Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

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Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:23 pm

Rising 2L at a T6. I am worried about my job search and am struggling to decide what to do post-graduation. OCS just pushes everyone into BL indiscriminately, so no help there. I will graduate with basically no debt.

I really like law school and the classes. I like the type of thinking involved, I like weighing legal and policy and philosophical arguments, I like analytical thinking, I like refining my writing. But I come from a family of non-lawyers and feel like a bumpkin when it comes to networking and the job search.

I have a federal CoA clerkship lined up, and I am looking forward to it. But I do not really know what is out there similar to law school/clerking. I have no intrinsic interest in business, the corporate world, or finance at all, but I suppose if the work is stimulating, I could deal with it temporarily. That hardly seems like a long-term plan, obviously.

Any advice or leads are appreciated! I have no idea how to approach this process. I am pretty open (including to BL), but I just do not know how to get started.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by 2013 » Thu Jul 16, 2020 12:13 am

If you want something intellectually stimulating, then biglaw is probably not going to be fulfilling at all for the first few years.

If money isn’t an issue, you may enjoy doing civil rights-related

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 12:26 am

2013 wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 12:13 am
If you want something intellectually stimulating, then biglaw is probably not going to be fulfilling at all for the first few years.

If money isn’t an issue, you may enjoy doing civil rights-related
Money is somewhat of a consideration, which is why I am open to BL temporarily, but I would want to have an exit strategy before even going in, hence my desire to do some research on career paths now.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Iowahawk » Thu Jul 16, 2020 12:33 am

Appellate's the obvious path given what you said, but it's a hard nut to crack. Since you don't seem to care about money you have the freedom to do the smart thing to get appellate work and go into state/fed government (ideally a state SG but normal crim/civil app would work too) or a regional firm rather than biglaw. Government could also help set you up for a policy role someday.

You could also just do normal old commercial litigation; briefs and motions and stuff. Surely you roughly know if that sounds appealing to you by now. You might enjoy it in a smaller firm or market where you do more advanced work earlier versus in biglaw.

Tax is intellectually demanding and analytical, plus the lifestyle in biglaw is supposed to be relatively good, but requires specialized knowledge and deals with business so it might not be a great fit.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:23 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:23 pm
Rising 2L at a T6. I am worried about my job search and am struggling to decide what to do post-graduation. OCS just pushes everyone into BL indiscriminately, so no help there. I will graduate with basically no debt.

I really like law school and the classes. I like the type of thinking involved, I like weighing legal and policy and philosophical arguments, I like analytical thinking, I like refining my writing. But I come from a family of non-lawyers and feel like a bumpkin when it comes to networking and the job search.

I have a federal CoA clerkship lined up, and I am looking forward to it. But I do not really know what is out there similar to law school/clerking. I have no intrinsic interest in business, the corporate world, or finance at all, but I suppose if the work is stimulating, I could deal with it temporarily. That hardly seems like a long-term plan, obviously.

Any advice or leads are appreciated! I have no idea how to approach this process. I am pretty open (including to BL), but I just do not know how to get started.
I think that junior-level corporate work doesn't involve much thinking, but midlevel work can actually be pretty thoughtful. You need to understand what clients are trying to achieve with provisions, the dynamics of the deal / negotiation, what is and isn't worth fighting for, etc. If you think about it as sort of adversarial problem-solving, I think there's a lot of intellectual heft there. (Put differently: if you find the docs interesting, it's a worthwhile path.)

Have you considered legal academia? I know the prospects are not, uh, fantastic but it seems like having no interest in the practice of law but loving law school is a good sign that you should try for it. (Set aside for a bit that people who fit that description absolutely should not be law school professors; it's what gets hired right now.)

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anon-non-anon » Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:47 am

I think you'll enjoy the appellate clerkship, and can try to break into appellate work from there (if you have a year in between, I'd give big law / lit boutique a shot first, you never know, you may like it).

As others have said, if $$ / prestige aren't huge concerns, a state SG where you agree with their policy would prob be a good fit.

