Chicago Legal Market

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boombadil

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Chicago Legal Market

Post by boombadil » Thu Apr 19, 2018 1:40 pm

I will be attending a T14 in the fall. I'm interested in working in the Chicago legal market. However, my school (not HYS and not NU/Chi) doesn't have strong connections to Chicago. My other ties are to the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana and Ohio), but not Chicago specifically. While I will definitely be chasing NYC firms at OCI to be safe, Chicago would be a better match for my wife's career, and practicing in Chicago would be better for some of my long-term goals.

Here are my ties to the area:

UG in the Midwest
Lived most of my life in the region
Worked for several years in the region
My wife's career (portable within the Midwest but would suffer a setback outside the region)

From what I've read here and elsewhere, I'm not too worried about convincing Chicago firms about my connection to the area. While I'm not directly tied to the city I have pretty strong roots in the region, and I definitely feel I'll be better off than some student whose only tie to the city is going to school in Chicago (correct me if I'm wrong). What does concern me is the fact that Chicago isn't going to be well-represented at my school's OCI. A few of the firms have Chicago offices, but from what research I've been able to do on my school's website, the Chicago job fair almost seems like an afterthought.

Am I handicapping myself by focusing on Chicago at a school that doesn't feed the Chicago market? How insular is this market, and what obstacles and challenges should I expect if I make practicing in Chicago my plan? Any general advice would be appreciated.

pferaso

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Re: Chicago Legal Market

Post by pferaso » Thu Apr 19, 2018 6:08 pm

[How insular is this market, and what obstacles and challenges should I expect if I make practicing in Chicago my plan? Any general advice would be appreciated.]

Depends on the law firm and practice area. Working with reputable national or international firm in Chicago is as good as working with a similar firm anywhere else. Assuming you get such an opportunity, you can get exposure to extremely sophisticated clients in transactions or litigation. If you are an attractive candidate for a firm here in Chicago and can show your interest in practicing in the city, you will be in a good shape. I don't regret working in Chicago even though I had the opportunity to work in NY and I do cross border transactional work, which is the least insular type of work you can find. What is your plan? leaving Chicago after a couple years? Would you go to NY or California, or a smaller city? Again, having solid work experience from a good firm in Chicago would open doors in almost any market.

boombadil

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Re: Chicago Legal Market

Post by boombadil » Fri Apr 20, 2018 10:21 am

pferaso wrote:[How insular is this market, and what obstacles and challenges should I expect if I make practicing in Chicago my plan? Any general advice would be appreciated.]

Depends on the law firm and practice area. Working with reputable national or international firm in Chicago is as good as working with a similar firm anywhere else. Assuming you get such an opportunity, you can get exposure to extremely sophisticated clients in transactions or litigation. If you are an attractive candidate for a firm here in Chicago and can show your interest in practicing in the city, you will be in a good shape. I don't regret working in Chicago even though I had the opportunity to work in NY and I do cross border transactional work, which is the least insular type of work you can find. What is your plan? leaving Chicago after a couple years? Would you go to NY or California, or a smaller city? Again, having solid work experience from a good firm in Chicago would open doors in almost any market.
If I can get into a good firm in Chicago, I'd be staying in Chicago for the foreseeable future. While I like NYC my wife isn't crazy about the city, and we're both pretty familiar with and like Chicago. The cost of living in the city is also a major plus. Neither of us are interested in California. Though of course, these are just preferences. I wouldn't rule out any major market as our priority is career advancement.

As for my actual career plan, I'm cautious about planning that too much in advance as I'm a 0L and have no realistic way to know what sort of law I would enjoy practicing. The sources I've found say that transactional law is hotter in Chicago. I will have debt upon graduation so biglaw is a priority. I'm attending a T14, so provided I have good grades and can make the necessary connections in Chicago without the advantage of having all of the Chicago firms recruiting at my school, I believe that should be attainable. (Again, correct me if I'm wrong).

