How Hard is it to Change Careers?

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How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 08, 2020 12:33 pm

So just a little background:

Soon to be finished federal clerk (district level), graduated from a YSH tier school (+flagship law review), and joining biglaw shortly. But informed my firm halfway through my clerkship that I wanted to switch to the corporate practice group because I didn't enjoy the subject matter (e.g., general litigation). Now, however, I am having second thoughts. I am not sure really what I want to do (I'm sure this is a common theme for 99% of people). I don't know if I want to go corporate, ask to be put back in litigation, or just not be a lawyer at all anymore. So my question is, how hard is it to change skill sets? Can one, say for example, do a few years in a corporate practice group, then ask to be put in a litigation practice group? (with of course a reduction in seniority). I guess I am just not sure how determinative such a choice (corporate vs. litigation) will be in determining what my future career potential will be? Any insight is much appreciated.

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Re: How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 08, 2020 2:29 pm

There's definitely some more qualified people on the threads to answer this, but whatever. I'm bored and do not want to work.

(For context: similar (but worse) background. Decided to circumvent big law and took a boutiquey route, but still questioning if I want to do law long term.)

There are two key questions you have to answer. One immediate question, one long term.

Given the state of hiring across the economy right now, the reality is you will at a minimum likely be starting in big law and you need to decide if you prefer litigation or corporate work. You've clerked, so you've seen litigation work. Only you can really decide if that's appealing, even if you plan to only do it for a few years while in law. Frankly, from what little I've seen with my peers, jumping from litigation to corporate work and vice versa after even a couple years is only marginally easier than crossing from law to a nonlegal job.

As for the long term, if you don't know if you want to be a lawyer its easier to start in law now and then hop out in a few years, but if the question is already in your mind then it seems pretty likely law isn't going to be the long term answer for you. I can't give a definitive answer for what to do, but my personal strategy was to find a good paying position that I'm comfortable with in the short term and keep my eyes open and maintain connections with my network long term. Weird opportunities open up (especially with your credentials) and you just have to keep an open mind and be comfortable with risk - which is frankly the part that I think keeps a lot of lawyers trapped in the profession.

This is a long way of saying, figure out the litigation v. corporate question first, it is pretty determinative. You've already switched once and corporate generally makes it a bit easier to hop out of law down the road, so I would just stick with that all else being equal I suppose.

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Re: How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 09, 2020 12:01 am

Did you like clerking? I think that might be a good way of approaching this.

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Re: How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 09, 2020 5:17 am

I did this - switched from lit to corp after my summer when I also switched offices (it helped that the office needed corp associates), and I do not regret it. I have way more exit options than my friends in lit and also just enjoy it more. My second firm also had multiple stories of people switching from lit to corp. I haven’t really heard of it going the other way though.

I also came from HYS so likely same kind of firm, and in my experience at two firms they were actually pretty cool with it. On the other hand, a friend at Shearman was switched from lit to corp without her input when she started, so at some firms you may not have much choice in it

Also, if you have a clerkship and lit experience, you may have the chance to switch later into doing some lit stuff (especially if you want to do a generalist role in house, or as a GC/first lawyer in a startup deal). I’m currently pulling some old litigation knowledge out of the air/from law school in a more generalist role, but I’m definitely glad I learned the corporate stuff at the firms that you don’t learn in law school

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Re: How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 09, 2020 9:59 am

Volunteering to step back in seniority as part of switching from corp to litigation is not viable (it happens, but usually not).

You need to have a sense by the time you're a 4th year.

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JusticeJackson

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Re: How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by JusticeJackson » Thu Jul 09, 2020 12:01 pm

Clerking is a job that puts litigation in its best light. If you’re on the fence now when the hours are relatively steady, the work is fairly interesting, your role has meaningful substance, and the lawyers that come in contact with you are overly polite towards you, I don’t think you’re meant for biglaw litigation. At the junior level you’ll likely do a lot of rote bullshit, and last minute projects that require late nights. Opposing counsel will be assholes, and so will many of the partners you work for. It doesn’t bother me now, but my first few years after my clerkship sucked.