Edit (SG not AG, though AG might be cool too)

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by gregfootball2001 » Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:48 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:23 pm
But I do not really know what is out there similar to law school/clerking.
Construction work, especially on the transactional side, can be remarkably similar to contracts class. Dispute-side, it's essentially commercial litigation with an industry niche, so your clerking experience would be helpful. One of the few (though certainly not only) practice areas that involves both transactions and litigation, depending on the firm, of course.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 10:01 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:23 pm
Rising 2L at a T6. I am worried about my job search and am struggling to decide what to do post-graduation. OCS just pushes everyone into BL indiscriminately, so no help there. I will graduate with basically no debt.

I really like law school and the classes. I like the type of thinking involved, I like weighing legal and policy and philosophical arguments, I like analytical thinking, I like refining my writing. But I come from a family of non-lawyers and feel like a bumpkin when it comes to networking and the job search.

I have a federal CoA clerkship lined up, and I am looking forward to it. But I do not really know what is out there similar to law school/clerking. I have no intrinsic interest in business, the corporate world, or finance at all, but I suppose if the work is stimulating, I could deal with it temporarily. That hardly seems like a long-term plan, obviously.

Any advice or leads are appreciated! I have no idea how to approach this process. I am pretty open (including to BL), but I just do not know how to get started.
There are a few things I can discern with little difficulty from this post:

1. You are clearly a smart guy with a 4.0 or close to it if you have a clerkship this early and you have no connections by your admission
2. You probably don't go to a school with a large presence in academia
3. Probably FedSoc and political - likely clerking in the South/Midwest


From this, there are plenty of things you can do. Firms will be throwing themselves at you during your OCI given your grades and pedigree, so I wouldn't worry at all about networking. Spend 2L summer at a firm and see how you like it. Don't close off opportunities without trying it a bit -- I'm assuming you aren't at a BigLaw firm this summer.

Next, during your clerkship, more specialized practice groups will come recruiting - Gibson Dunn in particular targets FedSoc clerks from the area I suspect you are clerking in from what I can tell. Additionally, if you are political and don't care about money, there are fellowships at the Institute for Justice and Pacific Legal Defense Foundation that seem right up your alley.

You are in an enviable position and have plenty of time to figure things out, don't worry too much.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 10:55 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 10:01 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Jul 15, 2020 11:23 pm
Rising 2L at a T6. I am worried about my job search and am struggling to decide what to do post-graduation. OCS just pushes everyone into BL indiscriminately, so no help there. I will graduate with basically no debt.

I really like law school and the classes. I like the type of thinking involved, I like weighing legal and policy and philosophical arguments, I like analytical thinking, I like refining my writing. But I come from a family of non-lawyers and feel like a bumpkin when it comes to networking and the job search.

I have a federal CoA clerkship lined up, and I am looking forward to it. But I do not really know what is out there similar to law school/clerking. I have no intrinsic interest in business, the corporate world, or finance at all, but I suppose if the work is stimulating, I could deal with it temporarily. That hardly seems like a long-term plan, obviously.

Any advice or leads are appreciated! I have no idea how to approach this process. I am pretty open (including to BL), but I just do not know how to get started.
There are a few things I can discern with little difficulty from this post:

1. You are clearly a smart guy with a 4.0 or close to it if you have a clerkship this early and you have no connections by your admission
2. You probably don't go to a school with a large presence in academia
3. Probably FedSoc and political - likely clerking in the South/Midwest


From this, there are plenty of things you can do. Firms will be throwing themselves at you during your OCI given your grades and pedigree, so I wouldn't worry at all about networking. Spend 2L summer at a firm and see how you like it. Don't close off opportunities without trying it a bit -- I'm assuming you aren't at a BigLaw firm this summer.

Next, during your clerkship, more specialized practice groups will come recruiting - Gibson Dunn in particular targets FedSoc clerks from the area I suspect you are clerking in from what I can tell. Additionally, if you are political and don't care about money, there are fellowships at the Institute for Justice and Pacific Legal Defense Foundation that seem right up your alley.

