn't be unmanageable with IBR. I really want to go into PI when I graduate. Would a biglaw position that is fundamentally opposed to what I believe in and what I want to do look better on my resume? It's far more prestigious and better paid. Or, should I go with the PI spot to show a commitment to the field? Less prestigious and competitive, but I would love to work for Legal Aid (or a similar organization) when I graduate.

Any input is much appreciated.

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8441
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby thesealocust » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:41 am

This is an awesome combination of bragging and moral high horsing.

Tell me all about your fundamental opposition to biglaw. I'm sitting down and I've got a while.

handsonthewheel
Posts: 182
Joined: Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:12 pm

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby handsonthewheel » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:49 am

thesealocust wrote:This is an awesome combination of bragging and moral high horsing.

Tell me all about your fundamental opposition to biglaw. I'm sitting down and I've got a while.


For-profit business is sinful.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:50 am

thesealocust wrote:This is an awesome combination of bragging and moral high horsing.

Tell me all about your fundamental opposition to biglaw. I'm sitting down and I've got a while.



Sure. The biglaw firm I'm talking about defends power companies. I recognize the electricity is required, I just don't really want to work defending the companies that generate it. I don't have a moral objection to biglaw itself, I just don't think that this particular firm would match up well with me. That's my issue there.

Also, I didn't mean to brag. I don't see how a family connection that I had no hand in obtaining constitutes bragging.

User avatar
cinephile
Posts: 3469
Joined: Sun Jul 18, 2010 3:50 pm

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby cinephile » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:56 am

Split your summer. Then you can tailor your resume based on what you want afterward.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:01 am

cinephile wrote:Split your summer. Then you can tailor your resume based on what you want afterward.


I was told that the Legal Aid spot was 10 weeks, firm. I can take a week's vacation but I'll have to make it up at the end. Also, the start date won't be announced until the end of next semester. Do you think something like that would still be possible?

User avatar
cinephile
Posts: 3469
Joined: Sun Jul 18, 2010 3:50 pm

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby cinephile » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:04 am

Anonymous User wrote:
cinephile wrote:Split your summer. Then you can tailor your resume based on what you want afterward.


I was told that the Legal Aid spot was 10 weeks, firm. I can take a week's vacation but I'll have to make it up at the end. Also, the start date won't be announced until the end of next semester. Do you think something like that would still be possible?


No, not when you put it like that.

I would take the biglaw position anyway, because earning some money for the summer is always helpful. If you want to demonstrate your loyalty to public interest work, you can always do that during they year through clinics and externships. Or try to split your time between this firm and some other public interest organization.

Agent
Posts: 340
Joined: Thu Nov 24, 2011 2:03 pm

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Agent » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:05 am

I had a similar reaction.

thesealocust wrote:This is an awesome combination of bragging and moral high horsing.

Tell me all about your fundamental opposition to biglaw. I'm sitting down and I've got a while.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:08 am

cinephile wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:
cinephile wrote:Split your summer. Then you can tailor your resume based on what you want afterward.


I was told that the Legal Aid spot was 10 weeks, firm. I can take a week's vacation but I'll have to make it up at the end. Also, the start date won't be announced until the end of next semester. Do you think something like that would still be possible?


No, not when you put it like that.

I would take the biglaw position anyway, because earning some money for the summer is always helpful. If you want to demonstrate your loyalty to public interest work, you can always do that during they year through clinics and externships. Or try to split your time between this firm and some other public interest organization.


I haven't done all the math about cost v. benefit, but if I get/take the biglaw spot I'll have to spend a few hundred moving, then spend a bunch of money paying rent/utilities/etc. if I get lucky enough to find a furnished apartment in the city I'll be in. I'll still have to pay rent/utilities at my current apartment (~850 a month). The summer money isn't what I'm concerned about... with a grant I can more than afford to work pro bono. I'm really more interested with the importance of biglaw v. PI on my resume for pursuing PI post graduation.

I also have a leadership position with a pro bono project during the semester, if that makes a difference.

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8441
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby thesealocust » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:11 am

To drop the snark briefly: Huge numbers of lawyers start at big firms then go into public interest.

It's a common career path.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:12 am

thesealocust wrote:To drop the snark briefly: Huge numbers of lawyers start at big firms then go into public interest.

It's a common career path.


I have heard that, but I've also heard that it reflects well on you to show a real interest in PI if that is what you want to jump into right after graduation.

I know that Legal Aid isn't as prestigious as a biglaw SA position, I'm just conflicted as to whether the prestige of biglaw > a demonstrated commitment to PI.

