what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

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what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Anonymous User » Sun Jan 10, 2016 7:58 pm

Considering leaving biglaw to join a startup as its second lawyer. The idea excites me, work sounds fun, and I'm seriously tired of biglaw. So I think it makes sense. But, I'm wondering what people think about this "you need at least three years of biglaw" thing to look credible, or whether they think it'll be hard to advance as quickly once in-house. What do you think? Will it be easy/possible/harder to get a job at a fortune 500 after I work at this startup for a while?

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 11, 2016 12:37 am

One of my close mentors is a lawyer at a startup and previously was inhouse at a large company. "The at least 3 years biglaw" thing is only because that's when you start getting substantive experience really. If you go to this startup and are able to build up an attractive skillset, there is nothing stopping you from going inhouse to a fortune 500 after that. You won't look worse off than someone coming straight from 3 years in biglaw, you'll probably look better even. Will you look better than someone with 5-6 biglaw years? maybe not.

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 11, 2016 1:51 am

Congrats on the offer, OP! I know it's not the norm, but there are biglaw firms that allow their associates (who are in the start-up practice at their firms) to try their hand at being start-up lawyers and welcome them back if those ventures fail. So that's an option, but likely only if you're at one of those firms. With that said, I'm a 2L slated to go to one of the major bay area firms (W/C/G/F) as a part of their corporate practice. Would you mind sharing a bit of your background and how you ended up with this offer? The potential of joining a start-up was one of the reasons that I chose the firm that I did over others. Thanks!

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby rpupkin » Mon Jan 11, 2016 2:08 am

If, as the last sentence of your post suggests, your ultimate goal is to work in-house at a fortune 500 company, then I'd stick with big law for at least a couple of more years. But if you're "seriously tired" of big law after just a couple of years, perhaps you should rethink the fortune-500-goal thing. If the thought of working at a startup excites you so much, why don't you readjust your long-term goals?

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby crazycanuck » Mon Jan 11, 2016 2:14 am

I was never a lawyer, but I left a big 4 for a start up and it was an amazing career decision, and sped up my career by probably 5-10 years. Feel free to PM me if you'd like.

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Aeon » Mon Jan 11, 2016 2:23 am

The trajectory of your career may well depend on the startup's success. You will have a great deal more responsibility working for the startup than as a second-year in BigLaw. And your work will be much more varied, closer to that of a generalist. And the rewards can be great: if the startup offers you equity and does well, you might be looking at a very handsome nest egg.

The big risk is that if the startup fails, that failure may "taint" you and make it difficult to find a job working in-house at a large company (or jump back to BigLaw). Leaving BigLaw also means forgoing the cachet that the law firm's name affords your resume. Fortune 500 companies tend to work with the BigLaw firms and like to draw from that pool of lawyers. There's something of a feedback loop, as lawyers from BigLaw firms move in-house and then hire more lawyers from those same firms.

In short, there is more uncertainty about future employment prospects if you go the startup route, versus staying in BigLaw, but the possible rewards might be greater.

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Jan 11, 2016 11:15 pm

Aeon wrote:
The big risk is that if the startup fails, that failure may "taint" you and make it difficult to find a job working in-house at a large company (or jump back to BigLaw). Leaving BigLaw also means forgoing the cachet that the law firm's name affords your resume.

In short, there is more uncertainty about future employment prospects if you go the startup route, versus staying in BigLaw, but the possible rewards might be greater.


I don't agree with the above advice re the startup failing and it affecting your LT prospects. Tons of startups fail in the Valley and it's almost a badge of honor (and, frankly, as an attorney, you'd learn a lot winding down a company). I do agree that it might be difficult to go back to your firm, but it likely would not be hard to lateral to another startup or to join a larger in-house legal department as a junior atty. Good luck!

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Aeon » Tue Jan 12, 2016 4:21 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Aeon wrote:
The big risk is that if the startup fails, that failure may "taint" you and make it difficult to find a job working in-house at a large company (or jump back to BigLaw). Leaving BigLaw also means forgoing the cachet that the law firm's name affords your resume.

In short, there is more uncertainty about future employment prospects if you go the startup route, versus staying in BigLaw, but the possible rewards might be greater.


I don't agree with the above advice re the startup failing and it affecting your LT prospects. Tons of startups fail in the Valley and it's almost a badge of honor (and, frankly, as an attorney, you'd learn a lot winding down a company). I do agree that it might be difficult to go back to your firm, but it likely would not be hard to lateral to another startup or to join a larger in-house legal department as a junior atty. Good luck!


OP didn't say whether the job would be with a Silicon Valley company. Either way, the fact remains that joining a startup is a riskier endeavor than staying put, especially if the goal is to move to a Fortune 500 company (or back into BigLaw) as opposed to another startup.

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jan 13, 2016 11:55 pm

Some more details. I'd be giving up about 100k in total compensation my first year, widening by a lot as the years proceed. I think if it's a truly chill gig and I like it, though, that would be okay.

This is a silicon Valley situation.

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:12 pm

Necroing this.

Sort of thinking of taking the same career path with an extremely early-stage start-up, but it seems like in-house positions, including other start-up positions, invariably ask for some number of years in biglaw, and/or experience in a large corporation. Does start-up experience actually qualify you for anything in terms of the next job?

I'm willing to work for equity for a while, but not quite willing to have a defunct resume if the start-up doesn't turn into a successful, long-term company.

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby 1styearlateral » Tue Dec 12, 2017 11:37 pm

crazycanuck wrote:I was never a lawyer, but I left a big 4 for a start up and it was an amazing career decision, and sped up my career by probably 5-10 years. Feel free to PM me if you'd like.