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blackmamba8

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Re: Chicago Legal Market

Post by blackmamba8 » Fri Apr 20, 2018 11:41 am

I'm also possibly looking to go to Chicago after graduation. From Indiana and attending a T13 outside of the region.

pferaso

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Re: Chicago Legal Market

Post by pferaso » Tue Apr 24, 2018 2:51 pm

[I'm attending a T14, so provided I have good grades and can make the necessary connections in Chicago without the advantage of having all of the Chicago firms recruiting at my school, I believe that should be attainable. (Again, correct me if I'm wrong).]

Yep. It is attainable (not saying it is easy). Try reach out to firms directly and reach out to alumni (they may pass along your resume). Some firms also organize events before OCI where you can meet partners and associates. Again if you have the numbers, reach out to the right people, and show legit interest in the market you should have good chances.

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kaf5631

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Re: Chicago Legal Market

Post by kaf5631 » Tue Jul 30, 2019 1:40 pm

It is definitely possible to break into the Chicago market, but you need to work much harder than local students. I'm at a T20 with decent grades (top 25% overall, top 5% second semester), Chicago-native, midwest UG, worked in BigLaw as a paralegal in Chicago for 3 years prior to law school. My school's OCI is next week, I'm interviewing with 12 firms, many of which have Chicago offices, but only 4 of which are letting me interview for the Chicago office explicitly. I've had 5 screeners and 3 callbacks so far in Chicago from direct applications and Chicago OCI, hoping to have more once firms start reviewing direct applications in earnest in August.

Even with my Chicago, and specifically Chicago BigLaw connections, it has been a lot of work to get the few interviews I've managed to snag. Things I done which have garnered the most success, in order of how helpful they've been:

(1) Apply to 1L positions at firms, even if you think you have no chance at getting those positions. Two of my three callbacks are from firms that I applied to in December for my 1L summer, they rejected me but offered me screeners this summer when I was in town. I direct applied early to those firms and reached out to the recruiting contact to let them know I had applied and been previously offered a screener.
(2) Look for alumni at Chicago firms, but don't stop your search there. In addition to reaching out to my school's alum I also reached out to any undergrad alum and anyone who made the move from the city my school is in to Chicago, or if there were none, anyone from the east coast who made the move. Not a single person I reached out to declined to respond and I was able to set up phone calls with many of them in March/April and follow up with coffee when I was in town this summer.
(3) Network early, don't wait until OCI season to start reaching out. You should start contacting the people in February. If you can't find anyone at a firm that meets the profile of the above, it also doesn't hurt to reach out to the recruiting contact and say you're interested in the firm and ask for their help getting in touch with someone in practice area X.
(4) Assuming you will be in Chicago for the summer, email recruiting coordinators at the beginning of the summer and ask them if there's any rising 2L events they are hosting that you might be able to attend. I probably went to 3-4 a week in June. It's exhausting, but definitely has helped and I have a lot of anecdotes/names to drop in screeners and cover letters for "why our firm" questions.

Number one advice though probably is don't underestimate how helpful recruiting contacts are willing to be if you reach out to them directly and show genuine interest in the firm. One of my callbacks I got to skip the screener for because I spent a good portion of a networking event chatting with the head of recruiting, who really liked me and emailed a partner after the event and asked her to reach out to me. The partner took me to a nice, casual lunch, I direct-applied a few weeks later, and was given a callback immediately.

Good luck on your hustle next summer! It's exhausting!

carsondalywashere

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Re: Chicago Legal Market

Post by carsondalywashere » Tue Jul 30, 2019 2:52 pm

Chicago is the third largest legal market. I don't think you always need ties. For example, if you did well at a t14 school you can probably get Chicago without being from there.

With that said, still a pretty competitive legal market. There are six law schools in town, plus lots of people who want to live in Chicago (big 10 law schools, WashU, Notre Dame, people from Chicago who went to other law schools, etc.), so ties or some sort of story is helpful. And at least for big law, there are a lot more transactional spots than litigation ones. I noticed to be competitive for lit in Chicago students at Northwestern needed to be at least in the top half of their class and have a good reason why they wanted to be in Chicago.