You are in an enviable position and have plenty of time to figure things out, don't worry too much.
I am in the exact same boat as OP (and the inferences the above poster made as well lol). I have little interest in helping large corporations become larger, although I may be interested in some plaintiff-side litigation. My plan is to try and land either an appellate gig or a boutique gig with the hopes of either ending up in academia or some sort of government position sooner rather than later FWIW.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:42 am

I was at a DC V10 for several years before leaving to clerk. I found my antitrust litigation work the most intellectually stimulating and academic-esque out of all the subject areas I practiced in. There are lots of active gray areas right now where there is plenty of room for creative applications of the law and policy arguments, both on the plaintiff and defense side. It's also a pretty tight-knit bar; there are tons of networking opportunities (the spring meeting, etc.), so you can build relationships and open doors for yourself to leave biglaw if you don't think firm life is what you want to do long-term.

I will also say that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed general commercial litigation. Like you, I had no intrinsic interest in the business world. But if you're generally curious, learning about how different businesses operate and apply legal and regulatory standards can be interesting, and I can't think of any briefs I drafted that didn't have some kind of policy angle to why we thought the court should rule in our favor.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 3:19 pm

OP here. Thanks for the advice so far!
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:23 am
Have you considered legal academia? I know the prospects are not, uh, fantastic but it seems like having no interest in the practice of law but loving law school is a good sign that you should try for it. (Set aside for a bit that people who fit that description absolutely should not be law school professors; it's what gets hired right now.)
It is something I have considered, but I am not sure that I want to go into it. I also do have an interest in practicing law, but I am not sure what type of work would be suited to my interests.

Anon-non-anon wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:47 am
As others have said, if $$ / prestige aren't huge concerns, a state SG where you agree with their policy would prob be a good fit.
Thanks. Why state over federal work?

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 10:01 am
1. You are clearly a smart guy with a 4.0 or close to it if you have a clerkship this early and you have no connections by your admission
2. You probably don't go to a school with a large presence in academia
3. Probably FedSoc and political - likely clerking in the South/Midwest
Largely nailed it, except for the political part.

Firms will be throwing themselves at you during your OCI given your grades and pedigree, so I wouldn't worry at all about networking. Spend 2L summer at a firm and see how you like it. Don't close off opportunities without trying it a bit -- I'm assuming you aren't at a BigLaw firm this summer.
Correct; judicial intern this summer. I fully intend to summer at a firm if I get an offer. Do you have any recommendations for particular firms (or types of firms) or even general practice areas I should consider? They honestly all just seem like names to me.

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:42 am
I was at a DC V10 for several years before leaving to clerk. I found my antitrust litigation work the most intellectually stimulating and academic-esque out of all the subject areas I practiced in. There are lots of active gray areas right now where there is plenty of room for creative applications of the law and policy arguments, both on the plaintiff and defense side. It's also a pretty tight-knit bar; there are tons of networking opportunities (the spring meeting, etc.), so you can build relationships and open doors for yourself to leave biglaw if you don't think firm life is what you want to do long-term.

I will also say that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed general commercial litigation. Like you, I had no intrinsic interest in the business world. But if you're generally curious, learning about how different businesses operate and apply legal and regulatory standards can be interesting, and I can't think of any briefs I drafted that didn't have some kind of policy angle to why we thought the court should rule in our favor.
Thanks for the insight into your experience!

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by PT818 » Thu Jul 16, 2020 3:31 pm

I was in your exact position when I was a 2L. I'm now a few years out. Went down a kind of unusual path. Message me and I'll discuss.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 3:48 pm

Anon-non-anon wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 9:47 am
Thanks. Why state over federal work?


Because getting into the federal SG office basically requires a SCOTUS clerkship, while state SG offices hire pretty frequently from clerkships. If I'm right about the state you are clerking in, their SG office recruits clerks pretty thoroughly.


Firms will be throwing themselves at you during your OCI given your grades and pedigree, so I wouldn't worry at all about networking. Spend 2L summer at a firm and see how you like it. Don't close off opportunities without trying it a bit -- I'm assuming you aren't at a BigLaw firm this summer.