Are you still lurking TLS and open to answering questions?

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Yugihoe » Wed Dec 13, 2017 12:14 am

OP how did you get the gig and what market and practice area are you? I'd like to make a similar move someday.

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby crazycanuck » Wed Dec 13, 2017 1:47 am

Yugihoe wrote:OP how did you get the gig and what market and practice area are you? I'd like to make a similar move someday.

yes you can pm me

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 24, 2018 9:47 am

Necro-ing this thread. 1.5 years in biglaw and looking at joining a start-up. Has anybody had any experience exiting a start-up? My concern is that the founders are hoping to build the product and sell in a window of three years. Best-case scenario, it happens. What type of opportunities am I going to be able to find? I've heard that engineers usually get taken along in start-up sales, but the buying company will really never consider taking most operational staff, and almost certainly not the legal person.

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby jd20132013 » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:37 am

Anonymous User wrote:Considering leaving biglaw to join a startup as its second lawyer. The idea excites me, work sounds fun, and I'm seriously tired of biglaw. So I think it makes sense. But, I'm wondering what people think about this "you need at least three years of biglaw" thing to look credible, or whether they think it'll be hard to advance as quickly once in-house. What do you think? Will it be easy/possible/harder to get a job at a fortune 500 after I work at this startup for a while?


who said you need at least three years of biglaw to look credible? Lmao. If there’s any time limit it’s satisfied at 12 months

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 24, 2018 11:49 am

It's a valid concern. I've seen a lot of job postings say something along the lines of "5 years total experience, with at least X number of years spent at a top firm." (Numbers obviously variable, but I've definitely seen 3 out there). Maybe this is hot air, though.

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Aptitude » Tue Apr 24, 2018 1:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Considering leaving biglaw to join a startup as its second lawyer. The idea excites me, work sounds fun, and I'm seriously tired of biglaw. So I think it makes sense. But, I'm wondering what people think about this "you need at least three years of biglaw" thing to look credible, or whether they think it'll be hard to advance as quickly once in-house. What do you think? Will it be easy/possible/harder to get a job at a fortune 500 after I work at this startup for a while?


If your startup is successful, it won't matter because you'll be richer and more successful than the people interviewing you. If it's so successful that it becomes a household name (Facebook, Instagram, Airbnb, Uber) most legal people in biglaw or the Fortune 500 will be kissing your ass.

If your startup flops, then you'll have these concerns. Since you're the 2nd lawyer and it sounds like this startup is small, luckily you'll have some sway. So you can do everything possible to make sure it doesn't flop.

Anonymous User wrote:This is a silicon Valley situation.


If it's a Silicon Valley situation, then you go with the startup. People in SV won't be impressed by your biglaw salary, they'll look down on it. Your partner track and partner salary? LOL :roll: :lol:

People in the SV are out for billions. They've minted 20+ new billionaires in a year, and thousands of new millionaires pop up after a company IPO.

It's the Silicon Valley like you said. You're trying to take your Porsche 911 into a Formula 1 race against Mario Andretti.

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 24, 2018 3:06 pm

I cannot tell if you're serious or trolling. Even in SV, a good start-up exit is getting bought out by a bigger company. Becoming a big household name is a huge pipe dream and one that you should not gamble your career on. (I.e. your serious career-exit plan should not be "I'm going to be an IPO billionaire.")

I'm actually pretty curious to know what your options are after your start-up either fails (bad option) or gets bought (good option). To which I'd be very curious to know, does a F500 company or late-stage start-up value early-stage start-up experience?

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby ruski » Tue Apr 24, 2018 4:58 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I cannot tell if you're serious or trolling. Even in SV, a good start-up exit is getting bought out by a bigger company. Becoming a big household name is a huge pipe dream and one that you should not gamble your career on. (I.e. your serious career-exit plan should not be "I'm going to be an IPO billionaire.")

I'm actually pretty curious to know what your options are after your start-up either fails (bad option) or gets bought (good option). To which I'd be very curious to know, does a F500 company or late-stage start-up value early-stage start-up experience?


Not a legal example, but I knew a banker who left for a start up. 3 years later it flopped and after a lot of hustling and interviewing he landed back on his feet as a banker again. don't seen why law would be different. with some networking and good spin on your story no reason you can't go back to at least a respectable midlaw shop. especially if you sell how you widened your network and have leads to bring in some business

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 24, 2018 6:39 pm

(Same anon who asked the question)

That's awesome! Law might be the same, but my general sense is the market is always oversaturated at the junior level. I've just seen some of my classmates leave biglaw too soon for consulting/compliance/non-practicing roles before the two year mark, try to go back, and get absolutely blackballed from firms. Some of them said that recruiters wouldn't even work with them, and that firms were telling them (or their headhunters) that they weren't interested in hiring lateral candidates not going biglaw -> biglaw.

So in that vein, I'm wondering whether start-ups are different, or if law is either different, or more likely, just too crappy and oversaturated at the junior level.

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Re: what happens to my 'career' if I leave biglaw for a startup after 2 yrs?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Apr 24, 2018 7:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I cannot tell if you're serious or trolling. Even in SV, a good start-up exit is getting bought out by a bigger company. Becoming a big household name is a huge pipe dream and one that you should not gamble your career on. (I.e. your serious career-exit plan should not be "I'm going to be an IPO billionaire.")



Many successful startup founders and entrepreneurs bet way more than just their career on that "pipe dream.'



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