How can I break into the DC market?

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How can I break into the DC market?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Dec 05, 2018 4:06 pm

I am a 2016 graduate of a T20 (think WUSTL, Vandy, etc.) and have been doing insurance defense/commercial litigation in a mid-sized Southern city since graduating and passing the bar here. I graduated in the bottom half of my class and initially was pretty happy with where I ended up in terms of my employment considering. My firm is not well known or prestigious by any means, but it does have a few locations in the region. My hours requirement is low, I rarely ever work evenings or weekends, and the pay (~$80k + bonus) is okay considering the COL here. Also, I'm lucky enough to not have any loans thanks to a full scholarship and some help from family.

However, I recently have passed the two-year mark at my current job and am feeling like I really need a change. Most of my cases are car wrecks (we defend commercial carriers), and they all seem the same after a while. All of the cases settle pretty quickly. There is no complex thought that goes into virtually anything I do. I've worked on some more interesting cases, but those are few and far between. Still, I have gotten some good hands-on experience with arguing motions, taking depositions, etc.

Outside of work, I hate the city where I live. I am LGBT and there is a very small community here. The dating scene is non-existent. I am nearing 30 and don't want to wake up one day wondering why I didn't do anything to improve my situation while I still could.

To that end, I recently decided that I am going to try to move to DC. I have lots of friends and family there, and of course the dating scene would be way better for me. I love the city, and it's definitely a plus that I can waive into the DC bar without taking an exam again. I have been applying to jobs there for more than two months now and am barely making any headway. I have a recruiter who's supposed to be helping me, but she is pretty unresponsive and has made it clear that I'm not a priority. I did interview for and get offered a staff attorney position but decided against it, as the pay was low and I've heard bad things about being a staff attorney. I've been writing cover letters and applying directly to lots of positions (companies, firms, gov.), but I rarely even get the courtesy of a rejection email. It's just getting frustrating. What can I do better?

I do have enough money saved up that I could just quit my job, move up there, and hope for the best, but I would rather not do that. Am I just being impatient? I know my skill set as a general litigator is not very specialized or in-demand, but still. Would it help to put a local address on my resume to make it at least appear that I've already moved there? I'm not sure whether being a non-local candidate is impacting my chances. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!


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Re: How can I break into the DC market?

Post by deference » Thu Dec 06, 2018 10:15 am

DC is a niche market with a heavy emphasis on federal regulatory and policy practice. You need to somehow spin your experience to match that niche. Department of Transportation come to mind when I hear commercial carriers.

Having a local address doesn’t give you much of an advantage because there are plenty of transplants in town, but being around sure helps the networking. You said you saved up to move up there, I’d be very careful about that because DC COL is no joke.

What kind of staff attorney did you turn down? It really depends on the firm and practice.

while DC definitely has a great LGBT community and diaspora, it hard to find a job if you’re just a general litigator with no specific DC-centric career ambition. If it’s just the social/career scene you’re chasing, there are definitely many other cities with a growing liberal population you can loom at.

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

Re: How can I break into the DC market?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Dec 06, 2018 3:23 pm

OP here. Thanks so much for your reply. That's a good point about the DOT. I do have some working knowledge of the FMCSRs, etc.

The staff attorney position was doing business litigation and specifically class action defense. It was not at a particularly large or prestigious firm though.


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Re: How can I break into the DC market?

Post by Bnonymous » Fri Dec 14, 2018 5:19 pm

Breaking into the DC market isn't the easiest thing in the world, but there are a few things you can do to help your chances.

First, get your DC Bar application filed. Pretty much everyone is "eligible" to waive in, and being admitted to practice in DC (or even having your application pending) will go a long way toward showing you are serious, if nothing else. (By the way, I'm assuming your "Southern City" is not in Virginia. If it is, I would look for jobs in Northern Virginia too).

Second, start networking. For me, that meant calling alumni from my school to talk about the DC market. It sounds like you might want to change areas of law, so that would be a good ice breaker as well. In my experience (and I'm sure this varies from school to school and from person to person) alumni were really helpful. My application-to-interview ratio was waaay better at places where someone passed my resume along.

Regarding putting a local address on your resume: I think it's a good idea if you have one. A few friends of mine worked with recruiters who told them to do that. Needless to say, I wouldn't lie about it or put the local Marriott.

Good luck!

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