User avatar
thesealocust
Posts: 8441
Joined: Mon Oct 20, 2008 8:50 pm

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby thesealocust » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:15 am

Anonymous User wrote:
thesealocust wrote:To drop the snark briefly: Huge numbers of lawyers start at big firms then go into public interest.

It's a common career path.


I have heard that, but I've also heard that it reflects well on you to show a real interest in PI if that is what you want to jump into right after graduation.

I know that Legal Aid isn't as prestigious as a biglaw SA position, I'm just conflicted as to whether the prestige of biglaw > a demonstrated commitment to PI.


You should probably try to work at the big firm for two reasons.

One, it's not a sure thing. As strong as your connection is, legal hiring is not robust and the firm might just not be able to take you. If you try to get the job and fail, then the choice is made for you, neh?

Two, this is a window that won't ever open again. Big firms hire people who have achieved incredible things in their careers and they hire people for 2L summer positions/right out of law school, and that's about it. You might like it, be able to tolerate it, or realize that it at least isn't morally reprehensible. The training also may be excellent.

But if it's not, you have a fat stack of cash and can move to PI. It might not be as easy as if you had started that way from day one, but it by no means will be foreclosed.

HeavenWood
Posts: 2915
Joined: Wed Jul 28, 2010 6:42 pm

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby HeavenWood » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:36 am

Anonymous User wrote:Sure. The biglaw firm I'm talking about defends power companies. I recognize the electricity is required, I just don't really want to work defending the companies that generate it. I don't have a moral objection to biglaw itself, I just don't think that this particular firm would match up well with me. That's my issue there.

I see. You must charge your laptop via waterwheel, then.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 2:40 am

HeavenWood wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Sure. The biglaw firm I'm talking about defends power companies. I recognize the electricity is required, I just don't really want to work defending the companies that generate it. I don't have a moral objection to biglaw itself, I just don't think that this particular firm would match up well with me. That's my issue there.

I see. You must charge your laptop via waterwheel, then.


Anonymous User wrote: I recognize the electricity is required, I just don't really want to work defending the companies that generate it. I don't have a moral objection to biglaw itself, I just don't think that this particular firm would match up well with me.

Myself
Posts: 1372
Joined: Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:36 pm

.

Postby Myself » Fri Dec 21, 2012 4:33 am

.
Last edited by Myself on Mon Nov 25, 2013 12:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

Myself
Posts: 1372
Joined: Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:36 pm

.

Postby Myself » Fri Dec 21, 2012 4:38 am

.
Last edited by Myself on Mon Nov 25, 2013 12:50 am, edited 1 time in total.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 4:56 am

ajax adonis wrote:
HeavenWood wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:Sure. The biglaw firm I'm talking about defends power companies. I recognize the electricity is required, I just don't really want to work defending the companies that generate it. I don't have a moral objection to biglaw itself, I just don't think that this particular firm would match up well with me. That's my issue there.

I see. You must charge your laptop via waterwheel, then.


$100 it's a Mac.


You owe me 100 bucks. Make it payable to PETA please.

User avatar
Lasers
Posts: 1576
Joined: Sat Jul 10, 2010 6:46 pm

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Lasers » Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:19 am

don't go to big law if you don't want to.

do what you want to do, just make an INFORMED decision. if you can't stand the thought of big law (which it seems like), then just don't do it. you know your situation, your financial obligations, and your own preferences/psyche better than anyone here.

regardless of which path you choose, just don't regret it.

justme17
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2012 4:50 pm

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby justme17 » Fri Dec 21, 2012 6:18 am

I don't think working a summer in biglaw and then going to work PI is necessarily a bad idea, but if I'm reading your posts correctly, my guess is you'd like to work in an environmental field. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if that's the case it probably will raise some eyebrows if you just spent a summer working for the "other side." You only have so much time left to demonstrate a strong commitment to PI - I wouldn't waste a whole summer doing something else if public interest is your ultimate goal. In the end though, I have to ask why you're talking to us instead of career services? If they're any good at your school (and I realize that's a big "if" depending on where you go), they can almost certainly answer this question much more reliably than a bunch of Internet strangers.

kryptix
Posts: 209
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2010 5:40 pm

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby kryptix » Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:10 am

I personally think its a lot easier to take the moral high ground with some money in your pockets...

BeenDidThat
Posts: 704
Joined: Thu Feb 03, 2011 12:18 am

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby BeenDidThat » Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:36 am

justme17 wrote:I don't think working a summer in biglaw and then going to work PI is necessarily a bad idea, but if I'm reading your posts correctly, my guess is you'd like to work in an environmental field. Correct me if I'm wrong, but if that's the case it probably will raise some eyebrows if you just spent a summer working for the "other side." You only have so much time left to demonstrate a strong commitment to PI - I wouldn't waste a whole summer doing something else if public interest is your ultimate goal. In the end though, I have to ask why you're talking to us instead of career services? If they're any good at your school (and I realize that's a big "if" depending on where you go), they can almost certainly answer this question much more reliably than a bunch of Internet strangers.