Correct; judicial intern this summer. I fully intend to summer at a firm if I get an offer. Do you have any recommendations for particular firms (or types of firms) or even general practice areas I should consider? They honestly all just seem like names to me.
They all are generally fungible in terms of work so just try and meet lawyers when they come to your campus, and get a feel for the culture of the office. With a clerkship, your hiring timeline is much longer, so just relax during OCI and try and make sure you enjoy the people you will be doing work with. Make sure you make it clear you want to be in litigation if that's what you see yourself doing.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by decimalsanddollars » Thu Jul 16, 2020 4:20 pm

If you're competitive for the Bristow fellowship, that would be an excellent next step after the COA clerkship and would open a ton of doors for federal appellate practice

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 4:40 pm

OP here. Thanks for the additional insights!

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Ohiobumpkin » Thu Jul 16, 2020 4:46 pm

Appellate advocacy or becoming a legal scholar/professor (duh).

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 4:49 pm

decimalsanddollars wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 4:20 pm
If you're competitive for the Bristow fellowship, that would be an excellent next step after the COA clerkship and would open a ton of doors for federal appellate practice
You might as well tell OP that being a SCOTUS clerk is an excellent next step too. Is it possible? Sure, OP probably has a significantly higher chance at being one than 99% of law students, but its not all that responsive to the main question.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by decimalsanddollars » Thu Jul 16, 2020 5:11 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 4:49 pm
decimalsanddollars wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 4:20 pm
If you're competitive for the Bristow fellowship, that would be an excellent next step after the COA clerkship and would open a ton of doors for federal appellate practice
You might as well tell OP that being a SCOTUS clerk is an excellent next step too. Is it possible? Sure, OP probably has a significantly higher chance at being one than 99% of law students, but its not all that responsive to the main question.
Other people have already mentioned appellate lit, working for state SG offices, academia, etc. I was just adding that this would be a good step toward any of those goals, and nobody had mentioned it yet. If OP doesn't want to clerk again but wants to do the most intellectually stimulating work possible, this would be the ideal post-clerkship move.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 5:22 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:42 am
I was at a DC V10 for several years before leaving to clerk. I found my antitrust litigation work the most intellectually stimulating and academic-esque out of all the subject areas I practiced in. There are lots of active gray areas right now where there is plenty of room for creative applications of the law and policy arguments, both on the plaintiff and defense side. It's also a pretty tight-knit bar; there are tons of networking opportunities (the spring meeting, etc.), so you can build relationships and open doors for yourself to leave biglaw if you don't think firm life is what you want to do long-term.

I will also say that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed general commercial litigation. Like you, I had no intrinsic interest in the business world. But if you're generally curious, learning about how different businesses operate and apply legal and regulatory standards can be interesting, and I can't think of any briefs I drafted that didn't have some kind of policy angle to why we thought the court should rule in our favor.
Not OP. What is AT work like as a junior? While I enjoyed the class in law school, my understanding was that in big law it is mostly doc review for investigations/litigation and economic analysis stuff for mergers. Was your experience different?

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by ksm6969 » Thu Jul 16, 2020 7:07 pm

Seems like career clerk may be a decent fit, if you can really stomach giving up the $$$ after a few years in law firm. See how you like clerking and ask the career clerks what they think.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 7:12 pm

OP, you should consider ERISA Litigation. My firm has ERISA Litigation as part of our Employee Benefits group, so I’ve done some of that. It’s probably the most intellectually stimulating work I’ve done. Your clients will be corporations, but it’s really not related to corporate or finance. It focuses primarily on fiduciary duties of the actors (defendants). The partner I’ve worked with let me take the first stab at developing the argument, which is obviously daunting, but it was complex work.

I no longer do that kind of work (I focus more on the employee benefits/executive compensation side). Some firms have their ERISA litigation practices in their litigation department.

FWIW, a lot of the “better” ERISA Litigation firms (i.e., firms that work on the stock drop cases (like Jander) and not the run of the mill D&O cases) generally look for federal appellate court clerkship experience.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 7:17 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 5:22 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Jul 16, 2020 11:42 am
I was at a DC V10 for several years before leaving to clerk. I found my antitrust litigation work the most intellectually stimulating and academic-esque out of all the subject areas I practiced in. There are lots of active gray areas right now where there is plenty of room for creative applications of the law and policy arguments, both on the plaintiff and defense side. It's also a pretty tight-knit bar; there are tons of networking opportunities (the spring meeting, etc.), so you can build relationships and open doors for yourself to leave biglaw if you don't think firm life is what you want to do long-term.