I think something to keep in mind before starting law school is that 52% of big law summer associate positions in the past three years have been in New York. So if you absolutely cannot stomach the idea of living in New York for a few years (which sounds like you're okay with though), then I would do some thinking.

laanngo

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Re: Chicago Legal Market

Post by laanngo » Wed Aug 05, 2020 10:10 am

carsondalywashere wrote:
Tue Jul 30, 2019 2:52 pm
With that said, still a pretty competitive legal market. There are six law schools in town, plus lots of people who want to live in Chicago (big 10 law schools, WashU, Notre Dame, people from Chicago who went to other law schools, etc.), so ties or some sort of story is helpful. And at least for big law, there are a lot more transactional spots than litigation ones. I noticed to be competitive for lit in Chicago students at Northwestern needed to be at least in the top half of their class and have a good reason why they wanted to be in Chicago.
How are WUSTL, ND, UI, UIUC, seen in the chicago hiring market?

Sawtooth

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Re: Chicago Legal Market

Post by Sawtooth » Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:09 am

laanngo wrote:
Wed Aug 05, 2020 10:10 am
carsondalywashere wrote:
Tue Jul 30, 2019 2:52 pm
With that said, still a pretty competitive legal market. There are six law schools in town, plus lots of people who want to live in Chicago (big 10 law schools, WashU, Notre Dame, people from Chicago who went to other law schools, etc.), so ties or some sort of story is helpful. And at least for big law, there are a lot more transactional spots than litigation ones. I noticed to be competitive for lit in Chicago students at Northwestern needed to be at least in the top half of their class and have a good reason why they wanted to be in Chicago.
How are WUSTL, ND, UI, UIUC, seen in the chicago hiring market?
UI being University of Iowa (sorry, lots of "I" states in the midwest)? I know associates from all of those schools, and my perception is that with the right grades, Chicago biglaw is possible from all schools on that list. I know my firm is at WUSTL, ND, and UIUC's OCI, but I don't think that many Chicago big law firms make it to Iowa's OCI.

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laanngo

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Re: Chicago Legal Market

Post by laanngo » Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:21 am

Sawtooth wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:09 am
UI being University of Iowa (sorry, lots of "I" states in the midwest)? I know associates from all of those schools, and my perception is that with the right grades, Chicago biglaw is possible from all schools on that list. I know my firm is at WUSTL, ND, and UIUC's OCI, but I don't think that many Chicago big law firms make it to Iowa's OCI.
Yes, UI=Iowa, IU=Indiana, UofI/UIUC=Illinois.

The Lsat Airbender

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Re: Chicago Legal Market

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Thu Aug 06, 2020 1:03 pm

Sawtooth wrote:
Thu Aug 06, 2020 9:09 am
laanngo wrote:
Wed Aug 05, 2020 10:10 am
carsondalywashere wrote:
Tue Jul 30, 2019 2:52 pm
With that said, still a pretty competitive legal market. There are six law schools in town, plus lots of people who want to live in Chicago (big 10 law schools, WashU, Notre Dame, people from Chicago who went to other law schools, etc.), so ties or some sort of story is helpful. And at least for big law, there are a lot more transactional spots than litigation ones. I noticed to be competitive for lit in Chicago students at Northwestern needed to be at least in the top half of their class and have a good reason why they wanted to be in Chicago.
How are WUSTL, ND, UI, UIUC, seen in the chicago hiring market?
UI being University of Iowa (sorry, lots of "I" states in the midwest)? I know associates from all of those schools, and my perception is that with the right grades, Chicago biglaw is possible from all schools on that list. I know my firm is at WUSTL, ND, and UIUC's OCI, but I don't think that many Chicago big law firms make it to Iowa's OCI.
The bolded is key. Top-20% students at all those schools have a solid shot, but median is a lot tougher (it became relatively doable from ND and WashU while the economy was going gangbusters last decade but Class of 2024 grads can't assume the same environment).

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