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Re: How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 09, 2020 3:59 pm

OP here... to answer everyone's questions, I don't really enjoy the subject matter. I can't recall a case I have read in its entirety, I don't really enjoy Westlaw, and I find the work so isolating. There is no interaction with other people. Honestly, after about a month, just stuck it out to get the bonus. So you're all probably right, I should dabble in corporate.

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Re: How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by attorney589753 » Fri Jul 10, 2020 4:50 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 09, 2020 3:59 pm
OP here... to answer everyone's questions, I don't really enjoy the subject matter. I can't recall a case I have read in its entirety, I don't really enjoy Westlaw, and I find the work so isolating. There is no interaction with other people. Honestly, after about a month, just stuck it out to get the bonus. So you're all probably right, I should dabble in corporate.
I did corp->clerk->corp. I ended up doing pretty minimal junior work at my second firm, and transitioning to midlevel quickly, so that was a bit of a bonus of clerking (I'm sure that is a big YMMV). I personally found that I got much less excited about lit stuff than some of my colleagues/clerk friends. I don't regret my decision at all. Maybe one way to think about it is where you might want to end up if you do move out of law. I think getting exposure to the business side and as many clients as possible might make sense, and each of those would point towards corporate instead of lit.

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Re: How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jul 11, 2020 12:24 pm

In your case, consider joining practice groups that do both corp and litigation (e.g. antitrust, bankruptcy, etc) if you are interested in those areas.

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Re: How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by Anonymous User » Sat Jul 11, 2020 7:49 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 09, 2020 3:59 pm
OP here... to answer everyone's questions, I don't really enjoy the subject matter. I can't recall a case I have read in its entirety, I don't really enjoy Westlaw, and I find the work so isolating. There is no interaction with other people. Honestly, after about a month, just stuck it out to get the bonus. So you're all probably right, I should dabble in corporate.
It sounds like you are a strong fit for corporate and more business-y type work. Having strong people skills and really enjoying that part of the job is important for that. If you don't like the reading, researching, and writing involved with litigation, no reason to move forward with that. This is not to say that people skills aren't important in litigation - they are, and people who lack them can make litigation horrible for everyone involved - but those skills are a stronger fit for corporate work and moving in-house/to a business role, etc. down the line.

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Re: How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 13, 2020 11:29 am

OP Here. I think I've resigned myself that I am likely fit for corporate. As was mentioned here, I'm not a big fan of legal writing and research. I find the work isolating and desire more contact with individual and clients, working to build rather than destroy. My biggest concern, and perhaps I am mistaken, is that I would be foreclosing potential exit opportunities by forgoing a litigation route. For example, I am highly interested in working for such bodies as the United Nations, IMF, World Bank, and other IGOS/NGOS. To that end, I am not sure the degree to which lawyers in "corporate" end up there. Perhaps I am wrong.

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Sackboy

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Re: How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by Sackboy » Mon Jul 13, 2020 11:45 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 11:29 am
For example, I am highly interested in working for such bodies as the United Nations, IMF, World Bank, and other IGOS/NGOS. To that end, I am not sure the degree to which lawyers in "corporate" end up there. Perhaps I am wrong.
Don't worry about it. Considering you don't like litigation, you're not actually interested in working at any of those places, because you'd be doing, well, litigation. You're just still interested in the idea of working there. Those are two very different things, and I urge you not to idealize any workplace, because it rarely ends well. At least, you'll never have to "meet your heroes" in this regard.

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Re: How Hard is it to Change Careers?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Jul 13, 2020 1:33 pm

Sackboy wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 11:45 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Jul 13, 2020 11:29 am
For example, I am highly interested in working for such bodies as the United Nations, IMF, World Bank, and other IGOS/NGOS. To that end, I am not sure the degree to which lawyers in "corporate" end up there. Perhaps I am wrong.
Don't worry about it. Considering you don't like litigation, you're not actually interested in working at any of those places, because you'd be doing, well, litigation. You're just still interested in the idea of working there. Those are two very different things, and I urge you not to idealize any workplace, because it rarely ends well. At least, you'll never have to "meet your heroes" in this regard.
Much of the legal work done at those institutions is not litigation, so I expect there are pathways from corporate practices, particularly if you gain significant experience in cross-border transactions. Have you considered project finance?

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