I will also say that I was surprised by how much I enjoyed general commercial litigation. Like you, I had no intrinsic interest in the business world. But if you're generally curious, learning about how different businesses operate and apply legal and regulatory standards can be interesting, and I can't think of any briefs I drafted that didn't have some kind of policy angle to why we thought the court should rule in our favor.
Not OP. What is AT work like as a junior? While I enjoyed the class in law school, my understanding was that in big law it is mostly doc review for investigations/litigation and economic analysis stuff for mergers. Was your experience different?
AT poster here. Section 1 civil litigation was the bulk of my work, although I also worked on amicus briefs on competition law more broadly (federal and state) and did a little bit of second-level doc review for an investigation when I first started at the firm. Before discovery started, most of the work was research, memos to partners/client on strategy, and brief-writing. Once discovery started, it was probably half research and writing and half discovery management--drafting discovery requests/responses, preparing depo outlines and kits and second-chairing depos, meet and confers (and associated letters), subpoenas to third parties, etc. We litigated some discovery disputes, so that kept the briefing aspect up. First-level doc review was almost entirely sent to contractors. I did first-level review for maybe 500 documents total over the years, and only for tiny sets that we wanted our eyes on for various reasons. If I did any second-level review for my antitrust cases, I don't remember it now. (Definitely happened on my general commercial lit cases, but still was a very small part of my workload.) I looked at plenty of documents to prepare depo outlines and kits, so if digging into facts and applying them to your litigation strategy is not your cup of tea, you might not enjoy that part. But I liked the balance. Senior/mid-level associates got to argue multiple motions and defended most depos. There was great substantive experience IMO.

I never touched mergers and only had the very brief experience on an investigation, so I can't speak to those personally.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Sackboy » Thu Jul 16, 2020 7:18 pm

I'd clerk and then try to land one of the 1-2yr Visiting Assistant Professor (VAP) positions. Beyond getting a PhD, the Clerk + VAP method is the absolute best way to break into tenure-track legal academia.

As others have mentioned state or federal appellate litigation are also options.

Also as others have mentioned, antitrust and tax are pretty intellectually engaging. Tax also has a lot of really fantastic government options in Congress, the Senate, and IRS. Being a Tax Court judge also isn't an insanely unreasonable goal if you deliberately work at it with your credentials.

Otherwise, impact litigation could be quite interesting with the ACLU or a similar body. You could also do lit/policy work with a place like the Environmental Law & Policy Center or a similar organization.

ERISA Litigation, as the previous poster mentioned, will be complex and (imo) interesting, but it's much different than regular litigation from a procedural standpoint, so watch out for that.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Jul 16, 2020 7:51 pm

OP here. I appreciate all of the advice and feedback.

Assuming for the moment that I am especially interested in appellate legislation and to a lesser extent in fields like antitrust/tax, how (broadly speaking) should I approach researching or the OCI process? Do BL firms even have appellate groups? Should I try to target firms in a particular market/region? If it matters, I would be willing to live almost everywhere (completely serious).

While I know I could probably just wait, I generally push things like job searches to the side when things pick up during the school year, so I want to get some start now.

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Re: Practice areas/career paths most similar to law school and/or intellectually stimulating?

Post by namefromplace » Thu Jul 16, 2020 8:07 pm

D.C. would be the hub for the kinds of law school problem-solve-y work you're looking for (particularly appellate and antitrust). Reach out to associates from your law school at BL firms in D.C. and ask if you could call to pick their brains about their practice. Ideally (though this may be less feasible if you'll be clerking with a newer judge) you could find someone who clerked for the same judge you will be clerking for, which will be a much stronger in.

DC can be a competitive market, but it sounds like you have the credentials for it. Network broadly, and know that you'll be pretty unlikely to fill your hours with just appellate work in BL, so don't go into interviews giving off the impression that that is all that interests you.

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