Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

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Zac

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Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby Zac » Wed Oct 12, 2016 10:42 pm

I've just started at a biglaw firm, but I've always had an interest in tech because I worked two summers at various tech startups that were in the legal services space. One of them was founded by a former associate who started his own company, got investors and now does exactly zero legal work and is pretty successful (he sells his product to lawyers instead). I realize that might be a bit exceptional, but has anyone here gone from a biglaw firm to a tech company in a non-GC role, where you are doing substantive strategy/operations/sales etc? How did the opportunity come up and how do you like it compared to biglaw?

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RemyMarathe

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby RemyMarathe » Wed Oct 12, 2016 10:45 pm

There's a book about this exact transition:

http://quitlawandcode.com/

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sims1

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby sims1 » Thu Oct 13, 2016 12:17 am

People leave law to do lots of things, tech included. Generally not easy since you wouldn't get credit for legal experience, but that's the cost of switching careers.

I would say if this is what you want to do, the earlier you switch the better.

haus

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby haus » Thu Oct 13, 2016 12:31 am

I work in InfoSec, about a year ago as my organization was trimming down the number of in-house attorneys, one of the attorneys facing the possibility of being downsized found a niche on the information security team focusing on policy and certification and accreditation work.

The other example I am aware of is some commercial incident response (e.g. Stroz Friedberg) hire attorneys to be key members of their incident teams. It appears that tech knowledge/understanding is a nice to have, but in reality many of these attorneys come in without that much tech/infosec knowledge, but the type of work provides opportunities to learn fast.

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby lawlorbust » Thu Oct 13, 2016 12:41 am

Zac wrote:I've just started at a biglaw firm, but I've always had an interest in tech because I worked two summers at various tech startups that were in the legal services space. One of them was founded by a former associate who started his own company, got investors and now does exactly zero legal work and is pretty successful (he sells his product to lawyers instead). I realize that might be a bit exceptional, but has anyone here gone from a biglaw firm to a tech company in a non-GC role, where you are doing substantive strategy/operations/sales etc? How did the opportunity come up and how do you like it compared to biglaw?


Seamlessweb? Yeah, that was a great idea.

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PeanutsNJam

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby PeanutsNJam » Thu Oct 13, 2016 10:24 am

RemyMarathe wrote:There's a book about this exact transition:

http://quitlawandcode.com/


OP doesn't want to code, he wants an executive or managerial position at a tech company.

I met someone who did biglaw -> in-house -> management, but she was asked by the company to switch and she said it was very unusual. She had experience and skills unique to her that the company valued at the time. You get invited for these jobs, you don't apply. Or you could start your own business.

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby SFSpartan » Thu Oct 13, 2016 11:23 am

I don't know of attorneys that jumped straight into an exec role. I do, however, know several attorneys that used a GC or corporate counsel role to jump onto the business side of things. Getting there seems to be somewhat driven by circumstance, though, as most of the folks that did this were in a company where a C-level person left, and they took over that person's role (sometimes in addition to their legal role, sometimes not).

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Oct 13, 2016 1:29 pm

I can confirm above with another anecdote. Our GC of a ~60 employee firm was asked to also be the VP of sales after our VP of sales quit (but continuing to be GC). he was by far the brightest one out of all the executives and they asked him. I think he could have maybe used this to transition out of legal but he didn't like it and now he is back to only being GC

Zac

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby Zac » Thu Oct 13, 2016 9:38 pm

Interesting, thanks. These are all great anecdotes. I realize that there's no canned way to make this transition, which makes it harder than the average associate-to-GC switch. But I just like hearing individual anecdotes of people who were brave enough to make the 180 and what they did afterwards.

As for software development, I wouldn't rule it out, but I don't think it's for me long term. I would be behind people who have more experience and it's not really an area of strength for me, even after a year of training (saying this with the caveat that I've only read the first chapter of that book so far!) If anything I like sales and pitching to people more, and I really like networking and public speaking. Just need to figure out what I can do with those types of skills haha.

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Oct 14, 2016 1:16 pm

Hey OP - I'm someone who transitioned into tech after a few years of practicing at 2 different firms. I'm now doing enterprise technical sales at a high-growth tech company and love it. Like you mentioned, I also enjoyed the client interaction/presentation/negotiation/oral argument aspect of law, so I took a gamble on transitioning to sales/business development and have never looked back.

It is possible to make a transition, but it won't be easy. Your law degree/attorney experience makes you a credible/interesting candidate, but none of your hard legal skills will be directly transferrable to most business positions. Tech companies will look for specific experience and it can be very competitive to land at a good company.

Take a humble approach, be prepared to work your way back up the ladder and don't be afraid of taking a few steps back in order to pivot down a different career path. As others above have said, you can certainly take a passive approach and "hope" that your legal career takes you in-house and hope again that you can transition to the business-side from there. That said, if you really don't like the law, take a calculated career risk sooner rather than later. Life is too short to work a job you don't enjoy and the longer you wait the more difficult a career transition will be.

Zac

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby Zac » Fri Oct 14, 2016 3:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Hey OP - I'm someone who transitioned into tech after a few years of practicing at 2 different firms. I'm now doing enterprise technical sales at a high-growth tech company and love it. Like you mentioned, I also enjoyed the client interaction/presentation/negotiation/oral argument aspect of law, so I took a gamble on transitioning to sales/business development and have never looked back.

It is possible to make a transition, but it won't be easy. Your law degree/attorney experience makes you a credible/interesting candidate, but none of your hard legal skills will be directly transferrable to most business positions. Tech companies will look for specific experience and it can be very competitive to land at a good company.