Yeah, you're wrong and need to be corrected. All other things being equal, public interest orgs like to have those with the strongest commitments to their cause. But the guy with biglaw experience kills the "all other things being equal" because it provides the best training and serves as a signal to public organizations that says something along these line, "THIS GUY ISN'T A STUPID DO-GOODER. HE MIGHT BE A DO-GOODER, BUT HE'S ALSO THE BEST AND THE BRIGHTEST. HIRE HIM."

OP, if the stint in biglaw would give you litigation experience, go with biglaw. Public interest organizations, for all their zealotry, need damn good lawyers. When they look for damn good lawyers, they look for people with demonstrated ability...like those who jump ship from biglaw firms. You won't be sacrificing the potential for public interest work down the road by working in biglaw, but you will be sacrificing the signaling power of a biglaw employment history if you go straight into public interest work. Moreover, you might get a better sense of where to hunt, if you will, by working on the power co's side for a bit before going to work for the little guy.

justme17
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2012 4:50 pm

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby justme17 » Fri Dec 21, 2012 11:20 am

Your argument makes (a little) sense if the OP were asking whether to work in biglaw for several years before entering the PI field, but they explicitly said "I really want to go into PI when I graduate." A single summer internship as a 2L would almost certainly not provide meaningful litigation work. And there are plenty of ways to demonstrate that you are smart and a "damn good lawyer" while working in public interest. In the beginning, there's often far more opportunities to be inside a courtroom when working government/PI than when working biglaw, and many PI positions are more competitive (and impressive) than the biglaw positions you can get immediately upon graduation.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:13 pm

Normally, I'd say biglaw, because the chances of you actually getting a job in legal aid, in this market, post-graduation are pretty low and you don't want to be graduating unemployed staring at 100k in debt. This is particularly true because you don't have great grades or go to a great school, and public interest jobs right now can afford to be extremely selective (when they occur). They are almost always through a fellowship, and you're likely to lose out on getting funding to someone above median from a T6 or T10 school.

But you sound a little insufferable with the save the world stuff (and I work in the public sector so I have a pretty high tolerance for it) so I think your chances of getting an offer from biglaw are likely low. So if you're going to graduate unemployed anyway, might as well protect your morals.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Normally, I'd say biglaw, because the chances of you actually getting a job in legal aid, in this market, post-graduation are pretty low and you don't want to be graduating unemployed staring at 100k in debt. This is particularly true because you don't have great grades or go to a great school, and public interest jobs right now can afford to be extremely selective (when they occur). They are almost always through a fellowship, and you're likely to lose out on getting funding to someone above median from a T6 or T10 school.

But you sound a little insufferable with the save the world stuff (and I work in the public sector so I have a pretty high tolerance for it) so I think your chances of getting an offer from biglaw are likely low. So if you're going to graduate unemployed anyway, might as well protect your morals.

To OP: As someone who was PI-oriented but went BigLaw... this. If you really have this contempt for a BigLaw job, don't take it. The hiring market for PI is abysmal right now, especially at Legal Aid bureaus, so I'd normally advise in favor of BigLaw. But if you have this level of contempt for BigLaw and the firm you have the best chance with, that will come through pretty quickly. You're going to get no-offered or burn out fast if you do get an offer, and then you'll just look to PI orgs like someone who failed at BigLaw and is desperate for other work.

Anonymous User
Posts: 273050
Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: Legal Aid or Biglaw?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:56 pm

Just as an FYI b/c I see these "guaranteed biglaw job with connections" posts on TLS all the time lately, your connections don't sound like the type that will land you a job in biglaw. I used to work with a lobbying oriented group in a major DC biglaw firm and the partner (not managing partner but on the managing committee) I worked for used to get these "connections" calls all the time. Only once did I see someone get a job using connections but she didn't just know a guy. She was the daughter of big client that was actively shopping work and was the type of client from which a constant stream of work could be expected. She also was at least a grad of a tier 1 school and on a secondary journal so I assume her grades weren't terrible. I once heard a guy in charge of work from a Fortune 500 client ask the partner about a job for his tier 4 grad daughter-in-law and all she got out of it was a 20 minute informational interview.
Last edited by Anonymous User on Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.




Return to “Legal Employment”

Who is online

The online users are hidden on this forum.