Take a humble approach, be prepared to work your way back up the ladder and don't be afraid of taking a few steps back in order to pivot down a different career path. As others above have said, you can certainly take a passive approach and "hope" that your legal career takes you in-house and hope again that you can transition to the business-side from there. That said, if you really don't like the law, take a calculated career risk sooner rather than later. Life is too short to work a job you don't enjoy and the longer you wait the more difficult a career transition will be.


Anon, thanks for your response. It's really helpful to see someone who made the switch and enjoys it. If you don't mind me asking, how did the opportunity arise for you to move? Did you have a firm idea to do tech sales at the outset, or did the idea develop as you searched? And did you find the transition from law to negotiating/sales difficult skills-wise (I'm guessing you just had on the job learning)?

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Oct 17, 2016 4:52 pm

Anon from above post. I kept my firm job as I was beginning to explore alternatives, so that gave me the financial flexibility to take my time with the search. I didn't have a firm goal of landing in tech sales and actually interviewed for a pretty wide range of positions at various companies (compliance, IP, operations, etc.) That said, I was attracted to sales because it provides a solid foundation for other business jobs and if you're good, the earning potential can be great (great pay with much better work/life balance.)

There are certain "soft skills" I learned as a lawyer that are relevant to my job now - understanding a contract, negotiating with another party, being able to present effectively, writing skills and the ability to break down an argument/customer objection.

If you're serious about transitioning out, I would take the time to do your due diligence and think very carefully about the type of role/job you might want to go into. Wanting to enter into a "business position" without a good understanding of what the position entails can be a risky move. Think about the day-to-day work you might enjoy and what you like/dislike about being a lawyer now. That thought process will be helpful for you to make a calculated decision about your next career step.

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby Zac » Mon Oct 17, 2016 10:18 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Anon from above post. I kept my firm job as I was beginning to explore alternatives, so that gave me the financial flexibility to take my time with the search. I didn't have a firm goal of landing in tech sales and actually interviewed for a pretty wide range of positions at various companies (compliance, IP, operations, etc.) That said, I was attracted to sales because it provides a solid foundation for other business jobs and if you're good, the earning potential can be great (great pay with much better work/life balance.)

There are certain "soft skills" I learned as a lawyer that are relevant to my job now - understanding a contract, negotiating with another party, being able to present effectively, writing skills and the ability to break down an argument/customer objection.

If you're serious about transitioning out, I would take the time to do your due diligence and think very carefully about the type of role/job you might want to go into. Wanting to enter into a "business position" without a good understanding of what the position entails can be a risky move. Think about the day-to-day work you might enjoy and what you like/dislike about being a lawyer now. That thought process will be helpful for you to make a calculated decision about your next career step.


Thanks again for the advice. Agreed, I think it's not a move to do lightly. I would like to ride it out for a bit and see how it goes. It's a tradeoff because the longer I stay the faster I'll pay off my loans, but also the longer I'm not doing something that's more suitable and the more explaining I'll have to do if I make a drastic switch. And the consensus here seems to be to move sooner rather than later. I'm keeping my eyes peeled on career listings from my old school, and I try going to networking events whenever possible.

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby Anonymous User » Mon Aug 28, 2017 9:00 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Anon from above post. I kept my firm job as I was beginning to explore alternatives, so that gave me the financial flexibility to take my time with the search. I didn't have a firm goal of landing in tech sales and actually interviewed for a pretty wide range of positions at various companies (compliance, IP, operations, etc.) That said, I was attracted to sales because it provides a solid foundation for other business jobs and if you're good, the earning potential can be great (great pay with much better work/life balance.)

There are certain "soft skills" I learned as a lawyer that are relevant to my job now - understanding a contract, negotiating with another party, being able to present effectively, writing skills and the ability to break down an argument/customer objection.

If you're serious about transitioning out, I would take the time to do your due diligence and think very carefully about the type of role/job you might want to go into. Wanting to enter into a "business position" without a good understanding of what the position entails can be a risky move. Think about the day-to-day work you might enjoy and what you like/dislike about being a lawyer now. That thought process will be helpful for you to make a calculated decision about your next career step.


Sorry to bump an old thread - but I would love to hear from this poster or someone with similar experience as to how they went about targeting positions/companies to apply for.

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 29, 2017 1:55 pm

a different anon here. all i can add is the quitlawandcode book has been helpful and contains multiple interviews about what people did to switch. that can give some insight into making the switch. but generally speaking, i'm also curious about how do you sell your legal background to a tech company or do you exclude it altogether? it appears switching careers from law to another field is not uncommon. and switching into tech is not rare either

haus

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby haus » Tue Aug 29, 2017 2:03 pm

I think that how much you focus on your legal education/experience is in part related to how willing you are for elements of this to play a role in what you do going forward.

Keep in mind that there are a lot of companies and organizations that are feeling pressure for their systems/programs to better cope with or address things outside of themselves. Much of these issues are outside the normal day to day realm of a developer or system administratior. Are you interested in (or willing to be) drawn into meetings and discussions on how to build or modify something to be in compliance with regulations/industry standards/contractual agreements/etc? If this sounds painful and stupid I would play down the legal background, if this seems ok to you I would suggest making a reasonable part of your pitch.

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Re: Anyone go from biglaw to tech (not in a lawyer/GC position)?

Postby Anonymous User » Tue Aug 29, 2017 5:01 pm

Anonymous User wrote:a different anon here. all i can add is the quitlawandcode book has been helpful and contains multiple interviews about what people did to switch. that can give some insight into making the switch. but generally speaking, i'm also curious about how do you sell your legal background to a tech company or do you exclude it altogether? it appears switching careers from law to another field is not uncommon. and switching into tech is not rare either


Anon from above - I assume that resource is all about doing coding, right?

I actually think I would be more interested in a sales/biz dev role.



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